Guru Nanak Life and Travels | Janamsakhi 9

Duni Chand

Guru Nanak and Mardana reached Lahore from Talwandi and stayed outside the town near the New Badami Bagh.

At the time of Guru Nanak, there lived a Karori by the name of Duni Chand. In the Mughal regime a revenue officer who collected a crore of dam for the royal treasure was given the title of Karori: the value of a dam was quite less than a rupee.

Duni Chand Karori was a revenue officer of the area adjoining Lahore. He was Khatri by caste and resided at Lahore in Chuhatta Bazar Jawahar Mal.

It is said that Jawahar Mal was also one of his ancestors and the bazar was named after him. The bazar is known by this very name till today. There is also a gurdwara in the memory of Guru Nanak.

In olden times the rich used to tie small pieces of beautiful cloth on the outer door of the house. One such piece indicated one Lakh. They say that seven such pieces were tied at the door of Duni Chand’s house which implied that Duni Chand possessed seven lakh. He was very proud of his wealth.

One day as he came to the town he happened to meet the Guru. The latter’s divine hymn attracted him. During the course of their conversation, the Guru smelt egocentricity in Duni Chand.

The Guru asked him to take one needle from him which he might ask for in the life after death. He took the needle home and giving it over to his wife told her everything that transpired between him and Guru Nanak.

Duni Chand’s wife impressed upon him that nothing goes with man after his death.

He came back to the Guru, gave back the needle and said that he would not be able to take it along after death.

The Guru further asked him as to how he will take along all the wealth that he had been collecting. The Guru advised him:

“Only Name, recitation, altruism and noble deeds go along after one’s death.”

Duni Chand was impressed by the Guru’s teaching and fell at his feet.

One day Duni Chand invited Guru Nanak to his house; it was the day of Śrādh of Duni Chand’s father. The Guru went there and advised him that one should serve his parents when they were alive.

With his spiritual strength, he convinced Duni Chand that his father’s soul will remain hungry despite of his feeding any number of Brahmins. Duni Chand fell on the Guru’s feet and became his disciple.


From Lahore Guru Nanak came to Vairowal, now in Amritsar district.

Crossing the Goindwal ford, Guru Nanak passed through the resent Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts. Travelling further north-west, he crossed the Sutlej and reached the Ropar hills and sat in a forest on the eastern bank of the river.

This place was within the Kahlur hill state, now called Bilaspur. The capital of the Rajput king of Kahlur was the fort, Kot Kahlur, on the top of Nainadevi hills.  This hill-top was quite close to the place where the Guru sat. This place is 14 miles (22.4 km.) north of Ropar and six miles (9.6 km.) south of present Anandpur Sahib.

During the time of Guru Nanak a Muslim holy man, Fakir Buddhan Shah lived on this side of Sutlej. He had some goats. Attracted by the divine notes of the hymns of Guru Nanak he took the Guru to his hut.

The Guru stayed with him for some time and Buddhan Shah served the Guru and Mardana with goat milk.

At the place then sanctified by Guru Nanak, Guru Hargobind later on founded the town of Kiratpur. The place of Buddhan Shah is half a mile south of Kiratpur and quite close to the durbar of Baba Gurditta. Close by is the tomb of Buddhan Shah. The place where the Guru had dialogue with Buddhan Shah is commemorated by the Gurdwara Charan Kanwal.

From Kiratpur Guru Nanak and Mardana travelled eastward and passing through Suket reached the place where now Mandi town stands. The word ‘Mandi’ literally stands for a place meant for trading.

At the time of Guru Nanak, the paths coming from Leh, Yarkand, Kangra, ete converged here and traders from Hoshiarpur, Bilaspur and Suket came here for business.

Being a trading centre, the town had come to be known as Mandi by the time of Guru Nanak, i.e. around A.D. 1510. About ten miles (16 km.) west of Mandi is a kuṇḍ (water reservoir) of Sikandar Dhār, known as Rivalsar.

Guru Nanak and Mardana passed through Mandi and Rivalsar and reached Jwalaji that is in the north-west of Mandi. These days Jwalaji falls in the Gopipur tehsil of Kangra district.

