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From Discipleship to Guruship

With the arrival of Amar Das in Khadur Sahib one phase of his life ended and another began. Lying behind was the period of his search for a true guide, friend and philosopher who could grant him the peace of mind he looked for. He had tried several conventional devices but none had got him anywhere near the attainment of his cherished objective. On meeting Guru Angad Dev he had at last the feeling that he had reached his destination. But if it marked the end of one journey, it was the beginning of another. The new venture was even more arduous because it required a far more rigorous discipline than he had hitherto experienced. Amar Das's own description of the new path in Anand Sahib illustrates the hardships and hurdles besetting it:

To tread this path is to tread a path sharper than a razor and narrower than a hair. (Adi Granth, 918)

Opinions differ about the age of Amar Das at the time of his coming to Khadur Sahib. Bhai Jodh Singh1 writes that he was 72 years old then. Santokh Singh2 holds the same view. Dr. Balbir Singh Dil3 mentions that his age was 71 years at that time. All these views, however, seem to be untenable. The year 1598 BK is accepted by many writers as the time of Amar Das's arrival in Khadur Sahib. Kesar Singh Chhibbar and Giani Gian Singh make categorical references to it. Others accept it by implication. They all admit two basic points: (i) Amar Das succeeded Guru Angad Dev in 1609 BK (1552 A.D.); (ii) Amar Das was with Guru Angad for a period of twelve years. Calculating backwards on the basis of these two facts, we arrive at 1597 BK which in view of the chroniclers' not-so-strict attitude towards dates could as well be 1598 BK. Now with 1598 BK as the base year we can easily work out the age of Amar Das at the time of his joining Guru Angad Dev's Darbar with the help of what we have already accepted as the correct date of his birth i.e. 1536 BK. This would give us the figure of 61/62 years rather than 72 years as has been stated by Bhai Jodh Singh, Bhai Santokh Singh and others holding the same view. If we accept 1536 BK as the year of the Guru's birth, 1609 BK as the year of his accession and 1531 BK as the year of his death as Bhai Jodh Singh does, then in no case could the age of Amar Das be 72 years at the time of his assuming Guruship. Bhai Santokh Singh suffers from no such self-contradiction as he accepts 1526 BK as the year of Amar Das's birth, but we have already rejected his view as unacceptable. Dr Balbir Singh Dil's view is based on a wrong premise. For one thing, he has based his contention on doubtful evidence. For another, even if the view of Jalap Bhatt is taken to work out the particular date connected with Amar Das, it is applicable to the time of his attainment of Guruship rather than to that of his accepting the discipleship of Guru Angad Dev. Another issue closely allied to this problem is: What was the year when Amar Das waited upon Guru Angad Dev at Khadur Sahib? Taking 12 years to be the duration of his stay with the second Guru, as is believed by the long-established Sikh tradition, this event may be thought to have taken place around the year 1540 or 1541 A.D. Since the pontificate of Guru Angad began on 14 June 1539, it means that Amar Das joined him when the second Guru had been only one or two years on the Gurgaddi.

All chroniclers admit that once Amar Das came to Khadur Sahib and placed himself at the service of Guru Angad Dev, he decided to stay on. The immediate effect of his meeting with Guru Angad was that he took to a life of utter solitude and spent most of his time in meditation and took little notice of what was happening around him. He did not even take proper care of his own person. Guru Angad knew that what Amar Das was doing was not strictly in accordance with the Sikh way of life, but all the same it was the beginning of his new life. Therefore, the Guru just watched him carefully and abstained from interfering with his modus vivendi. Mehma Prakash4 writes in this respect:

Having taken the meal, he (Amar Das) came out and going to a solitary place took his seat comfortably. After that the Satguru (Angad Dev) made no enquiries of him. Amar Das with a steady mind was always engaged in meditation and felt happy. A long time passed off in this way. He never thought of his family, his house or his occupation. People laughed at him saying that he had abandoned his family and his home.

After a lapse of time, Amar Das realized his error. Critical remarks of the people around him proved an important instrument in bringing home to him this realization. Far more important was the indifference shown by Guru Angad Dev towards him. Meditation (bhakti bhav) is no doubt an essential part of Sikh tenets but this alone is not considered adequate. It must be accompanied by service (sewa bhav). Sikhism as preached by the Gurus Nanak Dev and Angad Dev was not an esoteric doctrine to be practised in remote and solitary recesses of forests or hills, cut off from human concerns. Rather it was a practical way of life which had to be lived in the midst of society. It was not a religion meant for jogis and sidhas who turned their backs upon fellow human beings but one intended to shape the conduct of persons determined to lead full-blooded lives. Mehma Prakash6 makes a pointed reference to this change in Amar Das:

Then the Master (Amar Das) thought in his mind:

‘I should render some service in the Durbar of Satguru;

Even when the Satguru is indifferent, the Sikh must toil in the spirit of service’.

