Guru Amar Das
Guru Amar Das
Guru Amar Das - Goindwal
|Other names||The Third Master|
5 May 1479
|Died||1 September 1574 (aged 95)|
|Spouse||Mata Mansa Devi|
|Children||Bhai Mohan, Bhai Mohri, Bibi Dani, and Bibi Bhani|
|Parents||Tej Bhan & Mata Lachmi|
|Other names||The Third Master|
|Period in office||1552–1574|
|Successor||Guru Ram Das|
|Part of a series on|
Before becoming a Sikh, Amar Das followed the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism for much of his life. One day he heard his nephew's wife, Bibi Amro, reciting a hymn by Guru Nanak, and was deeply moved by it. Bibi Amro was the daughter of Guru Angad, the second and then current Guru of the Sikhs. Amar Das persuaded Bibi Amro to introduce him to her father  and in 1539, Amar Das, at the age of sixty, met Guru Angad and became a Sikh, devoting himself to the Guru. In 1552, before his death, Guru Angad appointed Amar Das as Guru Amar Das, the third Guru of Sikhism.
Guru Amar Das was an important innovator in Sikhism, who introduced a religious organization called the Manji system by appointing trained clergy, a system that expanded and survives into the contemporary era. He wrote and compiled hymns into a Pothi (book) that ultimately helped create the Adi Granth. Guru Amar Das helped establish the Sikh rituals relating to baby naming, wedding (Anand Karaj), and funeral, as well as the practice of congregation and celebrations of festivals such as Diwali, Maghi and Vaisakhi. He founded centres of Sikh pilgrimage, and picked the site for the Golden Temple.
Guru Amar Das was born to mother Bakht Kaur (also known as Lakshmi or Rup Kaur) and father Tej Bhan Bhalla on 5 May 1479 in Basarke village in what is now called Amritsar district of Punjab (India). He married Mansa Devi and they had four children which they named as Mohri, Mohan, Dani and Bhani.
Amar Das was a religious Hindu (Vaishnava, Vishnu focussed), reputed to have gone on some twenty pilgrimages into the Himalayas, to Haridwar on river Ganges. About 1539, on one such Hindu pilgrimage, he met a Hindu monk (sadhu) who asked him why he did not have a guru (teacher, spiritual counsellor) and Amar Das decided to get one. On his return, he heard Bibi Amro, the daughter of the Sikh Guru Angad, singing a hymn by Guru Nanak. He learnt from her about Guru Angad, and with her help met the second Guru of Sikhism and adopted him as his spiritual Guru who was much younger than his own age.
He is famous in the Sikh tradition for his relentless service to Guru Angad, with legends about waking up in the early hours and fetching water for his Guru's bath, cleaning and cooking for the volunteers with the Guru, as well devoting much time to meditation and prayers in the morning and evening. Guru Angad named Amar Das his successor in 1552, instead of naming of his surviving son Shri Chand. After Amar Das became the third Guru, he continued his pilgrimages to religious sites, one of which is authenticated in a hymn of the Guru Granth Sahib as being to Kurukshetra in January 1553.
He died in 1574, and like other Sikh Gurus he was cremated, with the "flowers" (remaining bones and ash after the cremation) immersed into harisar (flowing waters). The use of fire being most appropriate way was explained by Guru Nanak in religious terms of god Agni burning the trap of death, and Guru Amar Das was consigned to the same tradition.
Guru Amar Das emphasised both spiritual pursuits as well an ethical daily life. He encouraged his followers to wake up before dawn, do their ablutions and then meditate in silent seclusion. A good devotee, taught Amar Das, should be truthful, keep his mind in control, eat only when hungry, seek company of pious men, worship the Lord, make an honest living, serve holy men, not covet another's wealth and never slander others. He recommended holy devotion with Guru image in his follower's heart.
