Shri Guru Ram Das Ji (24 September 1534 to 1581)
Guru Ram Das was the fourth of the ten Gurus of Sikhism. He was born on 24 September 1534 in a poor Hindu family based in Lahore, part of what is now Pakistan. His birth name was Jetha, he was orphaned at age 7, and thereafter grew up with his maternal grandmother in a village.
Ram Das became the Guru of Sikhism in 1574 and served as the Sikh leader until his death in 1581. He faced hostilities from the sons of Amar Das, shifted his official base to lands identified by Amar Das as Guru-ka-Chak. This newly founded town was eponymous Ramdaspur, later to evolve and get renamed as Amritsar – the holiest city of Sikhism. He is also remembered in the Sikh tradition for expanding the manji organization for clerical appointments and donation collections to theologically and economically support the Sikh movement. He appointed his own son as his successor, and unlike the first four Gurus who were not related through descent, the fifth through tenth Sikh Gurus were the direct descendants of Ram Das.
Ram Das is credited with founding the holy city of Amritsar in the Sikh tradition. Two versions of stories exist regarding the land where Ram Das settled. In one based on Gazetteer record, the land was purchased with Sikh donations, for 700 rupees from the owners of the village of Tung.
According to the Sik historical records, the cite was chosen by Guru Amar Das and called Guru Da Chak, after he had asked Ram Das to find land to start a new town with a man made pool as its central point. After his coronation in 1574, and the hostile opposition he faced from the sons of Amar Das, Ram Das founded the town named after him as “Ramdaspur” He started by completing the pool, and the building his new official Guru centre and home next to it. He invited merchants and artisans from other parts of India to settle into the new town with him. The town expanded during the time of Arjan financed by donations and constructed by voluntary work. The town grew to become the city of Amritsar, and the pool area grew into a temple complex after his son built the gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, and installed the scripture of Sikhism inside the new temple in 1604.
The construction activity between 1574 and 1604 is described in Mahima Prakash Vartak, a semi-historical Sikh hagiography text likely composed in 1741, and the earliest known document dealing with the lives of all the ten Gurus.
While Guru Amar Das intoduced the manji system of religious organiztion, Ram Das extended it with adding the masand institution. The masand were Silkh community leaders who lived far from the Guru, but acted to lead the distant congregations, their mutual interactions and collect revenue for Sikh activities and temple building. This institutional organization famously helped grow Sikhism in the decades that followed, but became in famous in the era of later Gurus, for its corruption and its misuse in financing rival Sikh movements in times of succession disputes.
Death and succession
Guru Ram Das died on 1 September 1581, in Goindval town of Punjab. Of his three sons, Ram Das choose Arjan, the youngest, to succeed him as the fifth Sikh Guru. The choice of successor, as throughout most of the history of Sikh Guru successions, led to disputes and internal divisions among the Sikhs. The elder son of Ram Das named Prithi Chand is remembered in the Sikh tradition as vehemently opposing Arjan, creating a faction Sikh community which the Sikhs following Arjan called as Minas and is alleged to have attempted to assassinate young Hargobind. However, alternate competing texts written by the Prithi Chand led as devoted to his younger brother Arjan. the competing texts to acknowledge disagreement and describe Prithi Chand as having become the Sahib Guru after the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev and disputing the succession of Guru Hargobind, the grandson of Ram Das.