Guru Ram Das was the fourth Guru in a lineage of ten Sikh Gurus. He became a faithful disciple of Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh Guru, at a very young age. He served the Guru and the congregation in Goindwal with love, patience and humility for over two decades. Before Guru Amar Das left the mortal world, he passed on the spiritual mantle of Guru Nanak to Ram Das. Thus Ram Das’s selfless service and complete obedience to the Guru’s teachings transformed him from Ram Das, an ordinary orphaned disciple, to Ram Das, the divine Guru.
Guru Ram Das gave the Sikh religious community a definite and concrete shape. He founded the city of Amritsar—not only as a Sikh religious center but also as a center of trade with the purpose of encouraging Sikhs to prosper economically. The Guru defined distinct rituals and practices based on Gurbani. Such rituals were performed for certain life transitions such as birth and marriage. He also canonised in his writings, the daily spiritual practice of the Sikhs.
In keeping with the first three Gurus, Guru Ram Das also wrote many hymns which were later included in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. His compositions repeated a message similar to the message of the earlier Gurus—serve others selflessly, seek the company of saints, meditate on God’s name, follow the instructions of the Guru and rely on the true Guru’s grace for liberation.
The Gurus that came before Guru Ram Das also spoke of human equality irrespective of a person’s status by birth. However, it seems that the conversion of the so-called low-caste to the Sikh faith gained impetus with Guru Ram Das. He composed several hymns that invited the low-caste men and women to join the Sikh faith.
Guru Ram Das ended his journey on earth on September 1, 1581. He was only 47 years old and had reigned as Guru for a period of almost seven years.