Guru Nanak Life and Travels | Janamsakhi 2

Nanak Disappears in Rivulet Bein

While at Sultanpur, Guru Nanak would go daily to the Bein rivulet to have his bath. The place where he used to bathe was about a mile (1.60 km.) west of the town.

The scene around the banks of the rivulet was enchanting because of its natural beauty. Here he used to meditate for a while.

According to a local tradition, there was a hut of a Muslim holy man, Ditta (popularly known as Kharbuje Shah), nearby that place. Nanak used to have discourse with him once in a while.

After Ditta’s demise, his tomb came up near the hut. This tomb remained extant till 1941 when the Maharaja of Kapurthala got constructed a gurdwara on that site, and named it Gurdwara Ber Sahib. A modest Sikh shrine built of small sized bricks existed at the site before this new building came up.

One day Nanak got up early in the morning and went over to the Bein to have his bath. He was accompanied by an attendant with whom he left his clothes before he himself entered the rivulet to bathe in.

When he did not come out for quite some time, the attendant raised a hue and cry that Nanak has got drowned. Soon the news spread throughout Sultanpur that Daulat Khan’s Modi who had gone for a bath in the Bein, got drowned there.

When Nanaki and Jai Ram heard this, they were much upset.

As Daulat Khan learnt of this happening, he took Jai Ram along and reached the Bein. He asked the fishermen to put in their nets and try to get hold of the body. All efforts yielded no trace of Nanak.

Now he ordered that the accounts of the Modikhana be checked. As Jai Ram checked the accounts, he found everything in order. Some surplus grains found were kept aside.

It is likely that Nanak swam across the rivulet, went to the other bank and remained in communion with God. He re-appeared only after three days. It is not possible to describe the ecstasy of this state of realization.

 He came out of the Bein at a place that was about one-and- a-half miles (2.40 km.) away from the spot where he had entered the Bein.

He was seen sitting in a cremation ground close by. The place from where Nanak is believed to have come out of the rivulet is now marked by Gurdwara Sant Ghat.

The people of Sultanpur were highly astonished and excited when they learnt about Nanak’s return.

The news spread around that Nanak has come to life after three days. Many said that it was a ghost of Nanak who died three days back and now sits there in the cremation ground.

Thereafter Nanak got up from the cremation ground and left for the Modikhana. He distributed among the ascetics and the poor, the surplus grains which were kept apart and which formed Guru Nanak’s share.

Many people gathered there and said that since Nanak had remained in the rivulet for three days, he had lost balance of mind and had gone crazy.

After giving away all his belongings, Nanak went to sit among the fakirs.

When Guru Nanak’s father-in-law learnt this, he came over to Sultanpur. On seeing Guru Nanak sitting in the cremation ground, he felt sad. He took a pandit along and tried to persuade Nanak, but all this had no effect on him.

Mula Chona was quite full of sorrow. He took his daughter Sulakhani and her son Lakhmi Das along to Pakkhoke. Nanaki herself undertook the guardianship of Śrī Chand.

No Hindu, No Muslim

The first words that Guru Nanak uttered after he came out of the Bein were “There is no Hindu and no Muslim.

This caused a furore throughout Sultanpur. All were astonished on hearing these words because Sultanpur was a centre of Muslim learning and it was not devoid of danger to say so in the Muslim regime.

People went to Daulat Khan and informed him that Nanak was repeatedly uttering the words “there is no Hindu and no Muslim.”

Daulat Khan sent for Nanak. At the same time he sent for the qazi of the town. When Nanak came to Daulat Khan, the qazi was already there.

Seeing Nanak in an ascetic’s robes, Daulat Khan gave him due respect and said that the qazi has a question to ask. Nanak looked at the qazi who asked:

“You say that there is no Hindu and no Muslim. What is meant by this? Does the faith founded by Prophet Muhammad not exist?”

Nanak replied that it is difficult to be a Muslim. One has to live life as per the will of God. Getting one’s mind cleansed of ego and inculcating compassion, mercy and love for all is the true path of religion and only the rare tread this path.

Guru Nanak enunciated this in the following hymn:

It is difficult to be called a Muslim;
if one is truly a Muslim, then he may be called one.
First, let him savour the religion of the Prophet as sweet;
then, let his pride of his possessions be scraped away.
Becoming a true Muslim, a disciple of the faith of Mohammed,
let him put aside the delusion of death and life.
As he submits to God’s Will, and surrenders to the Creator,
he is rid of selfishness and conceit.
And when, O Nanak, he is merciful to all beings,
only then shall he be called a Muslim.  || 1 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p.142

There are five prayers and five times of day for prayer;
the five have five names.
Let the first be truthfulness, the second honest living,
and the third charity in the Name of God.
Let the fourth be good will to all,
and the fifth the praise of the Lord.
Repeat the prayer of good deeds,
and then, you may call yourself a Muslim.
O Nanak, the false obtain falsehood, and only falsehood.
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 141

The qazi said:

“Hindus have one path and the Muslims have another. Which path do you tread?”

Nanak replied:

“I am on the path to God, and God is neither Hindu nor Muslim.”

