|Name||Sri Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji |
(8th Sikh Guru)
|Born||7th July 1656, Kiratpur Sahib, Rupnagar, Punjab, India|
|Joti Jot||(Rejoining with God) 30th March 1664 (aged 7), Delhi, India|
|Guruship||6th October 1661 to 30th March 1664|
|Father||Guru Har Rai|
|Mother||Mata Krishen Kaur|
|Predecessor||Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji|
|Successor||Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji|
|Known for||Being the youngest Guru. Helping smallpox patients at Delhi|
Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji (Gurmukhi: ਗੁਰੂ ਹਰਿ ਕ੍ਰਿਸ਼ਨ) (Wednesday, 23 July 1656 – Saturday, 16 April 1664) was the eighth of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism. He became Guru on Sunday, 20 October 1661 following in the footsteps of his father, Guru Har Rai Ji.
When someone asked Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji which of his two sons (Ram Rai and Harkrishan) would be the next Guru, Guru Har Rai asked the person to insert a needle in the leg of the bed (where his two sons sat and recited baani). The person was surprised to see that the needle went into the leg of the bed where Guru Harkrishan Sahib was reciting bani but not where Ram Rai was doing the same. The person, obviously perplexed, asked Guru Har Rai why. Guru Ji explained that although both of them were reciting the same baani, the needle going into the leg of the bed was symbolic of the softness in the heart of Harkrishan. However, Ram Rai had a rougher and tougher heart.
Since the child Guru Harkrishan was to absorb so many diseases into himself, softness was of prime importance. Thus next Guru came to be Guru Harkrishan at the age of 5. This was the first time in history when the light of the Guru had entered such a small child.
The following is a summary of the main highlights of Guru Ji’s life:
• Guru Harkrishan was of a small age when he attained the leadership of the Sikh people. There are very few devotees of God in human history who have achieved a high level of spirituality in such small age. Prahlad, Dhruv was one of them and Guru Harkrishan can also be included in the same list. All other Sikh Guru’s sat on the “Gaddi”, the “throne of Guruship” when they were over the age of 12, but only Guru Harkrishan sat on the Gaddi when he was just 5 of age.
• When Guru Ji stayed in Delhi there was a smallpox epidemic which resulted in many deaths. By Guru Ji’s blessing, the lake at Bangla Sahib provided a cure for thousands. Exposing himself to his many devotees he too died succumbed to smallpox. Thus he unselfishly, without the thought of danger to himself, served many people. This is true Sewa to care for the sick even at the risk of one’s own life.
• Gurdwara Bangla Sahib was constructed in Guru Ji’s memory. This is where he stayed during his visit to Delhi. This was originally the palace of Raja Jai Singh, who was a strong and powerful Sikh and a devotee of the Guru.
• Guru Sahib caused the illiterate water-carrier Chhaju Ram to expound the philosophy of the holy Gita on challenge from Pandit Lal Chand. On hearing this narration of the holy Gita, Pandit Lal Chand was deeply humiliated. He was so impressed with this feat performed by the Guru that he became a Sikh and later escorted the Guru Sahib to Kurukshetra.
Guru Harkrishan Sahib was born on Sawan Vadi 10, (8 Sawan), Bikrami Samvat 1713, (Wednesday, 23 July 1656) at Kiratpur Sahib. He was the second son of Guru Har Rai Sahib and Mata Krishan Kaur Ji (Sulakhni Ji). Ram Rai, the elder brother of Guru Harkrishan Sahib was ex-communicated and disinherited due to his anti-Guru Ghar activities, as stated earlier and Sri Harkrishan Sahib Ji at the age of about five years, was declared as Eighth Nanak Guru by his father Guru Har Rai Sahib before his death in 1661.
This act inflamed Ram Rai Ji with jealousy and he complained to Emperor Aurangzeb against his father’s decision. The Emperor replied in favour issuing orders through Raja Jai Singh to the young Guru to appear before him. Raja Jai Singh sent his emissary to Kiratpur Sahib to bring the Guru to Delhi. At first the Guru was not willing to travel to Delhi, but after repeated requests of his followers and Raja Jai Singh, he agreed to the trip.
