Guru Ramdas ji earlier known as Bhai Jetha was born at Chuna Mandi, Lahore in the house of Bhai Hari Das, a Khatri of the Sodhi clan and Anup Devi on 24 September 1534 (25 Assu, Sammat 1591).
His parents were too poor to meet even the daily needs and he had to earn his living by selling boiled and salted grams (brown chana). Both the parents of Bhai Jetha expired when he was only seven years of age. Being left as an orphan, his nani (grandmother) took him to Baserke, her village. His grand-parents were also very poor. When he grew up, he started selling sweetened grams (ghunganian) to make his living.
Once Bhai Jetha happened to hear about Guru Amardas ji and then he joined a group of devotees to visit him at Goindwal. There he was enchanted with the holy atmosphere of Goindwal and decided to settle there. There he resumed his profession of selling boiled grams and he also began to take part in the religious congregations held by Guru Amardas Sahib. He also made active participation in the development of Goindwal Sahib. Here, he also started studying langiages, such, Gurmukhi, Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu and Persian.
MARRIAGE TO BIBI BHANI
Bhai Jetha Ji was very handsome and grew tall. He also took keen interest in Sikhism and used to remain busy serving the congregation after his day’s work of selling boiled and salted grams. Bibi Bhani had been also busy in serving the congregation of Guru Amardas Ji. Both were growing up as goods Sikhs with great interest in learning about Sikhism and its principles. In due course the far-sighted Guru Amar Das got Bhai Jetha married to his daughter Bibi Bhani. Inspite of becoming the son-in-law of Guru Amardas ji, Bhai Jetha treated him as ‘Guru’ andAfter the marriage, he stayed with his father-in-law and deeply associated himself with the activities of Sikhism in the Gurdwara. Bhai Jetha Ji and Bibi Bhani Ji had three sons; Prithi Chand Ji, Mahadev Ji and Arjan Dev Ji (Guru) Ji and commanded full confidence of Guru Amardas ji and often accompanied him when the latter went on long missionary tours to different parts of India.
Bhai Jetha was directed by Guru Amar Das to set up a new township at the site marked by the Guru. This place was called ‘Guru-Chak’, later known as Chak Ramdas or Ramdaspura. Subsequently when Guru Ram Das had a holy pool constructed on this spot, the place came to be known as Amristsar or the ‘Pool of Immortality’. Phrase came to be associated with the tank dug at Amritsar which was
“Ramdas Sarovar Nahate, Sab uttre paap kamate“
The water to the tank was brought from River Ravi, a rare feat in those days. The new city (Chak Ramdas Pur) flourished soon as it was situated at the centre of international trade routes. It grew into an important center of trade in Punjab after Lahore. Guru Ramdas Sahib himself invited many merchants and artisans from the different walks of life and trades. Later on, it proved to be step of far-reaching importance. It provided a common place of worship to the Sikhs and paved the way for the future guidelines for Sikhism as a different religion. Guru Ram Das Sahib introduced Masand system in place of Manji system and this step played a great role in the consolidation of Sikhism.
BECOMING GURU RAM DAS
As Guru Amardas ji was getting older, he was in search of his successor. Guru ji’s eldest daughter, Bibi Dani was married to Rama ji who was a zealous Sikh. He used to work in Guru’s kitchen and administer the needs of the pilgrims. One day he put both of his son-in-laws, Rama ji and Bhai Jetha to test. He asked them to make a platform beside the Baoli. They both made the platform many times, but the Guru did not approve of either of the platforms saying that these are not what I desired. At this, Rama ji gave up and dissnted and said that it was exactly as Guru ji had told and that he fully understood the requirements to fully conform to them. After a long argument he refused to build it third time and said that Guru ji was having a lapse of memory because of his advancing age.
Bhai Jetha ji however pleaded, “I am a fool, I am erring and of mean understanding, while you possess all knowledge”. He demolished it again and rebuilt the third time. The Guru ji continued to find the fault with it untill it was destroyed and rebuilt seven times. Jetha ji was in tears and fell at Guru ji’s feet and begged, “I am a fool and with my limited understanding, cannot comprehend your vision. Kindly bless me so that my hands do your bidding and I may be able to erect the platform of your vision.” On hearing this, Guru Amardas ji smiled and blessed him saying, “Obeying my order, you have built the platform seven times, without any expectation. The Guru’s throne rightfully belongs to you.”
Baba Budha ji annotated Jetha and renamed him to Guru Ramdas. Guru Amar Das ji placed coconut and five paisa at his feer and declared him as his successor Guru. Before his departure, Guru Amar Das ji also handed over the written records of previous Gurus to him at the time of his succession.
GURBANI AND SEWA
Guru Ram Das continued the tradition of Kirtan (holy music), langar and sewa (selfless service). During his Guruship period, Guru Ram Das always emphasized the value of sewa, which should be the primary duty of every Sikh and his family. Besides every Sikh should be engaged in honest labour during which the name of God should always be on ones lips. This would bring happiness in the world and mukti or liberation from the painful process of birth and death.
Guru Ramdas ji strengthened the Sikhism a step further by composing Four Lawans and advised the Sikhs to recite them in order to solemnize the marriages of their children. Thus he introduced a new matrimonial system based upon Sikhism instead of Hindu’s Vedi system. Thus this distinct marriage code for the Sikhs separated them from the orthodox and traditional Hindu system. also made rapprochement with different sects of Udasis through Baba Shri Chand Ji. He, like his predecessors carried forward the tradition of Guru ka Langer. Superstitions, caste system and pilgrimages were strongly decried.
He wrote 638 hymns in 30 ragas, these include 246 Padei 138 Saloks, 31 Ashtpadis and 8 Vars and are a part of Guru Granth Sahib.
LAST DAYS AND PASSING OF GURUSHIP
He nominated his youngest son (Guru) Arjan Dev Ji as Fifth Nanak. After this he left Amritsar and retired to Goindwal Sahib. There, after a few days he passed away on September 1, 1581 (Bhadon Sudi 3rd (2nd Assu) Samvat 1638.