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His Work and Personality
His well-chosen diction offers an insight into his mind and soul. At the same time, his words reflect the ethos, the culture and the tradition of the Sikh Faith. Though apparently the words have a cannotation and significance, they throw ample light on the personality of the author and the philosophy of his time and the milieu. Above all, apart from the semantic nuances of phrases, there is the echo of psychological reflection and intuitive visions as we go into their deeper study.
Let us, for example, take the Anand Sahab which has a special place in his compositions. Though idealism and a vision of man's ultimate goal of bliss are presented here, it touches very often the reality of contemporary life, the ritual - Karam-kand - the hypocrisy of the outwardly religious, the fallacy of outer cleanliness and purity of the so-called holy living.
The aim of devotional poetry is not giving delight to the mind or the satisfaction of the reader's aesthetic taste, but the revelation of higher values and a glimpse of the ultimate destiny of man. Western thinkers have realised that the function of sacred or higher poetry is the affirmation of universal truths and moral values. In the Anand Sahab, Guru Amardas deals with man's quest for happiness and how to obtain true bliss. A human being has a body, mind and soul. All the three are interlinked. The Body is the chariot; the Mind is the charioteer; the Soul is the owner of the chariot, while the sense-organs are the horses and desire is the road. The soul and the mind are subject to the tendencies of the sense-organs. The soul is a part of Divinity. Man cannot realise his divine element on account of the veil of Maya. He regards himself as separate from God. This obvious superstition or duality is removed by the Guru. The Guru makes man realise his divine nature. He becomes Gurmukh or Sanmukh. The others are the worldly wise: those who follow their self or ego. They are called Manmukh or Bemukh. They are overwhelmed by worldliness. They direct their sense-organs - eyes, ears and tongue - towards mundane and evil pursuits and not towards spiritual efforts - Sadhana. The control of sense-organs and total surrender to the Will of God and constant meditation is needed to enter the Mansion of Bliss. God - the Ocean of Bliss - is man's ultimate goal and destination.
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"Har jeev Nirmal Nirmala Mirmal mum vasa" (p.426).
"Maya mamta mohini" (p.643).
"Gahir Gambhir Gunee Gaheer" (p.1234).
"Sahijay Sach Samai" (p.1249).
Guru Amardas has made a reference to Gujri raga. This raga was first formulated by Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwailor, in honour of his Queen who belonged to the Gujar caste which is supposed to be a comparatively low caste. Just as the Raja transformed a peasant woman into queen, in the same way the Guru can change a common man into an ideal man - a man of God: "Low is the caste of the milk-maid, but when she ponders over the Guru's hymns, and night and day repeats God's Name, she attains to her Spouse" (p.516).
Bilawal which literally means bliss becomes truly felicitous, when it is used as a medium for meditation: "Beauteous is Bilawal's melody and tune, if through the Guru's word, one fixes his attention on the Lord" (p.849).
In Wadahans raga, the Guru makes a pun on the word Wadahans to high-light the efficacy of this raga. If it is used for singing the praise of the Lord of Truth, one becomes a supreme swan - one endowed with discrimination to sift water from milk and falsehood from truth.
"Those who are imbued with the Divine World and clasp the True Name to their hearts are the great swans" (p.585).
Similarly, Ramkali which literally means the bud of God will blossom into the blooming lotus, if it is used for singing the Holy Name: "Through Ramakali raga, I have enshrined the Lord in my mind and have become embellished. When by the Guru's word, my heart-lotus blossomed, the Lord blessed me with the treasure of His devotion" (p.950).
Guru Amardas avoided using ragas like Deepak, Hindol and Megh which are against the spirit of Kirtan. After all Kirtan is intended to lead man to spiritual development and salvation: "Through the infinite hymns of the Guru, day and night, I ever sing the praise of the Lord" (p.593).
"In this dark age, singing of God's praise is indeed a beacon - light for the world" (p.145).
"When I sang the Lord's praises, the Divine light was kindled and I was shown the way" (p.86).
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Moreover, he issued a directive that all the Sikhs would assemble twice a year either at the Guru's centre or at the Manji of their area, on the first day of Baisakh (April) ,and at Diwali festival (November). Goindwal became a place of Sikh gatherings after the construction of Baoli Sahab.
Moreover, the sanctity attached to this spot on account of its long association with the Third Guru made it a kind of holy place, as an alternative to Hardwar.
Guru Amardas took steps to keep the Udasi sect separate from Sikhism.
There was a basic difference between the two sections. The Sikhs believed
in family-life, while the Udasis believed in celibacy. The Udasis wanted
to join Sikhism on their own terms to which the Guru did not agree. Narang
observes in his connection: "The Sikhs were once for all separated from
Udasis, and raised above asceticism, were free and fit to follow their
course of national progress".*
* G.C. Narang: Transformation of Sikhism, p.33
Guru Amardas laid down Sikh ceremonies, so as to make Sikhs distinct
from the Hindus. He prescribed the marriage ceremony, when one of his Sikhs,
Bhai Dayala, complained to him that the Brahmins had refused to perform
his daughter's marriage. Guru Amardas made the recitation of Anand Sahab
and Ardas compulsory for a Sikh wedding. The new ceremony "constituted
a distinct break with Hinduism".*
* Tara Chand: History of Freedom Movement in India, II, p.396
Similarly, Guru Amardas gave special directions for a Sikh funeral when he was to leave his mortal coil. His grandson - Bhai Sundar - has mentioned the funeral ceremony in Sadd (p.923) of the Adi Granth. Hymns in praise of God are to be sung before and after the cremation. No pandit, no lamps, and no immersion of the ashes in any holy river is necessary for the funeral ceremony of a Sikh. Moreover, there is to be no crying or lamination, because death is a natural and inexorable event and takes place according to the Will of God.
