Guru Ram Das ji popularly known as Bhai Jetha was the fourth Guru of Sikhs, born on 24 September 1534 in a family belonging to the Sodhi gotra (clan) of the Khatri caste in Chuna Mandi, Lahore. His Parents Har Das and Mata Daya Wati were well known for their honest living . As Mecauliffe wrote, ” He was fair , handsome ,pleasing and with smiling face”‘ His mother died when he was infant. His father passed away when he was seven years old and left him orphan . Since there was no body to look after him, His grandmother took him to her village, Basarke, near Amritsir. Ram Das lived there for five years. His grandmother had no source of income, she used to make”ghughnian “and send Jaitha ji to sell it , roaming villiage to villiage ,to earn their livlihood.
He met many people including his customers , who were talking lot about the 2nd guru of Sikhs, Guru Angad Dev ji in Khdoor Sahib and had Darshan of guru Ji . Ultimately Ram Das also decided to go to Khadur in 1546, attended Guru Angad’s sangat, and developed great liking for the Guru Sahib . There He met Amar Das Ji also . When Guru Amar Das ji became Guru He was directed to shift Goindwal Sahib to avoid the conflict between his sons Datu ji and Dasu Ji with Guru Sahib.
Guru Amar Das also suggested Bhai Jetha Ji to shift to Goindwal Sahib to boost his sale, where the work of Baoli Sahib has already been started and thousands of people have gathered to offer their free services. So he shifted with his grandmother to Goindwal Sahib. There also he used to sell ghungnia in the morning just to have two times of meal and rest of the time he used to do seva in the construction work of Baoli Sahib. He used to keep money for two meals only and rest of the money he used to offer in the Langer.
The time passes by. He became nineteen years old and grown into very smart handsome young boy. When Mata Ram Kaur ji wife of Guru Amardas was worried for her daughters marriage and asked Guru Amar Das to search boy for her. When guru Amar Das asked her that what type of boy you are looking for. The Jetha ji was selling ghughnia in their street and looking at him Mata Ram Kaur said,’ I want a boy for my daughter like him” . The Guru Sahib told that ,” ਇਸ ਵਰਗਾ ਤਾ ਸਿਰਫ਼ ਇਹੀ ਹੋ ਸਕਦਾ ਹੈ “. With the little hesitation to marry her daughter with a street boy ,Mata Ram Kaur agreed. Guru Amardas after discussing with the grandmother of Bhai Jetha ji settled marriage which was taken place in the year 1553. They had three sons: Prithvi Chand, Mahadev and Guru Arjan ji .
A small group of hostile Brahmins and Khatris had complained against Guru Amar Das,” Guru Amar Das has abandoned the religious and social customs of Hindus. Abolished the social customs of four castes,, there is no twilight prayer, no Gyatri, no offering of water to ancestors, no pilgrimage, no obsequies, no worship of idols or the divine Saligram, Guru has started Simran of Waheguru instead of Ram. No one act as directed by Vedas or Simritis, He worship no God or Godess. He had opened a Common Kitchen for every one. Badshah, Beggers, rich ,poor, low caste, Hindus, Muslims, or of any other religion. We pray to restrain him. Jaitha ji represented Guru Amar Das in the Mughal court to clarify complaints of Hindus against Guru Sahib. The Emperor Akbar was so much impressed and came to meet Guru Amar Das Ji , himself.
Guru Ram Das is credited with building the holy city of Amritsar in the Sikh tradition. According to a Gazetteer record, the land was purchased with Sikh donations, for 700 rupees from the owners of the village of Tung. According to the Sikh historical records, the site was chosen by Guru Amar Das and called Guru Da Chak, after he had asked Guru Ram Das to find land to start a new town with a man made pool as its central point.
