Hindu KoshScriptures

The story of Rama in the Guru Granth Sahib

This article is a translation from Hindi of the chapter “Ram” in the book Adi Shri Guru Granth Sahib ki Mahima by Dr. K.P. Agrawal (Voice of India, New Delhi.)
The name of God most often lauded in the Granth Sahib, after that of Hari, is Ram. Ram, Raja Ram, Raghunath and such other words occur approximately 2500 times in the Granth. In the Ramapurva Tapaneeya Upanishad, the various meanings of the word Rama are explained as follows: “Raajate vaa maheem sthitah san iti Raamah” that is, he who is on the earth and fulfils the desires of his devotees and is hailed as a king, is Rama. In other words, when Sacchidanand or Mahavishnu or Shrihari incarnated in the home of Dasharatha in the family of Raghu, He was named Rama. At whose hands, Rakshasas are destroyed, He is Rama. Or He who renders the Rakshasas powerless in His human form is Rama. By his ideal behaviour, He guides kings in the way of Dharma. The utterance of His name results in the attainment of the way of Jnana. He grants Vairagya when He is meditated upon. He grants prosperity when his image is worshipped. For these reasons did His name become famous on the earth as Rama. The Vedas say that in fact, yogis dwell (Sanskrit: Ram-) in the endless, ever-joyous, self-absorbed Brahma state, and so Parabrahma Universal Soul (Paramatma) is itself described as the Rama state. Thus, although Brahma is self-absorbed, non-dual, undivided and devoid of the five-elemental body, it manifests as a conscious body in order to fulfil the Bhaktas’ desires. For the love of the Bhaktas, the Nirakar (formless) Brahma assumes Narakaar (human form).
ghaṭ ghaṭ ramaiya ramat rām rāī gur sabde gur liv lāge (Page 172)
In every heart, Rama is contained. Through the Gurus word, the love for God is contracted.
ṇirguṇ rāmu guṇah vasi hoī (page 222)
Ram, who is without attributes is under the sway of man’s merits. He, who effaces his self-conceit, reflects on the Lord.
jat kat dekhao tat tat tum hī mohī ihu bisuāsu hoi āio.
kai pahi karau ardās bentī jau sunto hai raghurāio (Page 205)
Wherever I look, I find Thee there. I am now firmly convinced of it. Before whom should I make supplication and entreaty, when Raghurai himself is listening to everything.
rām ramahu baṚabhāgio jal thal mahiali soī
nānak nāmi arādhi-ai bighanu na lāgai koī (Page 521)
O ye very fortunate ones, contemplate on Rama, who pervades the ocean, earth and sky. Nanak says, by meditating on the Name, no calamity befalls the mortal.
The Granth has displayed a fondness for referring to the play of Paramatma on this earth in terms of Rama-avatar and Raja Ram:
jānī jānī re rājā rām kī kahānī
antari joti rām pargāsā gurmukhi birlai jānī (Page 970)
O my love, I have known the story of the sovereign Rama. Within us Rama’s light shines, but the rare one, by the Guru’s guidance, becomes aware of it.
The Granth Sahib declares in no uncertain terms that the name of Lord Rama, who took an avatar in the form of a king, is itself true knowledge of God.
rājā rām nāmu morā braham giyānu (Page 1159)
The Name of Raja Ram is divine knowledge for me.
ubrat rājā rām kī saraṇī (Page 215)
(One is saved by seeking the shelter of Raja Ram.)
Nanak Ji regards Raja Ram as more precious than all the wealth of the world. He says:
mālu khajīna sut bhrāt mīt sabhhuṃ se piyārā rām rāje (Page 454)
(Raja Ram is dearer to me than all the wealth, treasures, son, brother and friend.)
By seeking refuge with such a Raja Ram, even the most sinful become holy. This idea is expressed in the words of Ravidas which are included in the Granth Sahib:
