Guru Nanak Life and Travels | Janamsakhi 11
Guru Nanak, Mardana, the Makhdum of Uch and the Makhdum of Muhan boarded a boat from Uch. The boat, crossing via Panjnad, took these holy men to Sakkhar through the Indus river.
Those days the Hajis of Multan region went to Mecca via Sakkhar and Shikarpur or through Bolan Pass in Baluchistan. Makhdum Baha-ud-din and Makhdum Abdul Wahab wanted to get down at Sakkhar and go to Mecca via Shikarpur.
They also wanted to go along with their disciples who were travelling in separate boats. Thus, both the Makhdums got off the boat here and went to Shikarpur.
Guru Nanak took another boat in the Indus river and travelling through what is called Kori river in the history of Kutch, and Lakhpat river in the Imperial Gazetteer, he reached the present city of Lakhpat Nagar (District Bhuj).
In olden days, the Lakhpat and Kutch region formed part of Sindh. At the time of Heun Tsang’s visit to India, Kutch was a state of Sindh. In ancient times, the river Indus and its subsidiary streams fell into the sea after passing through Kutch. The symptoms of these can be seen even now.
The Arab writers record that in the 7th century two streams, Mehran and Hakara, originated from the eastern bank of the river Indus and passing through the region of Rann fell into the sea.
Up to the 10th century, Lakhpat was a prosperous region. Thereafter its water-level began to decline and by the 18th century, it turned into barren land.
The earthquake of 1819 completely destroyed and buried it under earth along with another town Sindhri, a port town, the earth here pushed itself down by 12-15 feet. The saltish water spread in 2000 square miles (3200 km.) from Sindhri.
Simultaneously on an area of 600 square miles earth puffed up in small portions of 18'-50' X 10'-15'. Thus this quake forever ruined Lakhpat which was earlier quite fertile for paddy, now turned into a barren region.
At the time of Guru Nanak, Lakhpat was called Basta Bandar. It earned revenue worth one lakh kori (six koris were roughly equivalent to one rupee). Since all transportation was by boats, the village came to be called Lakhpat.
There stands a huge gurdwara at Lakhpat in the memory of Guru Nanak. The granthi of the gurdwara told the author that there was earlier a small building in place of the present one.
A manuscript in the gurdwara says that the gurdwara was built in the beginning of the 19th century and the land of Kuriani village was attached, as jagir, to it.
Kuriani is a town about 10-12 miles (19.01 km.) off Lakhpat. There is a very old sarovar pond in Kuriani which is called Nanaksar. There was earlier an old gurdwara in Kuriani in the memory of Guru Nanak. It has since been replaced by a new one.
Asa Purani Devi, also called Kālī Mata, has been worshipped in the Lakhpat region for the past many centuries. An old temple dedicated to her is situated forty miles (54 km.) east of Lakhpat. These days it is on a pucca road that connects Bhuj and Lakhpat via Nakhtarana.
There is a tradition in Lakhpat that goddess Asa Purani came to Lakhpat to meet Guru Nanak and she requested that the entire world accepts your spiritual suzerainty but let this region Kutch be spared for me. This tradition shows that the Guru did not go into the interior of the region.
Guru Nanak left Lakhpat and travelling through Kuriani and Kotesvara reached the old temple of Nārāyaṇa Swami that is situated on the sea shore. From here he boarded a boat and reached the port on of Sonmiani.
The port of Sonmiani was locally called Miani. It is situated 50 miles (80 km.) west of present Karachi town and was a famous art in Baluchistan.
Before the founding of Karachi, most of the trade in Central Asia was carried on from this port via Kalat. It was a natural port, situated in the sea in a semi-circle of 28 miles (40.8 km.) and with a width of four miles (6.4 km.). Guru Nanak took a boat from Nārāyaṇa sarovar and reached here.
Hinglaj is very far off from Miani. So the Guru reached Hinglaj.
An old temple, on the bank of Hinglaj river and in the hills of Hinglaj, was then the principal shrine there. The Muslims called it the shrine of goddess Nani and the Hindus called it of Kali Mata Parvati.
This temple was in a high valley, of semi-circle in size. One could reach the temple by climbing up the stairs. Guru Nanak visited this temple.
To the east of this temple and a little farther off there is a gurdwara in memory of Guru Nanak. Here some sādhus met the Guru.
They saw him attired like a Haji and were astonished at this. Nobody could make out whether he was an ascetic or a Bairagi, Vaishnava or Udasi, Hindu or Muslim, Khatri or Brahmin, Vaiṣya or Śūdra. Some of them came to the Guru and asked:
“O Beloved of God! What is your dress and what do you eat? Also please let us know about yourself so that we can make out as to what should be your diet and could serve you appropriately.”
