Guru Har Rai (1630 – 1661 A.D.) – A Photo Essay
Amrit bani har har teri,
sun sun hove param gat meri
Guru Hargobind’s fourteen year old grandson Har Rai, born on 30th January, 1630 A.D. at Kiratpur, succeeded his grandfather Guru Hargobind to the Gurugaddi after he passed away in 1644. Neither of his two sons, Surajmal and Tegh Bahadur, was willing to take up the responsibility of leading and guiding the community of Sikhs. Tegh Bahadur, though a recluse when his father Guru Hargobind died, later was nominated the Sikhs’Ninth Guru.
Guru Har Rai continued the practice of Miri and Piri and maintained a splendid court and a company of 200 mounted soldiers as his personal guard, yet he felt the proportion of Miri in Sikhism was gradually mounting with a result that in the life of an average Sikh the ‘spiritual’ was seen usually sub serving the ‘material’. He did not, hence, have much preference for warfare and chose rather the solitude of hills where, while meditating within, he was able to explore and collect his energies for applying them to consolidate the spiritual part of Sikhism. He believed that in the Sikh tradition warfare was an eventuality and spiritualism its essence.
He sought to revive Guru Nanak’s way though his canvas was not that wide. He believed like the first Guru that personal touch and contact was the most effective instrument for inspiring the Sikhs. He, hence, undertook tours, though only of shorter durations and distances, which, perhaps, the later sovereign form of Sikh Guruship conditioned. He stayed at Nahan, now in Himachal Pradesh, for some twelve years and wielded great spiritual influence around. He once blessed there a Jat boy, poor and hungry, who later came to found the known Phulkian family after his own name Phul. This family later ruled the states of Patiala, Nabha, and Jind. A bairagi monk Bhagat Gir met here Guru Har Rai and was so impressed that he took to Sikhism. Renamed as Bhagat Bhagwan he was commissioned to carry to the eastern part Guru Nanak’s Message. Wherever Guru Har Rai went hundreds of people heard him and got converted to Sikhism. At Kiratpur, Bhai Sangaita, a man of great caliber came in his touch. He not only joined Sikhism but also undertook the mission of spreading the message of Guru Nanak in Bari Doab. His other associate Bhai Gonda carried the mission to Lahore and converted their people to Nanak’s path.
Sainthood with no place for vengeance and ill-will was the legacy of Guru Har Rai too. He had in his possession a life saving medicine, which the Mughal emperor Shahjahan need for saving the life of his eldest and the most beloved son Dara Shikoh who was struggling in between life and death. Shahjahan’s messenger, sent to Guru Har Rai, went back not with the medicine alone but also with the holy blessings to the emperors ailing son. Dara Shikoh speedily recovered but whether by Guru’s medicine or his blessing was not known. Guru Har Rai only strengthened the tradition of Sikh Gurus which believed in returning good for evil.
Despite his aversion for warfare and violence, he would not hesitate to confront with any power or pay whatever cost for his adherence to truth and his Panth. Misled to believe that Guru Har Rai was a rebel, and that Sikh scriptures propagated things against Islam, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, after he had succeeded his father, summoned Guru Har Rai to his court, though the letter he sent to him was very polite, something such as a dagger wrapped in velvet. Guru Har Rai nominated his eldest son Ram Rai to visit the Mughal emperor. He was instructed not to appease the Mughal emperor by his words, or to interpret Adi-granth, or any of its parts, to mean different from what it actually meant. Charmed by Mughal power and the glamour of the Mughal court Ram Rai acted differently. He appeased the emperor and disobeyed his father. He interpreted Adi-granth to emperor’s liking. After Guru Har Rai had heard all about it he reacted that “Guruship was tigress’ milk and could not be contained in a pot other than that of gold”. He announced that Ram Rai would never appear before him and nominated his second son Har Kishan, though just five, as his successor.
Guru Har Rai often recited a couplet of Baba Farid, which suggested that the great Sikh Guru considered compassion as the highest virtue of all things divine in man.
“Hearts are jewels,
Distress them not,
Those who distress no heart
Seek the beloved God,”
Whether real or imagined, an incident of his life has been widely covered in Sikh literature and in medieval Sikh paintings. While strolling in a garden he dragged with his loose cloak a few stem-containing flowers. No sooner he saw the flowers falling to ground his eyes welled up with tears. It pained him that he instrumented them injury, an act that was never in his nature. In Guru Har Rai Sikhism seemed to seek the apex of emotionality and the softer aspects of human life.
Excerpt from “The Sikh Heritage” by Dr. Daljit
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