Who was Guru Ram Das?
Guru Ram Das was the fourth of the ten Gurus of Sikhism. He took forward the legacy of the first three Sikh gurus and made significant contributions to the development of Sikhism. He is especially revered for planning and developing the township of Ramdaspur which became the city of Amritsar, the holiest city of the Sikhs. Born into a Sodhi Khatri family in Lahore as Jetha, he was raised by pious and hardworking Hindu parents. He was spiritually inclined from a young age and sought the company of holy men. As a young man he came across a party of Sikhs who were on their way to Goindwal to pay homage to Guru Amar Das and decided to join them. On meeting the guru he was deeply influenced by his holiness and became his disciple. He worked hard under the guru’s supervision and served him wholeheartedly. Guru Amar Das was so impressed by the young man’s dedication that he gave his daughter in marriage to him. Jetha continued being a dedicated Sikh totally devoted to the service of God and humanity which made Guru Amar Das select him as his successor. Jetha assumed the Guru Gaddi as Guru Ram Das following the death of his predecessor.
Childhood & Early Life
Guru Ram Das was born as Bhai Jetha on 9 October 1534, in Chuna Mandi, Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan into a Sodhi Khatri family. His parents were Har Das and Daya Vati (also known as Anup Devi), a hardworking and pious couple.
Jetha was a calm and happy child who was spiritually inclined from an early age. He loved to spend time in the company of holy men and engage in meaningful discussions with them.
He once came upon a party of Sikhs who were on their way to Goindwal to pay homage to Guru Amar Das. He decided to accompany them. Upon receiving the visitors, Guru Amar Das immediately noticed the dedication of the pious young man. Jetha too was highly influenced by the guru.
When the party he travelled with left for Lahore, Jetha decided to stay back and become a disciple of the guru.
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Jetha was a strong young man who believed in the dignity of physical labor. He worked hard in the various construction projects that were taking place in Goindwal under the guru’s supervision.
With time he endeared himself to Guru Amar Das who was very impressed by his hard work and determination. The guru decided to get him married to his daughter and the wedding took place in 1554.
The couple remained in Goindwal following their marriage and worked together in developing the place as an upcoming Sikh town. They performed voluntary service (Sewa) in the construction of the Baoli Sahib (sacred well) and continued their service to the guru.
In the late 1560s, some jealous Hindus complained to the Mughal Emperor Akbar that Guru Amar Das maligned both the Hindu and the Muslim religions with his teachings of Sikhism. On receiving the complaint, the Emperor sent a special messenger to Goindwal asking Guru Amar Das to see him.
Guru Amar Das could not go personally due to his advancing age but he sent Bhai Jetha instead to defend the tenets of Sikhism. Jetha successfully represented the guru before Akbar and satisfactorily replied to every query of the Mughal emperor. Impressed by the explanation given by Jetha, Akbar dismissed all the charges against the guru.
Jetha began building Santokhsar Sarovar, near the village of Sultanwind in 1564 and went on to found the township of Ramdaspur which became the Sikh holy city of Amritsar. In Amritsar he designed the gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Darbaar sahib or Golden Temple.
Guru Amar Das chose Bhai Jetha as his successor. He renamed him Guru Ram Das and gave him the title of Sikh Guru on 30 August 1574. Guru Amar Das died on 1 September 1574, leaving behind Guru Ram Das to carry forward the legacy of the Sikh Gurus.
Guru Ram Das served as the Sikh leader for seven years. He composed many hymns, of which 688 are in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh supreme granth. His compositions are also included in Rehras Sahib and Kirtan Sohila which are daily prayers of Sikhs.
Guru Ram Das is best known as the founder of the holy city of Amritsar, previously known as Ramdaspur. He founded it in 1574 on land he bought for 700 rupees from the owners of the village of Tung. The guru then designed the gurdwara Harmandir Sahib which translates as "The Abode of God". The gurdwara, informally known as the Golden Temple is one of the most famous tourist attractions in India.
He composed many hymns, including ‘Laavan’, a four-stanza hymn about the meaning of marriage. This hymn is read during the standard Sikh marriage ceremony known as the Anand Karaj during which the couple circumscribe the Guru Granth Sahib as each stanza of the Laavan is read.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was married to Bibi Bhani, the younger daughter of Guru Amar Das. They had three sons: Prithi Chand, Mahadev and Arjan. He chose his son Arjan as his successor.
Guru Ram Das died on 1 September 1581, in the city of Amritsar, Punjab.