Guru Ram Das Ji: The founder of Amritsar

Context: Prime Minister greeted the people on the occasion of the Parkash Purab of Sri Guru Ramdas Ji. 

Analysis

  • Born as Bhai Jetha, Guru Ramdas was the disciple of third Guru Guru Amar Das.
  • He quickly rose in the ranks to emerge as his Guru’s favourite, and even married the latter’s younger daughter — Bibi Bhani — and eventually, was appointed Ram Das, the fourth Guru of the Sikhs.
  • His bani, or set of songs, contained more than 600 hymns that held various teachings for followers of the faith. But his teachings went far beyond the books.
  • The fourth Sikh guru was also famous for explaining to Mughal emperor Akbar why king and caste are irrelevant.
  • When a group of Brahmins in Goindval raised objections to langar — that ostensibly ignored distinctions of the four castes — Amar Das dispatched his son-in-law to meet Emperor Akbar and address the grievances.
  • Ram Das’s strikingly simple statement at the royal court, that all were equal in the eyes of god, led Akbar to dismiss all objections.
  • In the years to come, Ram Das also stepped up efforts to strengthen the practice of commensality and even proclaimed that “kings and emperors are all created by God; they come and bow in reverence to God’s humble servant”.
  • But the man had to leave Goindval soon after his coronation in 1574 when he was faced with rivalry from Amar Das’ sons. As advised by his father-in-law, Ram Das and Bibi Bhani then moved to a new place.

An ‘Autonomous’ Amritsar

  • It is this new place, the chief feature of which was its human-made sarovar (tank), that was to become Amritsar in the years to come.
  • Guru Ram Das had laid the foundations of Ramdaspur, later renamed to Amritsar, when he inaugurated the pool’s excavation in 1577.
  • The sarovar later became the nucleus of Amritsar when Ram Das’ youngest son and successor, Guru Arjan Dev, built a temple complex around it and placed a copy of the Adi Granth at Harmandir Sahib in 1604.
  • The city’s bustling markets and the gentle pool surrounding the Golden Temple all came together when Guru Ram Das invited merchants and artisans from other parts of India to settle in this new town with him.
  • Ramdaspur or Amritsar was also perhaps one of those few towns that remained autonomous in the context of a larger Mughal rule.
  1. Arjan Dev’s proclamation that the town had no collector of taxes was a testimony to this fact.
  2. He had pointed toward a reality that the town was under the “authority of the Guru, not the Mughal state”.
  • A son-in-law of the third Guru, Amar Das, Ram Das also strengthened the institution of langar (community kitchen) and manjis (missionary centres) in attempts to consolidate the foundations of a minority Sikh community in the face of powerful Mughal politics and hegemonic Brahminical traditions.

Charting roadmap for a marriage law

  • Among Guru Ram Das’s most famous compositions, the most well-known is his wedding hymn that formed the basis of the Sikh wedding ceremony called Anand Karaj.
  • The hymn also emerged to be the focal point on which the British-era Anand Marriage Act of 1909 was later formed.

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