Guru Arjan Dev – The 5th Sikh Guru

- June 16, 2022

By Kayva Gokhale 

Guru Arjan Dev is the fifth Sikh Guru. He is considered the first Sikh martyr, who gave his life for his people and Sikhism. Guru Arjan was born on 15 April, 1563 and was the youngest son of Guru Ramdas, the fourth Sikh Guru. He grew up to be the most capable and virtuous of his brothers and succeeded his father as the next Guru in 1581. He was known for his egalitarian and secular values as well as his strong moral conviction in the teachings of Sikhism. 

Guru Arjan is chiefly responsible for the construction of the Harmandir Sahib or the Golden Temple in Amritsar, one of the most sacred sites for Sikhs. The building of the temple was started by Guru Arjan’s father. Guru Ramdas had ordered the construction of the water tank for the temple in Amritsar. Once Guru Arjan succeeded his father, the tank was completed and he decided to build a temple in the middle of the water body. 

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Script: Rajinder Singh Raj; Illustration: Dilip Kadam

The plans for the Harmandir Sahib were laid out by the Guru himself, who incorporated his egalitarian and inclusive philosophy into the design. He decided that the temple would be the lowest building in the region, and that the one’s entering would have to climb down as a mark of humility. He further ensured that the temple had entrances on all four sides, symbolising that all people, regardless of caste, creed, gender or religion, were welcome there. 

Script: Rajinder Singh Raj; Illustration: Dilip Kadam

Another one of Guru Arjan’s important contributions to Sikhism was his work compiling the teachings of Sikhism. He spent a large portion of his life putting together the hymns and teachings written by the previous Sikh Gurus in a book called the Guru Granth Sahib. He also invited learned men from different faiths like Hinduism and Islam to recite the teachings of their leaders, and added those that were consistent with Sikhism, to his compilation too. The secular teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib impressed even the Mughal King Akbar, who visited the Guru in Amritsar. 

However, it was his work on the Holy book which ultimately led to his martyrdom. In 1606, Emperor Jahangir demanded that all compositions by Hindu and Muslim saints be removed from the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Arjan refused, stating that his object is pursuit of the immortal truth, that is above religious differences. For this, Emperor Jahangir subjected the Guru to torture and put him to death, making him the first Sikh martyr. His martyrdom was a watershed moment in Sikhism, which inspired his people to pursue resistance from the persecution of the Mughal rule. Guru Arjan showed unrelenting belief in the values of Sikhism, despite the threat of death. His actions strengthened the conviction of all Sikhs in values of personal piety, moral strength, courage and virtue. 

Read the guru’s full story in our title Guru Arjan Dev now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Amazon, Flipkart, and with other major e-tailers. 

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