merī jāti kamīnī pāti kamīnī ochā janamu hamārā
tum sarnāgati rājā rāmcand kahi ravidās camārā (Page 659)
(My caste is low, my lineage is low, and mean is my birth. I have taken shelter, King Rama, says Ravidas the cobbler.)
A glimpse of Lord Rama’s divine, contemplative, lotus-like face is the very goal of Nanak’s life. He wishes to establish the feet of Rama in his heart, through the grace of saints. He says:
avilokau rām ko mukhārbind
khojat khojat ratanu pāio bisrī sabh cind
caran kamal rīdai dhāri, utariā dukhu mand
raj dhanu parvāru mere sarbaso gobind
sādh sangami lābhu pāio nānak phir na marand (Page 1304)
(I behold the lotus-like countenance of Rama’s face. Searching and seeking, I have found the jewel of the Lord’s Name and am rid of all anxiety. By enshrining the Lord’s feet in my heart, my suffering and foulness is shed. Govind is my dominion, wealth, family and everything. Nanak says, in holy company, I have earned that after which there is no death.)
A detailed description of Rama’s avatarhood was later composed in the form of ‘padāvalīs’ by the poets and were also included in the Granth. In these verses, the poets have also sung the glories of the many Gurus. The reader can easily understand their contents from the verses given below:
raghupati tilaku sundaru dasrath ghari muni banchahi jāki saraṇa (Page 1401)
(The Guru is honoured as was the Supreme and beautiful Rama, in the house of Dashratha of the Raghava dynasty.)
gāvai jamadagni parasarāmesur kar kuṭhār raghu teju hari-oudhau akrūru vidaru guṇa gāvai sarbātamu jini jāṇi-okabi kal sujasu gāvau gur nānak rāju jogu jini māṇi-o (Page 1389-90)
(His divine praise is sung by Parashurama, the son of Jamadagni, who was divested of his axe and powers by Raghuvira. Udho, Akrur and Bidur chant the glories of Guru Nanak, who had realised God, pervasive in themselves. Kal, the poet, sings the sublime praises of Guru Nanak, who enjoys both the temporal and spiritual empires.)
satjugi tai maṇi-o chali-o bali bāvan bhāi-o
traite tai maṇi-o rām raghuvaṃsu kahāi-o
duāpari krisan murāri kaṃsu kirtarthu ki-o
ugrasaiṇ ka-u rāju abhai bhagataha jan dī-o
kalijugi pramāṇu nānak guru angadu amaru kahāi-o (Page 1390)
In Satyayuga, you sported as the dwarf incarnation, and fooled Bali. In Treta, you enjoyed being called Rama of the Raghu dynasty. In Dvapara, becoming Krishna, you killed the demon Mura, and delivered Kamsa. You bestowed the kingdom on Ugrasen, and the state of abhaya (fearlessness) on Your devotees. In the Kali Yuga, you are called the Accepted Gurus Nanak, Angad and Amar.
manahi na kījai rosu jamahi na dījai dosu
nirmal nirbāṇ padu cīnhi lījai
jasrath rāi nandu rājā merā rāmcandu
praṇavai nāmā tatu rasu amritu pījai (Page 973)
(Do not feel offended in thy mind and attribute not blame to Yama. Contemplate the immaculate dignity of salvation. Namdev prays, my Sovereign Lord is Ramachandra, son of King Dashrath. I quaff the essence of the immortalising elixir.)
In India (Bharatvarsh) Ramrajya has always been an ideal for the welfare of the people. This is because it was during Rama’s reign that mankind, and even the animal world, was free of the three kinds of suffering – bodily, physical and supernatural. The Granth Sahib has this to say of the ideal of Ramrajya:
rākhanhār apār prabh tā kī nirmal sev
rām rāj rāmdāspurī kīnhe gurdev (Page 817)
(The Lord is the Infinite Preserver. Pure is His service. The Divine Guru has established RamRajya in the city of Ram Das.)
Then is it surprising that Nanak ji would recommend to everyone to seek refuge at Rama’s feet, or command them to sing the name of Rama?
