Guru Nanak Life and Travels | Janamsakhi 12


Guru Nanak and Mardana set out from Mashhad on the old route in North Iran and reached Balkh, a town in the northern part of Afghanistan.

These days Balkh falls in the northern state of Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan. It has since been named Wazirabad. It was situated on a bank of the Balkh river which flows down north and falls into the Amu river 50 miles (80 km.) downstream from this place.

The town perished several time as a result of political ups and downs, but each time it was resurrected soon thereafter. It had got rehabilitated prior to the times of Guru Nanak, in the beginning of the 15th century.

Guru Nanak and Mardana passed through Balkh and reached Kabul.

Kabul is today the capital of Afghanistan. It acquired the status of a capital town for the first time during the regime of Babur when he conquered it in A.D. 1504.

At the time of Guru Nanak several routes led to Kabul. In the north, a route existed from Balkh, in the south from Kandahar and in the east from Bannu and Peshawar.

Guru Nanak stayed outside the city of Kabul towards Sultanpur side. Here some holy men met him and held a discourse with him. They warned him that this was a land of the Muslims and he being a Hindu must be cautious.

The Guru replied that the same Divine Light pervades all. God has created all beings in the same mould. However, some of them wear janeu while some others got themselves circumscribed.

Those holy men were deeply impressed by the Guru’s words. The Guru spent some time in Kabul and journeyed ahead.

There was an old gurdwara in memory of Guru Nanak’s visit to Kabul. However, when new construction started in Kabul, the gurdwara building happened to obstruct a road. The Afghan government demolished this shrine. This gurdwara was in the Pan Chowk Jubba in Kabul.

Peshawar (Gorakh Hatri)

Peshawar was 181 miles (289.6 km.) from Kabul via Khaibar Pass.

At the time of Guru Nanak this route was rather difficult. According to Ain-i-Akbari, this route was opened during the regime of Emperor Akbar and that the Emperor also made it somewhat easier.

At the time of Guru Nanak, the route through Kuram Pass was commonly used for journey from Kabul to Peshawar.

Guru Nanak also took this route. It is for that reason that we find gurdwaras in the memory of the Guru on the banks of the Parachinar and the Kuram rivers. These gurdwaras were in place till 1947.

Travelling from Afghanistan, there was a gurdwara in Peshawar town just near inside the Pakistan boundary. This shrine was also built in commemoration of the Guru’s visit. Travelling down from Parachinar, there was another Sikh shrine in Maulana village, 2 or 3 miles (about 5 km.) away from Parachinar. The tradition of the Guru having stayed in the village was current among the Muslim population there.

At the time of Guru Nanak, Peshawar was called Parashawar. Babur in his Tuzk-i-Babari also calls the town by the same name. Heun Tsang writes it Pulusahpulu. The town took its modern name, Peshawar, during the time of Akbar.

Writing about Peshawar, Abul Fazl says:

“Here is a shrine which is called Goraktari (Gorakh Hatri). Especially the yogis visit here.”

According to Erskine, a huge inn was built in Peshawar at the site of Gorakh Hatri.

According to Sir Alexander Cunningham, Gorakh Hatri was an important Buddhist centre. There was also a peepul tree, about 100 feet high. The Buddhists considered this tree holy as they believed that Gautama Buddha had sat under this tree.

This tree was there till the time of Babur as he went to see it in 1505 A.D. and he makes a reference of it in his Tuzk-i-Babari.

At the time of Guru Nanak it was a centre of the yogis, especially the Gorakhpanthi yogis who resided there as is evident from its description.

When Guru Nanak and Mardana reached this place of the yogis, bhandara (community food) was being served.

After the food was taken by all, the yogis asked Guru Nanak whether he was a householder or an ascetic. The Guru replied that he was a householder.

One of the yogis said that as a man given to intoxication cannot concentrate on God, a householder cannot get enlightenment because he is ever engrossed in familial affairs.

