Religions

Bhai Bala Ji : Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji's Life Long Companion

Dr Amrit Kaur | July 24, 2016 01:51 PM
Dr Amrit Kaur

Bhai Bala Ji (1466-1544) son of Chandar Bhan Ji, born three years before Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539), the first Guru (prophet-teacher) of the Sikhs had the privilege of not only being his life-time companion but also serving as one of the major and most authentic sources of information about the life events of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The account he gave of the life and travels of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, which he compiled in the form of Janam Sakhi (Life Sketch Book) has been a rich source of information about the great Guru. Bhai Bala Ji was born at the same place as Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji i.e. Rai Bhoe Ki Talwandi, in Sheikhupura District, 65 kilometers south-west of Lahore which is now in Pakistan. Being the birth place of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, this place is now known as Nankana Sahib. Born in a Sandhu Jatt family, Bhai Bala Ji was three years senior in age to Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and was his childhood playmate. The families of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and of Bhai Bala Ji were in close contact with one another. When Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji's father Mahita Kalu Ji sent him on a business tour for the first time, he sent Bhai Bala Ji along with him. For this business trip Mahita Kalu Ji gave some money to Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and instructed him to go to Chuharkana, a place about 20 kilometers north-east of Rai Bhoe Ki Talwandi and purchase some grocery items for business. But a little distance short of Chuharkana Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Bhai Bala Ji met a group of sadhus who were hungry. Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji promptly decided to spend the money given by his father to feed them. Bhai Bala Ji reminded him of his father's instructions, but Guru Ji bought provisions from Chuharkana and gave these to the Saint Rein Ji to be distributed among the hungry sadhus. When Guru Ji and Bhai Bala Ji returned home empty handed Mahita Kalu Ji got very angry. Guru Ji told him that he had been asked by him to do some sacha sauda (real bargain) and that is what he had done. At this place now stands Gurdwara Sachcha Sauda (Real Bargain) to commemorate this incident.

            A very unique contribution of Bhai Bala Ji for which all Sikhs and all historians for all times to come will remain indebted to him is that he has proved to be one of the major authentic sources about the life events of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. After Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji left for his heavenly abode in 1539 Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji became his successor Guru. As per historical evidence, soon after assuming Guruship Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji one day spoke to Bhai Buddha Ji to 'seek the disciple who accompanied the Master, Guru Nanak Dev, on his journeys far and wide, who heard his preaching and reflected on it, who witnessed the many strange events that occurred, secure from him all circumstances and have transcribed a volume which may please the hearts of those who should apply themselves to it.

            After this, Mahita Kalu Ji sent Guru Ji to Sultanpur Lodhi, now in District Kapurthala of Punjab to work as a keeper of a Government storehouse. Bhai Bala Ji accompanied him to this place, stayed there for some time and then returned to Rai Bhoe Ki Talwandi. During his stay at Sultanpur, one time Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji was found missing from work for three days. It is stated that during this period he had an intimate communion with the Divine who directed him to go forth into the wider world and preach the message envisioned by him. Guru Ji left Sultanpur for preaching his vision. The five persons he chose to take along with him included Bhai Bala Ji, Bhai Mardana Ji, Bhai Saido Gheo, Bhai Seeha and Bhai Hassu. Thus, Bhai Bala Ji accompanied Guru Ji in all the four udasis (preaching tours) i.e. east, south, north and west. During these tours which were spread over a period of twenty years, in addition to several places in Punjab they visited (i) Eminabad which to 15 kms south of Gujranwala, Sailkot and Lahore all of them now in Pakistan (ii) Delhi (iii) Jind, Sirsa, Kurukshetra, Panipat and Karnal in Haryana (iv) Nanak Matta, Varanasi, Mathura, Lucknow, Bindraban, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Ayodhya, Allahabad and Mirzapur in U.P. (v) Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Ajmer and Bikaner in Rajasthan (vi) Gaya and Patna Sahib in Bihar (vii) Calcutta, Burdwan, Malda and Murshidabad in West Bengal (viii) Dhubri in Assam (ix) Bhopal and Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh (x) Jammu, Anantnag, Mattan and Sri Nagar in Jammu and Kashmir (xi) Jagan Nath Puri in Orissa (xii) Haridwar and Srinagar in Uttrakhand (xiii) Manipur (xiv) Mal Tekri near Nanded in Maharashtra (xv) Kaniyakumari and Cochin in Kerala (xvi). Outside of India, the travels covered Sri Lanka in the South; Dacca in Bangladesh in the east; Meeca, Madina, Egypt, Sudan and Turkey in the west and China and Tibet in the north.

            During all these journeys Bhai Bala Ji was a constant companion of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The various anecdotes reported by the historians mention the presence of Bhai Bala Ji during all these preaching tours. For example, while going from Cochin to Madhya Pradesh, in the southern forests of Vindhyachal Bhai Mardana Ji was picked up by a man-eater giant named Kauda Rakash. Guru Ji and Bhai Bala Ji reached the spot to save him. This place now falls in Jabalpur. In the sacred memory of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji at this place Gurdwara Mada Tal has been established. After these travels Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji along with Bhai Bala Ji and Bhai Mardana Ji returned to Punjab. Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji settled in Kartarpur, a small town on the right bank of river Ravi now in Pakistan and Bhai Bala Ji returned to his native place.

            A very unique contribution of Bhai Bala Ji for which all Sikhs and all historians for all times to come will remain indebted to him is that he has proved to be one of the major authentic sources about the life events of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. After Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji left for his heavenly abode in 1539 Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji became his successor Guru. As per historical evidence, soon after assuming Guruship Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji one day spoke to Bhai Buddha Ji to 'seek the disciple who accompanied the Master, Guru Nanak Dev, on his journeys far and wide, who heard his preaching and reflected on it, who witnessed the many strange events that occurred, secure from him all circumstances and have transcribed a volume which may please the hearts of those who should apply themselves to it.

            Thus Bhai Bala Ji was invited to come from his native village Talwandi to Khadur Sahib which now falls in District Tarn Tarn of Punjab and narrate the events from the life of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji.  The anecdotes narrated by him were recorded in Gurmukhi characters in Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji's presence by Paira Mokha, a Khatri of Sultanpur, Distt. Kapurthala. The whole recording of the dictation by Bhai Bala Ji was completed in 2 months and 17 days and thus was prepared the manuscript known as Bhai Bale Vali Janam Sakhi (Janam Sakhi by Bhai Bala). Since Bhai Bala Ji was born and had grown up in the same village as Sri Guru Nana Dev Ji, had accompanied him to Sultanpur Lodhi and the four udasis, his narrative supposedly provides an essentially trust-worthy account of the early, as well as, later life of his Master. At the place which Bala Janam Sakhi was compiled now stands Gurdwara Tapiana Sahib. It may be added that the other disciple who had accompanied Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji during all the journeys i.e. Bhai Mardana ji had left for his heavenly abode during the life time of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. After completing the assignment Bhai Bala Ji remained in Khadur Sahib for the rest of his life. He left for his heavenly abode at this place. At the site of his cremation which falls within the complex of Gurudwara Tapiana Sahib a platform has been constructed in his memory. 

Dr. Amrit Kaur, Retd. Professor, Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, INDIA

email: prof.amritkaur@gmail.com

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