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Guru Har Rai

Guru Har Rai

Artist Bodh Rai's immpression of  Sri Guru HarRai  ji

Guru Har Rai (Punjabi: ਗੁਰੂ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਇ) (26 February 1630 - 6 October 1661) was the seventh of ten living Gurus of the Sikhs who became Guru on 8 March 1644 following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Guru Har Gobind, who was the sixth guru. Before he died, he nominated five year old Har Krishan, his youngest son as the next Guru of the Sikhs. The following is a summary of the main highlights of Guru Har Rai's life:

* Continued the military traditions started by his grandfather Guru Har Gobind.
* Maintained a cavalry of 2,200 soldiers throughout his Guruship.
* As a very young child he was disturbed by the suffering of a flower damaged by his robe in passing. Though such feelings are common with children, Guru Har Rai would throughout his life be noted for his compassion for life and living things. His grandfather who was famed as an avid hunter is said to have saved the Moghul Emperor Jahangir's life during a tiger's attack. Guru Har Rai continued the hunting tradition of his grandfather, but he would allow no animals to be killed on his grand Shikars. The Guru instead captured animals, adding them to his zoo.
* Made several tours to the Malwa and Doaba regions of the Punjab.
* His son Ram Rai, seeking to assuage concerns of Aurangzeb over one line in Guru Nanak's verse (Mitti Mussalmam ki pede pai kumhar) suggested that the word Mussalmam was a mistake on the copyist's part and substituted wording that placated Auranzeb's concerns, therefore distorting Bani. His father, Guru Guru Har Rai refused to ever meet with him again. The Guru is believed to have said, "Ram Rai, you have disobeyed my order and sinned. I will never see you again on account of your infidelity." It was also reported to the Guru that Ram Rai had also worked miracles in the Mughal's court against his father's direct instructions. Sikhs are constrained by their Gurus to not believe in, magic and myth or miracles.

Just before his death at age 31, Guru Har Rai passed the Gaddi of Nanak on to his younger son, the five year old—Guru Har Krishan.

Guru Har Rai was the son of Baba Gurdita and Mata Nihal Kaur (also known as Mata Ananti Ji). Baba Gurdita was son of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind. Guru Har Rai married Mata Kishan Kaur (sometimes also referred to as Sulakhni) the daughter of Sri Daya Ram of Anoopshahr (Bulandshahr) in Uttar Pradesh on Har Sudi 3, Samvat 1697. Guru Har Rai had one daughter and two sons: Baba Ram Rai and Sri Har Krishan.

Although, Guru Har Rai was a man of peace, he never disbanded the armed Sikh Warriors (Saint Soldiers), who earlier were maintained by his grandfather, Guru Hargobind. He always boosted the military spirit of the Sikhs, but he never indulged in any direct political or armed controversy with the Mughal Empire. Once, Dara Shikoh (the eldest son of emperor Shah Jahan), came to Guru Har Rai asking for help in the war of succession launched by his half-brother the murderous Aurangzeb. The Guru had promised his grandfather to use the Sikh Cavalry only in defense. He, nevertheless, helped him to escape safely from the bloody hands of Aurangzeb's armed forces by having his Sikh warriors hide all the ferry boats at the river crossing after they had been used by Dara Shikoh in his escape.


Once, while the Guru Har Rai was returning from a tour of the Malwa and Doaba regions, Mohamad Yarbeg Khan, (son of Mukhlis Khan, who was killed in a battle by Guru Hargobind) attacked the kafla of the Guru with a force of one thousand armed men. The revengeful attack was repulsed by a few hundred 'Saint-Soldiers' of the Sikhs with great courage and bravery. The enemy suffered a heavy loss of life and fled the scene. This self-defense measure, was a reply to the surprise attack of the Muslims overlords. Guru Har Rai often bestowed Sikh warriors with robes of honor in reward.

