Guru Nanak Life and Travels | Janamsakhi 14


Guru Nanak set out from Bikaner and reached Uch, then in the Bahawalpur State (now in Pakistan). Sheikh Haji Abdulla of this place had met the Guru at Mecca and he had passed away in 1526-27.

Passing through Uch, Guru Nanak arrived at Multan.

When the Guru reached Multan, the holy men of the town offered him a bowl of milk filled to the brim. It meant that there were already enough holy men in the town and there was no space for any new one.

The Guru took out a jasmine petal and placed it on the milk which implied that whatever the number of holy men in the town, the Guru will mix with them as does the river in the sea.

On reaching Multan, the Guru went to the shrine of Baha-ud-din-Zakaria. At that time one of the descendants of Baha-ud-din, Makhdum Baha-ud-din was the custodian of this shrine. He welcomed the Guru.

After some time he asked the Guru:

“You do not seem to have acquired a spiritual preceptor for divine worship and that you still seem to be wandering.”

In reply, the Guru told him that the real issue was not to settle down at one place or keep on wandering. The issue at stake was how to remove the ills and realize God.

The Guru recited the following hymn to make his points clear to the Makhdum:

The double-minded person comes and goes, and has numerous friends.
The soul-bride is separated from her Lord, and she has no place of rest;
how can she be comforted?  || 1 ||   

My mind is attuned to the Love of my Husband Lord.
I am devoted, dedicated, a sacrifice to the Lord;
if only He would bless me with His Glance of Grace, even for an instant!  || 1 || Pause ||  

I am a rejected bride, abandoned in my parents’ home;
how can I go to my in-laws now?
I wear my faults around my neck;
without my Husband Lord, I am grieving, and wasting away to death.  || 2 ||   

But if, in my parents’ home, I remember my Husband Lord,
then I will come to dwell in the home of my in-laws yet.
The happy soul-brides sleep in peace;
they find their Husband Lord, the treasure of virtue.  || 3 ||   

Their blankets and mattresses are made of silk,
and so are the clothes on their bodies.
The Lord rejects the impure soul-brides.
Their life-night passes in misery.  || 4 ||   

I have tasted many flavours, and worn many robes,
but without my Husband Lord, my youth is slipping away uselessly;
I am separated from Him, and I cry out in pain.  || 5 ||   

I have heard the True Lord’s message, contemplating the Guru.
True is the home of the True Lord; by His Gracious Grace, I love Him.  || 6 ||   

The spiritual teacher applies the ointment of Truth to his eyes, and sees God, the Seer.
The Gurmukh comes to know and understand; ego and pride are subdued.  || 7 ||   

O Lord, You are pleased with those who are like Yourself; there are many more like me.
O Nanak, the Husband does not separate from those who are imbued with Truth.  || 8 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib. pp. 1014-15

Makhdum Baha-ud-din was highly impressed by this hymn. He asked the Guru that he (the Guru) had given him a glimpse of God.

In reply the Guru told him that he had the spiritual training and attainments of Baha-ud-din Zakaria as his heritage and that he himself was also a spiritually enlightened fakir. Baha-ud-din again said that he (the Guru) was a greater Pir who had given him a glimpse of God.

Thereafter Guru Nanak started on his return journey to Kartarpur.

Prior to 1947, the place where Guru Nanak sat was preserved in the house of the pirs although it was maintained and looked after by Muslims.

Syad Abdul Qadir Gilani

Leaving Multan Guru Nanak travelled via Dipalpur (now in Sahiwal district of Pakistani Punjab) and reached Shergarh. There lived in Shergarh a spiritually enlightened saint by the name of Daud Kirmani (d. 1574).

This fakir was a disciple of Syad Abdul Qadir Gilani of Lahore. When the Guru met this fakir, the latter eulogized his mentor a lot during his conversation with the Guru. The Guru resolved that very moment to meet Syad Abdul Qadir Gilani.

Guru Nanak set out from Shergarh and passing through Chuhnian, Kanganpur and Kasur reached Lahore. Here Syad Abdul Qadir Gilani lived on the bank of Ravi river where he had set-up an establishment.

Syad Abdul Qadir Gilani’s father, Syad Jamal-ud-din, had migrated from Baghdad to settle in Lahore. He was a householder and had three sons- Syad Haji, Sultan Akbar and Gyas-ud-din. He passed away in 942 Hijri/ A.D. 1535-36.

Guru Nanak met Syad Abdul Qadir Gilani on the river bank. They sat down together to have a discourse.

Guru Nanak said that this world is full of suffering. Abdul Qadir Gilani said that pleasure is in realizing the truth and achieving union with God.

