Bhai Gurdas (1551- 23 September 16371) is a much honoured Sikh scholar, missionary, and literary master who is also respected for his Sikh way of life. He was a leading figure in Sikhism who enjoyed the company of Guru Arjan, the fifth Sikh Guru.
It was under the supervision of the fifth Sikh Guru that he inscribed the first copy of Sikh Scripture, then called The Adi Granth, which is now respected as the perpetual Guru of the Sikhs and is central of the Sikh religion. He was also responsible for various writings in his own right which have gained much respect in the Sikh community. His Varan have been referred to by Guru Arjan as the "Key" ("khungee") to the Guru Granth Sahib.
Bhai Sahib was born in a Bhalla Khatri family. His father was Bhai Ishar Das and his mother's name was Mata Jivani. He was born at Goindval, Punjab, India in 1551. He was the nephew of the third Guru, Guru Amar Das. (see Guru family tree) Bhai Gurdas was a first cousin of Mata Bhani, mother of Guru Arjan Dev.
Bhai Gurdas, who was the only child of his parents, lost his mother when he was barely three and his father when he was 12. He had spent his early years at Goindval and Sultanpur Lodhi. At the former place, he had the opportunity of listening to many men of knowledge and spiritual attainment who kept visiting the town which fell on the Delhi-Lahore road. At that time the city was the religious centre of the Sikhs.
(Bhai Ishar Das, one of Guru Amar Das's brothers had settled in Goindval soon after the town was founded in 1546AD, 1603 Bk).
Bhai Gurdas later proceeded to Varanasi where he studied Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures, subsequently he was initiated into Sikhism. He was then sent as a missionary of the Sikh Guru to spread the teaching of Guru Nanak. He made extensive visits to Agra, Lucknow, Varanasi, Burhanpur, Rajasthan, Jammu and the Chamba hills, preaching Guru Nanak's words.
After the passing of Guru Ram Das, in 1581, Bhai Gurdas returned to the Punjab, where he first visited Goindval and thence proceeded to Amritsar to pay his obeisance to Guru Arjan, Guru Ram Das's successor. He made Amritsar his home and through his devotion and love of learning carved for himself a pre-eminent position among the Guru's disciples.
When the Guru compiled the Adi Granth containing the hymns of the Gurus and those of some saints and sufis, Bhai Gurdas inscribed the the entire text. Though the original copy was once turned over to Guru Tegh Bahadur after an attempt on the ninth Guru's life, it was returned at the wish of the Guru to Dhir Mall, the elder son of Baba Gurditta and a grandson of Guru Hargobind. Though many hope that the original Bir as penned by Bhai Gurdas will one day return to the possession of the Panth, the original Granth is still in the possession of the family of Dhir Mall's descendants at Kartarpur, in Jalandhar district of the Punjab. (Some have pointed out that had the Adi Granth been in the library of the Darbar Sahib during 1984's attack the Original Bir would most likely have been lost in the fires that destroyed so many priceless treasures of Sikh History.)
Sewadar and dedicated academic
Bhai Gurdas also contributed the labour of his hands to the excavation of the sacred pool at Amritsar (1577). He was chosen to recite the Gurus' hymns to Emperor Akbar when he visited Kartarpur in 1596-97 on his way back from a military campaign.
As the tradition goes, the Emperor had been incited by Prithi Chand and his supporters against Guru Arjan saying that the hymns he was planning to compile into a volume had an anti-Muslim tone. As Bhai Gurdas read out verses selected at random, the Emperor was deeply impressed with their spiritual content.
Respected Sikh leader
When Guru Hargobind, Nanak Vl, decided to construct the Akal Takht (lit. Throne of the Timeless (a reference to God)) in front of the Harmandar Sahib , he entrusted the task to the two most revered Sikhs of the time, Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Buddha, the latter who had been blessed by Guru Nanak himself.
Bhai Gurdas Library in Amritsar in his HonourBhai Gurdas was assigned to look after the premises. Guru Hargobind also appointed him to teach his young son (the future (Guru) Tegh Bahadur, the ancient classics. Bhai Buddha also trained the Guru's son in the manly arts of archery and horsemanship.
Esteemed scholar and brave soldier
Bhai Gurdas led a batch of Sikhs to Gwalior where Guru Hargobind had been detained under the orders of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. He was present at the weddings of the Guru's sons Baba Gurditta (April 1621) and Baba Suraj Mall (April 1629). He offered ardas at the death in 1621 of Mata Ganga, the Widow of Guru Arjan. He also recited Scripture and offered ardas at the time of Baba Buddha's death on 8 September 1631.
Philosopher and Chief scribe
Bhai Gurdas continued as the 'bulwark' of Sikhi for many years. He was the expounder and exemplar of the Sikh way of life. He was a man of wide learning especially in ancient texts and philosophy who devoted his exceptional talents to preaching the Sikh faith. He composed verse which is valued for its vigorous, fast paced style and for its vivid exposition of the teaching of the Gurus.
His poetry, now available in two volumes, in Punjabi, Varan Bhai Gurdas and in Braj, Kabitt Savaiyye, is often sung along with gurbani, the Gurus' words, at holy congregations. Guru Arjan put his seal of approval on the Varan Bhai Gurdas by designating it as the "key" to the Sikh Holy Scripture.
Bhai Gurdas, who never married, died at Goindval on Bhadon suds 5,1693 13k/25 August 1636.