Guru Nanak Life and Travels | Janamsakhi 8


From Girnar Hills in Junagarh Guru Nanak and Mardana first travelled northwards and then turned eastward and after passing through Ahmedabad they reached Ujjain.

The traders visited Ahmedabad and Ujjain quite often on the coast of western sea. Both these towns were big centres of trade.

The earlier name for Ujjain was Avantipura. It was situated on the bank of Avanti river, now known as Sapra river. Avantipura was famous town of the Avanti country of olden times.

Bikramajit, after whom is named the Indian calendar still in vogue in northern India was the king of Ujjain. His brother, Bharthari Hari, had renounced home to become an ascetic. Bharthari Hari’s cave in Ujjain is famous to date.

The temple of Maha Kat here was considered the famous centre of pilgrimage for the Hindus. Slave King Iltutmash looted this town and temple in 1235 A.D.

In the fifteenth century a wall was constructed around the city for its defence. It was around this time that Guru Nanak visited Ujjain. The wall was in existence then.

The old city of Ujjain was built around the temple of Maha Kat. Now the old city as well as the wall no more exists, and the city has rehabilitated itself on a new site.

At the time of Guru Nanak’s visit, the cave of Bharthari Hari was on the bank of the Sapra outside the town. The Muslims erected a mosque near the cave before which stood a tamarind tree.

Guru Nanak went and sat near the tree. Hindu pilgrims of all traditions came to pay obeisance at the cave of Bharthari Hari. Near this place, resided a Bharthari yogi.

When he saw Guru Nanak and Mardana performing Kirtan (singing hymns), he was highly impressed. He came to them and asked as to how many of the yogis coming over here would achieve salvation.

In response to this question the Guru recited the following hymn:

Those who live a spiritual lifestyle - they alone are true.
What can the false know about the secrets of liberation?  || 1 ||   

Those who contemplate the Way are Yogis.
They conquer the five thieves,
and enshrine the True Lord in the heart.  || 1 || Pause ||   

Those who enshrine the True Lord deep within,
realize the value of the Way of Yoga.  || 2 ||   

The sun and the moon are one and the same for them,
as are household and wilderness.
The karma of their daily practice is to praise the Lord.  || 3 ||   

They beg for the alms of the one and only Śabad.
They remain awake and aware in spiritual wisdom and meditation,
and the true way of life.  || 4 ||   

They remain absorbed in the fear of God; they never leave it.
Who can estimate their value? They remain lovingly absorbed in the Lord.  || 5 ||   

The Lord unites them with Himself, dispelling their doubts.
By Guru’s Grace, the supreme status is obtained.  || 6 ||   

In the Guru’s service is reflection upon the Śabad.
Subduing ego, practice pure actions.  || 7 ||   

Chanting, meditation, austere self-discipline and the reading of the Purāṇas,
says Nanak, are contained in surrender to the Unlimited Lord.  || 8 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 223

Listening to this; many misgivings in the mind of Bharthari yogi got cleared. He discussed with Guru Nanak several other matters and thus got enlightened about the significance of Śabda (Name).

One day Bharthari yogi was full of humility as he asked Guru Nanak:

“You do not take the ordinary food. We live among the trees and the woods. What sort of food should be placed before you which might please yourself. You do not seek anything obtained by exercise of supernatural or magical powers. We are afraid that we have not been able to serve you well.”

On hearing this the Guru recited the following hymn:

To practice forgiveness is the true fast, good conduct and contentment.
Disease does not afflict me, nor does the pain of death.
I am liberated, and absorbed into God, who has no form or feature.  || 1 ||   

What fear does the Yogi have?
The Lord is among the trees and the plants,
within the household and outside as well.  || 1 ||  Pause  ||   

The Yogis meditate on the Fearless, Immaculate Lord.
Night and day, they remain awake and aware,
embracing love for the True Lord.
Those Yogis are pleasing to my mind.  || 2 ||   

