Guru Har Rai
Before his death on 3 March 1644, Guru Har Gobind nominated his grandson Har Rai, aged only 14, as his successor and the seventh Nanak. He became the Guru on 8 March 1644 and served in the role until he died at young age of 31. He had two sons: Baba Ram Rai and Guru Harkrishan.
Guru Har Rai Ji
Guru Har Rai was a man inclined to peace and tried to avoid any direct political or armed confrontation with the Mughal Empire. Yet he never disbanded the armed Sikh warriors created his grandfather Guru Har Gobind; instead, he further boosted the military spirit of the Sikh army. Emperor Shah Jahan’s eldest son Dara Shikoh came to Guru Har Rai seeking his help in the war of succession launched by his brother, the ruthless Aurangzeb. He helped Dara Shikoh to escape safely from the bloody hands of Aurangzeb's armed forces.
Background: Guru Har Rai had promised his grandfather to use his army only in self-defence. Once while the Guru Har Rai was returning from a tour of the Malwa and Doaba regions, Mohamad Yarbeg Khan attacked the Sikh convoy with a force of one thousand armed men. For Mohammad Yarbeg Khan, it was a revenge attack as his father Mukhlis Khan had been killed by Guru Har Gobind. The revengeful attack was repulsed by a few hundred valiant Sikh fighters with great courage and bravery. The Muslim enemy suffered a heavy loss of life and fled the scene.
The Guru also established an Ayurvedic (herbal medicine) hospital and a research center at Kiratpur Sahib and also maintained a zoo there. When Dara Shikoh once fell seriously ill from some unknown disease, the Mughal court physicians—both Indian and European—failed to cure him. At last, the Emperor made a humble request to the Guru to treat his son. Accepting the request, Guru Har Rai sent some medicinal herbs from his Ayurvedic Medical Center, which cured Dara Shikoh from his near fatal illness. The Emperor wholeheartedly thanked the Guru and offered to give him an estate, which the Guru declined.
Guru Har Rai visited the Doaba, Malva regions of Punjab as well as Lahore, Sialkot, Pathank, Samba, Ramgarh and many other places in the Jammu and Kashmir region to spread Sikhism. Guru Ji established 360 Sikh 'missionary' seats called Manjis.
Tension with the Mughals: After the death of Shah Jahan, his successor Aurangzeb took a hostile attitude toward the non-Muslims and implemented oppressive and ruthless policies. As expected, Emperor Aurangzeb sought to punish the Guru for rendering his assistance to Prince Dara Shakoh during the war of succession and framed false charges against Guru. He was summoned to the Delhi court to answer to false charges as well as to clarify some of the unflattering verses contained in the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, such as "The Ashes of the Mussalman fall into the potter's clot, It is molded into pots and bricks, and they cry out as they burn."
His elder son Ram Rai, in order to appeased the emperor and gain more sympathy, rendered a false explanation of the verse, claiming that it was corrupted by someone where the original word for ‘Mussalman’ in the verse was ‘Beiman’ (dishonest). And the actual meaning of the verse is that the human soul is not bound to the physical structure or the body of a person. The physical material of the bodies of both Hindus and Mussalmans face the same fate and it is a universal truth. The soul leaves the body immediately after the death and it does not remain in the grave waiting for doom's day. And the earth consumes the body-material in due course of time) It is a rational and scientific view of Sikhism.
When the Guru learned about the incident, he immediately excommunicated Ram Rai from the Sikh faith and never met him again despite the latter’s repeated pleading for forgiveness. Thus Guru Sahib established strictness in the Sikh faith, prohibiting any alteration of original verses of the Guru Granth Sahib and the basic conventions set up by Guru Nanak Sahib.
Guru Har Rai passed away on 6 October 1661, installing his younger son Har Krishan as the eighth Guru.
Guru Har Krishan Sahib
Early Life and attainment of Guruship: Guru Harkrishan succeeded his father as the 8th Guru at the incredibly tender age of only 5 years on 7 October 1661. Acceptance of a little child as the Guru by the entire Sikh community reflected the extraordinary respect and loyalty of the Sikhs towards their Gurus. But his elder brother Ram Rai, infuriated with jealousy, complained to Emperor Aurangzeb against his father's decision. The emperor summoned the young Guru to appear before him. Raja Jai Singh sent his emissary to Kiratpur Sahib to bring the Guru to Delhi.
Death: When the Guru reached Delhi, large numbers of Sikh devotees flocked to see the child Guru. A smallpox epidemic was then raging in Delhi. Guru Har Krishan helped to heal many sick people. In the process, the Guru himself became stricken with the disease and fell seriously ill. He died on 30 March 1664 and the historic gurdwara in India, the Bangla Sahib in Delhi, was built on the site where Guru Har Krishan helped the sick and died of smallpox.
His granduncle Guru Tegh Bahadur succeeded him as the next Guru of the Sikhs, who was executed by Emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi, which will be discussed in the next part of the article.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, where the Guru died.
(To be continued)
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