Sikh Gurus > Guru AmarDas Ji

Guru's free kitchen (Guru ka Langar) which was started by Guru Nanak and developed by Guru Angad, was further strengthened by Guru Amar Das. It was the injunction of Guru Amar Das that none would have his audience unless he had first eaten from the Langar. The Guru intended to remove the caste restrictions and prejudices of untouchability. It was, therefore, declared unequivocally that all persons of all castes, high or low, rich or poor, Brahmans or Sudras, Hindus or Muslims, must sit in the same line and eat the same food from Guru's kitchen. When Raja of Haripur or even Akbar, the Mughal Emperor of India , came to see the Guru, they had to sit with common people and dine with them before they could have audience with the Guru. In this way people were lifted above the hypocrisy of caste system and were able to look at one another as brothers and equals.

Mai Das was a renowned Pandit and a devout worshipper of Lord Krishna. He was a strict Vaishnav, he would eat only what he had cooked with his own hands within a purified square. The Guru rejects these purified squares:

"All outlined purified squares are false; O Nanak, Only God is pure."
(Maru ki Var, Slok Mohalla 3, p-1090)

When he came to see the Guru, he was informed that unless he had eaten from Guru's kitchen, he could not see him. Being a strict Vaishnav he could not do that, so he left for Dwarka where he thought to have a glimpse of Lord Krishna. On the eleventh day of lunar month Mai Das used to fast and would eat just fruits during that period. Due to winter season the fruits were not available in the forest. Mai Das wandered hungry in the forest looking for fruits but could not find them. Finally he started calling on his gods for help. At last he heard a voice,"You have not eaten food from the Guru's kitchen, and you have not had holy sight of him; therefore shalt thou not obtain perfection. If you desire to do so, then first behold Guru Amar Das."

Upon this Mai Das returned to Goindwal. He partook of food from the Guru's kitchen, and then was allowed to see the Guru. The Guru welcomed him,"Come, Mai Das, thou art a special saint of God." The Guru initiated him as his Sikh, blessed him with Nam and bestowed on him the spiritual power of conferring salvation on others. Mai Das held one of the 22 Manjis (dioceses) set up by Guru Amar Das.

Akbar, the Emperor of India, on his way to Lahore , paid a visit to the Guru at Goindwal. He was informed that he could not see the Guru until he had dined with others from the Guru's kitchen. Akbar partook of the food in the Langar, the more he had it, the more he relished it. After that the Emperor had an interview with the Master. It is said that the Guru rose to receive the Emperor in his arms, but Akbar spontaneously bowed to touch the feet of the Master. The monarch felt a thrill of joy and peace by the holy touch.

Having seen the large number of people fed from the Guru's kitchen, Akbar requested the Guru to accept his services and his offerings. But the Guru replied,"I have obtained lands and rent- free tenures from my Creator. Whatever comes daily is spent daily, and for the morrow my trust is in God." Akbar then replied,"I see you desire nothing. From thy treasury and thy kitchen countless people receive bounties, and I also entertain similar wishes, I will grant these 84 villages to thy daughter, Bibi Bhani." This was the estate where Guru Ram Das built the city of Ramdaspur which is now called Amritsar .

When the Brahmans and the Khatris failed in their mission to derail the Guru from Guruship by inciting Datu to declare himself as Guru, they made a special complaint to Emperor Akbar. In their complaint they alleged, "Every man's religion is dear to him. Guru Amar Das of Goindwal has abandoned the religious and social customs of the Hindus, and abolished the distinction of the four castes. He makes his followers of all castes sit in a line and eat together from his kitchen irrespective of caste or religion. There is no offering of water to ancestors, no pilgrimages, no worship of idols of gods or goddesses. The Guru reverenceth not Jogis, Jatis or Brahmans. We, therefore, pray thee to restrain him now, else i t will be difficult later on."

Akbar sent a high official to Goindwal to request Guru's attendance. The summons was not a brutal order of a modern court,"Herein fail not, but kindly grant me a sight of thee. " The Guru sent Jetha saying, "Thou art in my image; Guru Nanak will be with thee and none shall prevail against thee. Fear no body and give suitable reply."

Jetha gave suitable replies to all the questions and satisfied the Emperor who then gave his decision, "I see no hostility to Hinduism in this man, nor do I find any fault with his compositions." The Brahmans left the court in utter defeat. Macauliffe qoutes 'Suraj Parkash', "Upon this the Emperor took Jetha aside, and told him to request Guru Amar Das, who before his conversion to Sikhism used to make yearly pilgrimages to the Ganges, to make one pilgrimage more in order to divert the wrath of the Hindus. The Emperor added that he would issue an order that no tax should be levied on the Guru's party...... The Guru in compliance with the Emperor's suggestion, and also in order to have an opportunity of preaching his religion, set out for Hardwar ." 'The Guru's going to Hardwar for one more pilgrimage to avert the wrath of the Hindus', seems totally unfounded because it is against the tenets of the Guru.

It is not right to assert that Guru Amar Das went to Hardwar for one more pilgrimage to please the Hindus. Guru Amar Das went to Hardwar and Kurukshetra not to make a pilgrimage but to preach his doctrine and gospel of Nam to the thousands of battered souls.

The status of women in Hindu society at that time was very low. When the husband died, the wife either voluntarily burnt herself on the pyre of her husband or was thrown into the fire without her consent. In popular term the woman who did perform this act was called Sati (truthful). Guru Amar Das carried out a vigorous campaign against the practice of Sati. He gave special attention to the i mprovement of the status of women and thus prohibited this practice. G.B. Scott acclaims the Guru as the first reformer who condemned the prevailing Hindu practice of Sati. The Guru advocated the following:

"Satis are not those who are burnt with husbands,
O Nanak, true Satis are whom pangs of separation can finish.
Those are considered Satis who live contented, embellish themselves with good conduct;
And cherish the Lord ever and call on Him."
(Var Suhi ki- Slok Mohalla 3, p-787)

The Guru lifted the status of women as equal to men. He prohibited the practice of Sati and preached in favor of widow marriage.