Although the chronicler has made no clear-cut mention of the cause of this change in the outlook of Amar Das, yet reading the statement in its proper context it is not difficult to form the opinion that the main factor in his transformation was Guru Angad's disapproval of his retirement from all social activities.

This was the first lesson driven home to Amar Das. Henceforward, he never forgot this moral. It was now his firm conviction that "service of the Guru is a virtue of the first order through which the sewak (the doer of service) achieves unison with the swami (the Lord) and attains mukti (emancipation from all bonds), the highest state of existence." Thus inspired Amar Das zealously took up some of the responsibilities connected with the Guru's Durbar. He made it a daily practice to rise three hours before day and fetch fresh water for the morning bath of the Guru. During the day he would work in the community kitchen helping in the cooking and service of meals and in the cleaning of utensils. When free from this work, he would go out to gather firewood from the forest for the kitchen. In the morning as well as in the evening he busied himself in prayers and meditation. In spite of his advanced years he continued to observe this daily routine without interruption.

In matters of diet and sleep an equally rigorous schedule was observed. He ate nothing except ogra khichri6 (a saltless meal of boiled rice and lentils) and slept no more than a few hours. Naturally, the way he conducted himself now gave immense pleasure to Guru Angad Dev. The ardent spirit of his selfless service lent a new dimension to the personality of Amar Das. He grew tremendously in stature and won the admiration of everyone who watched him. Those who used to mock him earlier were now counted among his admirers.

It was about this7 time that a local Tapa (a jogi or a Brahmin) excited the Khahira jats of village Khadur against Guru Angad Dev. Explaining it Macauliffe writes:8 "He was worshipped as a guru by the Khabira jats. He was constant in his external devotion and knew how to practise spells and incantations, but he cherished a most unholy jealousy of the Guru and did all in his power to hinder the Guru's followers from making him the object of a reverence which, the Tapa contended, should never be shown to a family man. He maintained that it was he himself who was both continent and penitent, whom all men should worship".

However, the real cause of his misbehaviour lay deeper and was inherent in the then situation. As it was, the Land of Five Rivers was then full of naths, jogis and sidhs. Once reputed for their piety and social utility, they were now mere parasites and escapists. Guru Nanak had dialogues with several of them in which he had tried to impress upon them the futility of their practices.9 As the ideas of Guru Nanak gradually spread around, the popularity of these ascetics among the people began to decline. Still their number was large enough and they were found scattered all over the country. Their main characteristics were these: They practised celibacy and kept the people in awe through the exercise of what they called ridhis and sidhis, miraculous powers, or jantar-mantar (spell and incantation). They prided themselves on being brahmacharis (celebates) and on their capability to work miracles. But since they were hollow from within, they could not face the challenge of the increasing popularity of Sikhism. Being of recent origin, the Sikh creed possessed the vigour and zeal which always go with a new-born religion. Also, it was remarkably free from austerities and oddities associated with ascetic jogis and sidhs. The teachings of Sikh Gurus were simple. Besides, they were jmparted through the language easily understood by the common people. Their emphasis on new social values giving an honoured place to married household life combined with their magnetic personalities produced an effect which the dry-as-dust austerities of the arrogant jogis and sidhs could not generate. Feeling greatly upset over the new developments, these ascetics resorted to creating trouble for the Sikhs, as the Tapa of Khadur was doing on this occasion.

A severe drought furnished him with the opportunity he had been looking for. The months of June, July and August bad passed and the usual rains of the season had not appeared. Food stuffs became scarce and dear and the people were greatly distressed. In their misery they approached the Guru but he counselled them to have patience and to obey God's will. Then they approached the Tapa and represented their difficulties to him. The Tapa spoke very bitterly to them.10 "Why should the Guru occupy the seat which belongs to me? So long as I am alive, it must be mine."

Macaulitfe11 gives the dialogue in detail. The Tapa said, "I am a monk, yet no one worships me but all worship the family man. Go now and tell the Guru to procure you rain". The cultivators replied, "The Guru telleth no one to worship him. He careth naught for king or emperor, he thinketh not of eating or drinking. Every offering made to him is sent into his kitchen, whence the poor, the indigent, the traveler and stranger are fed. We have no power to compel the Guru". The Tapa replied, "If you expel him from the city, I will send you rain in less than twenty-four hours. If on the other hand you allow him to remain, let him cause rain to fall''. Thereupon, these people went to Guru Angad again and bluntly asked him to cause rain or to quit. "Our Guru is he who gives us rain", they exclaimed.12 Without a moment's hesitation the Guru got ready to leave the place and asked the sangat to pack up immediately. Bhai Budha disapproved of the way and behaviour of the Jats but was asked to restrain himself. Then all of them moved to the old mound of Khan Rajad, several miles away to the south of village Khadur.