In reply to it, the Guru said that one cannot become yogi by merely getting the ears pierced through and wearing ear-rings. The inculcation of the following virtues is a must to become yogi:

Let your ear-rings be those ear-rings
which pierce deep within your heart.
Let your body be your patched coat.
Let the five passions be disciples under your control,
O begging Yogi, and make this mind your walking stick.  || 1 ||   

Thus you shall find the Way of Yoga.
There is only the One Word of the Śabad;
everything else shall pass away.
Let this be the fruits and roots of your mind’s diet.  || 1 || Pause ||   

Some try to find the Guru by shaving their heads at the Ganges,
but I have made the Guru my Ganges.
The Saving Grace of the three worlds is the One Lord and Master,
but those in darkness do not remember Him.  || 2 ||   

Practicing hypocrisy and attaching your mind to worldly objects,
your doubt shall never depart.
If you focus your consciousness on the Feet of the One Lord,
what reason would you have to chase after greed?  || 3 ||

Meditate on the Immaculate Lord, and saturate your mind with Him.
Why, O Yogi, do you make so many false and deceptive claims?  || 1 || Pause ||   

The body is wild, and the mind is foolish.
Practicing egotism, selfishness and conceit, your life is passing away.
Prays Nanak, when the naked body is cremated,
then you will come to regret and repent.  || 4 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, pp. 155-56

During his stay at Gorakh Hatri the Guru was one day asked by the yogis if he gave importance to the outward symbols. They also wanted to know what kind of yogi one ought to be since he did not accept the occult powers.

In reply the Guru uttered the following hymn:

Awareness of the Śabad and the Teachings is my horn;
the people hear the sound of its vibrations.
Honour is my begging-bowl, and the Nām,
the Name of the Lord, is the charity I receive.  || 1 ||   

O Baba, Gorakh is the Lord of the Universe;
He is always awake and aware.
He alone is Gorakh, who sustains the earth;
He created it in an instant.  || 1 || Pause ||   

Binding together water and air,
He infused the breath of life into the body,
and made the lamps of the sun and the moon.
To die and to live, He gave us the earth,
but we have forgotten these blessings.  || 2 ||   

There are so many Siddhas, seekers, Yogis,
wandering pilgrims, spiritual teachers and good people.
If I meet them, I chant the Lord’s Praises,
and then, my mind serves Him.  || 3 ||   

Paper and salt, protected by ghee, remain untouched by water,
as the lotus remains unaffected in water.
Those who meet with such devotees, O servant Nanak –
what can death do to them?  || 4 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 877

Listening to this, the yogis bowed to the Guru. The place where the Guru sat was marked by a small gurdwara which was in existence till 1947.

The Guru stayed at this place for some time and then set out for onward journey.

Devastation of Saidpur by Babur

From Gorakh Hatri Guru Nanak travelled via Hasan Abdal and Tilla Bal Gudain to reach Saidpur. Tuzk-i-Babari makes a mention of Saidpur Saloi. At the time of Sher Shah Suri, the town was named Shergarh.

Thereafter at the time of Akbar in A.D. 1582, Muhammad Amin Karori gave the town his own name and it came to be called Eminabad.

A disciple of Guru Nanak, Bhai Lalo, lived in Saidpur Saloi. When the Guru reached Bhai Lalo’s place, he saw that the town he had earlier put up in had been devastated. Houses had been felled down and there were ruins all around.

Bhai Lalo who lived on the outskirts of the town told him that the devastation occurred when the Mughals invaded it. The people put up resistance but it was futile. Those who resisted were killed. The Mughals devastated the town and made women and children captives.

Bhai Lalo also told the Guru how the Hindu, Muslim women and children prayed in the hour of crisis. The Mughal soldiers paid no heed and captured them.

Guru Nanak listened to this all with rapt attention. He had returned from Mashhad (a city in Khorasan) and Kabul which was Babur’s capital town. He had already heard of Babur’s invasion on India.

After listening to the plight of Saidpur from Bhai Lalo, the Guru told him that Mir Zahir-ud-Din Babur had conquered some areas of Khorasan and made Kabul his capital.

Now he has been making repeated attempts to conquer India. He has been responsible for the devastation and ruin of Saidpur.

Then 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

Guru Nanak saw decline of the Pathans in the devastation of Saidpur. It seemed as if all grace and grandeur of the Pathan regime had ended. At this time the Guru uttered the following hymn:

Where are the games, the stables, the horses?
Where are the drums and the bugles?
Where are the sword-belts and chariots?
Where are those scarlet uniforms?
Where are the rings and the beautiful faces?
They are no longer to be seen here.  || 1 ||   

This world is Yours; You are the Lord of the Universe.
In an instant, You establish and disestablish.
You distribute wealth as it pleases You.  || 1 || Pause ||   

Where are the houses, the gates, the hotels and palaces?
Where are those beautiful way-stations?
Where are those beautiful women, reclining on their beds,
whose beauty would not allow one to sleep?
Where are those betel leaves, their sellers, and the haremees?
They have vanished like shadows.  || 2 ||   

For the sake of this wealth, so many were ruined;
because of this wealth, so many have been disgraced.
It was not gathered without sin, and it does not go along with the dead.
Those, whom the Creator Lord would destroy - first He strips them of virtue.  || 3 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib, p. 418

Guru Nanak stayed with Bhai Lalo for some time and then left for Talwandi.

