Guru Nanak Life and Travels | Janamsakhi 13


Once Guru Nanak set out from Kartarpur and sat at a place now outside the present Kathu Nangal village. This village is 12 miles (19 km.) to the north of present city of Amritsar. This was a village inhabited by the Randhawa Jats.

Outside the village a child was grazing the cattle. He came to the place where sat the Guru. The child met the Guru with due respect and began to talk to him.

Guru Nanak asked him that he was in an age-group when children just played and enjoyed, but he talked like a mature man.

In reply, the child told that one day his mother asked him to light fire, “he saw that the smaller woods caught fire sooner and the larger ones later. At this, I thought that I could leave this world even in childhood. Since then, I started looking for the holy people and serve them.”

The Guru was highly pleased at this and asked the boy his name. He replied that his name was Bura. Hearing this, Guru remarked that he was mature and full of wisdom. Therefore, his name should be Buddha.

As this child grew up, he became a Sikh and is known as Baba Buddha in Sikh tradition. He continued to serve the Gurus till the sixth Guru, Hargobind. He was appointed by Guru Arjun the first granthi of Harimandar. He died in AD. 1631.

The Guru stayed for some time in the village of this child and thereafter returned to Kartarpur.

Achal Vatala

While staying at Kartarpur, Guru Nanak decided to visit Achal Vatala at the time of Śivarātri fair. He took Bhai Lehna along.

Achal is an ancient shrine. It is said that Śiva’s son, Kārtika, had stayed there after circumambulating the earth. An ancient temple and a tank (Sarovar) dedicated to the memory of Śiva exist here.

The village also came to be known after the name of the shrine, Achal. Being within the vicinity of an important town, Batala, about four miles (6 km.) towards south it came to be called Achal Vatala.

There were several idols around the pool and according to a tradition, they were destroyed during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb. These days there is a temple in the midst of the shrine on which we can see an epigraph of 1911 Bikrami AD. 1854, wherein it is stated that this temple was got constructed by Ram Dial Bhandari in AD. 1854.

On the circumambulatory wall of the Śiva temple is a painting of Guru Nanak, with siddhas sitting reverentially around him. This shows that at the time of building of the temple even the saints respectfully referred to the Guru’s visit to Achal.

On the bank of the pool at a little raised mound is a gurdwara and, according to a local tradition, Guru Nanak sat at that very site on his arrival.

There is a berry (ber) tree inside the gurdwara complex which is said to date to Guru Nanak’s time. There is a baoli adjoining the gurdwara which has these days been converted into a well. Maharaja Ranjit Singh had donated land for the langar of the gurdwara and had also contributed towards the construction of the shrine.

The fair in Achal Vatala was held annually on the Śivarātri day (February-March). Guru Nanak visited the place on the eve of one such fair.

He sat on a mound on the bank of the pool. Many singers flocked to this place, on the eve of the fair and sang verses of bhaktas; used to attend Hindu religious fairs.

They would sing such devotional verses and please the audience who would, in return, give them dams (one rupee had forty dams) in reward. Such singers were called the Bhagatie.

When these Bhagaties learnt of the Guru’s arrival, they also went to him. They knew well that Guru Nanak was mighty pleased with kirtan (singing of hymns) since everybody knew that kirtan was performed twice at Kartarpur.

So these Bhagaties came to the Guru and sang hymns. People also came and sat around the Guru to listen to these devotional songs.

The yogis who resided in the Śiva’s shrine felt highly jealous that all the people had flocked to this newly-arrived sādhu and that the site of the fair looked deserted.

The Bhagaties performed the kirtan and whatever offerings were given to them they put in a bowl. With a view to harassing them, the siddhas hid this bowl.

When the Bhagaties did not find their bowl, they got nervous. They stopped singing verses and the people scattered. Guru Nanak told the Bhagaties about the place where the siddhas had hidden that bowl.

They went there and brought back that bowl. At this; the yogis felt annoyed. They asked Guru Nanak to engage in a religious dialogue with them.

The yogis who lived at Achal Vatala were Gorakhpanthi because in the 16th century disciples of only Gorakh Nāth were to be found in northern India.

Among the Gorakhpanthi, their basic virtue was to have turned away from the household life. So the first point which the yogis raised with Guru Nanak was their complaint against him being a householder.

From amongst them Bhangar Nāth asked the Guru why he had become a householder leaving aside the robes of an udasi (renunciate). It was, as he said, like putting tart in the milk which turns the entire milk into curd.

Since the religion of Guru Nanak was to be essentially the religion of householders, in reply the Guru said if mind and intellect are not pious, the Name-milk gets soured. Thus, one should keep a check on his senses even while living as a householder. He told the yogis that they lived on the charity given by householders.

Then the siddhas asked:

‘the lady churns the milk so as to get butter out of it but mere churning fails to make butter as a result of which ghee is not made.’

They wanted to know if the fault lay with the lady, the pitcher in which milk was churned or in the ghee itself.

In this symbolic question, the lady stands for the spiritual mentor, the pitcher is the disciple, the milk is knowledge and the ghee; union with the Lord. When one fails to attain anything even after performing rituals, which is to be blamed?

