Har Rai was an extremely sensitive child. The story is told that when he brushed against a rose bush and accidentally knocked some petals to the ground, he wept because he had hurt the bush. He became the Guru at the age of 14.
Honoring his grandfather’s wishes, he did not disband the existing army of Sikh Warriors (Saint/ Soldiers) that Guru Hargobind had established.
He kept 2,200 mounted soldiers at all times. Although he personally never indulged in any direct political or armed controversy with the Mughal Empire, Guru Har Rai always personally remained a man of peace while encouraging the military spirit of the Sikhs.
He went hunting, not to kill animals, but to care for them in a beautiful zoo he had established at Kiratpur Sahib. He also established an Ayurvedic herbal medicine hospital and research center there.
Healing the Enemy
Dara Shikoh, the eldest son and heir apparent of Shah Jahan became seriously ill, poisoned by his brother Aurangzeb, who aspired to the throne. The best physicians said his only hope for recovery was if he could be given certain medicines they did not have at hand. Advised that Guru Har Rai had healing skills and these rare medicines, Shah Jahan sent a humble request for treatment for his son. The special medicines were given to the Emperor’s messenger with the addition of a pearl that was to be ground up into powder and added to the remedy.
The Guru’s Sikhs asked Guru Har Rai why he was helping the son of Shah Jahan, an enemy who had quarreled with both his great-grandfather, Guru Arjan Dev, and his grandfather, Guru Hargobind, and was certainly also his own enemy. The Guru replied: “Behold, with one hand man breaks flowers and with one hand offers them, but the flowers perfume both hands alike. The axe cuts the sandal tree, yet the sandal perfumes the axe. We ought, therefore to return good when we are treated badly.”
The medicines saved the life of Dara Shikoh. The Emperor wholeheartedly thanked the Guru and vowed he would never again cause him any annoyance.
Prince Dara Shikoh
As soon as Shah Jahan died, Aurangzeb usurped the throne, chasing away his brother Prince Dara Shikoh.
The prince fled the court and took sanctuary with Guru Har Rai. According to the tradition of the Guru’s household, Guru Har Rai received Dara Shikoh with great courtesy.
Grateful to the Guru for saving his life, the prince confided he was not interested in securing the throne and would rather be left alone for spiritual pursuits. Nevertheless, when he left the Guru’s protection, Dara Shikoh was executed, having been falsely accused by his brother Aurangzeb of deviating from Islam.
Aurangzeb and Baba Ram Rai
Under Aurangzeb, the state turned openly hostile against non-Muslims. Emperor Aurangzeb summoned Guru Har Rai to Delhi under false charges. He let it be known that if the Guru would perform a miracle for him, he would accept him as a man of God. If not, he would punish him as a commoner according to law.
Wisely, not trusting the Emperor’s motives, Guru Har Rai decided not to go to Delhi. His son Baba Ram Rai insisted they should not offend Aurangzeb and volunteered to go to court to represent the Guru. Guru Har Rai agreed, but warned Ram Rai not to indulge in miracle-making.
Guru Hargobind had particularly forbidden it, and he did not approve of it either. Furthermore, he must not allow the sanctity of the Guru Granth Sahib to be compromised at any cost. Once Ram Rai was at court, he worked miracles one after another to humor the king. When Aurangzeb expressed his objection to one of Guru Nanak’s verses in the Guru Granth Sahib that mentioned Muslims, Ram Rai said the word “Muslim” was a mistake, and he changed it to please the Emperor.
When Guru Har Rai was told what had happened, he excluded Ram Rai from the Sikh Panth and refused ever to see him again, though his son begged for forgiveness. Thus Guru Har Rai established the strict policy of never altering the original words in the Guru Granth Sahib.
Because of Ram Rai’s disobedience and distortion of the sacred words of the Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Har Rai chose his younger son, five-year-old Har Krishan, as his successor. Shortly before his untimely death at the age of 30, Guru Har Rai had the little boy installed as the Eighth Guru.
~ This information was originally published in the book Heroes, Saints and Yogis (2012) by Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa and Guruka Singh Khalsa.