Jwalaji was situated on a route in the north of the Beas valley that lead to Kangra from the south. From Nadaun, Jwala Mukhī is a little distance away in the north.

No idols are worshipped in the temple of Jwalaji. Here a flame comes out of the mountain-top which is worshipped. There are several mythic stories current about this flame. Maharaja Kharak Singh, the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, had donated silver doors to the temple.

Guru Nanak and Mardana came to Jwalaji. They stayed here for a while and then travelled eastwards

Baijnāth (Kirgram)

Guru Nanak and Mardana left Jwalaji and taking route via Nadaun reached Kangra. The Muslim historians call it Nāgarkot or Bhimkot.

There is an ancient temple in this town. Many scholars hold that the place where Kangra is inhabited resembles a human ear. That is why it is called Kangra.

It is said that Maha Māyā, the consort of Mahādeva, committed sati and her limbs fell down on different parts of India. The place where her head and ear fell is now commemorated by the temple of Kangra.

Thus, this temple is considered very holy. There was a fort adjoining the temple which was conquered by Mahmood in 1009 and later by Feroz Tughlaq in 1360. At the time of Guru Nanak, Ram Chand was the king of Kangra who ascended the throne in A.D. 1510.

Guru Nanak visited the Kangra temple and therefrom went eastwards. On the east of Kangra, the land between Kangra and Baijnāth is plain. Passing through Palampur, the Guru reached Baijnāth which was then known as Kirgram.

Kirgram (modern name: Baijnāth) is an important town of Kangra district which is eleven miles (I7 km.) east of Palampur.

There are two famous temples in Baijnāth wherein are found written the genealogies of the rulers of Kirgram.

In the 12th century the town of Kirgram and the Kir race inhabiting there, were quite famous as it comes out clear from the brass plates (dated A.D. 1050) found in Chamba.

However, at the time of Guru Nanak, the Kir regime was on the decline and the king of Kirgram was considered subservient to the Kangra ruler because there is no separate reference to Kirgram Baijnāth.

Before the advent of British rule, the rulers of Kirgram were eligible to get married in the royal family of Kangra. As a consequence of the decline of the Kir regime, the fort there also fell down and the name of the town also changed after the name of a temple in the town.

When Guru Nanak reached Kirgram, the king of the day, whose name is not traceable, is said to have invited the Guru to his house for meals.

The Guru spent some time in Kirgram and then journeyed ahead.

Mount Kailash (Śumeru)

Baijnāth (Kirgram) is situated on the way that passes through Oalachi Pass and leads to the capital town of Kulu. From here Guru Nanak and Mardana went ahead into the Lahaul and Spiti valley.

Earlier this region was part of Lādakh, but in 1848 the English included it in the Kangra district. Spiti is towards the north-east of Kulu and Lahaul is on the west of Spiti.

One has to pass through Rohtang Pass if one wants to go to Lahaul from Kulu. However, if one wants to go to Spiti, one has to cross the Hamtu and Sigari rivers, which are on the eastern side of Rohtang.

Twenty-five miles east of Rohtang is the Hastu or Chandan Kala Pass. Passing through it Guru Nanak reached the Spiti region. There is a village, Malana, near the Chandan Kala Pass. Here the Guru is remembered as Nanak Tapa.

Although no episode relating to Guru Nanak’s stay here has come to notice yet the tradition of Guru Nanak having visited the place is still current.

A part of Spiti or Piti touches Tibet and there are passes on this side through which trade with Tibet had been carried for the past several centuries. These passes are on the northern side of Sipki Pass and on the eastern side of Somrari lake. These were called Saprang or Prang Passes.

It was through these Passes that Zorawar Singh had invaded Tibet in April 1841. Guru Nanak and Mardana also took this route to Tibet and passing through places like Chomurti and Boling reached the Mansarovar and Kailash mountains.

The Indian pilgrims had been circumambulating the Kailash since centuries. On this route, several groups of Sidhas met the Guru. Bhai Gurdās has made a reference to them.

Then they climbed up the Śumeru,
Saw there a group of Sidhas.

Śumeru and Meru are two synonymous words just as Spiti and Piti and Saprang and Parang. In the Chinese texts Meru has variously been written as Singh Ling and the Purāṇas call it Maha Meru.