Amar Das was away from Khadur when all this happened. When he arrived there and learnt about it, he was greatly shocked. He boldly told the people of Khadur that they had acted like fools by substituting a lamp (the Tapa) for the sun (the Guru). The Tapa, he explained, was a worthless pretender deserving little respect13-a hypocrite who exploits innocent people for his selfish ends. If he possessed the power to work miracles, why should he go a begging from house to house? The argument of Amar Das convinced the people of their blunder and they soon "inflicted suitable punishment on the Tapa so that other evil men might not be tempted to follow his example".14 But the version of Mehma Prakash15, which is repeated in many subsequent works, underlines supernatural elements more than logic. It is mentioned here that after assembling the people Amar Das thus spoke to them: "The Jogi has not sent rain to you. Then why have you expelled the Guru? Go and ask the Pir (Jogi) to send rain so that your object is achieved. If the Jogi fails to accomplish this, then, I shall do it immediately’. Hearing this they all flocked round the Jogi and asked him to send rain. The Jogi replied, "The rain does not rest in the palm of my hand. Some spells and incantations will be performed and then rainfall will occur". This was an evasive reply which failed to satisfy the Jats. They returned and requested Amar Das to come to their rescue. Unwittingly, Amar Das said, "Bind the feet of the Jogi with a rope. Rain will fall wherever the body of the Jogi will be dragged". The people accepted his suggestion and dragged the Jogi by the feet as advised. The result was that not only the Jogi perished but also his body was torn off limb by limb, bone by bone and taken across the fields for the people felt that wherever it was done, surely there was rainfall.

After that, these people proceeded to Khan Rajad in the company of Amar Das to beg pardon of Guru Angad Dev for their misconduct and to request him to return to Khadur. The news of the condign punishment of the Tapa had already travelled to the Guru. When he saw Amar Das approaching him, he turned his face to the other side to express his sense of displeasure against his conduct in having the Tapa punished. Amar Das then went to the other side to get in front of his face. Again, the Guru ignored him and turned his face in another direction. Thereupon, Amar Das in all humility entreated the Guru to excuse him if he had committed any sin. The Guru then told him in plain words: "Thou hast not obtained the fruits of companionship with me, which are peace, forbearance and forgiveness. Thou cannot endure things difficult to be endured. What thou didst, thou didst to please the rabble".16 On hearing this Amar Das threw himself at the Guru's feet and asked for his pardon." He promised that he would for the future abide by such instructions as the Guru was pleased to communicate". Then the Guru answered: "Thou shouldst have endurance e like the earth, steadfastness in woe and weal like a mountain; thou shouldst bear pardon in thy heart and do good to every one irrespective of his acts. Thou shouldst deem gold and dross as the same and practise humility, for the humble shall ever be exalted".17

The above words of Guru Angad Dev provided another in lesson to Amar Das in his probation in Sikhism. Faith in God's will constituted a fundamental of Sikhism as preached by Guru Nanak and his successor Guru Angad Dev. The misconduct of the Tapa was a test for Amar Das. Instead of trusting to the Will of God to chastise the evil-doer, he took the law into his own hands and did not test till the Tapa was suitably dealt with. This was not the true Sikh spirit and hence the warning tendered to him by the Guru. The lesson was however firmly grasped and in future though on several occasions Amar Das faced grave provocations he never allowed them to overpower him or warp his judgment.

On the way back from Khan Rajad the Guru passed through the village Bhairo or Bhairopur. There lived a man called Khiwan or Kheo, a Bhalla Khatri by caste. Hearing of the Guru, he went forth to meet him and invited him to visit his house and bless it. The Guru accepted the invitation. A special meal for the occasion was prepared with milk and ghee. After everybody had eaten, Kheo implored the Guru for his blessings. The Guru was pleased with his devotion and cheered him with good words. Amar Das who was standing nearby promised that the true Guru would grant him a son and that son would be a saint. On hearing this everybody was astonished that he was bestowing gifts like a prophet. Immediately after that, Amar Das felt that he had again transgressed the Guru’s injunctions and expressed his regrets for that. Thereupon, the Guru told him that in future whatever he said, he should say it with deliberation.18

