HAR RĀI, GURŪ (1630-1661), the seventh Gurū of the Sikh faith, was the son of Bābā Gurdittā and grandson of Gurū Hargobind, Nānak VI. He was born on 16 January 1630 at Kīratpur, in present-day Ropaṛ district of the Punjab. In 1640, he was married to Sulakkhaṇī, daughter of Dayā Rām of Anūpshahr, in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh. He was gentle by nature and had a devout temperament. He was Gurū Hargobind's favourite grandchild, and he had been given the name of Har Rāi by the Gurū himself. Once, record old texts, Har Rāi was returning home after his riding exercise. From a distance he saw Gurū Hargobind sitting in the garden. He at once got off his horse to go and do him homage. In this hurry, his robe was caught in a bush and a few of the flowers were broken from their stems. This pained Har Rāi's heart. He sat down on the spot and wept bitterly. Gurū Hargobind came and consoled him. He also advised him: "Wear your robe by all means, but be careful as you walk. It behoves God's servants to be tender to all things." There was a deeper meaning in the Gurū's words. One must live in this world, and yet be master of oneself.
Gurū Hargobind knew Har Rāi to be the fittest to inherit the "light" from him. He nominated him as his successor and consecrated him Gurū before departing this life on 3. March 1644.
Gurū Har Rāi kept the stately style Gurū Hargobind had introduced. He was attended by 2, 200 armed followers, but no further conflict with the ruling power occurred. He established three important preaching missions called bakhshishes for the spread of Gurū Nānak's teaching. First was that of Bhagvān Gir, renamed Bhagat Bhagvān, who established missionary centres in eastern India. The second was that of Saṅgatīā, renamed Bhāī Pherū, who preached in Rājasthān and southern Punjab. Gurū Har Rāi also sent Bhāī Gondā to Kābul, Bhāī Natthā to Ḍhākā and Bhāī Jodh to Multān to preach. The ancestors of present-day families of Bāgaṛīāṅ and Kaithal preached in the Mālvā region. Gurū Har Rāi himself travelled extensively in this area and a large number of people accepted his teaching. He confirmed the blessing earlier bestowed by Gurū Hargobind on a poor boy, Phūl, who became the founder of the families of Paṭiālā, Nābhā and Jīnd. These families ruled in their territories in the Punjab until recent years.
Kīratpur was Gurū Har Rāi's permanent seat. Here disciples and visitors came to seek blessings and instruction. The Gurū kept the daily practice of his predecessors. The institution of laṅgar, community eating, continued to flourish. Gurū Har Rāi chose himself the simplest fare which was earned by the labour of his own hands. In the morning, he sat in the saṅgat and explained the Sikh doctrine. He did not compose any hymns of his own, but quoted those of his predecessors in his discourses. He often repeated to his followers the following verses of Bhāī Gurdās, Vārāṅ (XXVIII. 15) :
A true Sikh rises before the night ends,
And turns his thoughts to God's Name,
To charity and to holy bathing.
He speaks humbly and humbly he walks,
He wishes everyone well and he is joyed to give away gifts from his hand.
He sleeps but little,
And little does he eat and talk.
Thus he receives the Gurū's true instruction.
He lives by the labour of his hands and he does good deeds.
However eminent he might become,
He demonstrates not himself.
He sings God's praises in the company holy men.
Such company he seeks night and day.
Upon Word is his mind fixed,
And he delights in the Gurū's will.
Unenticed he lives in this world of enticement.
Gurū Har Rāi was at Goindvāl when Dārā Shukoh, heir apparent to the Mughal throne, entered the Punjab fleeing in front of the army of his brother, Auraṅgzīb, after his defeat in the battle of Sāmūgaṛh on 29 May 1658. At Goindvāl, where he arrived in the last week of June 1658, he called on Gurū Har Rāi, and sought the consolation of his blessing. The prince was of a liberal religious disposition, and had a natural inclination for the company of saintly persons. He was especially an admirer of the famous Muslim Sūfī, Mīāṅ Mīr, who was known to the Sikh Gurūs. Sikh tradition also recalls how Dārā Shukoh had once been cured of a serious malady with herbs sent to him by Gurū Har Rāi. In his affliction now he readily took the opportunity of having an audience with the Gurū. According to Sarūp Dās Bhallā, Mahimā Prakāsh, Gurū Har Rāi deployed his own troops at the ferry to delay Auraṅgzīb's army which was pursuing Dārā close at his heels.
Gurū Har Rāi left Goindvāl on a tour of the districts where the Sikh faith had taken root in the time of his predecessors. He travelled further on to Kashmīr. The Baisākhī of 1660 was celebrated at Siālkoṭ in the home of Nand Lāl Purī, grandfather of Haqīqat Rāi, the martyr. The journey was resumed in the company of Sikhs such as Makkhaṇ Shāh, the Lubāṇā trader, and Āṛū Rām, father of Kirpā Rām Datt who later led to the presence of Gurū Tegh Bahādur a group of Kashmīrī Paṇḍits driven to dire distress by State persecution. Gurū Har Rāi arrived at Srīnagar, via Mārtaṇd, on 19 May 1660, and visited Moṭā Ṭāṇḍā, the village to which his disciple, Makkhaṇ Shāh belonged. On his way back, he stopped at Akhnūr and Jammū. At the latter place, the local masand, Bhāī Kāhnā, waited on him with the saṅgat.
Dārā Shukoh's meeting with Gurū Har Rāi was misrepresented to Emperor Auraṅgzīb. Highly coloured stories were carried to him. His officials and courtiers reported to him that Gurū Har Rāi was a rebel and that he had helped the fugitive prince, Dārā. Further, that the Sikh Scripture contained verses derogatory to Islam. The Empror asked Rājā Jai Siṅgh of Āmber to have Gurū Har Rāi brought to Delhi. The Rājā's envoy, Harī Chand, who reached Kīratpur on the Baisākhī day of 1661, presented the royal summons. Gurū Har Rāi wondered why he had been called to Delhi and, to quote Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh, Srī Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth, he said, "I rule over no territory, I owe the king no tax, nor do I want anything from him. There is no connection of teacher and disciple between us, either. Of what avail will this meeting be?" He sent instead his elder son, Rām Rāi, his minister, Dīwān Dargāh Mall, escorting him. According to the Gurū kīāṅ Sākhīāṅ, Gurū Har Rāi blessed his young son as he seated him in the carriage and exhorted him: "Answer squarely and without fear any questions the Emperor may ask. Exhibit no hesitation. Read the Granth attentively as you make halts on the way. The Gurū will protect you wherever you might be." Gurdās, of the family of Bhāī Bahilo, was asked to accompany Rām Rāi with a copy of the (Gurū) Granth Sāhib. In order to please the Emperor, Rām Rāi deliberately misread one of the lines from the (Gurū) Granth Sāhib. This was reported by the Sikhs accompanying him to Gurū Har Rāi, who anathematized him for altering Gurū Nānak's utterance. Debarred from presence before the Gurū, Rām Rāi retired to Dehrā Dūn. Gurū Har Rāi chose his younger son, Har Krishan, to be his successor and had him anointed as Gurū before he passed away at Kīratpur on 6 October 1661.