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History of Punjab: History of the Sikh Gurus
Guru Angad Because of his proved loyalty and devotion, Angad became the Guru appointed by Nanak. Angad was born in 1504 in the village of Khadur, on the river Bias. The Sikh religion, would, in all probability, have gradually died out and sunk into oblivion, had it not been for the foresight and wisdom of its founder, in establishing an apostolic successorship. Angad was strongly attached to Nanak, his most fervent server and ally. He was hardly possessed of any merits of his own. He commited to writing much about his great predecessor. He also recorded the results of his own devotional observations which have been incorporated in the Granth, the scriptures of the Sikhs. Angad also created Gurmukhi, the Punjabi script used in the Granth. Guru Angad died in 1552, the 13th year of the reign of Akber. His tomb was erected in his native village.
Guru Amar Das What was looked for in a successor was moral courage and devotion to the reigning Guru. Amar Das, on whom the choice of successorship fell, was the most faithful follower of Guru Angad. He was born at Vasarki, a village in the Amritsar district, in 1509. On the death of Angad, Amar Das established himself at Gowindwal. He was a successful teacher, and his zeal and passion secured him many converts to the new faith. He composed many beautiful verses, which have been incorporated in the Granth. He disapproved of satti, a practice of burning widows, and encouraged the re-marriage of Hindu widows. Amar Das was also a big proponent of the langar, or community kitchen, in the Sikh temples. Amar Das sent 22 of his chosen disciples to visit various parts of the country to spread the religion of Nanak. Amar Das died in Gowindwal, on May 14th, 1574, having reigned as Guru for a period of 22 years.
Guru Ram Das Guru Ram Das was a native of Lahore. His parents moved to Gowindwal, where, in consequence of their poverty, Ram Das had recourse to selling boiled grain to support his parents. He was a man of considerable merit, well worthy of the choice of his master. He gave himself up to literary pursuits, in which he expounded his doctrines, which have been incorporated in the Granth. In Lahore he had a meeting with the tolerant Akhbar, who was highly pleased with his accomplishments, and who granted him a piece of land. Here Ram Das restored an old tank which he called Amritsar, or pool of immortality, and built a temple, which he named Harmandar. At another interview, Ram Das convinced Emperor Akber that because many poor people cannot afford food to remit a year's rent for them. Akhbar granted his request, being impressed with the Guru's sympathy, and such an action made the Guru immensely popular among the Jats and the zemindars. In founding the temple in Amritsar, the Guru laid the foundation of the future greatness of the Sikhs as a nation. Ram Das died in March, 1581, having reigned as a Guru for seven years.
Guru Arjan Arjan, the 3rd son of Guru Ram Das, became the Guru in 1581 after his death. Arjan established himself in Amritsar, and was the first Guru who dressed himself in a more princely fashion. He created the Harmandar, or Golden Temple, the most sacred temple to the Sikhs. He organized the Sikhs into a community, and devised measures for extending his spiritual authority. With a view to uniting the followers by one common religious tie, he gave a religious code, in which he incorporated the sayings and verses of Nanak, the compositions of his predecessors, and his own. This code he called the Granth, or the holy book. A copy was kept in the Harmandar, or holy temple, and recited each day. Hymns were sung in the praise of the Lord. The Guru organized a system of taxation and created a system of government. Arjun refused to marry his son, Har Govind, to the daughter of a powerful financial minister in Lahore. The minister, becoming angry, convinced Emperor Jahangir of Lahore to charge the Guru of treason, and eventually the Guru was thrown in prison, where the Emperor wished to extort a large sum of money from him, which the Guru was unable to pay. The Guru was tortured and died of heat apoplexy. Arjun reigned as a Guru for 24 years, and his tomb now stands opposite the fort of Lahore, near the museum of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Guru Arjan was a prolific writer, composed verses in the Granth and Gian Ratnaoli. The death of Guru Arjan is a great turning point in the history of the Sikh nation, for it inflamed passion of the Sikhs, and it was a time that those seeds of hatred of the Musalman power were in deep root.
