7th Sikh Master, Guru Har Rai Ji Remembrance (Sikh Environment Day)

"He is perhaps the first environmentalist in South Asia who during his reign from 1644 to 1661 started and promoted...

By the Gregorian calendar Mid-February to mid-March each year is the period to focus on the contributions of the 7th. Sikh master, Guru Har Rai Ji.

I had been asked to do a kirtan presentation for the ‘parkash-purab’ of dhan dhan Guru Har Rai Ji by our local Gurdwara Sahib (which celebrates the day, this year, on 25th. February). In the process of gathering information on, and the little I have heard, of this lesser-known Sikh master I decided to write it all down. It might be of some value to others.

 Again, I do what I do, mainly for younger generation Sikhs and non-Sikhs. The reason I say that is because of two main reasons. The Sikh Quom (nation without borders) at this snapshot in time, is without any proper leadership and because of that each of us from the older generations has to pass on relevant information as we see fit, according to our limited knowledge. It is a case of spreading information to the younger generations so that they can make up their own minds and intrigue them sufficiently to do their own research! The second reason is that we need to extract the grain from the chaff (relevant information from that which is heresay/fables or just generally irrelevant) as best as we can, where our history is concerned and also, relevant to our times.

Primordial amongst all these problems is the fact that Sikhs have at least two sets of dates when it comes to pinning down historical dates – the Gregorian based dates and those who insist on following the lunar Hindu calendar. I have decided to select a few dates for my own celebrations and acknowledgement, but I do believe, however, that the more celebrations and commemorations we have, the better. More the merrier, (he says tongue-in-cheek)!

Anyway, in line with the above, the relevance of our 7th. Master, Guru Har Rai Ji is generally between late-February to mid-March.

" ਸ੍ਰੀ ਪਤਿ, ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪ ਅਨੂਪਮ, ਭੂਪਨ ਭੂਪ,  ਨਮੋ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਯਾ। "

" The King, the unique (anupam) Divine Image, King of Kings, named Har Rai." 

(Kavi Santokh Singh)

guru har rai weapons.jpg

Briefly Guru Har Rai Ji was the grandson of 6th. Master, Guru Hargobind Ji. He was born (1630) in this period, (late February to mid-March) and also attained Guruship roughly at the end of this period at a young 14 years of age and his contribution to Sikhi was cramped into 19 short years. He passed on at age 33. (Again, the numbers are arbitrary – different scholars/books will give you slightly different dates!)

Though a lesser-known Guru, his contribution in today’s terms, is monumental. Environmental consciousness – care for the eco-system, compassion for humanity and God’s other creatures, love of greenery, flowers and other flora, herbal cures for human beings and animals, is his gift to Sikhi. The day on which we believe he attained the responsibility, which also happens to be the start of the Sikh new year, 13 March has been declared Sikh Environment Day. It has become incumbent upon all Sikhs to revert to environmentally friendly methods within the gurdwaras and also at home. I quote directly from a Sikh Environment Day website:

{A US-based Sikh outfit today appealed to Sikhs in India and elsewhere to celebrate March 14 as World Sikh Environment Day, as a tribute to Guru Har Rai the seventh Sikh Guru.

Since 2010, 'EcoSikh' has been engaging Sikhs to take action on nature preservation and to combat the threat of the climate change.

March 14 marks the enthronement day of Guru Har Rai who is remembered for his sensitivity for nature and animals, a media release said.

"He is perhaps the first environmentalist in South Asia who during his reign from 1644 to 1661 started and promoted herbal gardens and wild life refuge and exhorted Sikhs to care for nature," EcoSikh said.

"The world, particularly the South Asia region including Punjab, is facing a great threat due to climate change. India has lost forest area at an alarming rate in the last two decades and Punjab only has four percent forest area and it is our moral duty to take action. Sikh Environment Day is one such attempt," said Rajwant Singh, president of EcoSikh.}

Guru Har Rai Ji was a gentle, loving, yet firm being. He nurtured flora and fauna and reputedly had the best herbal dispensary in north India. It is reputed that even the reigning Moghul emperor Shah Jahan resorted to medicinal treatment from Guru Har Rai to cure his son Dara Shikoh of an ailment.

So Guru Sahib could be called the ‘Sikh Guru of the Environment’ and also, in western terms, the ‘patron saint’ of all those involved in the medical and care-giving field.

On the other hand, he had a horse-mounted ready army of 2,200 horsemen. Since the martyrdom of his great grandfather, 5th Master Guru Arjan Sahib, Sikh Gurus’ lives were in danger, hence the call to arms. He was, fortunately, spared from any armed conflict.

His further firmness was displayed when his older son, Baba Ram Rai was excommunicated for tampering with one word of ‘gurbani’ when explaining a ‘pangati’ (line) from gurbani to humour the Moghul emperor. The word Musselman (Muslim) was changed by him to be-imaan (deceitful person). Guruji never saw his older son again. No Sikh or anyone can change a word from what has been written in gurbani, in the Guru Granth Sahib. So much so that Sikhs are even very particular when pronouncing the gurbani, let alone misread, misplace or change a word!

On Sikh Environment Day (13 March) all Sikhs are requested to look for further methods, tools, mechanisation and actions aimed at helping to turn the tide of pollution, energy and water saving, minimising garbage, recycling, reduction in use of plastics, neighbourhood cleaning drives and further such clean environment consciousness. These initiatives including tree planting are increasingly being carried out by Sikhs globally since 2010. Our gurdwara in Melbourne (Officer) has even initiated organic farming for its ‘langgar’ produce!

We salute dhan dhan 7th Master, Guru Har Rai Ji for this very important direction in this snapshot in time amongst Sikhs which is spreading into the wider community.

[For those interested, my venerable Bapu Ji used to sing the shabad below to commemorate dhan dhan Guru Har Rai Ji as he believed that it was the most apt shabad to describe Guru Har Rai Ji.

ਹਉ ਤਿਸੁ ਵਿਟਹੁ ਵਾਰਿਆ ਹੋਦੈ ਤਾਣਿ ਜੁ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਤਾਣਾ।

Hau Tis Vitahu Vaariaa Hodai Taani Ju Hoi Nitaanaa |

I am sacrifice unto him who being mighty considers himself powerless. (ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੧੨ ਪਉੜੀ ੩) ]

On behalf of Eco-Sikh, we request that you look further, and initiate further such improvements for our environment and to combat global warming for this coming commemorative 13 March 2021. 

For a start, if not already done so, stop handing out tissues when degh is served and stop using paper and plastic plates and cutlery! Think of the wastage and pollution we are responsible for just with these actions.

A Happy New Sikh year and Prakash Devas of dhan dhan Guru Har Ji.

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