Guru Har Krishan was the eighth of the ten Sikh Gurus. He became the youngest guru in Sikhism when he succeeded his father Guru Har Rai on 7 October 1661 as a five year old. His father, the seventh Sikh Guru died at the young age of 31 and named Har Krishan as his successor. Even though he was just a small child when he assumed the Guru Gaddi, Guru Har Krishan was very wise and mature beyond his age. In fact he was the one who consoled the Sikh followers upon the early death of his father and told them to accept the will of God instead of lamenting or crying. He came to be known as the Bal Guru (Child Guru) and soon became very popular among the masses. He carried on the legacy of his predecessors and possessed a rare ability in explaining passages from the Holy Granth. Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb was disturbed by the growing popularity of the young guru and asked him to come to the Mughal court. After meeting the guru Aurangzeb became convinced of his holiness. A very kind hearted person, Guru Har Krishan wholeheartedly served the patients of smallpox during an epidemic and himself contracted the disease as a result. He died of the disease at the age of eight.
Childhood & Early Life
Har Krishan was born on July 23, 1656, in Kiratpur Sahib, Rupnagar, Punjab, India, to Guru Har Rai and Kishan dei (Mata Sulakhni). He had one elder brother Ram Rai. His father was the seventh guru of Sikhism and well-known for being a compassionate and wise soul.
Guru Har Rai named Har Krishan as his successor before his death. The guru felt that his elder son Ram Rai was in collusion with the Mughal Empire and thus chose Har Krishan as the future guru even though the boy was just five years old.
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Guru Har Rai died on October 6, 1661, and Har Krishan succeeded him as the Sikh Guru on October 7, 1661, becoming the youngest guru in Sikh history. The Sikh devotees were inconsolable at the untimely death of Guru Har Rai and it was the new Guru Har Krishan who consoled the followers, telling them to accept the God’s will.
The young guru displayed great maturity and wisdom despite being a small child and soon endeared himself to the followers of Sikhism. He possessed an extraordinary ability in explaining the passages from the Holy Granth and enlightened the listeners with his commentaries.
The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb was disturbed by the growing popularity of the guru. So he asked him to come to the Delhi court. After considerable thought, the guru decided to visit Aurangzeb and set out on his journey.
The guru travelled through Ropar, Banur and Ambala on his way to Delhi. When he was near Panjokhara, a Sikh requested him to spend a day there as several devotees from faraway places were coming to meet the guru. The guru agreed.
A village pandit called Lal Chand was very proud of his knowledge of religious books. He challenged the guru regarding his own knowledge of holy books. At the same time, Chhajju Ram, an illiterate, village water-carrier of a low caste passed by. The guru called the man and asked him to explain to the pandit the gist of the Bhagavad gita.
Much to the astonishment of the onlookers, the illiterate man started reciting a coherent commentary of the sacred text. The people watching the miracle bowed their heads in humility. Amazed by this incident, Lal Chand became an ardent devotee of the guru.
When the guru reached Delhi, he was respectfully welcomed by Raja Jai Singh and the Sikhs of Delhi. There he stayed in Raja Jai Singh’s bungalow where hordes of people came to see him and seek his blessings. The Raja decided to test the guru’s intelligence and asked him to identify the queen from among a group of well-dressed ladies. The guru easily recognized the real queen.
Guru Har Krishan eventually visited Aurangzeb’s court. According to sources, the emperor presented the guru with two large trays, one with ornaments, clothes and toys, and the other with a holy man's cloak and cowl. The guru accepted the one with the holy man’s garb. Aurangzeb was convinced that this small boy was indeed a spiritual person.
At that time, Delhi was being ravaged by a severe epidemic of cholera and smallpox. The guru began tending to the patients without worrying for his own health. He served all of them wholeheartedly, irrespective of their religion or community. The Muslim population was so touched by his selfless service that they called him “Bala Pir” (child prophet). The guru himself contracted the disease and died soon after.
Guru Har Krishan was the youngest of all the Sikh Gurus. His had a tenure of only 2 years, 5 months and 24 days, yet within this short period he served humanity to the best of his ability. An epidemic of smallpox swept through Delhi when the guru was visiting, and he selflessly tended to the patients irrespective of their religion, caste, or community.
Personal Life & Legacy
Guru Har Krishan became ill with high fever following his selfless service to the sufferers of smallpox. His malady soon developed into small pox and his young body was ravaged with the disease. With great wisdom, he accepted the suffering as God’s will.
When it became apparent that the guru would not survive, the Sikhs tearfully asked him to name his successor. The guru simply said the words “Baba Bakala” before taking his last breath on March 30, 1664. His granduncle Tegh Bahadur, who was living in the town of Baba Bakala, was recognized as his successor.