There was great rejoicing in Khadur on the Guru's return. People flocked to him in large numbers. "It was everywhere believed that the Tapa's punishment was a supernatural event to attest the Guru's divine mission."19 Thereafter, no rival of Guru Angad set foot in Khadur. The Guru's court with its programmes of kirtan (recitation of holy hymns) and Langar (free mess) started functioning in still greater glory. The musicians of the court, Satta and Balwand, composed a special ode20 to mark this happy occasion.21

Once again did the True Guru, son of Pheru, bless Khadur;

With you are found God's remembrance, meditation and self-restraint, with others only arrogance;

Greed destroys men like slime does water;

God's light is showered on the Guru's court;

You, an Ocean of peace of fathomless depth;

Replete with the Treasure of the Name-the Nine Treasures;

Whosoever speaks ill of you is annihilated;

To the people this world is close but to you distant;

Once again did the True Guru, son of Pheru, bless Khadur.

This is an authentic piece of historical evidence, coming as it does from the people who were eye-witnesses to the Tapa episode.

The contents of this ode, though couched in symbolic language bear eloquent testimony to the arrogance of the Tapa, the migration of Guru Angad from Khadur and his subsequent return to it, and also his protection by God against his detractors.

Amar Das had made tremendous headway in adapting himself to the demands of Sikhism since he had arrived in the Guru's camp. No doubt, as seen before, he had his quota of problems and difficulties but he had successfully overcome them in the true spirit of a probationer. However, in his mode of living there was still one deficiency. He had been ignoring his family for the last so many years. Obviously, this was contrary to Sikh norms. In Sikhism, family life is not considered a necessary evil or an evil to be avoided at all costs, but an essential part of one's social responsibilities. Religion is to be lived in the midst of society and not to be practised in remote and obscure corners of solitude. Sikhism does not recognise Bonprasth and Sanyas Ashrams which make retirement from active life a necessary precondition of spiritual realization. Guru Nanak had proclaimed that the true way to salvation lies through living pure in the midst of impurities. Just as the lotus flower is at once in water and out of it, in the same manner man must be at once in the world and out of it. In other words, he ought to transcend the material world while performing the normal worldly obligations.

Therefore, after a few years Amar Das was told to return to his native place Basarke and meet his family. The Guru said to him, "Good man, now go home, you have been away very long". A mar Das replied, "What is there to 'be done? What shall I do there without having a sight of you ? How can I exist in separation from your lotus-feet?" The Guru answered, "The Guru Baba (Nanak) adopted the Grihsath Ashram (householder's life). Then he wished me to follow suit. I acted according to his wishes. Now you must also act in the same way. Reside at home, practice devotion, preach, and save the world. It is long since you came. Meet your family and make them happy. As regards what you have said about living away from me, remember there is no difference between you and me. I shall be ever present in your heart. I cherish no one excepting you."22

There was a great rejoicing when Amar Das reached borne. A large number of people came to see him. He would usually take his seat under the shade of a peepal tree standing on the bank of the village tank he himself had got constructed some years earlier. It was a beautiful spot which later came to be called by the name of Guruana.23

After Amar Das had been at Basarke for quite some time, he became anxious to have a sight of Guru Angad. So he proceeded to Khadur Sahib where he was received by the Guru with great love and affection.

It is said that sometime after Amar Das's arrival there a Marwaha Khatri, Gobind by name, from a neighbouring place waited upon the Guru. He had tried to found a new city on the bank of the river Beas but without success. People feared that it was a haunted place and refused to settle there. Strangely enough, the construction accomplished by day was mysteriously demolished by night. This was cited in proof of the place being under the spell of demons.24 So in all humility, Gobind prayed the Guru to have the settlement completed and called after himself. When the Guru told him that nothing ought to be dearer to man than the True Name, he implored the Guru to grant his desire, even if he had no ambition to have the city founded in his honour.

Upon this the Guru25 ordered Amar Das to go and live there. Amar Das readily agreed but sought the Guru's protection saying, "It is a haunted place and people say that it is not good to live there". Hearing this the Guru smiled and assuring him said, "There should be no worry. Through the grace of your feet the bad will be turned into the good''.26 The Guru also gave a broad hint as to the spot where he should build his residence. As directed, Amar Das left for the new place in company with Chaudhuri Gobind. His sweet and charming personality helped resolve all difficulties encountered in the foundation of the new settlement (basti) and generated the right kind of climate for this project. In a few months' time there was ostensible progress. The new settlement was named Gobindwal after the Chaudhuri's name. Popular usage gradually changed 'Gobindwal' into 'Goindwal.'