Guru Nanak knew this well and hearing this made him emotionally charged. His eyes brimmed with tears and he said that only God is true. Everything else is transient. Real pleasure could be achieved only after realizing God.

Guru Nanak recited the following hymn for Qadir Gilani’s benefit:

The Bestower has given to mankind the intoxicant mouthful of falsehood;
Intoxicated with it, death it forgets and in evanescent pleasures indulges.
With truth have been endowed the sober ones
that they may stay at the Court Divine.
Nanak! attach thy self to the truth of the holy Lord,
In devotion to whom lies joy and at the Court Divine
May thou attain honour. (Pause I)
Truth is the wine without molasses, distilled of the holy name.
May I be a sacrifice to all that hear and expound truth.
True inebriation comes when at the Divine Mansion one finds a place.
With water of goodness and the Name,
And fragrance of charity wafted over the self,
Is one’s countenance illumined -
More than a million blessings is this sole blessing.
Carry your sorrows to Him alone, who joy can confer.
Why cast Him out of mind who is Lord of self and life?
Without devotion to Him all wear and all consuming of food is impurity.
All else is false; what pleases Thee is alone approved.

On hearing this; Syad Abdul Qadir Gilani felt highly pleased and said that a discourse on the Divine is always satisfying. Guru Nanak spent some time with him and then returned to Kartarpur.

Compiling the Japu

At Kartarpur, the Sikhs would get up early in the morning and recite the hymns recommended by Guru Nanak.

In the evening were recited the So Daru and the Rahiras. No particular composition was specified to be recited in the morning. Guru Nanak thought that there should be one specific bani for morning recitation as well.

Keeping this in mind, one day he asked Lehna to prepare a composition for recitation in the morning by culling hymns from his works. Such a composition should be complete in itself. 

The Guru gave all his works to Lehna and desired that out of these stanzas eulogizing God be set apart.

Guru Nanak put the following at the head of this compilation:

First there was the creator;
Nothing is real but the Eternal
Nothing shall last but the Eternal,
Says Nanak.

Lehna began to select the stanzas. He used to recite these stanzas to Guru Nanak every morning. Guru Nanak would look very carefully at the selection made by Lehna.

Thus, one morning Lehna recited thirty-eight stanzas from the corpus of Guru Nanak’s entire works. The Guru accepted the selection made by Lehna.

When the latter recited these stanzas, Guru Nanak would listen to them while bathing. He would also say that eulogies of God are to be sung only after bathing in the morning.

Then Bhai Lehna began arranging these stanzas. He would recite these stanzas to Guru Nanak for getting approval of the order of arrangement.

Thus came into being the present form of the Japu.

Guru Nanak was highly pleased at this composition of the Japu. He said that the Japu is meant to be recited at an ambrosial hour in the morning and that every Sikh must read it after taking his bath.

That is why Bhai Gurdās has said:

Recited the Japu, early in the morning?

Death of Bhai Mula

When Guru Nanak visited Sialkot for the first time, Bhai Mula had met him with great respect. He had also travelled with Guru Nanak for some time.

One day Guru Nanak desired to see Bhai Mula. He took Lehna along and went to Sialkot. On reaching the door-step of his house, they asked about Mula.

Mula’s wife saw Guru Nanak coming thither from a distance. She knew well that earlier her husband had left home along with this mendicant and had returned home after quite some time. Apprehending that he might not again go along with this fakir, she concealed Mula within the house.

She came out and told the Guru that Mula was not at home. Guru Nanak looked askance at her and said, “Mula really is not at home?” She said, “No”. The Guru left the house.

After Guru Nanak’s departure, Mula came out and asked if the Guru had gone. His wife replied in affirmative. Mula felt saddened at this and fell down. People gathered around but as they touched his body, he lay dead.

Seeing this tragedy, many people of the town ran after Guru Nanak. They thought that Mula’s death was caused by his not meeting the Guru.

When people told everything to the Guru, he came back, condoled his death and uttered the following hymn:

False is friendship with the false and greedy. False is its foundation.
O Mullah, no one knows where death shall strike.  || 21 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1412

Guru Nanak spent some time at Sialkot and then returned to Kartarpur.

Meeting an Old Friend from Sultanpur

When Guru Nanak worked in the stores of Nawab Daulat Khan Lodhi at Sultanpur a Khatri of Sultanpur who was also an employee of Daulat Khan became his friend. He was well read and was a Vaiṣṇavite by faith.

The Guru gave up that job and donning the robes of a mendicant travelled far and wide. However, the Guru’s friend continued to work with the Nawab.