The qazi again said:

“If you are on the path to God, it is now time to say the namaz: you may accompany us (to the mosque) and say the prayers.”

Nanak agreed to go with him to say the namaz. Daulat Khan, the qazi and the Nanak went to the mosque to say namaz.

When Guru Nanak went to the mosque to say namaz, the Hindus of the town became apprehensive that the qazi and Daulat Khan might convert Nanak to Islam since they had succeeded in raking him to the mosque for the prayer.

Jai Ram also shared similar apprehensions with Nanaki as he came home. Nanaki was a person with firm faith and she was sure of her brother’s commitment. So she allayed Jai Ram’s fears on Nanak’s count.

The qazi, Daulat Khan and Nanak stood in a row. The qazi and Daulat Khan began saying their namaz and Nanak only attentively looked at them.

Once he looked at the qazi and laughed because he had a strong insight to assume that the qazi’s mind was not in the namaz, rather it was in something else.

When the namaz was over, the qazi asked Nanak in a furious tone,

“O Nanak! Why did you laugh at my saying the namaz?”

Nanak patiently replied,

“Your namaz has not been accepted (in the Divine Court) because your mind was somewhere else. Since you yourself were not present in the namaz, I could not have been with you in saying it.”

This enraged the qazi furthermore, and he declared that his mind was very much in the prayer, but you were laughing standing nearby.

Nanak said that it was not necessary that mere physical bowing could mean homage to God. It was the mind that had to pay the homage, and that one could do any way.

Similarly, if mind was in the namaz, one might say it any way; but if the mind was not in the prayer and was rather anxious about the new-born filly at home, such saying of namaz was of no use.

Listening this, the qazi was astonished. He realized that Nanak had correctly assessed his mental state. Finding qazi in such bewilderment, Daulat Khan asked qazi the reason of his silence. He replied, what Nanak had said was right.

Listening this, Daulat Khan was also highly surprised. He again asked the qazi if it was true that his mind wandered to the new-born filly at home while he was saying namaz in the mosque. The qazi replied that Nanak had the correct insight. Both the qazi and Daulat Khan were surprised.

Receiving Rebeck from Bhai Phiranda

Guru Nanak prepared himself physically as well as mentally before undertaking long journeys to preach the True Name (Satnam).

After the Bein episode, he did not return home and thus broke off all attachment with the family. He meditated, lessened his daily food intake and began living on cow milk alone.

Mardana was ever with him. While at Talwandi, Guru Nanak improvised a musical instrument with the reed which played like a rebeck. Mardana had pleased Nanak by singing hymns to the accompaniment of this instrument.

Guru Nanak felt that Mardana was in need of rebeck. The rebeck, a musical instrument made of wood and steel strings, was not easily available then.

On enquiry, it became known that Bhai Phiranda, a native of village Bharoana towards the south-west of Sultanpur, possessed a rebeck and that he might part with it if so requested.

Guru Nanak asked Mardana to get some money from sister Nanaki and then meet Phiranda and bring the rebeck.

Mardana went to Bharoana. This village these days falls in the Beas basin where the Bein rivulet falls in the Beas. Now a gurdwara stands there in the memory of Bhai Phiranda. The latter himself came to Sultanpur and gave his rebeck to Nanak.

Bhai Lalo

Mardana expressed a desire to meet his family before embarking on a long journey. Nanak left Sultanpur and reached Sayyadpur (Saidpur) Saloi which has since been renamed Eminabad (in Gujranwala district of Pakistan).

Here lived Bhai Lalo who was a carpenter by profession. Guru Nanak stayed with him and from here Mardana went over to Talwandi to meet his family. Walking through short-cut routes, Talwandi was not more than 20-25 miles (40 km.) from here.

During his stay with Bhai Lalo, Guru Nanak would daily go out and remain absorbed in communion with God throughout the day away from the village.

In preparation of a long journey, he also began to condition his body, by taking little food and living in rough environs. He used to sit on hard pebbles and meditate.

According to a local tradition, this place is now marked by Gurdwara Rori Sahib. Before Pakistan came into existence, devotees from far and near used to throng this place.

During the Guru’s stay with Bhai Lalo, a feudal lord of Sayyadpur, Malik Bhago, arranged a brahm-bhoj (feast for the holy). People from all the varṇas (castes) were invited to take meals.

This feudal chief committed all sorts of tyrannies on the people who were fed up with him. An invitation was also sent to Nanak, but he did not respond.

The caste-conscious Brahmins made a complaint to Malik Bhago saying that Nanak was a fakir and that he had not partaken of food in the brahm-bhoj. Malik Bhago sent for Nanak.

Nanak, along with Bhai Lalo went to Malik Bhago, who wanted to know as to why he did not join the brahm-bhoj. The Guru boldly replied that he saw the blood of the poor in his victuals.

Then he asked the Guru as to why he stayed with Lalo of the low caste. To this Guru Nanak replied that the coarse bread of Lalo was milk-like to him because Lalo earns by honest labour.

At this, Malik Bhago got infuriated, but others who had gathered there advised restraint as at the time of the brahm-bhoj, no fakir or ascetic was to be spoken to in a disparaging tone. Guru Nanak left Malik Bhago’s place and returned to Bhai Lalo.