rājā rām kī sarṇaī
nirbha-u bha-e gobind gun gāvat sādh sangi dukhu jā-i (Page 899)
(I have sought the shelter of King Rama. I have become free of fear by singing the praise of Govind, and in holy company, pain goes away.)
But how is Rama to be worshipped, so that He can be attained? The Granth Sahib answers this question as follows:
rām japahu ji-u aise aise
dhrū prahilād japi-o hari jaise (Page 337)
(As Dhruv and Prahlad meditated on Hari, so do thou, O my self, contemplate on Rama.)
Rama will dwell in the heart only when the heart is completely purified:
bikhi-ā ajahu surati sukh āsā
kaise ho-ī haiṃ rājā rām nivāsā (Page 330)
(Man is intent on sin, still he hopes for happiness. How shall he find an abode in Raja Ram?)
When God Himself takes the responsibility of protecting the devotee, everything becomes full of joy:
ho-ī rāje rām kī rakhvālī
sukh sahaj ānand guṇ gāvahu manu tanu deha sukhālī (Page 620)
(King Rama has given us protection. With peace, equipoise and joy, I sing the Lord’s praise. My mind, body and human frame are at ease.)
Singing the boundless glory of Ramnam, the Granth Sahib says:
rām nāmu hari bheṭi-ai hari rāmai nāmi samāvaigo
jo jo japai so-ī gati pāvai jī-u dhrū prahilādu samāvaigo (Page 1309)
(By meeting with Rama’s Name, one gets absorbed in RamNam. Whoever meditates on Him, is emancipated and merges in the Lord like Dhruv and Prahlad.)
jīvatu rām ke guṇa gā-i
karahu kripā gopāl bīṭhule bisari na kabahi jā-i (Page 1223)
(I live by singing the praises of Rama. O Gopal, show grace unto me, that I may never forget You.)
sālgrām bipa puji manāvahū sukritu tulasī mālā
rām nāmu japi beṚā bāṃdh-hū da-i-ā karahu da-i-ālā
bagule te phuni haṃsulā hovai je tū karahi da-i-ālā
praṇavati nānaku dāsnidāsā da-i-ā karahu da-i-ālā (Page 1171)
(O Brahmin, you worship and propitiate the stone-god and deem it a good act to wear the rosary of sweet basil. Build thou the ship of meditation of Rama’s Name and pray to the gracious Lord for grace. O Lord, if you be graceful, the heron turns into a swan. Nanak, the slave of Thy slaves, humbly supplicates, Gracious Lord, show grace.)
mānga-u rām te iku dānu
sagal manorath pūran hovahi simara-u tumrā nāmu (Page 682)
(I ask one boon from Rama. By meditating on Thy Name, all my desires are fulfilled.)
devā pāhan tārī-ale, rām kahat jan kas na tare
tārī le gaṇikā binu rūp kubijā bi-ādhi ajāmilu tārī-ale
dāsī sut janu bidaru sudāmā ugrasaiṇ ka-u rāj diI-ai
japahīn tapahīn kulahīn kramahīn name su-āmī te-ū tare (Page 345)
(God has caused the stones to float. Why should not I, Thy slave, float by repeating Thine Name? Thou hast saved Ganika and the hunch-back and has caused the hunter and Ajamil to swim across. The man-slayer, who shot Krishna in the foot, even he was emancipated. Thou saved Sudama and slave Vidur, son of a hand-maiden, and gave sovereignty to Ugrasen. Nam Dev’s Lord has saved those without devotion, without penance, without good family lineage and without good acts.)
giri tar jal ju-āīā bhai rākhi-o rājā rām mā-iyā pherī (Page 1165)
(Though he (Prahlad) was thrown down a mountain, a tree, put into water, and fire and subjected to the fear of death, Rama did always save him.)
In this terrible Kaliyuga, the Granth Sahib says, the only support is the name of Rama. This is also the verdict of the sages and seers. According to the Granth Sahib, a being (individual) has only one thing to do, and that is to take the name of Rama, and take the name hundreds of thousands of times.
ucarahu rām nām lakhbārī (Page 194)
(Utter thou the name of Rama a hundred thousand times.)