Overjoyed with the success of his project, the Chaudhuri called upon the Guru at Khadur Sahib to thank him for his good office s and the help rendered by Amar Das. He also took the opportunity of making an earnest appeal to him to shift his headquarters from Khadur Sahib to Gobindwal. The Guru did not want to move but he asked Amar Das to bring his family from his village and put up permanently at Gobindwal27 Accepting the Guru's orders, Amar Das sent for his people. When they arrived, Amar Das took them into the Guru's presence. On seeing them the Guru enquired of Amar Das about his children. In reply Amar Das said, "I had two daughters. Both have been married off. I do not want any more offspring. All l desire is the love of the Guru's feet'·. This pleased the Guru who observed, "Wonderful Man, you are really wonderful. Baba Nanak had two sons. Through his blessing I got two sons. Now you too may be blessed with two sons, I pray."28 To this Amar Das humbly replied that he had grown too old for that. The Guru asked him to have faith because for the Almighty God nothing is impossible.

Soon after A mar Das and his family took leave of the Guru and moved into Goindwal where the Chaudhuri had built for them a grand and spacious mansion. On seeing the grandeur of the house Amar Das refused to occupy it29 and said that he would rather live in a simple and ordinary house than in a palace like that. In conformity with his wishes and according to his taste a new house was got constructed. The house had a special room (chaubara) on the first floor for meditation purposes.

When Amar Das had settled down at the new place, Guru Angad thought of going there and seeing the new town himself. On hearing of the Guru's programme Amar Das at once set out from his residence and received the Guru midway between. The two walked together to the river bank, the Guru holding Amar Das by the hand, and sat there watching the gurgling waters of the Beas. While they were thus engaged, a strong wave of water reached up to the Guru's feet and kissing them left a big fish on the bank just in front of them. It appeared as if the water god Baran (Khizar in Muslim terminology) bad made an offering to the Guru as a mark of honour.30 The Guru, says the chronicler, reciprocated the gesture by having a portion of the sacred food (krah prasad) cast in the river for the fish to eat.

Having stayed at Gobindwal for a short time, the Guru returned to Khadur Sahib accompanied by Amar Das. When Amar Das was about to depart, the Guru asked him to come to Khadur every morning and spend the entire day there. He could retire to Goindwal at night.31 Henceforward, this was the daily routine of Amar Das, which he continued to observe till he himself ascended the gurgaddi.

In course of time two sons were born to Amar Das at Goindwal.32 They were twins. The first to be born was given the name of Mohri and the second, Mohan. This was an occasion of great rejoicing in the family. Special thanks were due to Guru Angad to whose blessings was attributed this happy event. The good news was immediately communicated to the Guru.

When the initial period was over, Amar Das took the newborn sons and their mother to the Guru and placed his head at his lotus-feet in acknowledgement of his deep gratitude to him. The Guru in his graciousness blessed him and his family. Mehma Prakash33 mentions that it was on the same occasion that Amar Das was asked by the Guru to take his sons Datu and Dasu and other members of his family also along with himto Goindwal and to look after them. After a moment's thought Amar Das agreed to abide by his Master's wishes. On returning to Goindwal , Amar Das got a special house constructed for the Guru's family.31 The inhabitants of Goindwal were mighty pleased and extended a warmest welcome to the members of the Guru's household when they arrived there.

Thereafter Guru Angad Dev made frequent visits to Goindwal.35 During one of his visits, when he was on the way back to Khadur Sahib, he was holding the right hand of Amar Das. It so happened that while they were travelling and engaged in conversation, the left arm of Amar Das unconsciously committed the blunder of protruding ahead of the Guru's person. Immediately, Amar Das realized that he had been guilty of showing disrespect to his revered Master. He bent the guilty arm close to his chest and resolved never to use it for the future. When subsequently the Guru learnt about it, he did not appreciate it and said to him, ''It is of no consequence; swing thine arm by all means. It is not by austerities the senses should be controlled. Move thy feet and hands in saints' service and thy devotion will be profitable. He who performeth such service shall be happy. Let man renounce pride, fear, and love God, accept His will and obey His commands. These are the marks of a true Sikh."36

On another occasion when Amar Das was proceeding from Goindwal to Khadur, he fell in with an Uppal Khatri called Sihan who had a large number of goats with him. On enquiry from Amar Das, he told him that all those goats would be sacrificed on the occasion of the mundan (hair-cutting) ceremony of his son. Amar Das convinced him that what he intended to do was something very wrong. And why should one shed so much unnecessary blood for a ceremony which can be performed without much expense. It is said that the words of Amar Das produced the desired effect upon Sihan and he abandoned the idea of sacrificing the goats for the mundan ceremony.37

