HAR KRISHAN, GURŪ (1656-1664), the eighth Gurū or prophet-teacher of the Sikh faith, was the younger son of Gurū Har Rāi (1630-61) and Mātā Sulakkhaṇī. He was born on 7 July 1656 at Kīratpur, in the Śivālik hills, in present-day Ropaṛ district of the Punjab. As his time came, Gurū Har Rāi chose Har Krishan, then barely five years old, his successor and gave him his own seat, asking the Sikhs to look upon him as his very image. Gurū Har Krishan assumed the spiritual office upon the death of his father on 6 October 1661. He sat on the throne -- a small figure very young in years. To quote Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh, Srī Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth, "The early morning sun looks small in size, but its light is everywhere. So was young Gurū Har Krishan's fame without limit." Those who came to see him were instructed in true knowledge. Gurū Har Krishan had a rare ability in explaining passages from the Holy Granth, and he delighted the hearts of his disciples by his commentaries.
Rām Rāi, his elder brother, who had been passed over in favour of his younger brother, complained to the Mughal Emperor, Auraṅgzīb, and sought redress for the injustice done to him by his father. The Emperor summoned the young Gurū to Delhi through Rājā Jai Siṅgh of Āmber. Accompanied by his grandmother, Mātā Bassī, and his mother, Mātā Sulakkhaṇī, Gurū Har Krishan left for Delhi. He travelled through Ropaṛ, Banūṛ, Rājpurā and Ambālā. Along the way, he instructed the disciples who came to call on him. As he neared Pañjokhrā, a village 10 km north-east of Ambālā, a Sikh spoke with humility, "Saṅgats are coming from Peshāwar, Kābul and Kashmīr. Stay here a day so that they may have the chance of seeing you, Master." The Gurū made a halt in the village of Pañjokhra.
In that village lived a learned Paṇḍit, Lāl Chand by name, who came to see the Gurū and spoke with derision: "It is said that you sit on the gaddī of Gurū Nānak. But what do you know of the old religious texts?" Chhajjū Rām, the illiterate, dark-skinned village water supplier, happened to pass by at that moment. Gurū Har Krishan asked Dargāh Mall to call him. As Chhajjū Rām came, the Gurū enquired if he would explain to the Paṇḍit the gist of the Bhagavad-gītā. The illiterate villager, says Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh, Srī Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth, astonished everyone by his lucid commentary on the sacred book. Lāl Chand's pride was overcome. Both he and Chhajjū Rām became the Gurū's disciples and travelled with him up to Kurukshetra. The former entered the fold of the Khālsā in Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's time, and took the name of Lāl Siṅgh. Lāl Siṅgh met with a hero's death fighting in the battle of Chamkaur which took place on 7 December 1705.
According to Gurū kīāṅ Sākhīāṅ, Gurū Har Krishan visited the Emperor's court on Chet sudī Naumī 1721 Bk/25 March 1664. The Emperor had planned a trial. He had two large trays laid out for the Gurū. One of these displayed ornaments, clothes and toys. The other had in it a holy man's cloak and cowl. Both were presented to Gurū Har Krishan. He rejected the tray containing ornaments and clothes and accepted the one containing the cloak. The Emperor was convinced of his eminence and thought he would invite him again and see him perform a miracle. Gurū Har Krishan guessed what the Emperor had in his mind. He told himself that he would not see his face again. He believed that no one should attempt a miracle and try to disturb the law of God. Gurū Har Krishan knew how his father had punished Rām Rāi, his elder brother, for misreading a scriptural verse and for showing feats in Emperor Auraṅgzīb's court.
Smallpox was then raging in Delhi as an epidemic. Gurū Har Krishan came out to tend the sick. Soon he was himself afflicted with the disease which ravaged his tender body. The Sikhs were overcome by grief. The Gurū's mother Mātā Sulakkhaṇī, became very sad. She said, in the words of Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh, Srī Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth, "Son, you occupy the gaddī of Gurū Nānak. You are the dispeller of the world's sorrow and suffering. Your very sight removes the ailments of others. Why do you lie sick now?" Gurū Har Krishan replied, "He who has taken this mortal frame must go through sickness and disease. Both happiness and suffering are part of life. What is ordained must happen. This is what Gurū Nānak taught. Whatever one does is His order. One must walk in the light of His command."
Gurū Har Krishan had himself taken out of Rājā Jai Siṅgh's bungalow to a camp put up on the bank of the River Yamunā. The Sikhs were in despair and wondered who would take the gaddī after him. Gurū Har Krishan, to quote Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh again, instructed them in this manner: "Gurū Nānak's throne is eternal. It is everlasting and will command increasing honour. The Granth is the Lord of all. He who wants to see me, let him with faith and love see the Granth. So will he shed all his sins. He who would wish to speak with the Gurū, let him read the Granth with devotion. He who practises its teachings will obtain all the four padārthas. He who has faith gains all. He who is without faith acquires but little. None in this world lives forever. The body is mortal. In the Granth abides the Gurū's spirit. Daily bow your head to it. So will you conquer your passions and attain liberation."
Gurū Har Krishan was in a critical state. Yet he did not fail to carry out his important responsibility before he left the mortal world. In his last moments, he was able to nominate his successor. He asked for the ceremonial marks of succession to be fetched. But all he could say was: "Bābā Bakāle." He meant that the next Gurū would be found in the town of Bakālā. Gurū Har Krishan passed away on 30 March 1664. According to Gurū kīāṅ Sākhīāṅ, Mātā Bassī, the grandmother, asked Bhāī Gurdās of the family of Bhāī Bahilo, to start a reading of the Holy Granth in his memory.
Balwant Siṅgh Anand