Guru Nanak Life and Travels | Janamsakhi 7

Mardana’s Hunger

The Guru travelled northwards from Koti and reached Sitavaka which is nowadays called Avisvela. It is situated 33 miles (53 km.) north-east of present day city of Colombo.

The Haqiqat Rah Mukam states that there used to be at Sitavaka a congregation (Sangha) set up by Guru Nanak. However, no records of any Sikh shrine here could be found today.

The Guru travelled further north from Sitavaka and reached Anuradhapura. This latter town had been the capital of Śrī Lanka since ancient times.

From Anuradhapura, Guru Nanak went further north and reached where now exists the port named Taliminar. Earlier there was a port, named Mainar, near Taliminar which was visited by lbn-Batuta. He had then met the Muslims residing there.

The entire stretch from Anuradhapura to Mainar was dry. It had scanty rain and faced shortage of water. Consequently, the area was sparsely populated.

Some villages existed on the sea shore and people there followed fishing as their main profession. Most of the population lived on the banks of ponds and lakes. In earlier times, people would collect water during the rains and used that water for their daily needs throughout the year.

Therefore, habitations were found only on the banks of ponds. Rest of the region was covered with forest which was infested with tigers and jackals.

As the Guru was travelling towards Mainar from Anuradhapura, Mardana felt very thirsty. He told the Guru that he did not feel hungry but was rather thirsty. At that time the Guru sat in the forest.

The Guru saw that some jackals were also going towards a particular direction. The Guru told Mardana that water might be available in the direction in which the jackals were going because they seemed to be going there to quench their thirst.

Thus Guru Nanak and Mardana also followed these jackals. The jackals reached a pond. The Guru and Mardana also drank water there.

Thereafter, Mardana asked the Guru that he felt hungry as well. The Guru entered the pond to bathe, but did not come out for quite some time.

Mardana kept waiting and was rather perplexed. However, the Guru swam across to the other side of the pond and brought from the adjoining habitation some food for Mardana. Mardana felt quite pleased on seeing the Guru as well as the food. Thus satiating Mardana’s hunger, the Guru resumed his journey.

Setbandh Rameshwaram

Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana left Mainar in Śrī Lanka and boarding either a boat or a passenger ship reached Setbandh. It is now known as Dhanushkodi port. The place is 8-9 miles (13 km.) away from Rameshwaram. It is said that Rama built a bridge there to invade Śrī Lanka.

Setbandh is also a pilgrim-centre. The Guru set out from here and reached Rameshwaram. Here stands a gurdwara, Nanak Udasi Math, in the memory of Guru Nanak’s visit.

Earlier it was looked after by Mahant Narinder Nāth, but the Sikhs of the South have since built a new building and taken over the management. A Sikh, Harcharan Singh by name, from Hoshiarpur used to be the only Sikh member of the local population.

The temple of Rameshwaram is in the north-east of Pamban island. Its interior is made of black stone brought from Śrī Lanka. According to Ferguson, the Rameshwaram temple is a fine specimen of Dravidian art.

In the pamphlet published by the temple, the building is said to be very old but the Imperial Gazetteer says that major portion of the temple was built in the 16th and the 17th centuries. Therefore at the time of Guru Nanak, it could not be such a huge building as it is now. It was quite a small shrine then.

When Guru Nanak approached Rameshwaram, he held discourse with many yogis there who came from the Gorakhpanthi tradition. When Guru Nanak went inside the temple, the yogis asked him that he has been a worshipper of the Formless God: then why does he go to the temple?

In response, the Guru uttered the following hymn:

The duality of Maya dwells in the consciousness of the people of the world.
They are destroyed by sexual desire, anger and egotism.  || 1 ||   

Whom should I call the second, when there is only the One?
The One Immaculate Lord is pervading among all.  || 1 || Pause ||   

The dual-minded evil intellect speaks of a second.
One who harbours duality comes and goes and dies.  || 2 ||   

In the earth and in the sky, I do not see any second.
Among all the women and the men, His Light is shining.  || 3 ||   

In the lamps of the sun and the moon, I see His Light.
Dwelling among all is my ever-youthful Beloved.  || 4 ||   