The trap of death is burnt by the Fire of God.
Old age, death and pride are conquered.
They swim across, and save their ancestors as well.  || 3 ||   

Those who serve the True Guru are the Yogis.
Those who remain immersed in the Fear of God become fearless.
They become just like the One they serve.  ||4 ||   

The Name makes a man pure and fearless.
It makes the masterless become the master of all.
I am a sacrifice to him.
Such a person is not reincarnated again;
he sings the Glories of God.  || 5 ||   

Inwardly and outwardly, he knows the One Lord;
through the Word of the Guru’s Śabad, he realizes himself.
He bears the Banner and Insignia of the True Śabad in the Lord’s Court.  || 6 ||   

One who dies in the Śabad abides in his own home within.
He does not come or go in reincarnation, and his hopes are subdued.
Through the Word of the Guru’s Śabad, his heart-lotus blossoms forth.  || 7 ||   

Whoever is seen, is driven by hope and despair,
by sexual desire, anger, corruption, hunger and thirst.
O Nanak, those detached recluses who meet the Lord are so very rare.  || 8 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib. pp. 223-24

On listening to this hymn, Bharthari bowed before the Guru.

Then another spiritual discourse followed. Bharthari asked him what was his way of knowledge. Which bathing did he attach importance to? Whom did he remember?

In reply, the Guru uttered the following hymn:

He descends the treacherous precipice, to bathe in the cleansing pool;
without speaking or saying anything, he sings the Glorious Praises of the Lord.
Like water vapour in the sky, he remains absorbed in the Lord.
He churns the true pleasures to obtain the supreme nectar.  || 1 ||   

Listen to such spiritual wisdom, O my mind.
The Lord is totally pervading and permeating all places.  || 1|| Pause ||   

One who makes Truthfulness his fast and religious vows,
does not suffer the pain of death.
Through the Word of the Guru’s Śabad, he burns away his anger.
He dwells in the Tenth Gate, immersed in the Samādhi of deep meditation.
Touching the philosopher’s stone, he obtains the supreme status.  || 2 ||   

For the benefit of the mind, churn the true essence of reality;
bathing in the over-flowing tank of nectar, filth is washed away.
We become like the One with whom we are imbued.
Whatever the Creator does, comes to pass.  || 3 ||   

The Guru is cool and soothing like ice; He puts out the fire of the mind.
Smear your body with the ashes of dedicated service,
and live in the home of peace - make this your religious order.
Let the Immaculate Bani of the Word be your playing of the flute.  || 4 ||   

Spiritual wisdom within is the supreme, sublime nectar.
Contemplation of the Guru is one’s bathing at holy places of pilgrimage.
Worship and adoration within is the Lord’s dwelling.
He is the One who blends one’s light with the Divine Light.  || 5 ||   

He delights in the delightful wisdom of loving the One Lord.
He is one of the self-elect - he merges with the Lord, who occupies the throne.
He performs his works in obedience to the Will of his Lord and Master.
The Unknowable Lord cannot be understood.  || 6 ||   

The lotus originates in the water, and yet it remains distinct from the water.
Just so, the Divine Light pervades and permeates the water of the world.
Who is near, and who is far away?
I sing the Glories of the Lord, the treasure of virtue;
I behold Him ever-present.  || 7 ||   

Inwardly and outwardly, there is none other than Him.
Whatever pleases Him, comes to pass.
Listen, O Bharthari Yogi - Nanak speaks after deliberation:
the Immaculate Name is my only Support.  || 8 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 411

Listening to this, Bharthari again bowed. Guru Nanak put up with Bharthari for some time and then set out toward north.


From Ujjain Guru Nanak and Mardana travelled through Chitaur and Ajmer to reach Mathura. Near Ajmer, there is an old gurdwara of Guru Nanak on the bank of Pushkar lake.

Mathura was an ancient town. The famous Greek writer Ptolemy has written it as Mathaura and Arian and Pliny call it Mithaura. At the time of Heun Tsang’s visit it was a Buddhist pilgrim centre and he had seen here 2000 Buddhist bhikshus in twenty monasteries.

