In the collective supplication-prayer Ardas, the Sikhs “Remember Guru Harikrishan, by seeing whom all pains leave.” Now, the question is if we want our pains gone, do we know how to envision the Guru?
Bhai Nand Lal ‘Goya’ in Ganjnama opens the chapter on Guru Harikrishan Sahib, originally in Persian prose, as follows:
The Eighth Sovereign is the crown of the accepted innocent ones and the chief of the accepted arrived ones. The auspicious marvel of the Guru is well known in the world. The auspicious embodiment of the light of the Guru is the divine illumination. The special beings adore the Guru and the auspicious beings bow their heads at the door of the Guru. Thousands and thousands of the accepted ones from Sulas (three life-origins or gods) and Sudas (six philosophies or directions) glorify the high praises of the Guru. Innumerable are nine-out-of-ten strengths ones who partake pieces from the langar (distribution) of excellence and benevolence of the Guru. The letter ‘H’ (perso-arabic he) in the name of the Guru is for defeating the captor-gods of the world for an auspicious ending. The letter ‘R’ (perso-arabic re) in the name of the Guru is forever sitting on the eternal throne to shine light on the truth. The letter ‘K’ (perso-arabic kaf) in the name of the Guru is to open the door of compassion and the great fame of the letter ‘Sh’ (perso-arabic shin) is to break the head of lion-like gods. The letter ‘N’ (perso-arabic nun) in the name of the Guru is to increase the freshness of each heart and life and is a special minister of the auspicious Giver.
The Sikh writings use both names of the Guru: “Harikishan” and “Harikrishan” (with and without second “r”); popular citations also omit the first “i”. According to Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha’s Gur Shabad Ratanakar Mahan Kosh (p. 265), here are the Eighth Sovereign’s whereabouts:
- Parents ~ Guru Harirai Sahib & Mata Krishan Kaur ji
- Prakash Purab ~ 7 Jul 1656, Kiratpur, Panjab
- Gurdaddi Purab ~ 7 Oct 1661, Kiratpur, Panjab
- Joti-jot Purab ~ 30 Mar 1664, Delhi
At a minimum, let’s look at it in human terms. The Guru dwelled on this earth for 7 years, 8 months, and 26 days. The Guru reigned for 2 years, 5 months and 26 days.
Here’s what happened in those 130 weeks.
In Oct 1661, the Guru at age less than five years old, sat on the throne at Kirtarpur Sahib to further “Nanak-Raj” and shared Wisdom-Guru. Bhai Santokh Singh’s Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth records this elegantly: “The sun at dawn looks small in size, but its light is everywhere. Similarly, the young Guru Harikrishan’s fame is limitless.”
In the meantime, the Guru’s jealous elder brother Ramrai worked with Masand Gurbaksh of Delhi to dethrone the Guru. The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was already looking to play the Sikh forces against each other in order to destroy the Sikh nation. Citing injustice done to Ramrai for bypassing the Guruship from him, in Jan 1664 Aurangzeb summoned the Guru to Delhi via the emissary of Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber. The Guru never allows anyone to use Sikhi as a political tool; Delhi rulers and genealogical relatives are no exceptions.
The Guru traveled through Ropar, Banur, Rajpura, and Ambala with his grandmother Mata Bassi and mother Krishan Kaur (some record the name to be Mata Sulakhni). When the Guru arrived at Panjokhra village near Ambala, a Sikh shared: “Sangats are coming from Peshawar, Kabul, and Kashmir. Stay here a day so that they may have the chance to see you, O Sovereign!” The Guru halted at the village for the Sikhs.
A village brahmin Pandit Lal Cand approached the Guru: “It is said that you sit on the gaddi (Throne) of Guru Nanak. But what do you know of the old religious texts?” The Guru glanced at Chajju Ram, an illiterate water-carrier, the so-called low-caste who didn’t have the privilege or the right to education as per Varnashrama Dharma (caste system). The Guru is always instructing all. “The message to all four castes -- Kashitrya, Brahmin, Shudra, and Vashya -- is the same” (Guru Granth Sahib 747). The Guru asked Chajju Ram to comment on Bhagavad Gita, and Chajju Ram’s commentary amazed all. The pride, the head-ego, of the Brahmin was broken. “Nanak: No one is high or low” (Guru Granth Sahib 7). Both Lal Cand and Chajju Ram joined the Sikhi way of life and traveled with the Guru to Kurukshetra.