Charles A. Shiring who served as Deputy Commissioner of Almora for several years and Swami Pranavananda who spent several years in Tibet and wrote a book, Explorations in Tibet have accepted the Meru mountain as the Kailash Mountain. Almost all western scholars agree to this view. Thus, Bhai Gurdās’s verse saying that Guru Nanak went to Śumeru holds good historically.

The Sidhas who met Guru Nanak near the Kailash and Mansarovar put many questions to him. They asked as to how they had covered such a difficult hilly terrain.

Guru Nanak replied that they put full faith in God and have been able to reach here.

The Sidhas then asked how the people living in plains beyond the mountains did.

The Guru replied that there prevails anarchy in India. The kings who should be protectors of the people had become oppressive.

People are religious no doubt but the lack of divine knowledge had led to hypocrisy and prudery to dominate over the true spirit of religion. The rulers accept bribes and evil abounds all around.

In reply to the questions of the Sidhas, he again said that the Sidhas had hid themselves in the mountains and there were not many who could guide the masses to the path of truth. The Sidhas appreciated the brief and cryptic answers of the Guru.

There are four Tibetan temples on the bank of Mansarovar in which the statue of Guru Nanak is also placed along with other idols. This idol of Guru Nanak is also worshipped.

That is perhaps why the Tibetan scholar Tarunga Tulku has said that many Tibetans believe that Guru Nanak was the incarnation of Padmasambhavā.

Padmasambhava had gone to Tibet from the Mandi (now in Himachal Pradesh) in the eighth century. He preached Buddhism in Tibet with great zeal and success.

Lādakh and Kashmir: Dialogue with Brahma Dās

Guru Nanak travelled on the south-west of Mansarovar and Kailash mountains. The circumambulation of Kailash was 64 miles (102.4 km.) and that of Mansarovar 32 miles (51 km.).

Going from the eastern side of these mountains Guru Nanak turned north-west. Then he went to Gortok, earlier called Garu. Therefrom he passed by the Rutok and Pansog lakes and reached Lādakh following the present route through Chasul.

From Chasul, Guru Nanak went to Upashi town and then to Karu which is 20 miles (32 km.) off Upashi.

On the south-east of Karu are two villages, inhabitants of which worship only Guru Nanak. They worship no other god or goddess besides him. This shows that Guru Nanak did visit this place. However, no shrine could be traced.

It is worth remembering that Lādakh was then a part of Tibet. It is just possible that most of the traditions of Guru Nanak’s visit to Tibet might have spread from the Lādakh region. Otherwise, Mansarovar, Kailash, Garu and such other regions were, as they are even today, part of Tibet.

On the east of Karu town is the oldest habitation of Lādakh -Hamus. According to a tradition, a stone is said to exist there on which Guru Nanak sat and held the dialogue.

Many in Hamus believe that the foundation of this habitation was laid by Guru Nanak. Hamus is 25 miles (40 km.) south of Leh, the capital town of Lādakh.

Visiting Karu and Hamus in Leh region, Guru Nanak set out on the path that leads to Isakardu, parallel to the Indus river. Like Leh, Isakardu is also on the bank of river Indus. Eighteen miles (29 km.) off Leh is Nimmi and 32 miles (51 km.) off Nimmi is Khalasi town.

In between these two towns is a town called Basgo. There has been prevalent till today a tradition in Basgo that a monster got hold of the Guru, but when the latter pushed him back he struck against a rock. The sign visible on the rock even today is said to be of that monster.

There was an old gurdwara in Isakardu commemorating the Guru’s visit there. This shrine was in good shape till 1947. These days the Isakardu region falls in the Pakistan- occupied territory.

There was an ancient path that led from Isakardu to Kargil. Traversing on this path, Guru Nanak turned southwards and reached included in his travels in the north.

In that situation, it seems correct that Guru Nanak went to Lādakh and Kashmir on his return journey from Kailash mountain Kargil. A gurdwara and a temple exist there side by side:

This gurdwara is said to be historical. Coming about 50 miles (80 km.) south from Kargil is Drass which is quite close to the Zojila Pass.