During the Muslim rule Mathura was a Vaishnava centre and the region on its west was known as Brij land because here were situated the birth-place and many other places associated with the memory of Lord Krishna.

Being close to Delhi, it used to bear the brunt of Muslim antipathy. Mahmood of Ghazni was the first to demolish temples of Mathura. Then Emperor Sikandar Lodhi (1488-1517) devastated several of the temples at Mathura.

In Mathura, Guru Nanak stayed in the temple of Keshava Deva. . This temple was situated in a small building. During the reign of Jahangir a big temple of Keshava Deva was erected. It was demolished in 1669 under orders of Emperor Aurangzeb.

When Nanak sat in the temple, many devotees came to him. During the course of their dialogue, the devotees asked him as to which service rendered by him has enabled him to identify with Almighty Lord.

In reply the Guru recited this hymn:

That union with the Lord is acceptable, which is united in intuitive poise.
Thereafter, one does not die, and does not come and go in reincarnation.
The Lord’s slave is in the Lord, and the Lord is in His slave.
Wherever I look, I see none other than the Lord.  || 1 ||   

The Gurmukhs worship the Lord, and find His celestial home.
Without meeting the Guru, they die,
and come and go in reincarnation.  || 1 || Pause ||   

So make Him your Guru, who implants the Truth within you,
who leads you to speak the Unspoken Speech,
and who merges you in the Word of the Shabad.
God’s people have no other work to do;
they love the True Lord and Master, and they love the Truth.  || 2 ||   

The mind is in the body, and the True Lord is in the mind.
Merging into the True Lord, one is absorbed into Truth.
God’s servant bows at His feet.
Meeting the True Guru, one meets with the Lord.  || 3 ||   

He Himself watches over us, and He Himself makes us see.
He is not pleased by stubborn-mindedness, nor by various religious robes.
He fashioned the body-vessels, and infused the Ambrosial Nectar into them;
God’s Mind is pleased only by loving devotional worship.  || 4 ||   

Reading and studying, one becomes confused, and suffers punishment.
By great cleverness, one is consigned to coming and going in reincarnation.
One who chants the Nām, the Name of the Lord,
and eats the food of the Fear of God
becomes Gurmukh, the Lord’s servant, and remains absorbed in the Lord.  || 5 ||   

He worships stones, dwells at sacred shrines of pilgrimage and in the jungles,
wanders, roams around and becomes a renunciate.
But his mind is still filthy - how can he become pure?
One who meets the True Lord obtains honour.  || 6 ||   

One who embodies good conduct and contemplative meditation,
his mind abides in intuitive poise and contentment,
since the beginning of time, and throughout the ages.
In the twinkling of an eye, he saves millions.
Have mercy on me, O my Beloved, and let me meet the Guru.  || 7 ||   

Unto whom, O God, should I praise You?
Without You, there is no other at all.
As it pleases You, keep me under Your Will.
Nanak, with intuitive poise and natural love, sings Your Glorious Praises.  || 8 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 686

While the Guru was in Mathura, some Vaiṣṇavite natives of Mathura came to him. After a while they asked him: “What is your path (religious path)? What is your code of conduct? What are your teachings?”

Guru Nanak answered these questions by uttering the following hymn:

I am the hand-maiden of my Lord and Master.
I have grasped the Feet of God, the Life of the world.
He has killed and eradicated my egotism.  || 1 || Pause ||   

He is the Perfect, Supreme Light, the Supreme Lord God,
my Beloved, my Breath of Life.
The Fascinating Lord has fascinated my mind;
contemplating the Word of the Śabad, I have come to understand.  || 1 ||

The worthless self-willed Manmukh,
with false and shallow understanding –
his mind and body are held in pain’s grip.
Since I came to be imbued with the Love of my Beautiful Lord,
I meditate on the Lord, and my mind is encouraged.  || 2 ||

Abandoning egotism, I have become detached.
And now, I absorb true intuitive understanding.
The mind is pleased and appeased by the Pure, Immaculate Lord;
the opinions of other people are irrelevant.  || 3 ||   

There is no other like You, in the past or in the future,
O my Beloved, my Breath of Life, my Support.
The soul-bride is imbued with the Name of the Lord;
O Nanak, the Lord is her Husband.  || 4 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1197

When these Vaiṣṇavites listened to this hymn, they bowed before the Guru. He stayed for some more days in Mathura and went further north.