Guru Nanak and Lehna listened to all this with rapt attention. Lehna who always listened to the utterances and hymns of Guru Nanak with complete concentration, recited the following hymn of Guru Nanak:

Bronze is bright and shiny,
but when it is rubbed, its blackness appears.
Washing it, its impurity is not removed,
even if it is washed a hundred times.  || 1 ||   

They alone are my friends, who travel along with me;
and in that place, where the accounts are called for,
they appear standing with me.  || 1 || Pause ||   

There are houses, mansions and tall buildings, painted on all sides;
but they are empty within, and they crumble like useless ruins.  || 2 ||   

The herons in their white feathers dwell in the sacred shrines of pilgrimage.
They tear apart and eat the living beings, and so they are not called white.  || 3 ||   

My body is like the simmal tree; seeing me, other people are fooled.
Its fruits are useless - just like the qualities of my body.  || 4 ||

The blind man is carrying such a heavy load,
and his journey through the mountains is so long.
My eyes can see, but I cannot find the Way.
How can I climb up and cross over the mountain?  || 5 ||   

What good does it do to serve, and be good, and be clever?
O Nanak, contemplate the Nām, the Name of the Lord,
and you shall be released from bondage.  || 6 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib, p. 729

The essence of this hymn was that the body-pitcher can remain worth use only if the Guru helps and only then the appropriate fruit is achieved.

On listening to this, the yogis started performing miracles. They also wanted the Guru to perform one. The Guru replied that he had no miracle other than the Divine Name. The siddhas did not believe this. They again demanded that he had shown miracles to the world and everybody accepted this fact. They wanted him to tell them the secret of his greatness.

The Guru again told them that ‘he had no miracle except the Name of True Lord.’

He reiterated the principles as stated in his Sidha Gosti so as to make his motive clear.

The Guru seems to have given final shape to the Sidha Gosti on his return to Kartarpur from Achal Vatala. The Sidha Gosti is the composition which Contains answers to questions put by the siddhas.

When the yogis of Achal Vatala heard the discourse of the Guru, they felt peace of mind and they bowed before the Guru and exclaimed: “O Nanak great is thy spiritual attainment.”

Guru Nanak spent some time at Achal Vatala and then set out on further journey.

Kiri Afgana (Pathana)

Setting out from the fair of Achal Vatala, Guru Nanak and Lehna passed through Batala and went towards the Beas river. They reached the village Kiri Afgana, also called Kiri Pathana, near present town of Śrī Hargobindpur.

The town of Śrī Hargobindpur was later on founded by Guru Arjun. These days the population of Kiri Afgana is a little over 1,000. It falls under Śrī Hargobindpur police station.

Here some Pathans became disciples of the Guru and would sing the Guru’s hymn to the accompaniment of music. Here the Guru uttered the following hymn:

He Himself knows, and He Himself acts;
He laid out the garden of the world.  || 1 ||   

Savour the story, the story of the Beloved Lord,
which brings a lasting peace.  || Pause ||   

She who does not enjoy the Love of her Husband Lord,
shall come to regret and repent in the end.
She wrings her hands, and bangs her head,
when the night of her life has passed away.  || 2 ||

Nothing comes from repentance, when the game is already finished.
She shall have the opportunity to enjoy her Beloved,
only when her turn comes again.  || 3 ||   
The happy soul-bride attains her Husband Lord – she is so much better than I am.
I have none of her merits or virtues; whom should I blame?  || 4 ||   

I shall go and ask those sisters who have enjoyed their Husband Lord.
I touch their feet, and ask them to show me the Path.  || 5 ||   

She who understands the Hukam of His Command,
O Nanak, applies the Fear of God as her sandalwood oil;
she charms her Beloved with her virtue, and so obtains Him.  || 6 ||   

She who meets her Beloved in her heart, remains united with Him;
this is truly called union.
As much as she may long for Him,
she shall not meet Him through mere words.  || 7 ||   

As metal melts into metal again, so does love melt into love.
By Guru’s Grace, this understanding is obtained,
and then, one obtains the Fearless Lord.  || 8 ||   

There may be an orchard of betel nut trees in the garden,
but the donkey does not appreciate its value.
If someone savours a fragrance, then he can truly appreciate its flower.  || 9 ||   

One who drinks in the ambrosia, O Nanak,
abandons his doubts and wanderings.
Easily and intuitively, he remains blended with the Lord,
and obtains the immortal status.  || 10 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib, p. 725

After a short stay at Kiri Afgana the Guru resumed his journey further.


Guru Nanak and Lehna left Kiri Pathana to travel further southwards.

Passing through Khadur and crossing the Beas river, they reached Sultanpur. After meeting Nanaki at Sultanpur, they reached Matte-di-Sarai.

This village these days bears the name Sarai Naga. It was here that Lehna was born. There is a gurdwara in the village erected in the memory of Guru Nanak’s visit. According to a local tradition, the Guru had been to this place.

They left the village to reach Sirsa, an ancient town which was earlier known as Sarsauti. It is said that King Saras had built a fort there and founded the village.

