These brief selection from the Bani of Guru Amar Das, rendered into English by Prof. Gurbachan Singh Taib are being issued by the Punjabi University, Patiala in booklet form on the occasion of the quincentenary of his birth, which falls this year (1979) on the 11th May, corresponding to the 14th of the light half of Baisakh. This occasion like the centenaries preceding, namely Guru Nanak Dev’s Quincentenary in 1969, Guru Gobind singhs’s Tercentenary in 1966 and Guru Tegh Bahadur’s Martyrdom Tercentenary in 1975 has immense importance in the history of the Sikh people. It is a reminder of the continuity of the great traditions of the Sikh people and their creed and their history, which have influenced development in the north-west of India so profoundly and not least of all, of the great personality of guru Amar Das, who
coming as he did early in the course of the rise of the Sikh faith, did
so much to elucidate the significance of Guru Nanak's teaching
and consolidated the foundations of Sikhism. By what was an act
of Divine Will, Guru Amar Das became the ancestor through his
daughter, Bibi Bhani of all the subsequent occupants of the gaddi "
of Guruship. This factor was of immense help in ensuring the
continuity of tradition and in lending glory to the saga of Sikhism.
To Guru Amar Das is attributed the prophetic vision: 'From the
Sodhis shall the Guruship not be alienated, as others have not the
power to bear the unbearable'.
Guru Amar Das, born in 1479, became Guru Angad Dev' s
disciple early during his holy ministry, probably in 1540, for he is
stated to have served him for twelve years. Through devoted service
to the Guru and humanity, and the humility of his spirit, on this
devoted person Guru Angad Dev bestowed the appellation 'Shelter
of the shelterless, ennobler of the humble'. At Guru Angad Dev's leaving this world, in 1552 he was installed the third Guru at the age
Guru Amar Das, born with a deeply questing soul, illumined by
Guru Nanak Dev's teaching and association with Guru Angad Dev,
at his advanced age set himself to the task of consolidating and
nursing the Sikh Church, still in its infancy. He established a centre
for the faith at Goindwal, on the bank of the Beas, in the present
district of Amritsar. Amritsar itself which came later during the
days of his successor, was a result of his vision and guidance. At
Goindwal he made a Tirtha, a sacred bathing-spot in the form of
Baoli or Well led down to by descending steps. He confirmed the
tradition of Guru-ka-Langar, the universal mess where all must be
fed without distinction of caste or rank. To carry forward the Guru's
message he established twenty-two missionary centres(Manjis).
Woman-kind he freed from the shackle of purdah and the travail of
suttee, prevalent among the higher castes. Seva or Service with
one's hands he made an obligatory part of the practice of religion
and thus instilled humility as an integral part of faith.
The gift of sacred poetry appears to have descended on Guru
Amar Das in extreme old age, after he entered upon the holy ministry.
His bani is voluminous, consisting of 862 verse-pieces, in a number
of ragas, on which he has left deeply sensitive comments. In his
bani Guru Nanak Dev's teaching finds lucid exposition. Bhakti,
yearning for God, devotion to the Preceptor (Guru) and adjuration
to attain the state of Sahj or enlightenment with poise are the cardinal
elements in his teaching, which is rich with expressive imagery, in
an appealing rhythm and a poetic quality which is a direct expression
of the spiritual vision. Among his compositions is Anand in the
measure Ramkali, a lofty expression of ecstasy and the state of
spiritual poise. It is an integral part of the morning and evening
service in all Sikh temples (Gurudwaras) and as a matter of fact, in
all Sikh service at all times. Anand was one of the banis recited
over the preparation of Amrit by Guru Gobind Singh, and is so
recited till today.
Guru Amar Das was venerated by millions in his life-time and
has continued so to be venerated since his leaving the mortal world.
At the time of his merging with the Divine Light in 1574 at the age
of ninety-five, he nominated to succeed him his daughter Bibi Bhani's
husband Sri Ram Das, who fulfilled Guru Amar Das's vision by
making the holy pool (Amritsar). The scene of Guru Amar Das's
passing away is depicted in Sadd (The Call) by his great-grandson
Baba Sundar, which stands at the close of these brief selections.
It is hoped that this booklet will help in providing an introduction
to Guru Amar Das's teaching to all who should seek to know about
the message of this great teacher, maker in a very real sense of the
history of the Punjab over the last four centuries.
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