In His Mercy, He attuned my consciousness to the Lord.
The True Guru has led me to understand the One Lord.  || 5 ||   

The Gurmukh knows the One Immaculate Lord.
Subduing duality, one comes to realize the Word of the Śabad.  || 6 ||   

The Command of the One Lord prevails throughout all the worlds.
From the One, all have arisen. || 7 ||   

There are two routes, but remember that their Lord and Master is only One.
Through the Word of the Guru’s Śabad,
recognize the Hukam of the Lord’s Command. || 8 ||   

He is contained in all forms, colours and minds.
Says Nanak, praise the One Lord.  || 9 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 223

Sharing Food with Others

Guru Nanak and Mardana left Rameshwaram and passing through the present day places Ramanathapuram and Trivanai reached near Trivandrum. At that time the modern Trivandrum was known as Tiru Ananthpuram, a little distance off the sea.

The literal meaning of the word was the ‘holy town of Śrī Ananta.’ There was an old temple in the town dedicated to Shri Anantha. The word Tiru Ananthpuram gradually changed into Trivandrum .

Nearby Trivandrum and on its north-west were situated two small towns by the names of Palam and Kottayam. Guru Nanak came and halted here.

There was also an old monastery of the yogis here. During the course of his discourse with the yogis, Guru Nanak explained the principle of sharing with others, especially the needy whatever you have.

The yogis gave him a sesame seed and asked if he could share it with others. The Guru took the seed, put it in a small earthen trough and pounded it. Then it was distributed among all the present.

The place is now called TilganjiSahib. Here also stands a gurdwara wherein Udasi mendicants used to live up to the 1960s.

Salvation of Kauda

From Palam-Kottayam, the Guru travelled northwards and reached near the Anamalai hill in the south of the present Coimbatore district Tamil Nadu. These hills were part of the hills along the western Peninsula.

These are called elephant hills also. On the slopes of these hills had been living tribal people called the Kadan.

At the time of Guru Nanak, they used to live in the caves of the hills and lived on the produce of the forests. Like other tribal people, they would annihilate anyone coming from outside. These Kadan tribal people are said to have been called Kauda.

When the Guru approached the Anamalai hills, one Kadan got hold of Mardana and got ready to kill him. The Guru also reached there.

As the Kadan saw Guru Nanak’s face resplendent with divinity, he felt stunned and bowed at the Guru’s feet. The Guru got Mardana released from him and took him along on his journey northwards. It is said that Kadan also became a Sikh of the Guru.

Visiting Bidar

Passing through the Nilgiri hills in the Malabar region, Guru Nanak reached the town of Bidar. The place where now stands the town of Bidar was once a dense Bamboo forest. The Kakatia king of Warangal got a temple, dedicated to Mahādeva (Śiva), erected here after clearing the place of bamboos. Around this temple was founded a town in the 13th Century. This town later on came to be called Bidar.

Bidar had been the capital of the Bahmani dynasty. Although the Bahmani regime was on the decline by the time of Guru Nanak. Bidar and its surrounding areas were ruled over by Arnir Barid. His reign continued from 1492 to 1538. The tombs of Bahmani kings are on the western and north-eastern sides of Bidar.

Guru Nanak reached the forest on the northern side of Bidar In this region lived two Muslim holy men Jalal-ud-Din and Syad Yakub Ali. When they learnt of the arrival of a fakir and his attendant, they came to meet the Guru.

For some time, the Guru put on with these holy men and recited the following hymn:

The Muslims praise the Islamic law;
they read and reflect upon it.
The Lord’s bound servants are those
who bind themselves to see the Lord’s Vision.
 -Guru Granth Sahib, p. 465

The tombs of both Jalal-ud-Din and Yakub Ali are extant even today. Nearby these tombs is a spring of sweet water which commemorates the Guru’s visit. Both the Sikhs and the Hindus call it Nanak Jhira, and the Muslims call it Chashma-i-Shahdad.

The place was situated within the Hyderabad State. The Sikhs of the area have got its possession after long-drawn endeavours. These days Bidar is the principal town of the district and falls within the state of Karnataka.