Guru Amardas had obtained a collection of the hymns of Guru Nanak and
Guru Angad from the second Guru when he succeeded the latter in 1552. To
these he added his own compositions. This Pothi was later given by him
to his son Mohan and it therefore was called Mohan Pothi. It was this collection
of hymns which Guru Arjan obtained from Baba Mohan when he wanted to compile
the Adi Granth in 1604. It may be noted that the compilation of hymns made
by Guru Amardas and known as Mohan Pothi also contains the compositions
of many India Bhagats and saints.* The reasons for
the compilation of the Mohan Pothi were the demand for copies of hymns
as the number of Sikhs was increasing and the need to exclude spurious
anthologies of hymns containing Kachi Bani or fake compositions.
* Cole and Sambhi: The Sikhs, p.46
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Guru Amardas opposed the practice of Sati among the widows. True Satis are those who honour their husbands in their hearts and not those who burn themselves on the funeral pyre. He said: "Nanak, they are satis who die of the sheer shock of separation" (p.787). On the other hand, Guru Amardas favoured widow remarriage, because he believed in family-life. He encouraged the Sikhs to have a marriage-partner after the death of their previous partner. Death is a natural phenomenon and as such it should be taken as a matter of course. Guru Amardas believed in the uplift of women. He discouraged the practice of veiling among women. Sikh women were forbidden the covering of their faces both inside and outside the congregation. Guru Amardas forbade 'drinking'. In one of his hymns, he exhorted his followers to avoid intoxicating wines and liquors. He wrote: "One man brings a vessel filled with wine and fills a cup therefrom, by drinking which, intelligence departs and madness enters and man cannot distinguish between what is mine and yours and is accursed. Drinking it, one forsakes one's Lord and is punished at His Court. Yes, drink not this vicious wine, under any circumstances" (p.554). By devising new practices and rejecting the old and futile ones, Guru Amardas made Sikhism quite separate from Hinduism. As one writer puts it: "He wished to construct a fence to protect it from the ancient Hindu faith". Thus his work and achievement is a turning point in the history of the Sikh Church.
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Moreover, his devotion to Guru Angad and his love of Sewa for over eleven years won him the respect and admiration of the congregation. His sweet personality was amply reflected in his writings and the events of his life. He was an ideal man and matched up to his definition of the superman found in one of his hymns: "The ideal man, through the Guru, enjoys internally the status of wedded wife and bears the Lord in his heart. For he who speaks sweetly and is humble in his ways, enjoys the bed of the Spouse" (p.31).
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Kalashar Bhatt paid his tribute to Guru Amardas as under: "The Guru is the hero of Truth, powerful in humility, good-tempered, and with his holy congregation remains absorbed in the uninimical Lord. The Guru's white standard of fortitude is seen on the bridge to the Lord's realm, from the very beginning" (p.1393).
Jalap Bhatt extolled the Guru in the following words: "Seeing the Guru's vision, the disciple is blessed with the Lord's meditation, service, truth and contentrnent Whosoever seeks the Guru's refuge is liberated from the account of the city of death" (p.1394).
Sall Bhatt paid his tribute to the Third Guru as under: "Holding the bow of faith in his hand, the Guru aimed the arrows of meditation and humility, Being fear-free, with God in mind, the Guru plunged the spear of the Name and thereby, He destroyed the five demons of lust, wrath, avarice, attachment and pride" (p.1396).
Bhikha Bhatt eulogised the Guru in the following words: "He overpowers
lust and wrath and his mind wanders not again; He abides in the realm of
God and realises His will through His meditation" (p.1395). During the
last two hundred years, the contribution of Guru Amardas to the development
of Sikh faith has been adequately recognised and appreciated. C.H. Payne
regarded the Guru as "a zealous preacher who gained many new followers".*
Cunningham affirmed that Guru Amardas was "active in preaching and successful
in obtaining converts. He found an attentive listener in the tolerant Akbar.
He saved the infant church from early death by wholly separating the passive
and recluse Udasis from the regular Sikhs".** Trumpp,
a German scholar, who wrote a commentary on the Adi Granth, remarked: "His
compositions are simple and clear".*** M. Latiff,
a Muslim historian called him "a successful teacher" and further added
that his "zeal in preaching combined with his genial habits and affable
disposition secured for him many converts to the new faith".****
I. J. Bannerjee regarded his pontificate as a land-mark in the history
of Sikhism and observed; "The Guru introduced a number of reforms and changes
in the ceremonies connected with marriage and death".*****
* C. H. Payne: A History of the Sikhs, p.31
** J. D. Cunningham: A History of the Sikhs, p.45
*** E. Trumpp: Adi Granth, p.LXXIV
**** M. Latif: History of the Punjab, p.250
***** I. J. Banerjee: Evolution of the Khalsa, Vol 1, p.167
So all in all, the contribution of Guru Amardas to the development of Sikhism has been both significant and permanent. He consolidated his followers into a distinct group and put Sikhism on the path of progress and fulfilment.
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