In reply to it, the Guru uttered the following hymn:
Those who have truth as their fast,
contentment as their sacred shrine of pilgrimage,
spiritual wisdom and meditation as their cleansing bath,
kindness as their deity, and forgiveness as their chanting beads –
they are the most excellent people.
Those who take the Way as their loincloth,
and intuitive awareness their ritualistically purified enclosure,
with good deeds their ceremonial forehead mark, and love their food –
O Nanak, they are very rare. || 1 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1245
When the sādhus listened to these words of the Guru, they fell at his feet.
Leaving the temple at Hinglaj, Guru Nanak and Mardana reached the port of Sonmiani. They took the sea route and reached the port of Kalhatt, which was very famous those days and which was on the other end of the Persian Gulf.
Travelling through Kalhatt (which was near Mascut) came to Aden and thence to the port of Al-Aswatt which was very famous among the Hajis and which was twelve miles (19 km.) south of the present port of Jeddah. From this port, they advanced to reach Mecca.
Mecca was a very important centre of trade even before it became a holy place for the Muslims. The famous Greek writer Ptolemy calls the town Makoraba.
Originally, Mecca came into being around the Zamzam well. Sura 106 of the Quran calls it “the eternal establishment for the caravans both in summer and winter.”
Guru Nanak stayed in Mecca for some time.
In the meanwhile, Makhdum Baha-ud-din of Multan and Makhdum Abdul Wahab who had got separated from Guru Nanak at Shikarpur also arrived. They were quite surprised to find the Guru arriving before them.
During his stay at Mecca, one day Guru Nanak slept with his feet towards the holy Kaaba. When other Hajis got up in the morning, they found that the Guru’s feet were towards Kaaba.
One Haji, named Jiwan, among them went to the Guru and shook his feet saying that he had his feet towards the abode of God.
The Guru answered him that he might shift his feet in the direction in which God did not reside. This implied that according to Islamic faith, God is Rabul-almin. He is all-pervasive.
When he pulled the Guru’s feet to the other side, he perceived the Kaaba building changing direction accordingly.
Many Hajis got together there. They developed some apprehension and asked the Guru,
“O holy man! Whether you are a Hindu or a Muslim.”
The Guru uttered the following hymn:
The Fear of You, O Lord God, is my marijuana;
my consciousness is the pouch which holds it.
I have become an intoxicated hermit.
My hands are my begging bowl;
I am so hungry for the Blessed Vision of Your Darśan.
I beg at Your Door, day after day. || 1 ||
I long for the Blessed Vision of Your Darśan.
I am a beggar at Your Door - please bless me with Your charity. || 1 || Pause ||
Saffron, flowers, musk oil and gold embellish the bodies of all.
The Lord’s devotees are like sandalwood,
which imparts its fragrance to everyone. || 2 ||
No one says that ghee or silk are polluted.
Such is the Lord’s devotee, no matter what his social status is.
Those who bow in reverence to the Nām, the Name of the Lord,
remain absorbed in Your Love.
Nanak begs for charity at their door. || 3 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib. p. 722
When the Hajis did not get a clear answer as to whether Guru Nanak was a Hindu or a Muslim, they again questioned him saying that he should reveal the book he used to carry under his arm.
They wanted to know whether it was the Quran or some other text. They also desired to know whether Hindus or Muslims were good.
In response, the Guru said that both Hindus and Muslims would suffer without the noble deeds such as righteousness, truth, etc. The Guru implied that those who do good are good people. Listening to this, the Hajis remained silent.
Guru Nanak and Mardana remained in Mecca for some time.
Thereafter the Guru travelled northwards and reached Medina. It is said that Guru left behind his wooden sandals in Mecca and the Makhdum of Uch took these sandals. These wooden sandals have been preserved as a relic in the shrine of Uch Sharif.
The real name of Medina is Al-Medina which means a city. The name Medina occurs in the Quran and its name prior to Prophet Muhammad was Yasrab.
Mecca was a religious place before Muhammad and has been so after him. However, Medina became a religious place only after the death of Muhammad because it was here that Muhammad breathed his last and his tomb also exists there.
When Guru Nanak reached Medina, he sat outside the town. He asked Mardana to go and pay obeisance to the tomb of Muhammad.
Mardana came back after paying his respect there and then he took the Guru also along with him. The Guru also visited Muhammad’s tomb.
Returning from there, he stayed in Medina for some time more. Thereafter he set out on his onward journey.
There are two known routes from Medina to Baghdad. One is generally taken by the traders and the other by the Hajis.
The route commonly taken by the caravans was on the northern side of Medina and passed through Damascus, the capital of Egypt, a town 820 miles (1312 km.) away from Medina. Then it turned eastwards and reached Baghdad.
