Remembering the poet-philosopher Guru Arjan Dev Ji

New Delhi, June 15: Today is a significant day for the Sikhs, as the community worldwide observed the martyrdom day or Shaheedi Diwas of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth of the 10 Gurus of Sikhs.

The Guru was arrested as per orders from the then Mughal Emperor, Jahangir. He was asked to accept Islam as his religion and convert, which he refused. He was tortured and executed in 1606 CE. He is the first of the two Gurus in the Sikh faith to be martyred.

The martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji is considered a watershed event in the history of Sikhism. It is believed in the Sikh tradition, that before being executed, the Guru told his son and successor Hargobind to take up arms and resist autocracy.

Born in 1563 to Guru Ram Das and Mata Bhani in Goindval, the place where Guru Arjan Singh was born, is now known for Gurdwara Chaubara Sahib. At the age of 18, he became the fifth Sikh Guru.

Guru’s execution led to a great shift in the Sikh Panth as it became armed and pursued resistance to persecution. Besides this, he also influenced Sikhism in several ways.

Adi Granth

The Guru is said to have compiled the Adi Granth by collecting hymns of past Gurus from many places. He rejected those hymns that he perceived to be fake or diverging from the teachings of the Gurus.

The collection approved by the Guru includes hymns from the first four Gurus of Sikhism and those he composed. Besides it had hymns composed by 17 Hindu bards and two Muslim bards. Thus it speaks volumes of his inclusive approach to religion and humankind.

It was on August 30, 1604, the compilation was completed according to the Sikh tradition and later installed in the Harmandir Sahib temple on September 1, 1604.

Poet Guru

A prolific poet himself, Guru Arjan composed 2,218 hymns. In fact more than half of the volume of Guru Granth Sahib and the largest collection of hymns has been composed by Guru Arjan.

In ‘Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures’ by Christopher Shackle and Arvind Mandair, it is mentioned that Guru Arjan’s compositions combined spiritual message in an ‘encyclopedic linguistic sophistication’ with ‘Braj Bhasha forms and learned Sanskrit vocabulary’

The building of Amritsar

Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan’s father had established a town named after him Ramdaspur, which was located around a large man-made water pool called ‘Ramdas Sarovar’. The Guru continued to build and expand the infrastructure of the place and in due course of time it expanded. The expansion was possible due to donations as well as voluntary work by the devotees.

A temple complex grew around the pool area with the Gurdwara Harmandir Sahib coming up near the pool. Guru Arjan installed the scripture of Sikhism inside the new temple in 1604. Today the place is famous as Amritsar and is the holiest pilgrimage site in Sikhism.

He is also credited with completing many other projects. These include Santokhsar (lake of peace) and Gongsar (lake of Gongaga) � both water reservoirs and founding of towns of Tarn Taran, Kartarpur and Hargobindpur. He also completed the construction of the Harmandir or the Darbar Sahib in Amritsar.

Saint Philosopher

In their paper titled ‘Educational Philosophy of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji and its relevancy in 21st Century’, Dr. Mohit Dixit and Amandeep Kaur write that the Guru was a great saint, philosopher, poet and first martyr of Sikhism.

He belonged to the great Indian philosophical tradition and gave continuity to it. He considered self-sacrifice as the foundation of all goodness. According to him, self-sacrifice is the law of nature. The mother has to sacrifice her beauty to see the child.

They mention that Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s verses are highly philosophical, mystical and full of peace and profoundness flowing from the heart of one who has realized Brahma and bliss.

Educational philosophy

Guru Arjan Dev Ji had a definite philosophy of life. His educational philosophy was based on his ideal of life. He propounded a theory of education, which is as relevant to modern times as it was during his own period. He believed that education must enable the individual to live away from worldly and social-evils and help him to understand his essence. Real education consists of practical training in wisdom, truth, Naam and Shabad of God.

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