Remembering the Bal Guru
Every year on 23 July, the Sikhs celebrate the birthday of their eighth guru, Guru Har Krishan. He was also fondly called ‘Bal Guru’ (child guru) as Guru ji attained guruship at a young age of just over 5 years. Each year during the late July, huge celebrations are held at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi to commemorate this auspicious day. It was at this location in Delhi where Guru ji stayed at Raja Jai Singh’s bungalow during the reign of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
Guru Har Krishan was born on 7 July, 1656 at Kiratpur Sahib, Rupnagar in Punjab and was the second son of Guru Har Rai and Mata Krishan Kaur Ji. When the Guru came to Delhi, he stayed at the bungalow of Raja Jai Singh. There was a severe smallpox epidemic and several thousands of people were dying. By Guru’s blessing, the pool at Bangla Sahib, which is built at the site of Raja Jai Singh’s bungalow provided cure for thousands of suffering people. Gurdwara Bangla Sahib is thus blessed by the healing powers of this eighth Sikh Guru. The tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh wrote in his famous ‘Vaar Sri Bhagauti Ji Ki’ ‘Remember Sri Harkrishan, whose vision dispels all pains’. This shrine is not only visited by thousands of Sikhs but also people of other faiths.
He became Guruji on 7 October 1661, succeeding his father, Guru Har Rai. After his death, his granduncle Guru Tegh Bahadur became the next Guruji of the Sikhs. Before his death in October 1661, Guru Har Rai designated his younger son Har Krishan as the next Guru. Har Rai chose Har Krishan, rather than his elder son Ram Rai, because Ram Rai was in collusion with the Mughal empire. Har Krishan was only five years old when he succeeded his father as Guru.
It is said that when Guru Har Rai was asked which of his two sons Ram Rai and Har Krishan would be the next guru, he said that although both of them followed the same religion and recited the same bani, there was softness in the heart of Har Krishan and Ram Rai was rough from the heart. For the enlightenment of any person or to be named as the guru, softness was of prime importance.
At Panjokhra, near Ambala in Haryana, there stands a magnificent gurudwara in memory of the
miracle done by Guru Har Krishanji. It is told that doubting the abilities of a small child to be a Guru, a local pandit (learned man) challenged him to translate and explain the Sanskrit verses of Bhagvad Gita. At that time, Sanskrit was read and studied only by eminent people. He brought with him a completely illiterate man with limited mental ability named Gangu Jheevar. Guruji pointed a stick on Gangu’s head as a blessing and that disabled illiterate man started uttering the sermons of the sacred text to the perfection.
When they reached Delhi, Guru Har Krishan and his party were the guests of Raja Jai Singh. Every day, large numbers of Sikh devotees flocked to see the Guru. A smallpox epidemic was then raging in Delhi. Guru Har Krishan helped to heal many sick people. Guru Har Krishan Ji, being soft and kind hearted, served the ill and is said to have taken smallpox upon himself. On 30 March, 1664, Guru Har Krishan decided to name his successor. He called for five coins and a coconut. He took them, and being too weak to move, waved his hand three times in the air, and said ‘Baba Bakala’, meaning his successor was to be found in Bakala. Guru Har Krishan then died of smallpox at the age of 7, as he had refused treatment.
One of the historic gurdwaras in the country the Bangla Sahib in Delhi, was built on the site where Guru Har Krishan helped the sick. Guru Har Krishan also died at Gurudwara Bala Sahib.