Guru Har Rai (January 31, 1630 – October 20, 1661) is the seventh of ten living Gurus of the Sikhs.
He was born at Kiratpur.
He received his name from his grandfather, Guru Har Gobind Sahib.
He was the son of Baba Gurdita Ji and Mata Nihal Kaur Ji(also known as Mata Ananti Ji). He was married to Mata Kishan Kaur Ji(Sulakhni Ji), daughter of Sri Daya Ram Ji of Anoopshahr (Bulandshahr) in Utter Pradesh.
He had two sons: Sri Ram Rai Ji
and Sri Har Krishan Sahib Ji (Guru). He also had a daughter named Bibi Anoop Kaur Ji. He had one elder brother Dhir Mal. Dhir Mal turned out to be disloyal and disobedient. He had some influence in the court of Mughal Emperor and was in communication with the Guru’s enemies. When Guru Har Gobind moved to Kiratpur, Dhir Mal with his mother remained at Kartarpur and took possession of the Guru’s property and the priceless original copy of the Adi Granth. He thought that as long as he had its possession, the Sikhs would look upon him as their religious leader. Dhir mal refused Guru’s invitation to come to Kiratpur on his father’s death. Guru Har Gobind nominated Har Rai, younger brother of Dhir Mal, as his successor before he departed for the heavenly abode.
Guru Har Rai Sahib loved peace but he never disbanded the armed Sikh Warriors (Saint Soldiers), who were earlier maintained by his grandfather (Guru Hargobind Sahib). He continued to maintain a cavalry of 2,200 soldiers of his grandfather throughout his Guruship. He further boosted the military spirit of the Sikhs, but he himself never indulged in any direct political or armed controversy with the contemporary Mughal Empire. Once, on the request of Dara Shikoh (the eldest son of emperor Shahjahan), Guru Sahib helped him to escape safely from the bloody hands of Aurangzebs armed forces during the war of succession.
Guru Har Rai visited Lahore, Sialkot, Pathankot, Samba, Ramgarh and many places in the Jammu and Kashmir region. He established 360 Sikh ‘missionary’ seats called Manjis (after the small cot (manji) used by the Guru’s representatives). He also tried to improve the old corrupt Masand system and appointed pious and committed personalities, such as Suthre Shah, Sahiba, Sangtia, Mian Sahib, Bhagat Bhagwan, Bhagat Mal and Jeet Mal Bhagat (also known as Bairagi), as the heads of Manjis.
Once Guru Sahib was coming back from the tour of Malwa and Doaba regions, Mohamad Yarbeg Khan, (son of Mukhlis Khan, who was killed by Guru Hargobind Sahib in a battle) attacked the kafla of Guru Sahib with the force of one thousand armed men. The unwarranted attack was repulsed by a few hundred Saint Soldiers of Guru Sahib with great courage and bravery. The enemy suffered a heavy loss of life and fled the scene. This self-defense measure, (a befitting reply to the unwarranted armed attack of the privileged Muslims) is an example for those who profess the theory of non violence. Guru Sahib often awarded gallantry awards to various Sikh warriors.
As a young child, he was disturbed by the suffering of a flower damaged by his robe in passing. Guru Har Rai often recited the following couplet of Baba Farid, which suggested that the great Sikh Guru considered compassion as the highest divine virtue in a man:-
“Hearts are jewels,
Distress them not,
Those who distress no heart
Seek the beloved God,”
His grandfather, who was famous as an avid hunter had saved the Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s life during a tiger’s attack. Guru Har Rai continued the hunting tradition of his grandfather, but he did not allow animals to be killed during his grand Shikars. The Guru would go hunting; capturing animals he would care for them and give them treatment. When the animals were healthy and fit they would be released into the animal sanctuary or wild.
Guru Har Rai learned the medicinal properties of herbs. He founded free hospitals, herbal medical clinics, animal sanctuaries and beautiful herbal gardens.
Guru Har Rai developed Kiratpur sahib as a town of parks and gardens. Located on the banks of tributary of the Sutlej, he planted flowers and fruit bearing trees all over the area. This created a salubrious environment, attracting beautiful birds to the town and turning it into an idyllic place to live in.
Aurangzeb wanted to succeed his father Shahjahan’s throne. Therefore, he administered tiger’s whiskers in a dish to his eldest brother Dara Shikoh, who became seriously ill. Astrologers, pirs and fakirs were called, all known charms, spells and incantations were tried but to no avail. Wise men were assembled together and they came to the decision that until the tiger’s whiskers could be removed, there was no hope of a recovery. They were of the opinion that if two ounces of chebulic myrobalan (scientific name: termininalia chebula; known in Ayurvedic medicine as Aralu, credited with having laxative and stomachic properties) and a clove weighing one masha were administered, his health could be restored. The Emperor searched everywhere for the ingredients but they could not be find it . His Prime Minister, who had heard of the Gurus’ fame, was informed that the required medicine was available at the Gurus’ hospital and research centre at Kiratpur. Although the Emperor was hostile to the Guru, yet as the Guru’s house was a mine of sympathy and compassion for all, there was no doubt that he would grant the articles required. The Emperor humbled and sent a letter to the Guru. The Guru was pleased that the Emperor had confidence in him as to write such a friendly letter, and consented to give the required medicines. “Behold,” said the Guru, “with one hand man breaks flowers and with one hand offers them, but the flowers perfume both hands alike. The axe cuts the sandal tree, yet the sandal perfumes the axe. The Guru ought, therefore, to return good for evil.” The ingredients were weighed and it was explained that these medicines would cause the hardest substance taken to be digested. To these ingredients, the Guru added a pearl which was to be grounded and used as a subsidiary remedy. The Emperor was naturally pleased and forgot all his enmity with the Guru. The medicine was administered and the result was a fast and complete cure.