The Guru also established an Aurvedic (herbal medicine) hospital and a research center at Kiratpur Sahib where he also maintained a zoo. Once Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan fell seriously ill by some unknown disease (usually explained as trimmings of tiger's whiskers sneaked into his food by his envious sibling, Aurangzeb.). The court hakims (physicians), both Indian and European attempted cures, but there was no improvement. At last the emperor made a humble request to the Guru for the treatment of his son. Accepting the request Guru Har Rai, sent some medicinal herbs, then available only in his Aurvedic hospital, back with the emperor's messenger. Dara Shikoh was cured of his near fatal illness. The emperor, whole heartedly thanked the Guru and offered a jagir (title to land and villages and a portion of the profits (lagaan) derived from it), which Guru Har Rai declined.

Guru Har Rai also visited Lahore, Sialkot, Pathankot, Samba, Ramgarh and many places in the Jammu and Kashmir region. He established 360 Sikh 'missionary' seats called Manjis (after the small cot (manji) used by the Guru's representatives. He also tried to improve the old corrupt Masand system and appointed pious and committed personalities, such as Suthre Shah, Sahiba, Sangtia, Mian Sahib, Bhagat Bhagwan, Bhagat Mal and Jeet Mal Bhagat (also known as Bairagi), as the heads of Manjis.

Guru Har Rai faced some serious difficulties during the period of his guruship. The corrupt Masands, Dhir Mal and Minas always tried to preclude the advancement of the Sikh religion.

Recitation of Gurbani

One day the Sikhs asked the Guru whether those who read the Gurus' hymns without understanding them, derived any spiritual advantage from it. The Guru gave no reply at the time, and next morning went hunting. En route, the Guru came across a broken pot which had held butter. The rays of the sun were melting the butter on the broken pot fragments. The Guru took one of these fragments in his hand and said, "Look my Sikhs, broken pot shreds—when heated, the butter that had adhered to them readily melts. As the grease adheres to the potshreds, so do the Gurus' hymns to the hearts of his Sikhs. At the time of death the Gurus' instruction shall assuredly bear fruit. Whether understood or not, it has within it the seed of salvation. Perfume still clings to a broken vase." The meaning of the parable is that whosoever daily reads the Gurus' shabads shall assuredly obtain peace. And even though he may not fully understand them, God will undoubtedly assist him.

Guru Ram Das has said: "The Word is the Guru, and the Guru in the Word, and in the Word is the essence of ambrosia."

Bhai Gonda

A devout Sikh called Bhai Gonda used to stay with the Guru. He was a saint in thought, word and deed. The Guru was very much pleased with his sincere devotion and asked, “Bhai Gonda, go to Kabul, and instruct the Sikhs there in the worship of the true Name, and preach the Sikh faith. Feed holy men and pilgrims with the offerings you receive and send whatever remains here for the upkeep of the Langar. These are to be your duties, and I am confident that you will succeed in them.”

Although Kabul was a foreign country and there was danger from Muslim bigotry in living there, Bhai Gonda cheerfully accepted the task given to him. On arriving there he built a Gurdwara and carried out all the Guru’s instructions.

One day, while Bhai Gonda was repeating the Japji, he felt as though clinging to the Guru’s feet. He was in such a state of abstraction that he became quite unconscious. He grew as absorbed in the sight of the Guru as a drop of rain in the ocean. The Guru knew what was passing through Bhai Gonda’s mind, and sat firmly on his throne keeping his feet together. At mid-day, when dinner was announced, the Guru made no response. When the announcement was repeated an hour later, he still remained silent. A longer interval later, the call was again made for the third time and cook asked permission to serve the food, but again the Guru did not speak. Several Sikhs gathered together and were about to make a representation to the Guru, when he finally spoke. “Brother Sikhs. Bhai Gonda is in Kabul. He is in thought, word, and deed, a saint of the Guru. He today clasped my feet. How can I take them away from him? How can I go take my dinner until he lets go? I am therefore waiting until the conclusion of his meditation and obeisance.” Bhai Gonda did not awake from his trance before twilight, and it was only then that the Guru felt free to take his meal.