Lal Cand became Lal Singh during the Tenth Sovereign’s reign; he embraced martyrdom at the battle of Camkaur in 1705. Chajju Ram went to Jagannath Puri to spread the fragrance of Sikhi; his son volunteered his head to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib on Vaisakhi day in 1699 and became known as Bhai Himmat Singh of the Panj Piare (Five Lovers). The Guru is always kind to all: “Compassionate, Compassionate Sovereign. My Sovereign is Compassionate, gives to all beings” (Guru Granth Sahib 724).
The Guru arrived in Delhi, and stayed at the haveli (Bungalow) of Jai Singh in Raisina; now, it is known as Gurudara Bangla Sahib. Here, the Guru met the next Sovereign-to-be-Guru Teghbahadar Sahib who was traveling from Patna to Baba Bakala. The Guru didn’t answer the summon of Aurangzeb; Sikhi cannot be subjected to any rulers, including the ones in Delhi.
Delhi was going through an epidemic of smallpox or cholera. The Guru is the healer, so the Guru started healing by attending to the needs of the sick. The Guru commanded the Sikhs to scale the efforts and address the physical and social suffering.
One day the Guru also afflicted the disease. As per Mahakavi Santokh Singh, the Guru’s mother asked:
Son, you occupy the gaddi (Throne) of Guru Nanak.
You are the liberator of griefs and pains in the world.
Your very glimpse eliminates the illness of others.
Why are you ill now?
The Guru replied:
Every mortal must go through illness and disease.
Both comforts and pains are part of life.
Whatever is the 1-Command must occur.
This is what Guru Nanak instructed.
What one does is 1’s Command.
One must follow the light of 1’s Command.
The Guru moved to a camp near the Yamuna river; now known as Gurduara Bala Sahib. The Guru continued to command the Sikh nation. When the Sikhs were in despair, as per Mahakavi Santokh Singh, the Guru instructed:
Guru Nanak’s throne is eternal,
Everlasting, commands increasing honor.
The Granth is the Sovereign of all.
Anyone who wants to see me,
see the Granth with faith and love.
That’s how one corrects transgressions.
Anyone who wishes to speak with the Guru,
read the Granth with devotion.
Anyone who practices its teachings
will obtain all four treasures.
Anyone who has faith gains all.
Anyone without faith acquires but little.
None in this world lives forever.
The body is mortal.
In the Granth abides the Guru’s spirit.
Bow your head to it daily;
That’s how you will conquer vices and become free.
The Guru’s physical body developed a fever.
After a few days, smallpox also came to reside in the Guru’s body.
On 30 Mar 1664, Guru Harikrishan Sahib voiced “Baba Bakala” to Baba Guditta and “a breath-air became one with the breath-air; a light united with the Light” (Guru Granth Sahib 885). The Guru is always instructing. Baba Bakala dictum left the Guruship succession to be resolved by the Sikhs and interfered by the Mughals. A Sikh’s conviction bypassed the state and the imposters to re-establish Guruship with resolute conviction!
For Prof. Puran Singh in The Ten Masters, the very sight of the Guru “healed the sick and comforted the miserable … Naming Guru Har Krishan is the cure of all diseases.”
Can you see Guru Harikrishan Sahib amid COVID-19?
According to Harinder Singh ‘Mehboob’ in Sahije Rachio Khalsa, “Guru Harikrishan Sahib’s complete vision is that moment of perfection when a human being has become capable of understanding the limitless arrival of excellence. The fear of death ran away; the human being momentarily understood that one is born to realize the full potential. Their fortune and life are not in duality. That they are one evident infinite-“I”, but they have everything of the Beloved. What is the fear of death?”
Bhai Nand Lal ‘Goya’ in Ganjnama ends the chapter on Guru Harikrishan Sahib, originally in Persian poetry, as follows:
Revered Awe-Wisdom is Eternal
Guru Harikishan is the embodiment of all excellence and grace,
the Divine admires the Guru the most amongst the special ones.
The distance between the Guru and the Divine is that of a leaf-thickness,
all of the Guru’s embodiment is of the Divine’s grace and kindness.
All are beggars of the Divine grace at the Guru’s door,
all follow the command of the Guru on the earth and the sky.
Both the worlds succeed because of the Guru’s benevolence,
every atom illuminates like the sun because of the Guru’s benevolence.
All special ones adore the blessing of the protection by the Guru,
all from the nether regions to the skies are under the command of the Guru.
Note: All translations are done by the author. According to Guru Kian Sakhian, Bhai Vahi Talaunda and Mahima Parkash, the Guru visited Aurangzeb’s court on 24/25 Mar 1664. Aurangzeb rejected Ramrai’s claims, but wanted the Guru to reappear to show miracles.