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Guru Har Rai (1630 - 1661)

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Artistic Impression of Guru Har Rai

Artistic Impression of Guru Har Rai

Photo © [Angel Originals]

Birth and Family:

The infant Har Rai was born in Kirat Pur and received his name from his grandfather, Guru Har Govind (Gobind) Sodhi. Har Rai had one elder brother Dhir Mal. His mother Nilhal Kaur, was the wife of Gur Ditta, the eldest son of Damodari and Guru Har Govind. To the dismay of Dhir Mal, his grandfather decided that his youngest grandson proved to be the most suitable of his lineage to be his successor, and appointed Har Rai to be the seventh guru of the Sikhs.

Marriage and Children:

History shrouds the exact events of Har Rai's marriage in conflicting chronicles and oral accounts. Several records indicate that Har Rai was married, at about age 10, to the seven daughters of the Sikh Daya Raam of Anupshahr who lived on the banks of the Ganges in Balundshahr District of Uttar Pradesh. Oral history suggests that he wed only Sulakhini, the daughter of Daya Rai a Sillikhatri of Arup Shanker. Another document states he wed four princesses and their handmaids. All indicate the same date. Har Rai fathered two sons and a daughter. Guru Har Rai appointed his youngest son, Har Krishan, as his successor.

Policies:

Guru Har Rai founded three missions and stressed the importance of langar, insisting no one should ever be turned away hungry who visited them. He advised Sikhs to labor honestly and cheat no one. He stressed the importance of early morning worship and scripture, implying that whether or not words could be understood, hymns benefited the heart and soul. He admonished rulers to govern mercifully without oppression, attend only to their own spouses, abstain from drink, and be always available to their subjects. He suggested that they see to the people needs providing wells, bridges, schools, and religious ministry.

Compassionate Healer:

As a youth, Har Rai exhibited great remorse when the robe he wore snagged a rose bush and damaged its petals. Guru Har Rai learned the medicinal properties of herbs. He tended to injuries of animals which he found wounded and kept them in a zoo where he fed and cared for them. When appealed to for help by his enemy, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, Guru Har Rai provide a cure for his eldest son, Dara Shikoh, who had been poisoned with tiger whiskers. The Guru demonstrated, that the actions of others ought not to dictate those of a Sikh, and like a sandalwood tree perfumes the ax which cuts it, the Guru returns good for evil.

Diplomat:

As a youth Har Rai received marital training and became adept with weapons and horses. Guru Har Rai maintained a militia of 2,200 men at arms. The Guru managed to avoid confrontation with the Mughals, but was drawn into the intrigue of succession when the Mughal emperor's heirs fought over his throne and the eldest, Dara Shikoh, appealed to Guru Hair Rai for aid. The Guru incurred the displeasure of the ruthless younger brother, Aurangzeb, by detaining his army when he pursued Dara Shikoh. Meanwhile the Guru counseled Dara Shikoh that only a spiritual kingdom is everlasting. Aurangzeb eventually took over the throne.

Succession:

Aurangzeb imprisoned his ailing father and had his brother, Dara Shikoh, put to death. Fearing Guru Har Rai's growing influence, Aurangzeb summoned the Guru to his court. Not trusting the treacherous emperor, the Guru refused to comply. The Guru's eldest son, Ram Rai, went instead. The Guru blessed him and requested that he not yield to pressure from Aurangzeb to alter the words of the Granth Sahib. However when Aurangzeb asked for interpretation, Ram Rai faltered and changed the wording of a passage, hoping to curry the emperor's favor. Consequently, Guru Har Rai passed over Ram Rai and appointed his youngest son Har Krishan to succeed him as guru.

Important Dates and Corresponding Events:

Spouses and Progeny – Dating influenced by historic obscurity and conversion from Vikram Samvat (SV) to Gregorian (A.D.) and Julian Common Era (C.E) calendars, and obscure sequencing of various historians.

Marriage: June 1640 A.D. or 10th day of the month Har, 1697 SV.

Wives: Chronicles of various ancient historians conflict. Some state that Guru Har Rai wed seven sisters who were the daughters of Daya Ram of Anupshar, Bulandshahr district, Uttar Pradesh. Other records suggest he was married to four girls from noble families and their hand maids. An even greater number of names emerge:

  • Kishan (Krishan) Kaur
  • Kot Kalyani (Sunita)
  • Toki
  • Anokhi
  • Ladiki
  • Chand Kaur
  • Prem Kar
  • Ram Kaur
  • Punjab Kaur
  • Sulakhni
Kishan kaur is thought by some to be the name of the Guru's only wife and mother of his children. Some ancient accounts purport Kot Kaliyan to have been Kishan Kaur's hand maid, and still others that Punjab Kaur was Kot Kaliyan's hand maid. One disregards Ram Kaur. Modern day historians argue that Har Rai wed only Sulakhni, the daughter of Daya Rai.

Children: Gur Har Rai fathered three children:

  • Ram Rai – 1647 C.E.
  • Sarup Kaur – 1652 C.E.
  • Har Krishan – 10th day of Savan Vadi, 1713 SV, or Monday July 7, C.E, or July 23, 1656 A.D Nanakshahi
In ancient accounts, historians have named Kot Kalyani (Sunita), as the mother of Har Rai and her handmaid, Punjab Kaur, as the mother of his elder brother Ram Rai, and sister, Sarup Kaur. Others name Kishan Kaur as the mother of Har Rai, and Kot Kalyani as her handmaid and mother of his siblings, naming Panjab Kaur one of Ram Rai four wives. More recent records name Sulakhni as the only wife of Guru Har Rai, and mother of both sons.

Chronology of Life

Dates correspond to the Nanakshahi calendar.

  • Birth: Kirat Pur – January 16, 1630 A.D. Born to mother, Nilhal Kaur, and father, Guru Ditta Sodhi.
  • Marriage: June, 1640 A.D.
  • Inauguration: Kirat Pur – March 14, 1644 A.D
  • Standoff with Mughals: Gowindal - Late June 1658 A.D. Guru Har Rai receives Dara Shikoh. Sikh militia intercedes on his behalf and delays the pursuit of Aurangseb's armed forces.
  • Tours Kashmere:
    • Sialkot – April 14, 1660 A.D. Celebrates Vaisakhi.
    • Srinagar – May 19, 1660 A.D. Guru Har Rai visits Mota Tanda, the natal village of Sikh devotee Makhan Shah.
    • Ahnur and Jammu – Late 1660 A.D. The Guru makes stops on his return to Kirat Pur.
  • Summons from Aurangzeb: Kirat Pur – April 14, 1661 A.D. Envoy arrives during Vaisakhi celebrations summoning Guru Har Rai to Delhi. Ram Rai takes his place when the Guru refuses to go.
  • Death: Kirat Pur – October 20, 1661.

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