Dara Shikoh

The Emperor Shah Jahan had four sons: Dara Shikoh, Shuja Muhammad, Aurangzeb, and Murad Baksh. Dara Shikoh was the heir-apparent, and was very dear to his father. Aurangzeb was very cunning, clever and ambitious, and was fixated on succeeding to the throne. He administered tiger’s whiskers in a dish to his eldest brother and he became dangerously ill as a result. Astrologers were sent for, pirs and fakirs were called, all known charms, spells and incantations were tried but to no avail. Wise men were assembled together and they came to the decision that until the tiger’s whiskers could be removed, there was no hope of a recovery. They were of the opinion that if two ounces of chebulic myrobalan (scientific name: termininalia chebula; known in Ayurvedic medicine as Aralu, credited with having laxative and stomachic properties) and a clove weighing one masha were administered, his health could be restored.

The Emperor searched everywhere for the ingredients but they could not be found – it was only until his Prime Minister, who had heard of the Gurus’ fame, was informed that there were available from the Gurus’ storehouse, that hope was restored. Although the Emperor was hostile to the Guru, yet as the Guru’s house was a mine of sympathy and compassion for all, there was no doubt that he would grant the articles required. The Emperor humbled himself before the Guru and sent a letter. The Guru was pleased that the Emperor had such confidence in him as to write such a friendly letter, and consented to give the required medicines. “Behold,” said the Guru, “with one hand man breaks flowers and with one hand offers them, but the flowers perfume both hands alike. The axe cuts the sandal tree, yet the sandal perfumes the axe. The Guru ought, therefore, to return good for evil.”

The ingredients were weighed and it was explained that these medicines would cause the hardest substance taken to be digested. To these ingredients, the Guru added a pearl which was to be ground and used as a subsidiary remedy. The Emperor was naturally very pleased and forgot all his enemity with the Guru, and vowed that he would never again cause him annoyance. His medicine was administered and effected a fast and complete cure.

Ram Rai and his tradition

Shah Jahan like his father and grandfather had largely ignored the fundamentalist Muslim Ulema, the pious holy men who wanted a strict Sharia government. Angered by years of being pushed out of power they saw in their hero Aurangzeb who had been raised under their tutelage a chance to put themselves back in power. Aurangzeb ended the liberal 'excesses' of his ancestors. He had accused his brother Dara Shikoh of being more of a Hindu than a Muslim which charge led to his brother's death. It is said that he had Dara's head served to their father as pay back for Shah Jahan's open support of Dara Shikoh. He had the jizya, a sort of protection tax levied in the Rasul's time on non-Muslims living under Muslim rule. The only trouble was that the protection of other religions as proposed by the Rasul was ended. Now forced conversion of the whole population of his subjects became the rule.

Emperor Aurangzeb citing the help rendered to Dara Shikoh Mirza by Guru Har Rai during the war of succession had the Guru summoned to Delhi. Guru Har Rai sent his son Ram Rai on his behalf. At the Mughal Court he tried to clarify some mis-understandings, regarding Guru Ghar and Sikh faith, created by Dhirmals and Minas. Yet another trap, which he could not escape, was to clarify the meaning of the verse "The Ashes of the Musalman (Muslim) fall into the potter's clot, it is moulded into pots and bricks, and they cry out as they burn". Ram Rai in order to please the emperor and gain his approval (see intro) changed the Gurbani in question by replacing the word 'Musalman' (Muslim) with the word 'Beiman' (a cheat or sinner). When Guru Har Rai was informed about this incident, he immediately excommunicated Ram Rai from the Sikh Panth and never met with him again, though he later pleaded repeatedly for forgiveness. Thus Guru Sahib established a strict principle of the importance of unadulterated scripture and truth for the Sikhs and forbade any alteration of original verse in the Guru Granth Sahib and the basic conventions set up by Guru Nanak Sahib. An aged Ram Rai was later forgiven by Guru Gobind Singh.

The followers of Ram Rai regard him as a Guru and are called Ramraiya. They are headquartered in Dehra Doon founded by Guru Ram Rai. The institutution at Dehra Doon is headed by a lineage of Mahants who follow the Udasi tradition.