Prithi Chand Sodhi (1558 - 1618)

The Unscrupulous Brother of Fifth Guru Arjun Dev

Envy
Envy. Photo © [Courtesy Jedi Nights]

Early Life:

Prithi Chand Sodhi was born in 1558 at Goindwal. He was the eldest son of Bibi Bhani, youngest daughter of Third Guru Amar Das, and her husband Bhai Jetha. Prithi Chand had two younger brothers Maha Dev, and Arjun Dev. They grew up living all together in the court of Guru Amar Das.

Ambition:

Prithi Chand was about 16 years of age, when his grandfather by passed both of his own sons and selected his son-in law, Jetha as the most spiritually worthy to succeed him, appointed him fourth guru, and gave him the name Raam Das.

Hoping to one day succeed his father as guru, the ambitious Prithi Chand maneuvered circumstances to take charge of receiving offerings made to the guru and collected through the masand system of appointed trustees that his father had established, where by devotees donated dasvand, a tenth, a part of income, to enrich the Guru's coffers to better serve the Sikh Community and provide langar. Prithia cleverly connived to divert funds for his own personal use.

Conspiracy:

Sahari Mal, a first cousin of Fourth Guru Raam Das, personally visited Amritsar to request the guru's presence at the wedding of his son in Lahore. Unable to leave pressing duties, the Guru instructed his eldest son to attend in his place as his representative. Prithi Chand desired, and conspired, to remain at his father's side hoping to ensure his succession, and so refused to go explaining the necessity of his remaining in Amritsar to manage the finances of the masand collections on the guru's behalf.

The guru's second son Maha Dev, who had become an ascetic, also refused to go, expressing that he had renounced any interest in worldly affairs. It fell to the youngest son, Arjun Dev to leave his father's court and go to Lahore in the guru's stead. Arjun Dev expressed his willingness as desire to do the guru's bidding.

Guru Raam Das instructed Arjun Dev to remain in Lahore until he sent for him to return

While in Lahore Arjun Dev composed a beautiful verse of poetry that he sent in the form of a letter to his father expressing his love for the guru. Prithi Chand intercepted the letter and sent a reply instructing his brother to remain in Lahore.

Arjun Dev wrote another letter to his father, with a second verse full of longing to be at his guru's side. He instructed his messenger to make sure his father received the letter. Again the ever watchful Prithia managed to intercept the letter promising the messenger that he would personally deliver it to the guru, but instead he opened the letter and read the beautiful verses composed by his younger brother. Worried that the letter might influence his father in favor of his spiritually minded brother, Prithia kept it with him secreted in his pocket. He sent another message to Ajrun Dev insisting that he remain in Lahore until such time as the Guru instructed him to return.

Arjun Dev missed his father and guru terribly. He wrote a third letter lamenting his separation along with his willingness to sacrifice himself to the guru's will, and labeled it with the number three.

Arjun Dev instructed the courier to deliver his letter to only to Guru Raam Das himself. When the guru received the third letter and saw that it had been labeled number three, he understood that the first two letters had been intercepted. He questioned Prithia who denied any knowledge of the first two letters. The Guru had no alternative but to have Prithia's living quarters searched. The first two letters were found tucked away in the pockets of his clothing. Prithi Chand had no choice but to confess at having secured the letters while making some excuse for safeguarding them without disclosing to his father that he had them. The Guru turned Prithia out of court for his treachery and immediately dispatched Baba Buddha with instructions to bring Arjun Dev back with him as soon as possible.

Upon his return, Guru Raam Das requested Arjun Dev to write a fourth verse to accompany the first three that he had sent in his letters. Two years had passed since Arjun Dev had been commissioned to go to Lahore. Overjoyed at his homecoming, Arjun Dev wrote of his good fortune at meeting with the guru, wishing never to be parted again.