He was also a reformer, and discouraged veiling of women's faces (a Muslim custom) as well as sati (a Hindu custom). He encouraged the Kshatriya people to fight in order to protect people and for the sake of justice, stating this is Dharma.
Guru Amar Das started the tradition of appointing manji (zones of religious administration with an appointed chief called sangatias), introduced the dasvandh ("the tenth" of income) system of revenue collection in the name of Guru and as pooled community religious resource, and the famed langar tradition of Sikhism where anyone, without discrimination of any kind, could get a free meal in a communal seating. He also started and inaugurated the 84-level step well called baoli at Goindval with a resting place, modeled along the lines of the Indian tradition of dharmsala, which then became a Sikh pilgrimage (tirath) center.
He met the Mughal Emperor Akbar. According to the Sikh legend, he neither received Akbar nor was Akbar directly ushered to him, rather the Guru suggested that Akbar like everyone sit on the floor and eat in the langar with everyone before their first meeting. Akbar, who sought to encourage tolerance and acceptance across religious lines, readily accepted the suggestion. The Sikh hagiographies called janam-sakhis mention that Guru Amar Das persuaded Akbar to repeal the tax on Hindu pilgrims going to Haridwar.
Rituals in Sikhism: wedding, festivals, funeral
The Anand hymn is sung, in contemporary times, not only during Sikh weddings but also at major celebrations. Parts of the "Anand hymn" are recited in Sikh temples (Gurdwara) every evening, at the naming of a Sikh baby, as well as during a Sikh funeral. It is a section of the Anand Sahib composition of Guru Amar Das, printed on pages 917 to 922 of the Adi Granth and set to the "Ramkali" raga.
Guru Amar Das's entire Anand Sahib composition is a linguistic mix of Panjabi and Hindi languages, reflecting Guru Amar Das' upbringing and background. The hymn celebrates the freedom from suffering and anxiety, the union of the soul with the divine, describing a devotee's bliss achieved through the Guru with inner devotion and by repeating the Name of the Creator. The hymn states in stanza 19 that the Vedas teach "the Name is supreme", in stanza 27 that Smriti and Shastra discuss the good and the bad but are unreal because they lack a Guru and that it is the grace of the Guru which awakens the heart and the devotion to the Name. The hymn celebrates the life of a householder and constant inner devotion to the One, ending each stanza with the characteristic "says Nanak".
Guru Amar Das is also credited in the Sikh tradition to have encouraged building of temples and places where Sikhs could gather together on festivals such as Maghi, Diwali and Vaisakhi. He required his disciples to gather together for prayers and communal celebrations in autumn for Diwali and in spring for Vaisakhi, both post harvest ancient festivals of India.
Site of the Golden Temple
Guru Amar Das selected the site in Amritsar village for a special temple, that Guru Ram Das began building, Guru Arjan completed and inaugurated, and the Sikh Emperor Ranjit Singh gilded. This temple has evolved into the contemporary "Harimandir Sahib", or the temple of Hari (God), also known as the Golden Temple. It is the most sacred pilgrimage site in Sikhism.
Foundations and scripture
Scholars such as Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech and William McLeod state that Guru Amar Das was influential in introducing "distinctive features, pilgrimages, festivals, temples and rituals" that ever since his time have been an integral part of Sikhism. He is also remembered as the innovator who began the collection of hymns now known as Goindwal Pothi or Mohan Pothi, the precursor to what became the Adi Granth – the first edition of Sikh scripture – under the fifth Sikh Master, which finally emerged as the Guru Granth Sahib under the tenth Sikh Master. The nearly 900 hymns composed by Guru Amar Das constitute the third largest part, or about 15%, of the Guru Granth Sahib.
- Kushwant Singh. "Amar Das, Guru (1479-1574)". Encyclopaedia of Sikhism. Punjab University Patiala. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
- "BBC – Religions – Sikhism: Guru Angad Dev".
- Louis E. Fenech; W. H. McLeod (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1.