Crossing Zojila, Guru Nanak passed through Baltal town and reached the famous centre of Hindu pilgrimage, Amar Nāth.

Amar Nāth temple is situated in a mountain cave were water peeps down all the time, but this water turns into ice lingam before falling down.

Hindu pilgrims from far off places visit this place. From Amar Nāth, the Guru travelled through Pahalgam and reached Matan, near Anant Nag.

Matan was known for its ancient temple of Martand which was razed to the ground by the Muslims. A little away from the Martand temple are water springs. The Guru took his seat nearby them.

During the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, six recensions of the Guru Granth Sahib used to be installed at the place where Guru Nanak is said to have rested. That dharamsala has since fallen down and Guru Granth Sahib is now installed in a newly-constructed room. Matan and Martand are quite close to Anant Nag, also called Islamabad, which is a major city of Kashmir. At the time of Guru Nanak’s visit Matan was well-known as a centre of Hindu culture.

Even these days the pandas of Matan maintain ancestral vahis (traditional record books) like their counterparts at Haridwar. These vahis contain genealogies of the pilgrims who visit the shrine.

At the time of Guru Nanak’s visit, there lived one Brahma Dās, a native of Bij Bihara. He had gathered a good collection of books and was ever ready to have dialogue with any saint or fakir who visited the place.

When he learnt that a fakir, accompanied by a Mirasi, had come, he came to have a dialogue with the Guru.

No sooner did he reach the Guru’s place than he asked the Guru why he wore leather, how he lived, why did he not lead life in accordance with the code recommended by the Śāstras.

The Guru replied that there was no need to perform any ritual except to remember the Lord who has created this manifest world, made the sky, earth and the entire universe.

He said:

He Himself created Himself; He Himself understands Himself.
Separating the sky and the earth, He has spread out His canopy.
Without any pillars, He supports the sky, through the insignia of His Śabad.
Creating the sun and the moon, He infused His Light into them.
He created the night and the day; Wondrous are His miraculous plays.
He created the sacred shrines of pilgrimage,
where people contemplate righteousness and Dharma,
and take cleansing baths on special occasions.
There is no other equal to You; how can we speak and describe You?
You are seated on the throne of Truth;
all others come and go in reincarnation.  || 1 ||
-Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1279

Brahma Dās paid his obeisance. After a short stay at Matan the Guru resumed his journey.

Panja Sahib

From Matan, Guru Nanak went to Anant Nag and then to Srinagar, the latter is about 40 miles (64 km.) south of Anant Nag. The town of Srinagar was founded by Emperor Ashoka. Śaṅkarācārya temple is situated on a mountain top which overlooks the town of Śrinagar.

During his stay here the Guru met the yogis and by holding discourses with them he removed many of their misgivings as he had earlier done in case of Brahma Dās.

However, there is no gurdwara at the Śaṅkarācārya top. There is one centre (Dera) of the Udasis built in memory of Baba Śrī Chand but there is no information about any historical shrine commemorating the Guru’s visit to Srinagar.

From Śrinagar Guru Nanak took the southward route which led to Baramula, earlier known as Vramula. Baramula is a town on the bank of Jehlum, about 35 miles (56 km.) from Śrinagar.

Across the river, near Baramula, there is a shrine in the memory of Guru Nanak at Harmukh Ganga which is a testimony of the Guru’s visit to this region.

The Guru then travelled close to Kulahal via Uri. If one travels from Baramula on the route on the left of Jehlum one reaches Uri a town situated on the south-west about 30 miles (48 km.) away from Baramula.

About 30 miles away from Kohala and about eight miles (13 km.) east of the modern pucca road, is Kaliansar. There is a tradition that Guru Nanak visited this place. A gurdwara also existed there.

Travelling west of Kohala, Guru Nanak reached the place presently known as Hasan Abdal (Panja Sahib).

Hasan Abdal is 20 miles (32 km.) east of Attock. According to Alexander Cunningham, there was earlier a Buddhist monastery here which the Chinese traveller Heun Tsang called the pond of King Alapatra of Nagra.

According to him, the ruins of Buddhist monasteries and stupas were found on the hills around here.

