Amar Dās, Guru

(A. D. 1479—1574)

Third in the hierarchy of the Gurus of Sikhism, Guru Amar Dās has left an indelible impression on the religion and society of the Sikhs during the formative period. Born in A. D. 1479 as the son of Tej Bhān and Sulakhnī (also known as Lakho or Lachmi) in the village Basarke (near the modern Basarke Gillan in the Amritsar district of Punjab), Amar Dās had practically no formal education. Though engaged in trade, the family profession, he had an innate interest in religion which often took him to several places of pilgrimage, especially Hardvār. His strong build enabled him to perform austerities and withstand the rigours of pilgrimages in which he had great faith, imbibed by his deep acquaintance with the Hindu religious traditions. Married to Manasā Devī, he begot two daughters and two sons. Bībī Bhāni, the younger daughter, was later on given in marriage to Rām Dās (nicknamed Jeṭha) who succeeded him as the next Guru.

His quest for inner peace ended when he met Guru Aṅgad. It was Bībī Amro, a daughter of Guru Aṅgad that was instrumental in bringing about this meeting. During his long probation of twelve years under the Guru, Amar Dās had to unlearn many a Hindu custom and deliberately cultivate the Sikh way of life. After he gained Guru Aṅgad’s confidence, he was directed to return to his family and lead the normal life of a householder.

At the bidding of his Guru, Amar Dās built the town of Gobindwal, more familiarly called Goindwal, and started living there. It is said that he used to carry the water of the Beas River everyday from Goindwal where he lived, to Khadur where Guru Aṅgad lived, for the Guru’s service. This steady and devoted service to the Guru Aṅgad gained him the Guru’s grace who finally decided to ordain him as the next Guru. Amar Dās was nearly 73 years old when the Guru’s mantle fell on him in A.D. 1552. Dātu, the first son of Guru Aṅgad, who felt he had been deprived of the Guruship that ‘legitimately’ belonged to him, harassed Guru Amar Dās so much that the latter left Goindwal for an unknown destination. The distressed disciples approached the elderly saint Bhai Buddha on whose suggestion, the Guru’s mare was let free. The mare led them to the Guru’s hiding place. He was persuaded to return.

Guru Amar Dās trained a number of apostles to spread the message of Sikhism. He is also credited with the performance of several miracles like reviving a dead man, curing a lame devotee as also a mad queen.

The Mughal emperor Akbar is said to have sought audience with the Guru and was impressed by him very much.

Having had a premonition of the approaching death, Guru Amar Dās appointed Rām Dās, his son-in-law, as the next Guru in A. D. 1574 and shed his mortal coil soon after.

His contribution to the contents of the Guru Granth Sāhib was the third largest. His service to the growth and development of the Sikh community was of a high order.