The Jhanda Mela that got underway (on the fifth day of Holi) after the hoisting of Jhanda Ji in the Darbar Sahib in the valley on Wednesday is inextricably linked to the story of Ram Rai’s life. Ram Rai’s story is closely associated with the history of this valley as it was with the setting up of his “dera” here that habitation began and the town began to emerge. Ram Rai was the eldest son of the 7th Sikh Guru, Guru Har Rai.
The historic significance intertwined with the benediction of the Ram Rai Darbar make the Jhanda Sahib and the festival held around it a unique celebration of the arrival of a Guru looking for a place in history and the birth of the city of Dehradun. In fact, it is related to the birth of the city of Dehradun and continues to be emblematic of its character and ethos. It was in the month of March, on the fifth day after Holi, in the year 1676 that Ram Rai and his followers reached the area where the city is now located.
It was also Ram Rai’s birthday on the day he arrived here. Son of the seventh Sikh Guru Har Rai, Ram Rai fell from grace when he performed miracles in Aurangzeb’s court and deliberately misinterpreted lines from the Adi Granth to please the Mughal emperor.
Pleased by Ram Rai’s performance, Aurungzeb had become his patron. One of the emperor’s friends, Raja Fateh Shah, King of Garhwal, allotted some land in the Doon valley to Ram Rai. Removed from the line of Sikh Gurus, Ram Rai decided to establish his “dera” or camp here. Hence the name of the town that grew up around the camp and soon began to expand with large number of devotees of Ram Rai who began arriving in large numbers from Punjab. When he passed away in 1687, Aurungzeb built a grand cenotaph to honour his memory.
This cenotaph, which stands in the “Darbar” is a replica of Jehangir’s tomb in lahore and is a marvel of Mughal architecture, with innumerable attractive frescoes on many of its walls. Ram Rai’s followers started their own traditions, separate from Sikhism. His followers have been known as Udasis or Ram Raiyyas and they follow the “Sanatani” way of life, worshipping the “Mahants” who successively occupied Ram Rai’s “Gaddi” after his death. The present Mahant is Devendra Das.
Guru Harkrishan, youngest son of Guru Har Rai, became the eighth Sikh Guru. When Ram Rai had been called to Aurangzeb’s court, he misquoted Gurubani. Aurangzeb asked him why Sri Guru Nanak had criticised Islam in the shloka “Mitti Musalman Ki”, Ram Rai satisfied the assembled people by saying that the line had been copied incorrectly and that the actual writing was correctly “Mitti Beimaan Ki” and not “Musalman Ki” .
Further, it has been said, Ram Rai performed miracles for Aurangzeb’s pleasure.
When Guru Har Rai ji heard this incident he forbade Ram Rai from ever returning home. The Guru’s word is absolute divine revelation and not subject to any modifications by anyone. Miracles although recognised by Sikh faith are actively discouraged. Their exposition or display is considered arrogance.
Though Ram Rai managed to please Aurangzeb, Guru Har Rai ji forbade all Sikhs from ever associating with Ram Rai. Aurangzeb gave Ram Rai a jagir of four villages in the Doon area as a reward. Shunned by all Sikhs, he came to Srinagar Garhwal and became a great friend of Raja Fateh Shah. He then came to this valley.
When Guru Gobind, the tenth Sikh Guru was in Paonta as a young man, Baba Ram Rai, who had set up “Dera” in the Doon valley (giving it its name of Dera Doon or Dehra Dun - a camp in the valley), sent many messages to Guru Gobind, expressing a desire to have a glimpse of him. The latter conceded his request and met the aged Ram Rai, halfway on the Yamuna. It was after this meeting that Ram Rai was flung into fire by his followers in Dehradun.