Guru Raam Das, named Jetha, at birth, was the only child of Hari Das Sodhi and his wife Anup Devi, aka Daya Kaur. He was born in Chuna Mandi, which is a part of the present day Lahore in Pakistan. His parents died when he was about seven and he went to live with his grandmother, who resided in Barsake, the home town of Guru Amar Das. They moved to Khadur and then to Goindwal when he was about age 12. To earn money for their support, Jetha went out on the streets and sold lentils his grandmother had cooked. He often shared what he had with those less fortunate.
Marriage and Family:
Mansa Devi, the wife of Guru Amar Das, happened to notice the orphan Jetha. Impressed by his enterprising and spiritual nature, she looked favorably on him as a prospective bride groom for her younger daughter. A betrothal was arranged and Jetha became part of the Guru’s household. At about age 20, he wed the Guru’s daughterBibi Bhani. Jetha composed the the four hymns of Laav for their wedding rounds. After marriage, Jetha remained in his father-in-law’s house and became the Guru’s most ardent disciple. Jetha and Bhani had three sons, Prithi Chand, Maha Dev, and Arjun Dev.
Jetha was very attached to Guru Amar Das and served him humbly. One day the Guru asked Jetha and his brother-in law, Rama, to build platforms by the river bank so that he could over see the construction of a well. After the platforms were built, the Guru found that they could be improved and requested that they be torn down and rebuilt. Jetha and Rama rebuilt them. The Guru asked that they be torn down and rebuilt again. Rama abandoned the task. Jetha rebuilt his platform seven times each time, begging the Guru’s forgiveness and pleading for his instruction. Guru Amar Das ultimately rewarded Jetha’s perseverance.
Founding of the Golden Temple:
Jetha purchased a tract of land. He was bequeathed an adjacent parcel that Akbar, a Mughal emperor, had given to Bibi Bhani as a wedding gift. Under the direction of Guru Amar Das, Jetha began the excavation of two sarovars, or tanks of sacred water, called Santokh-sar and Amrit-sar. He laid out the foundation site of a township around the latter which would eventually become theGolden Temple of the Harmandir Sahib complex in present day Amritsar, India.
Succession and Contributions to Sikhism:
Jetha served guru Amar Das faithfully helping him with all of his projects. Guru Amar Das named Jetha Raam Daas meaning “Servant of God,” appointed him to be his successor and fourth guru. Guru Raam Das carried on with efforts to organize the structure of the growing Sikh community and it’s outposts. He appointed masands, or directors, to collect and distribute offerings made to the Guru at various manjis, the established provincial seats of Sikhism. Mata Khivi continued to work along side Guru Raam Das and manage the communal kitchen.
In his lifetime, Guru Raam Das penned 5,876 lines of inspirational poetic verse which later became part of the scripture in the Guru Granth Sahib. These include the four Laav andother wedding hymns written for his own marriage. He also wrote verses outlining the practice and spiritual routine of a Sikh as an early riser, who bathes and engages in morning prayer.
Guru Raam Das exemplified humility. He once had a visit from Baba Siri Chand, who jokingly asked, why the Guru had allowed his beard to grow so long. Guru Raam Das replied humbly that the length served only the purpose, and stooped to wipe the dust from Siri Chand’s feet.
Prithi Chand, became involved in collections of offerings hoping to succeed his father as guru. He maneuvered to have his young brother Arjun Dev sent to Lahore for a family wedding in his stead. Prithi Chand engaged in trickery, intercepting letters that Arjun Dev wrote, each with a verse describing his spiritual longing to be reunited with his father, the Guru. After two years a letter reached Guru Raam Das. It indicated that two had preceded it. The Guru commanded Prithi Chand return the letters. Guru Raam Das brought Arjun Dev home and requested a fourth verse be written. He then named Arjun Dev as his successor.
Important Dates and Corresponding Events:
Dates correspond to the Nanakshahi calendar.
- Birth: Chuna Mandi, Lahore in present day Pakistan – October 9, 1534, Jetha is born to mother, Anup Devi (Daya Kaur), and father, Hari Das Sodhi.
- Marriage: Goindwal – February 18, 1554, Jetha weds Bhani daughter of Guru Amar Das and Mansa Devi. They have sons, Prithi Chand (Sep/Oct, 1558), Maha Dev (June/July, 1560), and Arjun Dev (May 2 1563).
- Inauguration as Guru: Goindwal – September 16, 1574, Guru Amar Das appoints Jetha his successor, naming him Raam Das.
- Establishes Amritsar: 1559, Guru Amar Das excavates a sarovar, or tank, and foundation site of Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple in present day Amritsar, India.
- Death: Goindwal – September 16, 1581, Guru Raam Das names his youngest son, Arjun Dev, his successor.