When Guru Har Rai passed away on 20 October 1661 Guru Harkrishan consoled the disciples. He asked them not to give way to despair but abide by the Will of the Almighty. All should sing God’s praises and not weep or lament. As days went by, the disciples began pouring in from far and near. They were delighted to have a sight of the Guru. He sat on the throne, a small figure, young in years, but mature in wisdom.
Says Bhai Santokh Singh, “The early morning sun looks small in size, but its light is everywhere. So was Guru Harkrishan’ s fame, without limit.” Those who came to see him were instructed in true knowledge. They had their heart’s desires fulfilled and their sins erased. The Sikhs recognized him as the picture of Guru Nanak. They saw on Guru Harkrishan’s handsome face the same light as must have been on Guru Nanak’s.
Guru Harkrishan had a rare ability in explaining passages from the Holy Granth. He delighted the hearts of his disciples by his commentaries. He reminded them to cherish the One God alone, and asked them to discard passions and learn the virtues of patience, charity and love. Thus Guru Harkrishan carried on the teaching of the Gurus and preserved intact the legacy he had inherited from them.
The Baisakhi day (March 29) of 1662 brought to Kiratpur vast numbers of followers. The festival lasted three days. The sangats were looked after by the Guru’ s grandmother, Mata Bassi, and mother, Mata Sulakkhni. In the sangat of Sialkot district was Pair Mall of Pasrur, along with his family. His son, Khem Karan, was a promising youth. Mata Bassi betrothed her granddaughter, Bibi Rup Kaur, to him. Nuptials were held on December 3, 1662. According to the Guru kian Sakhian, the presents offered by Mata Bassi included a pothi of stories from Guru Har Rai’ s mouth and a dagger belonging to Guru Hargobind.
Guru Ji To Delhi
Guru Ji and Mughal Interference
Emperor Aurangzeb was not pleased to hear about the growing popularity of Guru Harkrishan. He asked the young Guru to visit his Darbar (Court) at Delhi as he done with his father, Guru Har Rai. His father, rather than going to Delhi himself at the beck and call of Aurangzeb, had sent his elder son, Ram Rai, to the emperor’ s court.
Before his death Guru Har Rai, aware that Aurangzeb preferred Ram Rai as the next Guru of the Sikhs, cautioned his son to never meet with Aurangzeb. When a servant of Raja Jai Singh of Amber arrived with the emperor’ s request, Guru Harkrishan took counsel with his leading Sikhs. With clasped hands, they replied “We are thy servants, Lord. With thy knowledge of ‘the three worlds’, thou knowest best.” Guru Harkrishan, having made his decision, called for the messenger and told him that he would accompany him to Delhi. Travelling to Delhi, Guru Harkrishan traveled through Ropar, Banur and Ambala, often stopping to meet with crowds of his disciples who availed themselves of the chance to meet with their new Guru.
An Illiterate Recites Saloks
When Guru was near Panjokhara, a Sikh spoke with humility, “Sangats are coming from Peshawar, Kabul and Kashmir. Stay here a day so that they may have the chance of seeing you, Master.” The Guru agreed. In that village lived a pandit, Lal Chand by name, who was proud of his caste as well as of his learning. He came to see the Guru and spoke with derision: “It is said that you sit on the gaddi of Guru Nanak. But what do you know of the old religious books’?” Chhajju Ram, an illiterate, village water-carrier of a low caste that was forbidden access to the Vedas, happened to pass by at that moment. Guru Harkrishan asked Dargah Mall to call him.
As Chhajju Ram came, the Guru enquired if he would explain to the pandit the gist of the Bhagavad gita. The illiterate villager astonished everyone by his cogent commentary on the sacred book. Lal Chand’s pride was overcome. Humbly he fell at the Guru’s feet. Both men became the Guru’s disciples and travelled with him up to Kurukshetra. Lal Chand, taking Pahul became Lal Singh and was one of the Sikhs who fought with Guru Gobind Singh in the battle of Chamkaur on December 7, 1705, where he fell as a Martyr.
Guru Ji in Delhi
When Guru Sahib reached Delhi, he was greeted with great fervor and full honors by Mirza Raja Jai Singh and the Sikhs of Delhi. Guru Sahib was lodged in the palace of Raja Jai Singh. The people from all walks of life flocked the palace to have a glimpse (Darshan) of Guru Harkrishan Sahib. Some chronicles mention that prince Muzzam also paid a visit.