Founding of Kartarpur

Guru Nanak and Mardana set out from Saidpur and arrived at Talwandi. They stayed there for some time. Bhai Mardana took time to meet his family. The parents of Guru Nanak had by now grown quite old.

Therefore, the Guru wished to spend some time with them and other members of the family just like any other householder. However, on a second thought, he took Mardana along and set out from Talwandi.

They travelled north-west and reached Lahore. From there they went farther north-east along the Ravi for about 50 miles (80 km.) from Lahore and set up a camp there.

Guru Nanak liked this beautiful spot on the bank of river Ravi very much. He started living there.

In a nearby village lived a Jat of Doad sub-caste. He and his wife came to the Guru daily to offer him milk. It is said that with Guru’s blessing Doad’s family flourished and became prosperous.

It was some time after the Guru settled here, the villagers in the surrounding areas got to know that a holy man, beloved of God who sang divine hymns had established himself there. People from far and near started coming to him.

Once a few mendicants came to see him. At that time Mardana was performing kirtan:

“O Nanak! Falsehood is shattered
Only the truth remains at the end.”

The verse stirred the inner feelings of the mendicants who started to sing the same verse by playing with pieces of reed. Wherever they went, they sang this verse. Thus, the popularity and greatness of Guru Nanak spread all around.

When a rich man (Karoria) of this region learnt that a holy man had settled in his ilaqa and that his popularity was increasing each day, he felt jealous. He thought of ousting such a holy man from his territory.

When he started for the Guru’s camp with this intention, his horse would not move. The ‘expedition’ had to be postponed.

Next time, when the horse was readied with saddle, but at that very moment some foreign particle fell into the eye of the rich man (Karoria). He had to get off his horse. By now he was blinded by his ego.

His companions advised him that he had failed in his mission twice. The fakir might be some beloved of God, and it would not be proper to harass him. At first he did not listen all this, but after some time he comprehended it. He gave up all ill- will towards the Guru.

One day an idea struck him that he should go and see this fakir who is so popular among the masses. Therefore he went to the Guru and felt elated to see him.

There was one Duni Chand another rich man (Karoria) of Lahore whom the Guru had saved with his teaching.

When he learnt that the Guru had settled about 50 miles (80 km.) north-east of Lahore, he came to see the Guru and arranged to get a house constructed for the Guru as well as an inn for the visitors. Thus was founded a new village which Guru Nanak named Kartarpur.

Ajitta Randhawa

The adjoining villages inhabited by people of the same sub-caste are known as tapa. Number of village in a tapa is not limited. This number varies as per the population of that tribe/caste.

Kartarpur, the new town founded by Guru Nanak was surrounded by a tapa of Randhawas. Opposite Kartarpur on the eastern bank of the Ravi was a village named Pakkhoke.

Bhai Mula Chona, patwari of this village was the father-in-law of Guru Nanak.

In this very village lived Ajitta Randhawa, son of one Hitta Randhawa. When he learnt that the Guru had settled in Kartarpur, he went to the Guru, sought spiritual light from him and became his disciple.

Teaching Two Muslims

If one crossed the Ravi from Kartarpur and travelled on the road leading to Batala, one comes across a village Jorian or Jourian on the north of this road.

A Pathan named Ubare Khan lived in this village. He was a friend of Sheikh Malo, Muslim scholar who had earlier been to Kartarpur to meet the Guru and had felt quite satisfied after having a discourse with him on godly matters.

He told Ubare Khan about the Guru and Ubare Khan also went to Kartarpur to see the Guru. Ubare Khan met the Guru and asked him whether he was a Hindu or a Muslim. In reply the Guru told him that only God is eternal; neither Hindus nor Muslims are so.

Therefore, they should focus their mind on God. The question of being a Hindu or a Muslim was irrelevant.

Ubare Khan was pleased with this answer. He fell at the Guru’s feet and sought his blessing. The Guru said ‘God will bless him.’  Thereafter Ubare Khan sought leave from the Guru.

