Baba Ram Rai

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Baba Ram Rai Darbar, Dehradoon

Baba Ram Rai was the eldest son of the Seventh Sikh Guru, Guru Har Rai Ji. Guru Harkrishan was the youngest of Guru Har Rai Ji's three children. Baba Ji's sister Sarup Kaur was almost four years older than him. Baba Ram Rai was excommunicated from sikhi by Guru Har Rai ji.

Ram Rai was nine years older than Guru Harkrishan. Baba Ji was born in a palace called Sheesh Mahal. It is said that this palace, the residence of Guru Har Rai, was constructed on the model of the Sheesh Mahal of Jaipur. A Seesh Mahal is a room whose ceiling is laced with tiny small mirrors. Lighting a candle makes the ceiling look like a galaxy of stars, twinkling above. Such splendid mirrored rooms, popular with the Rajputs, became a standard feature in Mughal Palaces and later in Sikh Religious Architecture.


After Aurangzeb had imprisoned his father and had finally wrested the Mughal throne away from his eldest half-brother Dara Shikoh (who their father Shah Jahan had preferred as the next Emperor), Aurangzeb was goaded, by members of his Court, into accusing Guru Har Rai of lending Dara Shikoh support.

Aurangzeb demanded that Guru Har Rai make an appearance in Delhi. Instead, Guru Sahib sent his eldest son, Ram Rai, to Delhi. Ram Rai was well received by Aurangzeb. He not only satisfactorily responded to all of Aurangzeb's concerns, but he also impressed the Emperor with his cleverness. As a result, Ram Rai was asked to stay on as a state guest for some period.

Ram Rai mis-quotes Gurbani

Jhanda Fair at Baba Ram Rai Darbar

One day, after prodding by some of the Ulema, Aurangzeb asked, why Sri Guru Nanak had criticized Islam in salok "Mitti Musalman Ki"? Ram Rai satisfied the assembled Muslims by saying that the line had been copied incorrectly and that the actual writing was correctly "Mitti Baimaan Ki" and not "musalman ki" as was written.

Though Ram Rai was well-blessed with all powers and strictly instructed only to explain Guru's position, but to sooth the mind of his host he choose to mis-interpret Guru Nanak's writing, something his father had instructed him was completely forbidden. Further, it has been said, that he performed miracles for Aurangzeb's pleasure.

The Guru "disowns" Ram Rai

When Guru Har Rai Ji heard of this incident, he forbade Ram Rai from ever returning home. Guru's word in Gurbani is absolute divine revelation and not subject to any modifications by anyone. Miracles although recognized by Sikh faith, are actively discouraged. Their exposition or display is considered arrogance (competing with Vaaheguru's powers).

Though Ram Rai managed to please Aurangzeb, Guru Har Rai Ji forbade all Sikhs from ever associating with Ram Rai. Aurangzeb gave Ram Rai a jagir of four villages in the Doon area as a reward. He died there in sunmat 1788. Because of Ram Rai's Dehra, Duun came to be popularly known as Dehradun.

Young Harkrishan become Guru at age 5

A historical katha suggests that when Ram Rai was engrossed in meditation, the neighbouring masands mistook him for dead and cremated his body. For this reason, Mata Punjab Kaur sought punishment of the masands from the 'Kalgidharr Patshah (a title of the Sikh Guru). Today there is still a small following of Ram Rai. However, by Guru Har Rai's hukam, all Sikhs are forbidden any association with Ram Rai's followers.

Therefore instead of Ram Rai, Guru Harkrishan was installed as Guru at the tender age of five years and three months at Kiratpur. At the time of installation of Harkrishan as Guru, Ram Rai his elder brother was a regular in the court of the Emperor of Delhi.

After learning that the Guruship had been passed to his younger brother, Baba Ram Rai became furious and envious of Guru Harkrishan. He requested the emperor to summon Harkrishan to Delhi and ask him to perform miracles similar to those he had performed. Ram Rai knew that Guru Harkrishan had taken a vow to never appear before the emperor as it was also an order given to him by his father Guru Har Rai.

Final Days of Ram Rai

Shunned by all Sikhs he went to Srinagar Garwaal and became a great friend of Raja Fateh Chand. It is thought that he influenced Raja Fateh Chand to annex some territory of Raja Medani Prakash. He had many followers known as Masands. As Baba had no children to inherit his property his Masands were trying their best to occupy the Dera. Baba Ram Rai shifted to Dehradoon.

Ram Rai although having been criticised previously for altering Gurbani, he was still considered a Mahapurush by many and did numerous good deeds. In his final days at Dehradoon, Ram Rai strictly instructed his wife Mata Punjab Kaur to not allow anybody access to his enclosure. He said to her that he was going into deep meditation and it was very important she obeyed his order. He then entered the room and meditated for numerous days. It was believed Ram Rai could leave his body and entered the spiritual plane. Ram Rai may have done this in order to help his devotees a long distance away. His Masands quickly realised his miss-presence and debated on where he was. After some time they asked Panjab Kaur who told them the situation. The corrupt Masands didn’t listen to her and suggested he would have perished in the room. They hacked a plan to open the door to the room and look inside. Panjab Kaur hesitantly forced them not to do this. However not obeying her order the Masands reluctantly opened the door and saw Ram Rai lying on the floor. They then debated on what to do next and suggested they should cremate the body. The saddened Panjab Kaur on seeing what they had done lamented in shock. She meditated to Ram Rai and did ardas for his return.

The followers of Ram Rai or Masands had become greedy on seeing his wealth and property. They therefore did what they could in their power to gain hold of it. Sri Guru Harkrishan Ji gave Ram Rai a sraaf (curse) before they left for their heavenly abode as Ram Rai had tried to insult the Guru. Guru ji said you will also be burned alive. As Ram heard the call of Panjab Kaur for his return the guilty Masands were already preparing the funeral rites of his body. They cleaned his body according to the traditional customs. Ram Rai in his spiritual form returned to be shocked at what his followers had done. From above he lamented and saw his own body. He became very infuriated at them as they could hear him from below Ram Rai cursed them for their folly. He also remembered his older brother Guru Harkrishans saying. Having been saddened Ram Rai didn’t re-enter his body but left for his heavenly abode. The Masands saw this and still continued the funeral rites of setting light to the body.

After his cremation, Panjab Kaur asked Guru Gobind Singh for assistance. Guru ji was very displeased at the news as Ram Rai was his cousin brother (Grandson of Baba Gurditta) by relation (see Guru family tree). Guru ji travelled to Dehradoon to punish the guilty Masands. Guru ji knew Ram Rai was a Maha purakh and what the Masands had done was very shameful. He tricked the Masands into believing they were accepting a saropa (token of achievement) whilst they were punished severely one by one. They were numerous Masands that were punished in the order of hundreds. Each one was tied and punished by pouring hot oil over their foreheads. The main leader Masands were also severly punished in the same way and killed. Justice had been done and Panjab Kaur thanked Guru Gobind Singh for his support and Ram Rai’s Aatma would now be at rest.

Extract from Bhai Santokh Singh - Suraj Parkash

See also