A Gujjar by the name of Hasan had got an inn constructed there around which developed the town of that name. According to a tradition, Guru Nanak met Hasan at this place.

At that time Hasan was grazing his cattle. He felt that the Guru was a spiritually enlightened soul and offered him milk. Both Guru Nanak and Mardana drank the milk. The tomb of Hasan is still extant on a nearby hill.

On another hillock close by lived another Muslim holy man named Wali Qandhari. He belonged to the Rafizi sect of Shia Muslim tradition. When Guru Nanak met him, he did not show the usual courtesy.

The Guru climbed down the hill and sat at the roof of the hill. First spring was up the hill later on came down. Wali Qandhari felt jealous and he pushed down a rock towards the Guru.

As is apparent even today, there was no tree on this hill and the rolling stone reached the Guru who put his open hand on it to stop it from rolling on.

The same stone bearing the imprint of the open hand has been preserved. On 27th December 1835, a German traveller went to Hasan Abdal and he saw this stone lying near the place where the Guru Granth Sahib was installed.

Guru Nanak spent some time at Hasan Abdal. When Mardana performed kirtan, the sound of the divine melody reached the ears of Wali Qandhari. He was deeply impressed and one day he came down the hill to have a dialogue with the Guru.

He asked the Guru, “O holy man! What is thy name?”

The Guru replied, “Believer in God.” Thereafter dialogue on God ensued.

The Guru told him that all quarrels between the Rafizi and Sunnis are uncalled for. For the saints, all are God’s own. Wali Qandhari bowed before the Guru. The Guru sojourned for a while and then went ahead.

Bal Nāth

Hasan Abdal was situated on the kutcha road which led from Lahore Peshawar and this road was strengthened later on by Sher Shah Suri. He also planted trees on both of its sides and got inns constructed.

Guru Nanak left south-east of Hasan Abdal and reached Tilla Bal Gudain (now Jehlum district).

The place finds mention in the Ain-i-Akbari wherein it is stated that there is a centre of Bal Nāth, a yogi, in Sind Sāgar Doaba, near Shamasabad which is called Tilla Bal Nāth. Yogis from far and wide came to visit this place.

Guru Nanak reached here and got lodged at a place which was a little distance away from Bal Nāth’s centre.

When Bal Nāth learnt that a holy man sat not far from his place, he went to the Guru and brought him to his place. He gave the Guru much respect. In an exclusive meeting, he asked Guru Nanak who was his spiritual preceptor and what was his path to salvation.

The Guru, in reply, recited the following hymn:

My boat is wobbly and unsteady; it is filled with sins.
The wind is rising - what if it tips over?
As sunmukh, I have turned to the Guru;
O my Perfect Master; please be sure to bless me
with Your glorious greatness.  || 1 ||   

O Guru, my Saving Grace, please carry me across the world-ocean.
Bless me with devotion to the perfect, imperishable Lord God;
I am a sacrifice to You.  || 1 || Pause ||   

He alone is a Siddha, a seeker, a Yogi, a wandering pilgrim,
who meditates on the One Perfect Lord.
Touching the feet of the Lord Master, they are emancipated;
they come to receive the Word of the Teachings.  || 2 ||   

I know nothing of charity, meditation, self-discipline or religious rituals;
I only chant Your Name, God.
Nanak has met the Guru, the Transcendent Lord God;
through the True Word of His Śabad, he is set free.  || 3 ||
- Guru Granth Sahib, p. 878

Bal Nāth was highly influenced listening this hymn. He also said that Guru Nanak had realized God and that devotion (bhakti) was the sole way to God-realization.

The Guru stayed with him for some time. The imprints of the Guru’s feet can be seen even today on the stone where he sat. There was also a small gurdwara in memory of the visit and before the partition a sādhu used to look after the shrine.

A little distance away from this Tilla has been the famous fort of Rohtas which is three miles (5 km.) west of Din a Railway Station. It was built by Sher Shah Suri after the time of Guru Nanak. After this fort the town is also named Rohtas.

Nearby this fort flows a fountain called Choha Baba Nanak. This is said to be a memorial of the time of Guru Nanak as, it is said, Guru Nanak brought it out by picking up a stone.