Treachery:

Guru Raam Das never again set eyes on his eldest son Prithi Chand. On September 16, 1581, before breathing his last, he designated his youngest son to succeed him as Fifth Guru Arjun Dev. The enraged Prithia conferred with revenue officer Sulhi Khan of Lahore and filed a complaint before the Emperor. He complained that as his father's eldest son he had the right to inherit. Guru Arjun Dev turned over the property to both of his older brothers and reserved only the collections offered by the Sikhs.

Prithi Chand and his wife Karmo had a son Meharban. They returned to the guru's court and resumed his duties at the invitation of Guru Arjun Dev who desired to show a charitable spirit hoping to invoke his brother's good will. Prithi Chand, however, continued his intrigue. Ever scheming to overthrow his brother, he took advantage of his position to covertly embezzle court funds, and tensions prevailed.

Prithi Chand left the guru's court and moved to his wife Karmo's maternal home in the village of Hehar. Prithia conspired with Sulhi Khan to make a raid on Amritsar to tax the guru's treasury, evict the guru, and set up Prithi Chand in his place.

Sulhi Khan traveled to Hehar to meet with Prithia where his horse became spooked while touring a brick yard, and charged into a fiery kiln which collapsed, burning and crushing both horse and rider to death.

Guru Arjun Dev ji wrote of the incident:

"Sulhee tae naaraa-in raakh ||
The Lord saved me from Sulhi Khan.

Sulhee ka haath kahee na pehuchai, sulhee hoe mooaa naapaak ||
Sulhi succeeded not in his scheme, Sulhi died a disgraceful death." SGGS||825

Prithi Chand's plotting took a more sinister turn. The death of Guru Arjun Dev Ji's first wife Ram Dev, before she had conceived a child, is attributed to Prithia's treachery. Eventually the guru remarried and wed Ganga. When she conceived, Guru Arjun dev and Mata Ganga left Amritsar and moved to nearby Wadali. Several attempts were made by Prithia on the life of their son Har Govind:

  • Prithi Chand has his wife Karmo conspired with a wet nurse to apply poison to her nipples before suckling the infant. However the scheme backfired and the poison rendered the women unconscious. The guru had her revived, and she tearfully confessed the plot.
  • Prithia arranged for a snake charmer to spirit a serpent into the courtyard where the babe played. However, after being released the cobra slithered away without harming the child.
  • Prithi Chand found a servant to poison the milk intended for the boy. However the child spilled the milk. A dog ran over to lap the mild from the floor, and fell dead.
  • Though every precaution was taken to protect him, the lad somehow contracted smallpox and sickened. He lay in delirium for several days before reviving. This incidence is also attributed to Prithia's malice.

    Dissenter:

    In Hehar, Prithi Chand began composing his own hymns in 18 ragas under the heading Mahala 6, apparently attributing some to Guru Nanak, and attracted a following calling himself Baba. Meanwhile Guru Arjun Dev worked to compile the hymns of Adi Granth, but purposely did not include any of his brother's compositions, so there could be no question of the validity of his false claim. However Prithia never wavered from his vengeful plotting and unscrupulous schemes hoping that either he, or his son Meharbhan, would one day become guru. His agitation at the Mughal court ultimately played significant factors in the martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev who appointed his son Seventh Guru Har Govind to succeed him.

    Unscrupulous Minas:

    Despite all of his schemes, Prithi Chand the dissenter never realized his dreams of becoming guru, but died at Hehar in April of 1618. Meharban continued the lineage of dissension begun by his father and wrote compositions under the title of Mahal 7, and like wise his son Harji composed under the title Mahal 8, however their compositions differed with the infiltration of Hindhi deities, whereas Prithi Chand's hymns upheld the belief of one creator inseparable from creation. Their heirs continued the tradition of heresy established by their forefathers, with titles of Mahal 9, Mahal 10, and beyond. The heretic sect begun by Prithi Chand enjoyed support of the Mughal court until it lost power, but has always been boycotted by Sikhs and became known as the Minas, or "unscrupulous scoundrels".

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