- Gopal Singh (1971). The Religion of the Sikhs. Allied. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-210-22296-6.
Amar Das was a farmer-trader and a strong Vaishnavite before he met Guru Angad at a fairly advanced age.
- William Owen Cole; Piara Singh Sambhi (1995). The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 20–21. ISBN 978-1-898723-13-4.
- Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2013). Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-4411-0231-7.
- Charles E. Farhadian (2015). Introducing World Religions. Baker Academic. pp. 342–342. ISBN 978-1-4412-4650-9.
- Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 41–42. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8.
- Anindita N. Balslev (2014). On World Religions: Diversity, Not Dissension. SAGE Publications. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-93-5150-174-9.
- Louis E. Fenech; W. H. McLeod (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1.
- Christopher Shackle; Arvind Mandair (2013). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. Routledge. pp. 89–91, for a translation of his complete Anand hymn see pp. 92–101. ISBN 978-1-136-45108-9.
- Dr. H.S. Singha (2005). Sikh Studies. Hemkunt Press. pp. 101–102. ISBN 978-81-7010-245-8.
- W. Owen Cole; Piara Singh Sambhi (2005). A Popular Dictionary of Sikhism: Sikh Religion and Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-1-135-79760-7.
- Pardeep Singh Arshi (1989). The Golden Temple: history, art, and architecture. Harman. pp. 5–7. ISBN 978-81-85151-25-0.
- H. S. Singha (2000). The Encyclopedia of Sikhism (over 1000 Entries). Hemkunt Press. pp. 14–17, 52–56. ISBN 978-81-7010-301-1.
- Kathleen Garces-Foley (2014). Death and Religion in a Changing World. Routledge. p. 183. ISBN 978-1-317-47333-6.
- Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh (2004). Sikhism. Infobase Publishing. p. 120. ISBN 978-1-4381-1779-9.
- Kristen Haar; Sewa Singh Kalsi (2009). Sikhism. Infobase Publishing. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-1-4381-0647-2.
- William Owen Cole; Piara Singh Sambhi (1995). The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Sussex Academic Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-898723-13-4.
- William Owen Cole; Piara Singh Sambhi (1995). The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Sussex Academic Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-898723-13-4.
- Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh (2005). The Birth of the Khalsa: A Feminist Re-Memory of Sikh Identity. State University of New York Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-7914-6583-7., Quote: "The name of the wedding ceremony, anand karaj (anand = bliss, karaj = event), is derived from Guru Amar Das's rapturous hymn Anand (bliss)."
- Rosemary Skinner Keller; Rosemary Radford Ruether; Marie Cantlon (2006). Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Indiana University Press. p. 700. ISBN 0-253-34687-8.
- Cole, W. Owen; Sambhi, Piara Singh (1993). Derived Religions?. pp. 10–24. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-23049-5_2. ISBN 978-0-333-54107-4.
- Roshen Dalal (2010). The Religions of India: A Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths. Penguin Books. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-14-341517-6.
- Jawandha, Major Nahar Singh (1 January 2010). "Glimpses of Sikhism". Sanbun Publishers. Retrieved 14 September 2016 – via Google Books.
- Paula Richman (2001). Questioning Ramayanas: A South Asian Tradition. University of California Press. pp. 403 with note 14. ISBN 978-0-520-22074-4.
- Jon Mayled (2002). Sikhism. Heinemann. pp. 36–37. ISBN 978-0-435-33627-1.
- Amar Das: Sikh Guru, Encyclopædia Britannica
- C. Christine Fair; Sumit Ganguly (2008). Treading on Hallowed Ground: Counterinsurgency Operations in Sacred Spaces. Oxford University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-19-971189-5.
- Pashaura Singh (1996), Scriptural Adaptation in the Adi Granth, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Oxford University Press, Volume 64, Number 2 (Summer 1996), pages 337–357
| Sikh Guru
26 March 1552 – 1 September 1574
Guru Ram Das