Daulat Khan Lodhi did not want that the Mughals should occupy Punjab. So when Babur went back after conquering Punjab in 1524, Daulat Khan Lodhi came out of the hills and hounded the Mughal forces out of Punjab.

The forces of Ibrahim Lodhi were also repulsed when they advanced towards Punjab. However, in 1525 when Babur again invaded India, Daulat Khan suffered defeat. As he was made a prisoner and brought to Sultanpur, he breathed his last.

This happened in the beginning of 1526. After the death of Daulat Khan, his employees dispersed to different places.

When the Guru’s friend learnt that the Guru had settled at Kartarpur, he came there to see him. On reaching Kartarpur, he listened many tales about the Guru and was highly pleased to meet the Guru.

The Guru was also happy to receive him. The memories of the days spent in Sultanpur were refreshed. The old friends sat together and talked for some time.

One day the friend asked when a trader sets out of his home and returns after a profitable deal, he tells his friends as to how and wherefrom he bought his wares and how he earned the profit. You have earned such fame. How did you do that?

At this, the Guru laughed and uttered the following hymn:

Whatever He has done, has proved to be true.
The True Guru bestows the Ambrosial Nām, the Name of the Lord.
With the Nām in the heart, the mind is not separated from the Lord.
Night and day, one dwells with the Beloved.  || 1 ||   

O Lord, please keep me in the Protection of Your Sanctuary.
By Guru’s Grace, I have obtained the sublime essence of the Lord;
I have received the wealth of the Nām and the nine treasures.  || 1 || Pause ||   

Those whose karma and Dharma — whose actions and faith –
are in the True Name of the True Lord  - I am forever a sacrifice to them.
Those who are imbued with the Lord are accepted and respected.
In their company, the supreme wealth is obtained.  || 2 ||   

Blessed is that bride, who has obtained the Lord as her Husband.
She is imbued with the Lord, and she reflects upon the Word of His Śabad.
She saves herself, and saves her family and friends as well.
She serves the True Guru, and contemplates the essence of reality.  || 3 ||   

The True Name is my social status and honour.
The love of the Truth is my karma and Dharma –
my faith and my actions, and my self-control.
O Nanak, one who is forgiven by the Lord is not called to account.
The One Lord erases duality.  || 4 ||
– Guru Granth Sahib, p. 353

Listening this hymn, the friend bowed before the Guru. Thereafter, he stayed for a few days at Kartarpur and then returned to his home.

Lehna’s Service

The Guru made vast tract of land cultivable around Kartarpur. The Sikhs who came to the Guru would go to the fields and work there along with him. They sowed the crops and hoed the fields.

Thus the crop the Guru harvested helped in maintaining the langar for the mornings and evenings. During a season, there was no yield. Consequently parched gram began to be served in the langar.

These days whosoever Sikh came to the Guru, he would hand over to him a shovel or hoe and advise him to work in the fields. Thus the faith and commitment of the followers were put to test.

Sikhs from far and wide flocked to Kartarpur, and usually stayed there for a few days. But when the Guru started sending all his Sikhs to the fields, many of them would return soon.

Lehna remained with the Guru throughout this period. He would work in the fields and also served the visiting Sikhs.

The Guru had asked Lehna several times that he should go back home, but Lehna did not waiver in his resolve to serve the Guru and remained steadfast in his devotion to the Guru. This left a deep impress on the Guru.

In the series of tests that Lehna had to pass through, this was his first test.

Death of a Friend of the Guru

While the Guru lived at Kartarpur, one of his old friends came to see him. He was pleased to see the Guru. The Guru gave him much respect and kept him as his guest for 4-5 days.

This friend of the Guru was highly impressed by the way of life followed at Kartarpur. The Guru would get up early in the morning, the congregation met and recitation of the Divine Name went on.

Any Sikh who came to see the Guru would say “Kartar Kartar” (Creator-Lord Creator -Lord) instead of bowing at his feet. In response the Guru uttered “Sati Kartar” (True is the Creator-Lord).

Similarly, when two Sikhs met each other, one would say “Kartar Kartar” while the other responded by saying “Sati Kartar”.

The Guru’s friend went back home after spending five days at Kartarpur. So he sent for all his children and began to share with them his experiences at Kartarpur. While doing so, he breathed his last.

His sons came to Kartarpur to convey this sad news to the Guru. The Guru uttered the following hymn (Śloka) to provide solace to the grieved souls:

O Nanak, the pile shall fall apart;
the fortress of the body is made of dust.
The thief has settled within you;
O soul, your life is false.  || 2 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1245

The Guru taught that this body is a lump of earth. If the breath comes, it functions, otherwise it is dead. Listening to the Guru’s words, they felt solace and went back.

