Bhai Gurdas Ji

As a mother seeing a snake near her son, grabs the child by the arm and fondly presses him against her bosom.

Just as a physician, seeing a patient in agony, stops conversation and administers the medicine to control the disease.

Just as a teacher, ignoring the mistakes of the student removes his ignorance through serious teaching.

In the same way, the Guru seeing the defects of his disciple rebukes him not, but reforms him by appealing to his conscience.

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.”

The sixth Guru , Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was not best pleased with this tone of thought and decided to test Bhai Gurdas Ji himself. Guru Ji gave Bhai Gurdas a bag of gold coins and sent him to Kabul to buy some horses. Having arrived safely, he completed the deal. Bhai Ji then asked two Afghans to come into his test to collect the money. Bhai Gurdas Ji went into the tent first and when he checked the bag of coins he found to his dismay that it was full of pebbles. Being at that time completely unable to face up to what he saw as disgrace, he made a run for it from the back of the tent. At the front of the tent the attendants waited, eventually they entered the tent and saw a bag of gold coins but not Bhai Gurdas Ji. The horse dealers were properly paid and in due course the horses arrived back at Amritsar where the whole sorry tale was told to Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. In the meantime Bhai Gurdas Ji, now guilt ridden arrived at Benaras. There to earn a living he started giving the local people talks on Sikhism. He received a message from Guru Sahib Ji to return home, but still felt sick at heart and very repentant. He decided to re-write the verse that had displeased Guru Sahib Ji. This time he declared “ That no Sikh on his own can ever pass the Guru’s test unless firstly he has the Guru’s blessing.”
  As a piece of paper when waxed, stands the test of time,
As a trimmed lamp will shed its light for longer hours,
As a person flying a kite in a wind swept sky controls it by a string,
And an appropriate antidote can cure a snake bite,
As a king traveling incognito best observes the state of his subjects,
It is by such relative supports that the Guru guards his Sikhs. (35.23)

Though Bhai Gurdas Ji remained celibate all his life, he very much appreciated the part played by women in both social and religious life. He had an enormous respect for them and in one composition refers to them as “ being a gateway to salvation “ (5.16)


At birth a Sikh girl is immediately “our darling” to her mother and father.
Later, she becomes admired by her brothers and sisters and favoured by her relatives.
On attaining to “ the bloom of youth” she is wedding with costly gifts and presents.
Now, respected by her husbands family and deemed lucky in her new household, she
regarded as the equal of her spouse in both virtue and wisdom.
She becomes as a doorway to salvation. Such is the verbal portrait of a Guru-inspired
And blessed, faithful Sikh woman. (5.16)

Bhai Gurdas Ji was mainly a religious poet. He wrote in Sanskrit, Brij-bhasa and Punjabi.

6 Chands of 8 verses each in Sanskrit.
672 Kabits and 3 swayyas in Brij0bhasa.
Varan Gian Ratnavali, 40 Vars containing 912 pauries in Punjabi.

In many of his poems Bhai Sahib Ji throws light on the customs, habits and superstitions of his contemporaries. He comments on the prevailing evils of the time. He writes about the practices on both the Hindu and Muslim communities of his day. The poems themselves reveal a profound knowledge of Indian religious thought and of the ancient Hindu scriptures. As a record of the life and times of the Gurus his compositions are invaluable. The Vars of Bhai Gurdas Ji are accepted as canonised bani . They authentically expound the Sikh doctrine and have been called the “ key to understanding the holy Scriptures.” His ideas remain today , progressive, constructive , practical and above all valid
According to Bhai Gurdas Ji the aim of Sikhism is to change an ordinary man into an ideal person. Such a Sikh (learner) becomes a Gursikh or a Gurmukh. A Gurmukh Sikh is one who labours hard to earn an honest living, shares his earnings with others and gives liberally to charities and worthy causes. Sikhism lays great emphasis on selfless service, sewa in the community, of joining in the company of ‘holy people’ of personal honesty and humility.
  Vars of Bhai Gurdas Ji