Chroniclers have mentioned a few more incidents which show how great and intense was Amar Das's devotion to his Master. One is related to the head dress of Amar Das. It is said that every year (along with other Sikhs, he was granted a yard-and-half length of cloth by the Guru as a robe of honour.38 Each time Amar Das tied it on his head. He went on repeating it till towards the end of his long span of probation he carried on his head a heavy load weighing several seers. Some of the writers have attempted to produce a dramatic effect by overdrawing the picture. For instance, it is observed that once a robe was tied over the head, it was never put off and when another was received, it was tied on the top of the previous one. So much so that a swarm of lice appeared in the head dress as well as in the hair of the wearer. Obviously this is unacceptable. Dr Dil has rightly rejected it as a practice contrary to Sikh tenets. Had Amar Das adopted this practice, the Guru would have disallowed it as he did in many other cases where Amar Das appeared to be departing from the true Sikh line. Otherwise, too, it is too much to say that the head dress was never put off, even during sleep at night or at the time of bath, or that it was never washed for the entire period of 12 years. The author of Mehma Prakash39 in his zeal has gone to the preposterous extent of saying that Amar Das continued to wear the same suit of clothes as he had worn when he first arrived in Khadur.

Perhaps the event which created the deepest impression upon the mind of Guru Angad Dev was Amar Das's carrying a pitcher full of Beas water from Goindwal to Khadur for the morning wash of the Guru. The occasion was of Chet chaudan40 (14th of the month of 'Chet' Macauliffe, p. 41). There was no moon, the sky was overcast with dark clouds, a cold wind was blowing and there was lightning and rain. Amar Das who spent his nights at Goindwal and days at Khadur, woke up some hours before day and started for Khadur with a bronze vessel (gagar) filled with Beas water. He paid no regard to the elements and went along feeling his way in the thick darkness. On reaching Khadur he had to pass through a settlement of weavers. The holes in the ground into which the weavers put their feet when sitting at their looms were filled with rain water. He struck his foot against a peg of karir wood and fell into one of such holes. However, in spite of his fall he succeeded in saving the water on his hand. On hearing the noise created by his fall some of the weavers woke up. They shouted, "Thief! thief!" When they came out and heard somebody reciting holy hymns, one of the weavers' women remarked 41, "Fear not, it is not a thief. It is not a thief. It is that poor homeless Amru whose beard hath grown gray and who hath taken leave of his senses. Having abandoned his sons and daughters, his house and home, his commerce and his dealings, he is now without occupation and wandereth from door to door. Other people go to sleep at night but he will not rest even then. Single-handed he doeth the work of twenty men. He is ever bringing water from the river and firewood from the forest: and what a guru to serve". Amar Das did not mind the disrespectful language used for himself but he could not endure any bad word regarding his Master. He remarked,42 "O weaver's wife, you have gone mad, you have no sense. I am serving such a Master. Why do call me homeless (nithawan)?" Saying this he took his vessel of water to the Guru.

It is said that the weaver's wife did in fact go mad as the result of Amar Das's censure. The weavers realized their mistake and when the day dawned, they took the woman to the Guru and implored his pardon. They informed him frankly of what had happened during the night and expressed sincere regrets for her misconduct. Amar Das who was present on the occasion also gave an account of the incident. After knowing all the facts of the case, the Guru observed,"Amar Das hath done great service and his toil is acceptable. His words prove true; wealth, supernatural power, and all earthly advantages wait on him'. The peg against which he struck his foot shall grow green and the weaver's wife shall recover. He who serveth Amar Das shall obtain the fruit his heart desireth. Ye describe him as homeless, and lowly, but he shall be the home of the homeless, the honour of the unhonoured, the strength of the strengthless, the support of the unsupported, the shelter of the unsheltered, the protector of the unprotected, the restorer of what is lost, the emancipator of the captive."43

This incident finally decided the Guru's mind in favour of Amar Das. He had watched Amar Das continuously for nearly twelve long years and had come to the conclusion that he was the best among all his Sikhs. He had also observed that neither of his two sons Datu and Dasu was fit enough to be his successor. The heroic manner in which on this fateful night of the incident A mar Das had defied the elements of cold wind, lightning, rain, darkness and old age provided a supreme test of his qualities of love, devotion and humility. The Guru did not want to delay any more the final settlement of the issue of succession. The opportunity was well provided because he now felt that he did not have many more days to Jive. So it was ordered that a piece of cocoanut and five copper coins be brought to him. Amar Das was given a special wash, clothed in a new dress and installed in the Guru's seat. After that the Guru placed the five copper coins and the cocoanut piece before him while Bhai Budha44 applied the tilak mark of Guruship to his forehead.

