Today’s date marks the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the founder of the Sikh faith. Although many of us encounter Sikhism daily in the multicultural United Kingdom street scene, only a few know how Sikhism came to be. Today’s date is the perfect day to learn about it.
Guru Arjan Dev was born in 1953. He believed that the meaning of life, and religion, was simply to live in this world and cope with everyday problems. One of his most famous quotes is “My faith is for the people of all castes and all creeds from whichever direction they come and to whichever direction they bow.” He announced this after creating the Sikhs their first central place of worship. The place for worship became known as the Golden Temple, although it was controversial in many ways. Guru Arjan Dev believed that humility is a great virtue, thus, he built the temple very low rather than tall and close to the sky as was the custom. Whats more, he ordered the temple to have entrances on all four sides. This was because Muslims believe God’s house is in the West, whereas Hindu’s believe it is in the East, and Guru Arjan Dev wanted his faith to accommodate everyone. To help raise money for the Golden Temple Guru Arjan Dev declared that Sikhs must donate 1/10 of their earnings to charity. This is still an important part of the Sikh fate today.
One of the most important contributions Guru Arjan Dev made to Sikhism was the Holy Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. Into this scripture he complied all the works of the past gurus, as well as, once again controversially, important writings from Hindu and Muslim saints which he considered consistent with Sikhism. He completed his task in 1604 and the original copy of the scripture is still said to exist today. The original copy is in the possession of the Sodhi family in Kartarpur village, in the Punjab region in India.
Shortly after Guru Arjan Dev had finished the first version of the Holy Scripture Jahangir, Muslim Emperor who was in rule at the time, ordered Guru Arjan Dev to remove the Muslim and Hindi references from his book. When Guru Arjan Dev refused, the emperor ordered him to be tortured and sentenced to death. Guru Arjan Dev endured five whole days of tormenting pain. He was made to sit on a burning hot surface while boiling water was poured on him. After the torture, Guru Arjan Dev was allowed to take a bath in the river as thousands of people watched. He entered the river and was never seen again.
Today’s date commemorates the day of his disappearance. The way in which Gur Arjan Dev died changed the course of Sikhism forever. Today he holds a similar importance in Sikhism, as the martyrs do in the Catholic faith.