But Hajis generally did not take this route because it was rather long. There was another shorter route connecting Medina and Baghdad. This route passed through Faiz and reached Baghdad directly.
This desert-bound route was got prepared especially for the Hajis by Begum Zubaida, wife of Caliph Harun Rashid. Arrangements for water were also made at some places on this route.
Faiz was 235 miles (376 km.) off Medina and was the capital of Najad. There was only one very narrow path to reach Baghdad from here which is referred to as “a difficult path” by Ibn Batuta.
Batuta had travelled to Baghdad on this route in A.D. 1326. This route was open in the 16th century. Guru Nanak and Mardana also reached Baghdad through this route. This route is open even today.
According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Baghdad is an Iranian name which literally means “a gift given by God.” Baghdad is an ancient town. For the last 3000 years, the city has been at this very place and has been known by this very name.
Before the discovery of sea-route, Baghdad like Mecca was a centre for the caravans coming from the east as well as the west.
The 9th century was the golden period in the history of Baghdad. At that time Caliph AI Mamum, a successor of Caliph Harun Rashid, contributed a lot towards its prosperity.
At that time, it was considered the greatest centre of Islam in the west. Its decline started in the 13th century. Halaku Khan destroyed the city in A.D. 1258. In the 16th century it came under the suzerainty of the Turks.
At the time of Guru Nanak, Baghdad was under the Iranians. In 1507-08 Safvi Shah Ismail overran it and he ruled over it until 1524.
Safvi Shah belonged to the Shia sect. He visited many mosques belonging to the Shias and at the same time felled down several mosques of the Sunnis and got their imams executed. It was a period of great religious crisis in the history of Baghdad.
The city of Baghdad was situated on the bank of the river Euphrates. In olden times it was on the western bank but it got ruined and the new city came up on the eastern bank.
When Guru Nanak visited the city its habitation was on the eastern bank of river.
Guru Nanak and Mardana approached Baghdad and found a place outside the city at a place behind the present railway station for their stay.
The place is now a graveyard. The railway station is on the western bank of the river and is connected with the city by a bridge.
Guru Nanak got up early in the morning as was his wont and he and Mardana started singing hymns (kirtan).
He recited the following stanza:
There are nether worlds beneath nether worlds,
and hundreds of thousands of heavenly worlds above.
The Vedas say that you can search and search for them all, until you grow weary.
The scriptures say that there are 18,000 worlds,
but in reality, there is only One Universe.
If you try to write an account of this,
you will surely finish yourself before you finish writing it.
O Nanak, call Him Great! He Himself knows Himself.
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 5
Some people listened to this melody and there was a sort of tumult in the city because singing was a taboo in Islamic religious code.
The mausoleum of Shah Mohi-ud-din Abdul Qadir Gilani (1077-1108), the founder of the Qadiri sect among the Sufis, was a famous place in Baghdad.
This mausoleum was built by his son who also became his spiritual successor. There was a seven-cornered mosque inside it. These days the shrine is not in good shape but during the time of Guru Nanak it was a famous place.
According to Brown, several baptismal rites were performed at the time of one’s initiation into the Qadiri Sufi sect. They remembered God by seven names, reciting them in a prescribed order.
As per the other ritual, the new entrant into the sect would erect thumbs of both of his hands and give his right hand in the right hand of his spiritual mentor. That is why such a mentor among the Qadiri is called “Pir Dastgir” which means the pir or spiritual mentor who holds the hand.
At the time of Guru Nanak also, the person who occupied this spiritual seat in the mausoleum of Shah Mohi-ud-Din Abdul Qadir Gilani was called Pir Dastgir.
When the issue of Guru Nanak’s melody became talk of the town, some people went to Pir Dastgir. At that time the son of the Pir Dastgir also stood nearby. So the Pir, his son and these people came out of the town to see this strange fakir.
When Guru Nanak and Mardana saw the crowd surging towards them, they stopped the kirtan and became cautious.
As they reached near, Pir Dastgir instantly asked Guru Nanak who he was and to which tradition of Islam he belonged. The Guru replied that he was God’s man and. belonged to none of the Islamic traditions. The Pir said in that case he was an infidel and they would kill him by stoning.
On hearing this Guru gave a loud call of Sati Kartar [Lord-Creator is True]. This astonished the Pir Dastgir and other people. They thought this fakir who sang melodies might be crazy. Pir again asked him why he sang melody when singing was taboo for Muslims.
The Guru replied that singing eulogies of God was the food for soul. The prophet has banned the singing of songs which cause evil passions.
Someone then asked that he just now sang that there were millions of skies and regions below earth which was blasphemy since Islam believes in seven skies and seven regions below earth.