After a few days Mardana came back from Talwandi. Thereafter the Guru sought Bhai Lalo’s permission to move further ahead.

Sajjan, the Swindler

While at Talwandi, Mardana had once seen a group of pilgrims that was going to Pakpatan for ziarat (pilgrimage) at the tomb of Sheikh Farid Shakarganj. At that time Mardana asked Guru Nanak to take him to Pakpatan. Guru Nanak left Sayyadpur for Pakpatan so as to fulfil Mardana’s wish.

Those days one who wanted to go to Pakpatan from Sayyadpur had first to take the road leading to Lahore and thence the one leading to Multan. Both Lahore and Multan were capital towns of their respective Subas and both had different governors.

Both these principal towns were connected by road. Besides, boats also ferried in the Ravi from Lahore to Multan, and traders used to transport their wares by them.

Travelling from Lahore to Multan either by boat or road transport, one passed through an important town Tulamba on the bank of the Ravi. The town has since got a new name: Makhdoompur (district Multan).

There was no inn around Tulamba where the passengers could halt. One inn was constructed during the regime of Emperor Shah Jahan which was ravaged by the Ravi waters in 1750.

 Around the time Guru Nanak lived there was no inn at this place. Therefore, a swindler by the name of Sajjan got a private inn constructed outside the town. Herein he also erected a temple (Thakur Dwara) as well as a mosque.

He would take innocent passengers to his inn and kill them to deprive them of their belongings. Pitchers of water were placed on the roadside which were marked for both Hindus and Muslims.

When Guru Nanak went by that road, he was also invited to halt for the night. Sajjan offered the Guru food, manifested the feelings of selfless service and then asked the Guru to go to sleep since he might be feeling tired.

The Guru, however, guessed his real intentions. He gauged the mean thoughts in Sajjan’s mind. He asked Mardana to play the rebeck and uttered the following hymn:

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

This hymn left a deep impact on Sajjan. Each verse of it seemed to have washed off the evil that had got embedded in his mind. Sajjan thought that all the evils referred to in this hymn were within him, and this holy person could read his inner mind.

As such he fell at the Guru’s feet and wept bitterly. He realized his vices and he became a noble, honest person.

The Guru stayed with him overnight and then went ahead.


Pakpatan (in the present day district of Sahiwal in Pakistani Punjab) has been a famous ford on a bank of the Satluj.

Two roads coming from the west join here. One of them led to Pakpatan via Dera Ismail Khan, Multan, Shorkot and Harrapa whereas the second one led to Pakpatan via Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan.

Since both roads joined together at this famous ford, people like Sabuktdin, Mahmood of Ghazni, famous traveller Ibn Batuta and Taimur passed through here.

Pakpatan is famous as ‘Pakpatan Sheikh Farid Ganj-i-Shakar (Shakarganj):

Here stood the tomb of Sheikh Farid and devotees from far and near came to pay their homage.

It is said that Sheikh Farid’s loaf made of wood and some dates are still preserved there. It was also as a result of his respect for Farid that Taimur had forbidden his forces from ransacking this town.

At that time Pakpatan was known as Ajodhan. Later on, it being a place sacred to the memory of Farid came to be called Pakpatan.

It is said that Sheikh Farid came to this place in the thirteenth century first of all. At that time a yogi by the name of Bir Nāth lived here. At first, he challenged Farid, but later on he became Farid’s disciple. He got converted to Islam and became popular as Pir Kamal.

From Tulamba, Guru Nanak reached Harrapa which was not far away towards the north. Then he reached Pakpatan passing through Dera Ismail Khan and Shorkot. He sat in a jungle outside the town.

At that time Sheikh Ibrahim adorned the spiritual seat of Sheikh Farid. This Sheikh Ibrahim is referred to as Sheikh Braham in the Janamsakhis.

One of his disciples was Sheikh Kamal. He came to the jungle to collect firewood and saw Guru Nanak and Mardana singing hymns. Leaving aside his task of collecting firewood he came up to them.

At that time the following hymn was being sung:

Thou, the sole doer, all existence is of Thy making.

-Guru Granth Sahib, Śloka, p. 1291

At first Sheikh Kamal did not understand the hymn, but he requested the Guru to recite it once again. Thus he remembered the hymn.

He threw the woods aside and went to his teacher to tell him that a fakir has arrived who is accompanied by a rebeck-player and that the fakir sings his own verse. He also told that he had remembered the above couplet.

Sheikh Ibrahim found the couplet to be strange because according to the Islamic thought there is one God and after Him is Muhammad, His prophet. The first verse of the statement of Islamic creed Kalma also reads thus.

The teacher asked Kamal if that fakir was a Hindu or Muslim. Kamal replied that he was a Hindu. He was highly astonished that a Hindu fakir could be so committed to the unity of God.

Next day Kamal and his teacher both came to see Guru Nanak and took him to the monastery.

After taking Guru Nanak and Mardana to the monastery, Sheikh Ibrahim recited the couplets of Sheikh Farid to them, which were liked very much by Guru Nanak. The Guru stayed here for a while and then set out towards cast.