According to Wasaf, it was an important town of northern India in the 14th century. Taimur had conquered it and later on, after Guru Nanak, it had also been the capital of Rai Kalyan Singh.

Passing through Sirsa, the Guru reached the Rajputana region. During the times of Guru Nanak and even in the preceding period Ajmer was most important among the Rajput states.

According to Ain-i-Akbari, Rajputana included states of Ajmer, Jodhpur, Sarohi, Hadoit or Nagore, Bikaner and Marwar.

Marwar was the main centre of the Rathore Rajputs.

In the 15th Century, the sixth son of Rai Jodha, the king of Marwar, who was named Bika (1439-1504), conquered the territory now called Bikaner with the help of his uncle (younger brother of his father) and then in 1485 got a fort erected there and founded a village where now flourishes the town of Bikaner.

When Guru Nanak came to this region Bikaner was not a big town. On his way from Sirsa towards Bikaner Guru Nanak reached a town where Vaiṣṇavites lived in good numbers.

They asked the Guru that there are several ways of serving God and what kind of service or endeavour can help man achieve communion with God.

In reply, the Guru told them that one must consider oneself a servant of God if one wanted to realize Him. We can reach Him only if we learn to live as per His dictates.

He recited the following hymn:

Beautiful is the Supreme Lord and Master,
and beautiful is the Word of the Guru’s Bani.
By great good fortune, one meets the True Guru,
and the supreme status of Nirvāṇa is obtained.  || 1 ||   

I am the lowest slave of Your slaves; I am Your most humble servant.
As You keep me, I live. Your Name is in my mouth.  || 1 || Pause ||   

I have such a great thirst for the Blessed Vision of Your Darśan;
my mind accepts Your Will, and so You are pleased with me.
Greatness is in the Hands of my Lord and Master;
by His Will, honour is obtained.  || 2 ||   

Do not think that the True Lord is far away; He is deep within.
Wherever I look, there I find Him pervading; how can I estimate His value?  || 3 ||   

He Himself does, and He Himself undoes.
He Himself beholds His glorious greatness.
Becoming Gurmukh, one beholds Him,
and so, His value is appraised.  || 4 ||   

So earn your profits while you are alive, by serving the Guru.
If it is so pre-ordained, then one finds the True Guru.  || 5 ||   

The self-willed manmukhs continually lose,
and wander around, deluded by doubt.
The blind manmukhs do not remember the Lord;
how can they obtain the Blessed Vision of His Darśan?  || 6 ||   

One’s coming into the world is judged worthwhile
only if one lovingly attunes oneself to the True Lord.
Meeting the Guru, one becomes invaluable;
his light merges into the Light.  || 7 ||   

Day and night, he remains detached, and serves the Primal Lord.
O Nanak, those who are imbued with the Lord’s Lotus Feet,
are content with the Nām, the Name of the Lord.  || 8 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib, p. 421

These people then fell at the Guru’s feet and paid him their obeisance.

Thereafter the Guru advanced towards Bikaner. He came across another habitation of the Vaiṣṇavites where they asked him:

“where does God reside and how can He be realized?”

In reply, the Guru recited the following hymn:

See the imperishable Lord everywhere;
attachment to wealth brings only great pain.
Loaded with dust, you have to cross over the world-ocean;
you are not carrying the profit and capital of the Name with you.  || 1 ||   

My capital is Your True Name, O Lord;
this wealth is inexhaustible and infinite.
O Nanak, this merchandise is immaculate;
blessed is the banker who trades in it.  || 2 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1090

Listening to this hymn, these Vaiṣṇavites bowed to the Guru.

Another group of Vaiṣṇavite sādhus met him and asked:

“Man is born into this world, spends some time herein and dies thereafter. What efforts should be made to realize God so that his life’s mission is successful?”

In reply, the Guru told them that it is by remembering Divine Name that one could realize God. Only some rare persons comprehend the Name, but who does, is freed from all sorrow and suffering and gets united with God.

The Guru recited the following hymn to make his viewpoint clear:

His walk becomes weak and clumsy, his feet and hands shake,
and the skin of his body is withered and wrinkled.
His eyes are dim, his ears are deaf, and yet,
the self-willed Manmukh does not know the Nām.  || 1||   

O blind man, what have you obtained by coming into the world?
The Lord is not in your heart, and you do not serve the Guru.
After wasting your capital, you shall have to depart.  || 1 || Pause ||   

Your tongue is not imbued with the Love of the Lord;
whatever you say is tasteless and insipid.
You indulge in slander of the Saints;
becoming a beast, you shall never be noble.  || 2 ||   

Only a few obtain the sublime essence of the Ambrosial Amrit,
united in Union with the True Guru.
As long as the mortal does not come to understand the mystery of the Śabad,
the Word of God, he shall continue to be tormented by death.  || 3 ||   

Whoever finds the door of the One True Lord,
does not know any other house or door.
By Guru’s Grace, I have obtained the supreme status; so says poor Nanak.  || 4 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1126

After listening to this hymn, these sādhus bowed before the Guru.