In Delhi, Guru Harkrishan put up in Raja Jai Singh’s bungalow which is now the site of Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. The house was a spacious one “designed to suit all the seasons of the year.” The Sikhs of Delhi started coming in groups to see the Guru. They came chanting the holy songs and brought offerings with them. According to the Guru kian Sakhian, Guru Harkrishan visited the emperor’s court on Chet Sudi Naumi, 1721 Bk/March 25, 1664.
As says the Mahima Prakash, the emperor had planned a trial. He had two large trays laid out for the Guru. One of these displayed ornaments, clothes and toys. The other had in it a holy man’s cloak and cowl. Both were presented to Guru Harkrishan. He rejected the tray containing ornaments and clothes, and accepted the one containing the cloak. The emperor was convinced of his holiness. He thought he would invite him again and see him perform a miracle. Guru Harkrishan guessed what the emperor had in his mind. He told himself that he would not see his face again. He believed that no one should attempt a mirage and try to disturb the law of God. Guru Harkrishan knew how his father had punished Ram Rai, his elder brother, for showing feats in Aurangzeb’s court.
Guru Ji and Rani
In order to test the Guru’s intelligence, of which everyone spoke very highly, Raja Jai Singh requested the Guru Sahib to identify the real queen out of the equally and well dressed ladies surrounding Guru Sahib. The Guru at once went to a lady dressed as a maidservant and sat in her lap. This lady was the real queen. There are also many different stories we find in some other Sikh accounts relating to Guru Sahib’s mental ability.
The Rani had devised her own test. she asked her husband, Jai Singh, to bring the Guru to the ladies’ dwelling-house. The Guru accepted the invitation. At the entrance to the inner apartments of the palace, he was received by the Raja’s servants with due honour. As he stepped inside, the ladies, in their costly jewels and clothes, bowed in reverencers He walked past them acknowledging their greetings. As he came near one dressed modestly in a maid’s coarse homespun, he stopped and said, You are the Rani. Why should you have dressed yourself in a maid’s suit?” The Rani bent her head in homage. Within a short span of time Guru Harkrishan Sahib through his fraternization with the common masses gained more and more adherents in the capital.
Guru Ji and Small Pox
At the time, a severe epidemic of cholera and smallpox was ravaging Delhi. The young Guru began to tend to the sufferers irrespective of their cast and creed. Particularly, the local Muslim population was so impressed with the purely humanitarian deeds of the Guru Sahib that they gave him the nickname of Bala Pir (child prophet). Even Aurangzeb did not try to disturb Guru Harkrishan Sahib sensing the tone of the situation but on the other hand he never dismissed the claim of Ram Rai.
While serving the suffering people from the epidemic day and night, Guru Sahib himself was seized with high fever. Suddenly one day Guru Harkrishan was taken ill with a fever. The fever turned out to be the beginning of an attack of smallpox, which confined him to bed for several days. The Guru’s tender body was ravaged by the disease. Saddened by this turn of events, the Guru’s mother, Mata Sulakkhani said:
“Son, you occupy the gaddi of Guru Nanak, you are the dispeller of the world’ s sorrows and sufferings, your very sight removes the ailments of others so why do you lie sick now?” Guru Harkrishan replied, “He who has taken this mortal frame must go through sickness and disease. Both happiness and suffering are part of life. What is ordained must happen. This is what Guru Nanak taught. Whatever He does is His order. One must walk in the light of His command.”
Guru Harkrishan had himself taken out of Mirza Raja Jai Singh’s house to a camp put up on the bank of the Jamuna. The Sikhs wondered why the Guru suffered thus. Why was this darkness surrounding the sun itself? They were in despair and wondered who would take the gaddi after him. Guru Harkrishan, as says the Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, instructed them in this manner:
“The Gurgaddi, Guru Nanak’s throne, is eternal. It is everlasting and will command increasing honour. The Granth is the Lord of all. He who wants to see me, let him with faith and love see the Granth. So will he shed all his sins. He who would wish to speak with the Guru, let him read the Granth with devotion. He who practises its teachings will obtain all the four padarathas, (4 most cherished objects) of human life. He who has faith gains all. He who is without faith acquires but little. None in this world liveth forever. The body is mortal. In the Granth abides the Guru’ s spirit. Daily bow your head to it. So will you conquer your passions and attain liberation.”