The ceremony being over, the Guru addressed a few words to Amar Das charging him with the task of continuing the mission of Baba Nanak. "What Guru Baba said to me, has ever remained steady in my mind. Herewith I pass that same commission on to you: build up the Gurmukh Panth on the foundation of truth".45 Turning to the Sikhs assembled there, the Guru said,46 "Whoever serveth him shall obtain happiness in this world and salvation in the next, and he who envieth him shall have sorrow as his portion."

Thereupon all Sikhs present on the occasion made obeisance to the new Guru and fell at his feet. Guru Angad sent for his two sons, Dasu and Datu and talking to them about his appointment of Amar Das as his successor wished them to bow before him. They were told that the office of the Guru had been offered to him for his ceaseless toil, manifold virtues and piety. But all this had no effect on them and they declined to make a bow before Amar Das whom they in their arrogance had all along deemed their servant.

A few days after on the fourth day of the light half of the month of Chet in the Bikrami year 1609 (4 Sudi Chet Samvat 1609/29 March 1552) Guru Angad Dev breathed his last after a pontifical tenure of 12 years, 6 months and nine days. Having a premonition of the end, he had asked all his people to assemble and telling them that he was soon going to depart this life, enjoined upon them to accept God's will. Before the end came and his light mingled with the light of God, he entrusted his two sons Dasu and Datu to the care of Guru Amar Das.47 and reiterated,48 "Guru Amar Das is my own image. There is no difference between us. He who does not believe in this unity, accursed is his life.''

After the cremation of Guru Angad's body, Guru Amar Das consoled the Sikhs in these words: "Guru Angad is imperishable and immortal. It is a law of the body to be born and to die, but the soul is different. It is ever the same essence. Holy men have deemed human life temporary, like the roosting of birds for night on a tree, or like the brief occupation of a ferryboat by passengers".49


1. Bhai Jodh Singh, Life of Guru Amar Das Ji, Part II, p. 3.

2. Bhai Santokh Singh, Gur Partap Suraj Granth, Ras I, Ansu 7.

3. Dr Balbir Singh D1l, Amar Kavi Guru Amar Das, p. 31.

4. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., pp. 50·51.

5. ibid., p. 51.

6. ibid.

7. In all likelihood this incident occurred in the early years of Guru Angad's pontificate, possibly in the fourth or fifth year after his accession. Both Sarup Das Bhalla and Macauliffe place it in the period following the foundation of Goindwal but this does not seem to be correct for the reason that since the Tapa had a basic objection to Guru Angad's stay at Khadur, he could not have kept quiet for so long. In Mehma Prakash (p. 69) there is a hint that the Tapa was out on travels for a few years. When he returned he immediately raised objection to the stay of Guru Angad Dev at Khadur. If the incident had happened after the foundation of Goindwal the Guru would have preferred to stay at Goindwal and not gone to a far-off place like Khan Rajad. Moreover, if Amar Das was then at Goindwal, as said by Macauliffe and Sarup Das Bhalla, he would have surely known it when the Guru was on his way to Khan Rajad.

8. Macauliffe, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 35.

9. The substance of these dialogues was later reduced to writing by Guru Nanak. Now it is found under the title of Sidh Ghosht in the Adi Granth.

10. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 70.

ਮਮ ਅਸਥਾਨ ਗੁਰੁ ਕਿਉ ਰਹੈ ।

ਹਮ ਜੀਵਤ ਆਸਨ ਹਮ ਬਹੈਂ ।

Why should the Guru occupy my seat?

I am alive, I must occupy my seat.

11. Macauliffe, op. cit., p. 36.

12. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 70.

ਸੋ ਹਮਰਾ ਗੁਰੂ ਜੋ ਬਰਖਾ ਕਰੀ ।

Our Guru is he who causes rain.

13. Guru Amar Das held strong views on the subject of such pretenders. The following sloka is given in English rendering to illustrate his views:

By meeting the true Guru worldly hunger departeth? But it departeth not by merely putting on a sectarial garb.

Through the pain of hunger the Tapa wandereth from house to house; in the next world he shall obtain twofold punishment.

His appetite is not satisfied, and he never eateth in comfort what he obtaineth.

He ever beggeth with persistency and annoyeth the giver.

Leading the life of a householder, by which some may gain, is better than putting on such a sectarial dress.

They who are imbued with the word acquire understanding, others are led astray by doubt.

They act as they were destined; it is of no use to address them.

Nanak, they who please God, are fortunate, they are honoured and acceptable. (For translation see Macauliffe, op. cit, Vol. II, pp. 37-38).