Kiratpur was Guru Har Rai’s permanent seat. Disciples and visitors came to seek blessings and instruction at this place. The Guru kept the daily practice of his predecessors. The institution of langar, community eating, continued to flourish. Guru Har Rai chose himself the simplest fare which was earned by the labor of his own hands. In the morning, he sat in the sangat and explained the Sikh doctrine. He did not compose any hymns of his own, but often quoted those of his predecessors in his discourses. He advised Sikhs to labor honestly and to cheat no one. He stressed the importance of early morning worship and scripture, implying that whether or not words could be understood, hymns benefited the heart and soul. He admonished rulers to govern mercifully without oppression, attend only to their own spouses, abstain from drink, and be always available to their subjects. He suggested that they see to the people needs providing wells, bridges, schools, and religious ministry.
One day the Sikhs asked the Guru whether those who read the Gurus’ hymns without understanding them derived any spiritual advantage from it. The Guru gave no reply at the time. Next morning, he went hunting. En route, the Guru came across a broken pot which had held butter. The rays of the sun were melting the butter on the broken pot fragments. The Guru took one of those fragments in his hand and said that, “As the grease adhered to the pot, similarly the Gurus’ hymns affect the hearts of his Sikhs. At the time of death, the Gurus’ instruction would assuredly bear fruit. Whether understood or not, it has within it the seed of salvation. Perfume is retained a broken vase”. The meaning of the parable is that who so ever reads the Gurus hymens everyday shall assuredly achieve peace, even though he may not fully understand the same, God will undoubtedly assist him. Guru Ram Das has said:-
“The Word is the Guru, and the Guru in the Word, and in the Word is the essence of ambrosia.”
A devout Sikh called Bhai Gonda used to stay with the Guru. He was a saint in thought, word and deed. Guru ji was pleased with his sincere devotion and asked Bhai Gonda, go to Kabul to instruct the Sikhs of that place to worship the true Name, to preach the Sikh faith, feed holy men and pilgrims with the offerings received and to send the remains to Guru for the upkeep of the Lanagar. Although Kabul was a foreign country and there was danger from Muslim bigotry living at that place, Bhai Gonda cheerfully accepted the task . On arriving at Kabul he built a Gurdwara and followed Guru’s instructions. One day, while Bhai Gonda was reciting the Japuji Sahib, he felt as if he was clinging to the Guru’s feet. He was in such a state of abstraction that he became unconscious. He was absorbed in the presence of the Guru like a drop of rain in the ocean. The Guru was aware of Bhai Gonda’s state. He sat firmly on his throne keeping his feet together. At mid-day, when the food was served, Guru did not respond. When the request was repeated after an hour later, he still remained silent. After a long interval, the request was repeated, but the Guru did not reply. Several Sikhs gathered together and were about to make a representation to the Guru, when he finally spoke and explained that Bhai Gonda is in Kabul had clasped the feet of the Guru. How could he remove the same and take his food? He informed that he was waiting for the conclusion of his meditation and obeisance. Bhai Gonda did not awake from his trance before twilight, and it was the time when the Guru felt free to take his meal.
Once a man called Bhai Kala brought two of his nephews to the court of Guru Ji. The boys were called Sandlu and Roopa. Both of them played on their stomachs like on drums. Guru Ji was delighted and granted them estates. Later their descendents formed the princely states of Patiala and Nabha.
Guru Har Rai Sahib faced some serious difficulties during the period of his guruship. The corrupt massands, Dhir Mals and Minas always tried to preclude the advancement of Sikh religion. After the death of Shah Jahan, the attitude of the state headed by Aurangzeb towards the non-muslims, turned hostile. The Emperor Aurangzeb made an excuse for the help rendered to prince Dara Shakoh by Guru Sahib during the war of succession and framed false charges against Guru Sahib and summoned him to Delhi.
Ram Rai appeared at the court of the Emperor on behalf of Guru Sahib. He tried to clarify some misunderstandings regarding Guru Ghar and Sikh faith created by Dhirmals and Minas. Yet another trap, which he could not escape, was to clarify the meaning of the verse “The Ashes of the Mohammadan fall into the potter’s clot, it is molded into pots and bricks, and they cry out as they burn”. Ram Rai, in order to please the emperor and togain sympathy replied that the text had been needlessly corrupted by some ignorant person and replaced the word Musleman with word Beiman (dishonest). (The actual meaning of the verse is that the human soul is not bound to the physical structure or the body of a person. The physical material of the bodies of both Hindus and Muslims face the same fate and it is a universal truth. The soul leaves the body immediately after the death and it does not remain in the grave waiting for doom’s day. And the earth consumes the body-material in due course of time) It is a rational and scientific view of Sikhism. It was also reported to the Guru that Ram Rai had also worked miracles in the Mughal’s court against his father’s direct instructions. Sikhs are constrained by their Gurus not to believe in magic, myth or miracles.
Due to this reason, Guruji excommunicated Ram Rai from the Sikh Panth and never met him, through the later pleaded repeatedly for forgiveness. Thus Guru Sahib cautioned the Sikhs against any alteration of original verse in Guru Granth Sahib and the basic conventions set up by Guru Nanak Sahib.
Knowing that the his end was near, Guru Har Rai Sahib installed his younger son Har Krishan as the Eighth Nanak and passed away on Kartik Vadi 9 (5 Kartik), Bikrami Samvat 1718, (October 20, 1661) at Kiratpur Sahib.