Pontificate for Lehna

Lehna greatly impressed Guru Nanak after his arrival at Kartarpur. The Guru also kept Lehna with him for many years.

People belonging to several traditions came to the Guru at Kartarpur. The Guru’s daily interaction with them touched his inner feelings. Lehna would listen to the Guru’s utterances.

When Lehna compiled the Japu on a directive from Guru Nanak, it was not only a test of his understanding of the Sikh doctrine but also the test of his faith and commitment.

It was winter. One day it rained heavily to the accompaniment of strong winds. Guru Nanak went to the Ravi for his morning bath. Lehna was also with him.

As the Guru entered the Ravi, he remained in meditation for some time and came out of the river somewhat late. Lehna remained standing on the bank.

The rain and cold winds made him ill with cold. He could bear the cold no longer and fell unconscious on the river bank. As the Guru came out of the river, he was surprised to see Lehna lying unconscious.

Somehow, he made Lehna stand up, and took him home. He was wrapped in warm clothes. After some time Lehna regained consciousness. The Guru felt pleased with Lehna’s dedication.

While living at Kartarpur, one day Bhai Lehna came to Khadur to meet his family, but returned to Kartarpur soon. On his arrival, he learnt that the Guru was away to the fields working there.

Bhai Lehna went to the fields. On reaching there, he saw the Guru tying a bundle of fodder that was extremely wet and muddy. Bhai Lehna went ahead and bowed at the Guru’s feet. He took hold of the bundle and putting it on his own head came home.

When the Guru’s consort, Mata Sulakhani saw Lehna carrying a bundle of fodder on his head, she realized that the clothes of Lehna had got soiled with the muddy water coming down from that big bale.

She told the Guru that this gentleman came to see you and you have made him carry the burden of fodder. Now see how the new clothes of Lehna have got soiled. The Guru smiled and remarked “that was not mud but saffron.”

Guru Nanak seems to have put his sons also to test while living at Kartarpur, but they failed to come up to his expectations whereas Lehna emerged as pure gold from each test.

One day Guru Nanak set out from his home. The Guru was in an irritant mood. He asked the Sikhs to leave him alone. Many of the Sikhs went back as per his command.

Walking ahead, the Guru reached a forest. There, he again exhorted his few followers to go back. All the Sikhs following the Guru except Lehna returned morose.

Thereafter, the Guru saw a dead body lying in the forest. He ordered Lehna to eat it. Lehna as always, got ready to obey the Guru’s command. He simply asked the Guru from which side he should begin; head or toe.

As Lehna went towards the feet of the corpse, the Guru himself lay between the two.

Lehna’s test was complete. The Guru said to him:

“You are a part and limb of my body. From now onwards you shall be addressed as Angad.”

Both of them returned to Kartarpur.

The Guru had a premonition that his end was not far. So he gathered together all members of his family and the Sangat of Kartarpur.

In the presence of them all, he put five paisa before Angad and bowed before him. At the same time, he handed over the collections of his hymns (Bani) to him. Angad was quite humble. He stood with folded hands.

Now the Guru asked him, “O man! Now realize your true self and ask for something!”

Guru Angad replied:

“A good rapport with congregation, those who have broken away should come back.”

Guru Nanak replied:

“I forgive all because of you.”

On listening these words, Guru Angad fell at the feet of Guru Nanak.

Light Merges with the Divine Light

Guru Nanak lived his worldly life for more than seventy years.  He passed away on 22rd September 1539.

The Guru’s family including his wife and two sons, Śrī Chand and Lakhmi Das, were then present at Kartarpur. The right to perform the last rites conventionally lies with one’s family. So any quarrel as recorded in some Janamsakhis; between the Hindus and the Muslims, on this count does not seem likely.

It is said that a samadhi was built at the place where the Guru’s body was cremated. The same was washed away by the waters of the Ravi.

Likewise, the town founded by Guru Nanak was also washed away by the Ravi. At the place of that town now stands only the Kartarpur Gurdwara.

This Sikh shrine was saved by the Maharaja of Patiala and other Sikhs in 1870 by erecting a bandh.

Dharam Chand, grandson of Guru Nanak and son of Baba Lakhmi Das, took some ashes from the site of the samādhi and got a new shrine Dehura Baba Nanak, constructed on the eastern bank of river Ravi where the river water did not cause erosion.

Around this place came into being a town which later was named Dera Baba Nanak. During Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign, the descendants of Guru Nanak resided there.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh donated enough land to the gurdwara (Darbar Sahib) which still stands in its name.