Travelling northwards from Mathura, Guru Nanak reached Delhi. He stayed at an isolated place outside the town on the bank of river Yamuna. The place was called Majnu-ka-tilla. Here used to dwell a holy man named Majnu. He would ever meditate on God. This raised mound was then known by his name.

When Guru Nanak was staying in Delhi, the liberal and charitable temper of Sikandar Lodhi was the talk of the town. The Muslim fakirs and dervishes sang his praises.

One day some fakirs asked the Guru that giving charity to the poor is considered noble in all religions, but if a king gives this charity, does he or does he not deserve liberation?

Guru Nanak had seen the ruins of temples in Mathura demolished by Sikandar Lodi. So he replied:

“Those who are blind of mind, are prejudiced and commit cruelties on populace: their charity is like putting up a bandh of mud before the sea.”

In explanation of his idea, the Guru sang the following hymn:

Acting blindly, the mind becomes blind.
The blind mind makes the body blind.
Why make a dam with mud and plaster?
Even a dam made of stones gives way.
The dam has burst. There is no boat. There is no raft.
The water’s depth is unfathomable.
O Nanak, without the True Name,
many multitudes have drowned.  || 3 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1287

Now the holy men realized that charity is fruitful only when complemented by good and noble conduct. They bowed before the Guru.

Guru Nanak stayed there for some days and then left towards north-west.


Panipat was situated in north-west of Delhi on a kacha road which was got laid by Sher Shah Suri after Guru Nanak’s time. Ever since the sixteenth century, the destiny of Delhi’s throne was decided by battles fought at Panipat on this road.

Guru Nanak and Mardana reached Panipat from Delhi. Panipat is now a district headquarters of Haryana state.

There had been a famous Muslim holy man in Panipat by the name of Bu Ali Qalandar Sheikh Sharaf-ud-din who was popularly known as Shah Sharaf. He passed away in A.D. 1325. His tomb is still extant in Panipat.

When Guru Nanak reached the town, this tomb was a big centre of the Sufis. At that time Sheikh Idul Kabīr was the head of this spiritual seat who was known for his spiritual attainments. He breathed his last in A.D. 1540.

He had several names. Sheikh Tahir also appears to be one of his several names. Tahir is an Arabic word which implies pious, holy. The Janamsakhi literature refers to him as Sheikh Tatihar.

Guru Nanak and Mardana stayed outside the town. One of the disciples of Sheikh Tahir came there to fetch water. On reaching there he saw that a holy man and a rebeck-player sat there and sang Divine hymns.

The disciple was highly impressed by these hymns and told about this to his preceptor. He also felt anxious to know about the holy man who sang such soulful songs. Thus, both the preceptor and his disciple came to the Guru and sat before him.

After some time they asked Guru Nanak as to how does a clear-hearted holy man look like and how does he behave? In reply, Guru Nanak is stated to have recited a verse to explain the real qualities of a holy man. This hymn is not found in Guru Granth Sahib.


Guru Nanak and Mardana left Panipat and passing through Thanesar reached Takhtupura, which now falls under Nihal Singh Wala police station in Moga district. There stands a gurdwara in the memory of the Guru’s visit: it is believed to be a historical shrine.

From Takhtupura, he crossed the Sutlej and reached Sultanpur. On reaching Sultanpur, Guru Nanak met his sister, Nanaki. However, he was free from the bonds of attachment.

A holy man met the Guru at Sultanpur and asked:

“You have realized God, but me fail to know anything of Him. How great He is and what He looks like?”