Nanded a town situated about 117 miles (187 km.) north of Bidar, had an old fort Nanagiri of the Kakatia kings. The name of the town seems to have been derived from the Nanagir of the fort.

On reaching Nanded, the Guru stayed about three miles (5 km.) north-east of the town. At the place now stands Gurdwara Mal Tikari.

Here lived a Muslim holy man, Fakir Sayyid Shah Husain Lakar. The Guru stayed with him for some time. The tomb of this Muslim fakir is on the back of the gurdwara. There are two tombs and on their head is a stone on which is engraved the date of the fakir’s death in 1601 A.D. It shows that he died at a very ripe old age.

On the Bank of Narbada

From Nanded, Guru Nanak travelled towards north-west and passing through Devagiri, a very famous town those days and now called Daultabad (in the district of Aurangabad), reached a town which is these days called Baroch situated on the bank of Narbada river where it merges with the Arabian Sea.

In the 16th century, Baroch was an important port for trade with the western countries. Roads from all directions lead to this place.

At the time of Guru Nanak, the Rajput kings of Gujarat maintained close relations with the Hindu rajas of Devagiri. Therefore, the means of transportation between Gujarat and Devagiri are quite common even today.

Baroch is a very ancient town. The Greeks have written it as Barigaza. According to the Matsya Purāṇa, it was here that Vaman had sought two and a half karam (about four square yards) land from King Bal.

Guru Nanak occupied a place on the bank of Narbada which is now quite close to the Baroch railway station and which is called Nanakwari or Nanakwadi.

When the Guru stayed here, a Sannyasin also came and sat near him. After a short while, he sought the Guru’s permission and asked how mind can merge with God whilst being away from it. In reply, the Guru recited the following hymn:

The mind does not die, so the job is not accomplished.
The mind is under the power of the demons of evil intellect and duality.
But when the mind surrenders, through the Guru, it becomes one.  || 1 ||   

The Lord is without attributes; the attributes of virtue are under His control.
One who eliminates selfishness contemplates Him.  || 1 ||  Pause  ||   

The deluded mind thinks of all sorts of corruption.
When the mind is deluded, the load of wickedness falls on the head.
But when the mind surrenders to the Lord,
it realizes the One and Only Lord.  || 2 ||   

The deluded mind enters the house of Māyā.
Engrossed in sexual desire, it does not remain steady.
O mortal, lovingly vibrate the Lord’s Name with your tongue.  || 3 ||   

Elephants, horses, gold, children and spouses –
in the anxious affairs of all these, people lose the game and depart.
In the game of chess, their pieces do not reach their destination.  || 4 ||

They gather wealth, but only evil comes from it.
Pleasure and pain stand in the doorway.
Intuitive peace comes by meditating
on the Lord, within the heart.  || 5 ||   

When the Lord bestows His Glance of Grace, then He unites us in His Union.
Through the Word of the Śabad, merits are gathered in,
and demerits are burned away.
The Gurmukh obtains the treasure of the Nām, the Name of the Lord.  || 6 ||   

Without the Name, all live in pain.
The consciousness of the foolish, self-willed Manmukh is the dwelling place of Māyā.
The Gurmukh obtains spiritual wisdom, according to pre-ordained destiny.  || 7 ||

The fickle mind continuously runs after fleeting things.
The Pure True Lord is not pleased by filth.
O Nanak, the Gurmukh sings the Glorious Praises of the Lord.  || 8 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 222

After listening to the hymn, he paid obeisance to the Guru. The Guru stayed at Baroch for some days. Nanakwadi is one of the memorials of Guru Nanak’s visit here.

In the 18th century when the British came to occupy the area, a Jagir of Rs.75/- per annum was given in the name of the gurdwara which still continues. The lease- deal of the gurdwara is with a trustee Narbada Das was a known Mahant of this shrine. His tomb exists within the gurdwara limits.

Guru Nanak put up here for some time and then moved ahead.

Girnar Hills (Sorath Desh)

During the times of Guru Nanak boats and ships started from Baroch towards all directions. Travelling by boat was quite common along the sea coast. Guru Nanak boarded a boat from Baroch and reached Parbhas which was then a port and is nearby the modern-day Vairaval.