Tears filled the Sikhs’ eyes as they listened to what sounded like the last words of the Guru. Then mother Sulakkhani came forward. With tears in her eyes, she spoke, “How shall I live without thee, son? I was blessed when I came into this family married to the late Guru. I was blessed when you were born. Now I am cast into a bottomless ocean of sorrow. Who would be my rescuer? How does a fish live separated from water?” “The body is perishable,” said Guru Harkrishan. “As you learn to have faith in God’s Will, you will attain to realms sorrowless. Eternal peace will be yours.”
Today Delhi’s Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, was constructed by Sardar Baghel Singh, the Sikh General who took control of Delhi, around the Princely Haveli of Raja Jai Singh, where Guru Harkrishan Ji had stayed during his time in Delhi.
Joti Jot (Merging with God) and Successor
Shortly before his death, realizing the gravity of the situation, Guru Harkrishan called his mother and told her that his end was drawing near. When asked to name his successor, he merely exclaimed ‘Baba Bakala’. Learning of his pronouncement many would style themselves as the next Sikh Guru at the village of Bakala. However, at the time the future (Guru) Teg Bahadur Sahib, was residing at village Bakala near river Beas in Punjab province.
In the last moment Guru Harkrishan Sahib wished that nobody should mourn him after his death and instructed to sing the hyms of Gurbani. Thus the ‘Bala Pir’ passed away on Chet Sudi 14,(3rd Vaisakh), Bikrami Samvat 1721, (Saturday, 16 April 1664) slowly reciting the word “Waheguru” till the end. Tenth Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib paying tribute to Guru Harkrishan Sahib stated in “Var Sri Bhagoti Ji Ki”… “Let us think of the holy Harkrishan, Whose sight dispels all sorrows…”
Mother Sulakkhani’s heart was awakened to the truth and she felt herself released from her worldly chains. Guru Harkrishan was in a critical state. Yet he did not fail to carry out his important responsibility before he left the mortal world. In his last moments, he was able to nominate his successor. He asked for the ceremonial marks of succession to be fetched. But all he could say was “Baba Bakale.” He meant that the next Guru would be found in the town of Bakala. The reference was unmistakably to Tegh Bahadur.
The Guru’s Physical Departure
Guru Harkrishan’s physical body passed away from this planet on Saturday, 16 April 1664. Guru Harkrishan was at the age of 7. He was cremated at the present site of Bala Sahib Gurdwara. This was the place where he had camped to look after the sick and suffering poverty stricken people of Delhi. He was long remembered by the Muslims as “Bala Pir” and by the Hindus as “Balmukand”. In their Invocation prayer (ardas) written by Guru Gobind Singh, the Sikhs repeat everyday these words, “Contemplate on Guru Harkrishan, the vision of whose divine personality dispels all sorrow and suffering.”
According to the Guru kian Sakhian, Mata Bassi, the grandmother, asked Bhai Gurdas, of the family of Bhai Bahilo, to start a reading of the holy Granth in his memory. Dargah Mall and Munshi Kalyan Das were sent to Punjab with the mournful news. They first went to Kiratpur to inform Guru Harkrishan’s sister, Bibi Rup Kaur. The next day, they set out for Bakala to inform Tegh Bahadur (the future Guru Tegh Bahadur).
Diwan Dargah Mall and Munshi Kalyan Das stayed at Bakala for three days before returning to Delhi. According to an entry in the Bhatt Vahi Talauda Parganah Jind, the ashes were taken from Delhi to Kiratpur where they were mixed with the waters of the Sutlej. The original entry is translated below:
“Sangat, son of Binna Uppal, of Amb Mari, parganah Miyen ka Maur, Nanu Ram, son of Bagha, calico-printer, of Mohalla Dilwali, Delhi, Jaggu, son of Padma, of Duburji, parganah Sodhara, and Dariya, son of Mula, of Alipur Shamali, parganah Multan, carried the ashes of Guru Harkrishan from Delhi and arrived at Kiratpur, parganah Kahlur, on the 11 th of the dark half of the month of Bhadon of 1721 Bk/ Saturday, 16 April 1664. The ashes were immersed in the River Sutlej. Karahprasad was distributed.”