Guru Har Govind At the death of Guru Har Govind, his son, Har Govind, became the Guru. Har Govind combined the qualities of a warrior, a saint and a sportsman. He was the first Guru who organized a military system, and, arming his followers, made them buckle the sword and prepared to defend. In Amritsar, Har Govind had revenge taken on the financial minister that had his father tortured. The Guru maintained a large establishment, had fine horses, and built the town of Hargovindpur on the banks of the Bias river, to serve as a retreat. Because Har Govind failed to pay the balance of a heavy fine imposed on his father, the Emperor imprisoned the Guru in a state of semi-starvation. The faithful continuously flocked the prison the Guru was held, and after 12 years, released the Guru. After some time, the Sikhs and the Mahomedans quarrelled, which would mark the first time the two sides fought in the Punjab. After some years, the Guru retired to the jungles of Bhatinda, to avoid further encounter with the imperial army. While in the jungles, the Guru converted great crowds to the faith of Nanak, and this behavior inflamed the king with violent anger, which ignited more battles between the Sikhs and the Mahomedan army. Towards the close of his life, Har Govind withdrew to the hills where he died in peace in 1645, after nominating his grandson, Har Rai, as the Guru. He reigned as Guru for 31 years, and his death was considered a national calamity. Har Govind had three wives, by whom he had five sons.
Guru Har Rai On succeeding Har Govind, Har Rai established himself at Kartarpur on the banks of the Sutlej river. He was quite and contented man, with no taste for war. Because of the hostility of the empire, Har Rai withdrew from the scene and stayed in Kartarpur. Aurangzeb, the ruler of the Moghals, issued orders demanding the Guru to be present in imperial court of Delhi, but the Guru was able to dodge the demand with a letter to the king sent by his son, Ram Rai. Aurangzeb was satisfied with the letter and kept Ram Rai at his court, as a hostage. After 33 years as the Guru, Har Rai died in tranquillity at Kartarpur, in 1661.
Guru Harkishan Har Rai had two sons, Ram Rai and Harkishan. His father made Harkishan as his apostolic successor, although he was only 6 years of age. A violent contest rose among the Sikhs regarding the succession, and the emperor issues a mandate to Harkishan to repair to Delhi without delay. The emperor tested his intelligence and character in multiple ways, and he declared his right to succeed to the office of Guru to be indisputable. The infant Guru was, however, attacked by small-pox, and died on March 14th, 1664, at Delhi. While at his deathbed, the disciples asked who should be their spiritual leader, and the Guru indicated that Tegh Bahadur to be the Guru.
Guru Tegh Bahadur Tegh Bahadur had established himself at Bakala, near Govindwal, where there was distention about who was the Guru. Being the cherisher of the poor and supporter of the hungry, numerous followers flocked to his banner, and he became a very popular Guru. Tegh Bahadur was a peaceful faqir and aspired to no political power, and he preferred the life of a recluse. He retired for a time to Bengal, where he founded a college for the Sikhs. He lived with his wife, and they had a son, Govind Singh. He gave his time chiefly to devotion and meditation, and often in places away from human habitations. After some time, Emperor Aurangzeb, whose efforts were directed to converting the whole world to the Mahomedan faith, urged the Sikh Guru to embrace Mahomedanism. Before leaving for Delhi, he hailed his son Govind Singh, then 15 years of age, as the future Guru of the Sikhs. He told Govind Singh he was going to die, but asked him not to leave his body in Delhi. The emperor already had thrown hundreds of Brahmans into jail in the hope they would embrace Islam and spread it to their followers. The emperor had many religious disputations with the Guru, forced him to show miracles, and forced him to make Hindus embrace Islamism. The Guru refused, and eventually the Sikh was thrown in prison and was subject to bodily tortures. The Guru wrote on a piece of paper and declared the sword would fall harmless on it by the effect of the charm which was written upon it. The executioner was now summmoned to test the miraculous charm. The blow was given, and the head of the Guru was rolled on the floor. The paper was then read and said: he had given his head, but not his secret. The courtiers, tinged with superstition, were struck with horror and surprise. Tegh Bahadur reigned as a Guru for 13 years.