In response to this question, the Guru uttered the following hymn:

It is difficult to chant it; it is difficult to listen to it.
It cannot be chanted with the mouth.
Some speak with their mouths and chant the Word of the Śabad –
the low and the high, day and night.
If He were something, then He would be visible.
His form and state cannot be seen.
The Creator Lord does all deeds;
He is established in the hearts of the high and the low.
It is so difficult to chant it, O Nanak;
it cannot be chanted with the mouth.  || 2 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib. p. 1239

On hearing this śloka, the holy man paid obeisance and departed.

The Guru spent some time at Sultanpur and then started for Talwandi.

The Zamindars of Patti

From Sultanpur Guru Nanak travelled further north-west and reached Patti, (now in Amritsar district). A little ahead of Sultanpur, he crossed the Beas from where Patti was ten miles (16 km.) off north-west.

Patti or China Patti was an ancient town where Heun Tsang had stayed in the seventh century. However, in Guru Nanak’s time, it was a town believed to have been founded by Haibat Khan Sherwani who was a well-known courtier of Sikandar Lodhi. That is why the town was also called Patti Haibat Khan.

When Guru Nanak passed by Patti, he saw some peasants ploughing the land. He stayed with them in the fields for some time.

The owner of the fields came to the Guru and started a dialogue with him. During the course of conversation, the Guru asked him what will be the fruit of farming he did and got done.

The man in his egoity said that with this he would offer food to saints like the Guru, feed the family and carry on give and take with the relatives. Thus, farming is the principal source of our livelihood.

The Guru listened to his answer attentively and then asked as to what he did for the salvation of soul. That is a different kind of farming which makes our soul flourish.

The zamindar and peasants then requested the Guru to tell them about that farming also. The Guru uttered the following hymn:

Make this body the field, and plant the seed of good actions.
Water it with the Name of the Lord, who holds all the world in His Hands.
Let your mind be the farmer; the Lord shall sprout in your heart,
and you shall attain the state of Nirvāṇa.  || 1 ||   

You fool! Why are you so proud of Maya?
Father, children, spouse, mother and all relatives –
they shall not be your helpers in the end.  || Pause ||   

So weed out evil, wickedness and corruption; leave these behind,
and let your soul meditate on God.
When chanting, austere meditation and self-discipline
become your protectors,
then the lotus blossoms forth, and the honey trickles out.  || 2 ||   

Bring the twenty-seven elements of the body under your control,
and throughout the three stages of life, remember death.
See the Infinite Lord in the ten directions, and in all the variety of nature.
Says Nanak, in this way, the One Lord shall carry you across.  || 3 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 23

The peasants bowed before the Guru and touched his feet. The Guru left Patti and travelled westwards.


From Patti Guru Nanak travelled through the town of Khalra, Ghawindi and reached Talwandi. There are shrines erected in the memory of Guru Nanak’s visit in Khalra and Ghawindi.

Guru Nanak halted outside Talwandi as he returned there after 12- years long travels aimed at preaching the Name Divine.

Mardana had all along remained with him. He had a great desire to meet his kin. So on reaching Talwandi he sought the Guru’s permission and went into the town to meet his kin.

The news spread throughout the village that Mardana dum who used to roam with Nanak had come back home.

Mardana first visited his house and then called on Guru Nanak’s mother. She asked him about her son’s whereabouts, but Mardana made no answer because the Guru had desired that he must not tell anybody about his arrival.

As Mardana made haste to go back, she understood everything. She followed Mardana and reached where Guru Nanak sat. She had seen her son after twelve years, and her eyes overflowed with tears. The Guru got up and touched the feet of his mother.

She said,

“I am proud of thee, my son. I hail thy name. You showed me your face, and I am highly pleased.”

The Guru’s father also came over there. The parents greatly emphasized that he should visit home, but he did not agree.

He spent some time nearby Talwandi and then, taking Mardana along, travelled on.