This is followed by another sloka bearing on the same subject. Both these slokas are from Wadhans ki Var, Mohalla 4-Adi Granth, 587-588. Macauliffe has said that both these slokas were composed by Amar Das on the occasion of the Tapa incident. This does not appear to be correct because the word Nanak used in the slokas shows that they were composed after he had 'ascended the Gurgaddi.

14. Macauliffe, op. cit., Vol. IT, p. 38.

15. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 70.

16. Macauliffe, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 38.

17. Ibid., p. 37; Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 75.

18. Macauliffe, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 39.

19. ibid.

20. Incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib and called Tike di Var.

21. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., pp. 77-78.

22. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., pp. Si-59.

23. ibid., p. 59.

24. Macauliffe, (op. cit., Vol. II, p. 34) attributes it to the enmity of Gobind's relations rather than to demons.

25. Dr Balbir Singh Oil says that at first the Guru asked his sons Datu and Dasu to accompany the Chaudhari. But both of them declined to go protesting that the place was haunted by evil spirits. They suggested the name of Amar Das for this purpose. When Amar Das was sounded, he agreed to obey but said that he could do it only with the Guru's blessings. (Amar Kavi Guru Amar Das, p. 39}.

26. Macauliffe writes that the Guru gave Amar Das his walking stick and told him that this stick would help him remove all obstacles and hindrances he might experience in his new assignment. (op. cit., Vol. II. p. 34).

27. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 61.

ਤਬ ਗੁਰੂ ਅੰਗਦ ਜੀ ਮੁਖ ਕਹਿਓ ।

ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਲੋਕ ਬੁਲਾਇ ਪੁਰਖਾ ਤਹ ਰਹੋ ।

Then Guru Angad spoke thus:

Man, thou callest your people from home and stay there.

28. ibid.

29. Mehma Prakash writes that on Amar Das's refusal to live in that house, it caught fire mysteriously and was reduced to ashes. The new house was built on the same spot after clearing the debris. (p. 62.)

30. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 64.

31. Sarup Das Bballa, op. cit., p. 65.

32. ibid. The popular tradition however is that Mohan was elder to Mohri.

33. ibid., p. 67.

34. The shifting of Guru Angad's family from Khadur to Goindwal finds no mention in later writings but the evidence of Mehma Prakash is significant and need not be ignored.

35. Sarup Das Bballa, op. cit., p. 84.

36. Macauliffe, op. cit., Vol. JI, p. 33.

37. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 84.

38. Opinions differ on this m1tter. Giani Gian Singh says (Panth Prakash, p. 87) that such robes were distributed once every year. Bhai Santokh Singh and Macauliffe hold that this was done every six months. Gian Singh mentions (Panth Prakash, p. 87) that the weight of the headdress at the time of Amar Das's nomination to the Gurgaddi was seven standard seers. If this view is accepted, then the version of Macauliffe and Santokh Singh rather than that of Gian Singh seems nearer the mark.

39. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 51.

40. It was, as at present, a special occasion and perhaps it was for this reason that Amar Das had to carry water from the Beas for the Guru's wash. Normally, water for this purpose was drawn from a local well. But the Sikh tradition says that water was fetched daily by Amar Das from the Beas. Since in both cases, the duty of providing water for the bath was performed by Amar Das, it seems that a kind of mixing up has occurred in the Sikh tradition.

41. Macauliffe, op. cit., VQJ. II, pp. 42-43. Mehma Prakash (p. 52) writes as follows in this connection: "A man without any home, he lives here. He has abandoned his home and his family. He is insensitive to people's jeers and taunts and has attached himself to a tapa.'' Here the word tapa is used for the Guru.

42. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 53.

43. Macauliffe, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 43. Mehma Prakash, pp. 45-55

44. Mehma Prakash (p. 55) mentions that the tilak mark was applied by Guru Angad himself. But this is contrary to the firmly established Sikh belief that this function was performed by Bhai Budha in all cases from Guru Angad to Guru Hargobind.

45. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 57.

46. Macauliffe, op. cit., Vol. H, p. 44.

47. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 89.

ਦਾਸ ਦਾਤਾ ਜੀ ਸੁਨਤ ਹੀ ਆਏ ਤਾ ਤਤਕਾਲ ।

ਹਾਥ ਪਕਰ ਗੁਰੂ ਅਮਰ ਸੋ ਸੌਪਿਓ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਦਿਆਲ ।

Immediately on hearing of this, Das and Datta reached there. The generous Satguru caught hold of their hands and entrusted them to the care of Guru Amar Das.

48. ibid., p. 89.

49. Macauliffe, op. cit., p. 45.