Guru Amar Das instead of choosing his own sons, chose Bhai Jetha Ji , owing to Bhai Jetha’s exemplary service, selfless devotion and unquestioning obedience to the commands of the Guru, as his successor and renamed him as Ram Das or “servant of God” after taking so many tests. Ram Das become guru in 1574, at the age of 40, and held the office for 7 years. Brass plaque at Gurdwara Chaubara Sahib Goindwal depicting the Gurgadi ceremony of Guru Ramdas being enthroned to Guruship in the presence of Guru Amar Das and regional Manji heads.
He faced hostility from the sons of Guru Amar Das, and shifted his official base to lands identified by Guru Amar Das as Guru-ka-Chak. This newly founded town was eponymous Ramdaspur, later to evolve and be renamed as Amritsar – the holiest city of Sikhism. and stayed there until he gave up his body to transcend the material world in 1581.
He is also remembered in the Sikh tradition for expanding the Manji organization for clerical appointments and donation collections to theologically and economically support the Sikh movement. He started by completing the pool, and building his new official Guru center and home next to it. He invited merchants and artisans from other parts of India to settle into the new town with him. The town expanded during the time of Guru Arjan financed by donations and constructed by voluntary work. The town grew to become the city of Amritsar, and the pool area grew into a temple complex after his son built the gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, and installed the scripture of Sikhism inside the new temple in 1604.
Guru Ram Das composed 638 hymns, or about ten percent of hymns in the Guru Granth Sahib. He was a celebrated poet, and composed his work in 30 ancient ragas of Indian classical music. These cover a range of topics: One who calls himself to be a disciple of the Guru should rise before dawn and meditate on the Lord’s Name. During the early hours, he should rise and bathe, cleansing his soul in a tank of nectar [water], while he repeats the Name the Guru has spoken to him. By this procedure he truly washes away the sins of his soul. The Name of God fills my heart with joy. My great fortune is to meditate on God’s name. The miracle of God’s name is attained through the perfect Guru, but only a rare soul walks in the light of the Guru’s wisdom. O man! The poison of pride is killing you, blinding you to God. Your body, the colour of gold, has been scarred and discoloured by selfishness. Illusions of grandeur turn black, but the ego-maniac is attached to them. His compositions continue to be sung daily in Harimandir Sahib (Golden temple) of Sikhism.
The laavan verses of Guru Ram Das are recited with clockwise circumambulation, around Guru Granth Sahib, in a Sikh wedding. Guru Ram Das, along with Guru Amar Das, are credited with various parts of the Anand and Laavan composition in Suhi mode. It is a part of the ritual of four clockwise circumambulation of the Sikh scripture by the bride and groom to solemnize the marriage in Sikh tradition. This was intermittently used, and its use lapsed in late 18th century. However, sometime in 19th or 20th century by conflicting accounts, the composition of Guru Ram Das came back in use along with Anand Karaj ceremony, replacing the Hindu ritual of circumambulation around the fire.
The composition of Guru Ram emerged to be one of the bases of the British colonial era Anand Marriage Act of 1909. The wedding hymn was composed by Guru Ram Das for his own daughter’s wedding. The first stanza of the Laavan hymn by Guru Ram Das refers to the duties of the householder’s life to accept the Guru’s word as guide, remember the Divine Name. The second verse and circle reminds the singular One is encountered everywhere and in the depths of the self. The third speaks of the Divine Love. The fourth reminds that the union of the two is the union of the individual with the Infinite.
While Guru Amar Das introduced the Manji system of religious organization, Guru Ram Das extended it with adding the masand institution. The masand were Sikh community leaders who lived far from the Guru, but acted to lead the distant congregations, their mutual interactions and collect revenue for Sikh activities and Gurudwara buildings. This institutional organization famously helped grow Sikhism in the decades that followed, but became infamous in the era of later Gurus, for its corruption and its misuse in financing rival Sikh movements in times of succession disputes.
Death and Succession
Guru Ram Das died on 1 September 1581, in Goindwal. Before death He appointed his own son as his successor, and unlike the first four Gurus who were not related through descent, the fifth through tenth Sikh Gurus were the direct descendants of Guru Ram Das.
Waheguru ji ka Khalsa Wahegur ji ki Fateh