veda purān simrit sudhākhyar
kīne rām nām ik ākhyar (Page 262)
(The Vedas, Puranas and Smritis, which are accepted as Holy Word, have all grown out of the sole Name of Rama.)

caturathi cāre veda suṇi sodhi-o tatu bīcāru
sarab khem kali-āñ nidhi rām nāmu japi sāru (Page 297)
(Hearing the Vedas and pondering over their reality, I have ascertained that the sublime meditation of Rama’s Name, is the treasure of all the joys and comforts. )

sasatra beda sodhi sodhi dekhe muni nārad bacan pukāre
rām nāmu paṚahu gati pāvahu sat sangati guri nistāre (Page 983)
(The six Shastras and the four Vedas, I have carefully searched and seen. Narad, the silent sage, also utters the same words. That in the company of the holy and by the Guru’s grace, man is emancipated and delivered by uttering Rama’s Name.)

kaljug mahi rām nāmu urdhāru (Page 1129)
(In this dark Age, enshrine thou Rama’s Name in thy heart.)

kaljug mahi rām nāmu sāru (Page 1130)
(In this Dark Age, devotion to Rama’s Name is sublime and pure.)

Guru Nanak is so delighted by the praise of Lord Rama that he breaks out into song:

rām nām gun gāvahu hari prItam updesi
sukhu hota hari hare hari hare hare bhaju rām rām rām
sabh sisṭi dhār hari tum kirpāī kartā sabhu
tū tū tū rām rām rām
jan nānako sarṇāgati dehu gurmati bhaju rām rām rām (Page 1297)
(By singing the praise of the Name of Rama, according to the teaching of the Great Guru, one is blessed with peace. So meditate on Ram, Ram, Ram. O merciful Hari, You cherish the whole world, and You, You and You alone, Rama, are the Creator of All. Slave Nanak seeks shelter. Bless him with the Guru’s teaching so that he may reflect over Rama’s Name.)

We are all familiar with this verse composed by Guru Tegh Bahadur:

rām simar rām simar ihai teri kāji hai…
rām bhaju rām bhaju janamu sirātu hai (Page 1352)
(Contemplate Rama, contemplate Rama, O man. This alone shall be of avail to thee….Meditate on Rama, meditate on Rama, your life is passing away.)

In the final words of the Granth Sahib, on page 1429, Guru Nanak says in mysterious, moving and inspiring words:

sang sakhā sabh taji ga-e ko-u na nibahi-o sāth
kahu nānak iha bipat mai ṭek ek raghnāth
(My companions and friends have all left me. None has remained with me to the last. Nanak says, in this calamity, Raghunath is my only support.)

The tenth Guru Shri Govind Singh Maharaj has devoted a whole composition “Ramavtar” to the story of the complete avatar of God in the form of Rama. It comprises of 864 verses. Towards the end of the poem, in the 859th verse, the Guru writes these beautiful words to describe the fruits of reading the story of Rama:

jo yah kathā sune aru gāvai, dukh pāp tih nikaṭ na āvai,
Vishan Bhagat kī ai phal ho-ī, ādhi vyādhi chavai sake na ko-ī
(Whoever listens to and sings this story, will be free of sin and sorrow. The fruits of devotion to Vishnu are that disease and pain will never affect the devotee.)

Transliteration scheme:

Indic words have been transcribed as in their popular spelling when they occur in the middle of English text. The quotations have been transliterated as follows:

Macrons indicate long vowels; underdots indicate retroflex (cerebral) consonants. “ṃ” stands for nasalisation. Two adjacent vowels, not separated by a hyphen, are to be read as a diphthong.

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