Near Parbhas ferry was the famous Somnāth temple which was demolished by Mahmood in the beginning of the 12th century and Kumar Pala had got it reconstructed.

The Guru reached the Girnar hill, fifty miles (80 kens.) off the Somnāth temple. This hill is 10 miles (16 km.) away from Junagarh. The earlier name for Junagarh was Suratha: Saurāṣṭra is the other name of Suratha.

Although during the British rule Rajkot and many other princely states formed part of the Saurāṣṭra region yet only the Nawab of Junagarh was called Sorath Sarkār (His Highness of Sorath).

Thus, the Junagarh region was the real Suratha country. When Guru Nanak reached there, Muzaffar II (1511-26) ruled over the Suratha country.

On reaching there Guru Nanak told Mardana that it was the Sorath country and that it was here that the lovers named Suratha and Bīja were born. The Suratha raga seems charming only if it leads to union with God.

Then he asked Mardana to play Suratha raga on his rebeck and himself sang the following hymn:

Sorath is always beautiful,
if it brings the True Lord to dwell in the mind of the soul-bride.
Her teeth are clean and her mind is not split by duality;
the Name of the True Lord is on her tongue.
Here and hereafter, she abides in the Fear of God,
and serves the True Guru without hesitation.
Discarding worldly adornments, she meets her Husband Lord,
and she celebrates joyfully with Him.
She is adorned forever with the Name in her mind,
and she does not have even an iota of filth.
Her husband’s younger and elder brothers,
the corrupt desires, have died, suffering in pain;
and now, who fears Māyā, the mother-in-law?
If she becomes pleasing to her Husband Lord,
O Nanak, she bears the jewel of good karma upon her forehead,
and everything is Truth to her.  || 1 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 642

At the time of Guru Nanak, the Girnar hill near Junagarh was a famous centre of the yogis of the Gorakh Nāth sect.

According to a tradition current among the yogis, Dattātreya had been the preceptor of Machhandar Nāth. He gave initiation to the latter and the latter in turn to Gorakh.

The seat of Dattātreya was on one of the highest peaks of the Girnar mountain. This mountain has five peaks now named Ambā Mātā, Gorakh Nāth, Ogad Sikhar, Guru Dattātreya and Kālikā.

There were some Jaina shrines also on way to these peaks. The existing temple of Ambā Mātā had in fact been a Jaina shrine. In the 12th century, the Chief of Gujarat had in A.D. 1113 spent the entire state exchequer on Girnar and on constructing the Jaina shrines.

In the Skandha Purāṇa, the description of Girnar does not include any reference to the Gorakh Nāth Peak.

As per the Imperial Gazetteer, the Aghoris and other sādhus who ate human flesh used to live on the Kālikā peak until recent times. They observed no sanctity in their dietary habits and they would even eat the human flesh.

It seems that holy men of different traditions had been living on the Girnar since ancient times.

These days three Kuṇḍas of Girnar are famous-Gorakhmukhi Kuṇḍa, Hanuman Dhara and Karmandal Kuṇḍa. As their names suggest, the first two of these could be attributed to holy men of two different traditions.

About the last named, two traditions are current among the people.

One, there was shortage of water near the Dattātreya peak. Once some sādhus asked for water and a holy man threw at them his water-filled bowl (karmandal) and where this karmandal fell down that became the Karmandal Kund.

Secondly, some hold the view that the shape of this Kund is like that of a Karmandal and that is why it is called the Karmandal Kund.

Whatever might be the reason, this Kund does not seem very old because there is no mention of this Kund in the Parbhas chapter of the Skandha Purāṇa although we find therein a detailed description of the Girnar hills.

There is no old gurdwara in the memory of Guru Nanak extant in Junagarh. It is said that there used to be a Nanak Shahi Gurdwara in Junagarh where now stands the Durga Temple (Dharagarh Gate) behind the Garden of the Nāthas.

Here used to live the saints of the Suthra Shahi order of Sikhism. Now these Suthra Shahi saints have moved out after selling the place to a householder. After spending some time at the Girnar mountain, Guru Nanak travelled ahead northwards.