Bhai Gurdas Ji is one of the most eminent personalities in the history of the Sikh religion. He was a brilliant scholar and poet, was an able missionary and an accomplished theologian. Being well versed in Indian religious thought, he was able to elaborate profoundly in the tenants of Sikhism.
Bhai Gurdas Ji was born in 1551 in Goindwal, a small village in the Punjab. His father was Bhai Ishardas who was a first cousin to the then Guru, Guru Amar Das Ji. As a result of losing both his parents by the age of 12, he came under the guardianship of his uncle, Guru Amar Das Ji. When he first set eyes on the Guru, he is said to have prostrated himself before Guru Amar Das Ji and said “ My lord, thou art the honour of the unhonoured, the protector of the poor, I have come to seek thy protection. Make me thy slave and yoke me to thy service.” In such an atmosphere he was able to study and learn Sanskrit, Brijbhasha, Persian and Gurmukhi, eventually becoming a preacher of Sikhism. After Guru Amar Das Ji ascended the heavens the fourth Guru , Guru Ram Das Ji appointed him as the Sikh missionary to Agra. As Guru Ram Das Ji also ascended the heavens Bhai Gurdas Ji became very close to the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who had great respect for him, as his‘Mama Ji’ (maternal uncle). Bhai Gurdas Ji became involved in the development of the newly built township of Ramdaspur, and then assisted Guru Arjan Dev Ji in the construction of the new sarovar of Harmindar Sahib (Golden Temple, Amritsar).
Bhai Gurdas Ji became the personal scribe of Guru Arjan Dev Ji for the whole of the time Guru Sahib Ji stayed at Ramsar, on the outskirts of Ramdaspur. It was here that Guru Sahib Ji collated all the ‘bani’ (sacred compositions) and finally produced the Aadh Granth, the holy scriptures of the Sikhs. It was Bhai Gurdas Ji who took down all of Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s dictations.
As this work of love and devotion progressed , Guru Sahib Ji asked Bhai Gurdas Ji whether he had any particular contribution that he would like to make of his own compositions. To this kind suggestion, Bhai Gurdas Ji replied that he could not do so in all humility, “How can the master and servant sit beside each other on the same platform ?” In later years Guru Arjan Dev Ji came to refer to the personal compositions of Bhai Gurdas Ji as ‘providing the key to Aadh Guru Granth Sahib Ji. ” The original Aadh Granth Sahib Ji is in the actual hand writing of Bhai Gurdas Ji and is possession of the Sodhi family at Kartarpur.
When Aadh Granth Sahib Ji was completed in 1604, Guru Arjan Dev Ji formally installed it in the newly finished Harmindar Sahib and deputing Baba Buddha Ji as its first official reader, or granthi.
Subsequent to the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Bhai Gurdas Ji pays tributes to his master in his Vars (compositions) 23 and 24. When Baba Buddha Ji passed away, Bhai Gurdas Ji was appointed granthi at Harmindar Sahib.
Most of Bhai Gurdas Ji’s life was spent at Amritsar (then known as Ramdaspur). He did travel to various places like Basarke and Tarn-Taran on missionary work. When he became too frail to continue his work he retired to Gowindal where he ultimately fell ill and passed away at the age of 86 in 1637. The sixth Guru , Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji personally performed Bhai Sahibs funeral rites and extolled him in tributes.
One day , Bhai Gurdas Ji wrote a verse in one of his Vars, it stated “that if the Guru tested his Sikh, the Sikh would automatically pass the test.”