Guru Nanak told them that God’s creation is immense and limitless. It cannot be fathomed. Innumerable are the visible and invisible things created by Him.
Listening to this, the Pir and his son were highly pleased. They had a dialogue with the Guru and went back. Similarly, other people also returned to their homes.
Guru Nanak and Mardana spent some time in Baghdad. Guru Nanak had discourses with Pir Dastgir and other holy men.
At that time Fakir Bahlol listened to the Guru’s discourse very attentively and became a disciple of the Guru.
This fact has come to light from an epigraph discovered by Ānanda Āchāryā. He has referred to it in his book Snow Birds. This epigraph was found outside of the city of Baghdad. The words inscribed on it were as under:
Here Guru Nanak had a dialogue with Fakir Bahlol. Even after sixty years (sixty winters) of Guru Nanak leaving Iran, Bahlol’s soul remained stuck to the words of the Guru as a bee remains glued to the flower on which is reflected the light of dawn.
This epigraph in Arabic shows that Guru Nanak’s follower Fakir Bahlol continued following the Guru’s tenets for sixty years in Baghdad. It is not exactly known as to who this Fakir Bahlol was.
In the west of Baghdad where Guru Nanak had stayed, a raised platform and a tomb are found in a room. It is said that this is the tomb of Bahlol and the platform is the place where Guru Nanak used to sit. The platform is three feet wide and four feet long. Its height is between 2-3 feet. In 1918, the attendant who lived in this shrine was named Syad Yusuf.
There is a courtyard in front of the room and plants of pomegranate are grown therein. There is a boundary wall around the courtyard and there is one gate to enter in.
On the platform, we come across writing in Arabic, a free English rendering of which is given below:
Look! The great God fulfilled the wish. A new building got erected for Baba Nanak. In the construction of this, seven godly people contributed. The date comes to 927 Hijri. The fortunate disciple started new supply of water from the earth.
The date of this inscription is 927 Hijri which seems to be correct. It is equivalent to A.D. 1520.
Al Sabia or Sabian or Subi people lived in Iraq until the sixties of the 20th century. They called themselves followers of Guru Nanak. They were natives of Iraq.
They lived in the South Iraq. They maintained unshorn hair and beard. They wore Guru Nanak’s portrait around their neck. They were mostly goldsmiths by profession.
They did not consider themselves Muslims nor did other people in Iraq consider or call them as such.
Guru Nanak spent some time in Baghdad and thereafter travelled farther eastwards.
The route from Baghdad to Tabrez was commonly traversed. Travelling on this route, Ibn Batuta had taken ten days to cover the distance between Baghdad and Tabrez.
Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana also reached Tabrez which was an ancient town of Iran. As a result of earthquakes it got destroyed several times but was rehabilitated each time. At the time of Ibn Batuta’s visit, it was the capital town of Mangols. At the time of Guru Nanak, it was the capital of Shah Ismail.
From Tabrez this route passes through Tehran and leads to Mashhad. The earlier name of Mashhad was Tus. Both Firdausi and Al-Gazali were born in this city.
Guru Nanak also reached Mashhad from Tabrez. This city was a great centre of the Shia Muslims. Mashhad literally means the place for martyrdom.
Caliph Harun Rashid had suddenly passed away there in A.D. 809. His son came to pay his respects at his tomb in A.D. 819. His son-in-law, Al-Raza, also accompanied him.
Al-Raza took some grapes and breathed his last there. The tombs of both are side by side and Shias from far off places come here to pay obeisance.
Guru Nanak and Mardana settled outside the city and did not go to the shrine of the martyrs as did all the Hajis.
This made the city-dwellers anxious to know to which tradition this fakir belonged. They came together to the Guru and asked him if he had faith in God, Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali.
Guru Nanak replied that Hazrat Muhammad was a prophet whose job was to convey the message. He came with a message from God.
What is more important is the message he brought and it became all the more important to follow that message. That message exhorted man to worship God. This is the will of God. I also follow this.
The people who had come to meet the Guru failed to understand him. They asked him to go to Pir Abdul Rahman, their spiritual mentor. Pir Abdul Rahman was a native of Gurdez and had gone on a pilgrimage to Mashhad.
So Guru Nanak, Mardana and those people went to the Pir who told the Guru that all the people here are Shias and that they had faith in Hazrat Ali. He wanted to know whether he was a Shia or Sunni.
Guru Nanak replied that the Divine Light shines in all. All the prophets are equal to him.
He further told that the same Divine Light pervaded in them and in the entire universe. However, we fail to perceive it because of the predominance of evil and passion. If one eradicates one’s ego, it can become visible.
Abdul Rahman and natives of Mashhad were deeply impressed by the Guru’s words. The Guru spent some time in this town and then resumed his journey.