There was another peasant in this village Jorian. His name was Abdul Rehman. He felt bad when he learnt that Ubare Khan had begun admiring the Guru.

One day Abdul Rehman also met the Guru and asked him what his religion was whether he was a Hindu or a Muslim.

The Guru replied that the Name Divine was his religion. At this Abdul Rehman further said that the beloved of God had no religion.

The Guru again replied that the beloved of God love God. They do not get involved in the controversies of religion and Hindu and Muslim scriptures.

The entire creation of God is essentially the same. Both, the rich and the poor, the good and the bad all are His creation. The same Divine Light is resplendent in all. We fail to see this Light because of our egoity.

Hearing this, Abdul Rehman fell at the Guru’s feet.

Bhai Lehna

Before Guru Gobind Singh had fought at what is now known as Muktsar, this entire region was sparsely habited. There were villages at quite some distance from one another.

About 7 or 8 miles (13 km.) north-east of present town of Muktsar, there was a village, named Matte-di-Sarai. There lived in this small village a Khatri by the name of Bhai Pheru.

The family ran a small shop in the village and they were known for their honesty and nobility. Bhai Pheru’s wife was Ramo. In 1504, a son was born to them who was named Lehna, Lehna grew up to be a man of religious disposition.

Babur first invaded India in 1504. His second invasion took place in 1519 and the third in 1520. These invasions revived the memories of Taimur’s invasion and the holocaust that followed, in the minds of the Punjabis.

What happened with the people of Saidpur in 1520 became known to all. Matte-di-Sarai was situated on the route that connected Lahore with Delhi via Ferozepur and Bathinda. Once the Mughals and the Balochis looted this village.

Consequently the villagers began to desert the place. Bhai Pheru also took his family along and shifted to Hari-Ka-Pattan, a little distance away from the road but his business did not succeed there. So he crossed the Satluj and the Beas and settled down at Khadur in the modern Amritsar district.

Lehna was married to Khivi. Her parents were also natives of Matte-di-Sarai. They had three children, one daughter (Bibi Amro) and two sons (Dasu and Datu). When Guru Nanak founded Kartarpur, Bhai Lehna lived in Khadur.

Lehna was a man of religious disposition. He used to go for pilgrimage to Jawalaji every year.

The temple of Jawalaji is a volcanic historical shrine in Kangra district. People came from far off places for worship in this temple. Being quite near to Punjab, the people of Punjab plains had special reverence and attraction for this place.

There were several routes leading to Jawalaji. One route passed through the Kahlur State and Mandi town before reaching Jawalaji. Guru Nanak had taken this route when he went there (for details, see Visit to Jawalaji). From Khadur, the route to Jawalaji passed through Pathankot.

During the Mughal rule, whenever the Mughal army had go to hill states with a view to realize tributes from the hill chiefs it travelled via Pathan (modern-day Pathankot) and Dhameri (modern Nurpur) before reaching Kangra.

The route connecting Khadur and Pathankot passed through Kartarpur, the newly founded town which Guru Nanak had made his abode.

Once Bhai Lehna, along with a group of pilgrims of his region, was passing through Kartarpur. He had once heard a Sikh reciting Guru Nanak’s hymns in his village. He had ever since nurtured a desire to meet Guru Nanak.

Bhai Lehna persuaded his fellow pilgrims to halt there for some time to see this holy man (Guru’s Nanak) also. It should be clear that by this time Nanak’s fame had spread far and wide.

Lehna met the Guru. He felt as if all his dubiety were gone and that the goddess he worshipped remained in the service of the Guru there.

When Lehna went to see off his companions, they told him that they had agreed to undertake the pilgrimage because of him and that it did not behove him to leave them on the way.

Lehna replied with humility that the purpose with which he used to go to the shrine of the goddess had been realized. You may go for pilgrimage. May God fulfil your aim as well. All the pilgrims were astonished and they went ahead leaving Lehna behind.

These pilgrims from Khadur went to Jawalaji, but as they returned they again visited Kartarpur. They persuaded Lehna to accompany them home.

He replied that he would thereafter live at Kartarpur. You may inform my family.

The pilgrims went back to tell his family that Lehna had chosen to live at Kartarpur and become a devotee of Guru Nanak. Lehna engaged himself, with full devotion, to the service of the Guru and service in the langar.