Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 10: Nanaki's Birthplace

Visit to Gurudwara Bebe Nanaki Janam Asthan

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Gurudwara Bebe Nanaki Janam Asthan is the birth place of Bebe Nanaki, the older sister of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Out of respect for her older sister, Guru Ji addressed her "Bebe". Although, most of the time the word "Bebe" is used for the mother; but she was called Bebe for being mother like figure to her younger brother. Bebe Nanaki was born in 1464 at her maternal house in the village Dera Chahal, she was named Nanakian by them. However, over time the name got shortened to Nanki. The village Dera Chahal is now part of the city of Lahore, and is situated on the outer ring road. When Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born he was named Nanak after his older sister Nanaki, as the birth was believed to be fulfillment of her ardent prayers. Bebe Nanki was very fond her younger brother, and actively participated in raising him like a little mother. The Janam Sakhis are full of stories of her deep and devoted affection for Guru Ji. Her keen eyes observed the spiritual bent of mind in Guru Nanak Dev Ji, from the many incidents that happened during his childhood. She always stood as shield protecting him from their father's fury.

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Even though, her brother was quite younger to her in age, still she respected him as man of God and as God's chosen one. Out of reverence Bebe Nanaki would try to bow to her younger brother. But, Guru Ji always stopped her, as he firmly believed in traditional respect for older sister like a mother. However, Bebe Nanaki would respond, "That is only true if you were a regular man, but you are more, to me, I see God in you." For her, Nanak was not only her brother (Veer) but also her Guru (Peer) and she used to say:

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"ਮੇਰਾ ਵੀਰ ਮੇਰਾ ਪੀਰ |"
"Mera veer mera peer."
Translation: My brother is my (spiritual) Master.

Bebe Nanaki was married to Bhai Jai Ram in 1475 at the age of eleven, but formally joined him in Sultanpur on turning sixteen. Till that time she was still living with her parents in Talwandi. From Sultanpur she visited her parents on special occasions. As her husband's work related duties took him to Talwandi, so she would also occasionally accompany her husband, thus spending quality time with her revered brother.

She was very happy when Guru Nanak Dev Ji joined her, at the advice of Rai Bular to her husband. When Bhai Jai Ram visited Talwandi during the spring season, after first visiting his in-laws, he set out to meet Rai Bular. After exchange of pleasantries, Bhai Jai Ram asked Rai Bular if he could do anything for him. Rai Bular said; "Bhai Jai Ram! With Allah's blessings everything is fine. But if you will accede to my request then may I ask for it." Rai Ji continued; "Guru Nanak's viewpoint and his father's priorities in life are quite apart. I would suggest that Guru Nanak Dev Ji should live with you." Bhai Jai Ram readily agreed. Once there in Sultanpur, he helped Guru Ji in landing the job of the store-keeper to Nawab Daulat Khan. Guru Ji did his job very diligently but was always helping the needy.

However, soon the rumors were floated that Guru Ji was giving away grains from royal store house, he was managing. The rumors subsided only after the audits of accounts absolved Guru Ji of charges. One morning in 1497 AD, Guru Ji went to River Bain, for an early morning bath as per his daily routine. But that day he did not come back. There was no trace about his whereabouts for three days. The divers were called in but they could not find him. Everyone was convinced that his body was either drowned or eaten away by a wild animal. But, Bebe Nanaki was firm in her conviction that her brother was on a mission and he will not be gone before completing the mission. Some started rumors again that Guru Ji had absconded after misappropriating the store. Suddenly after three days Guru Ji reappeared and uttered the slogan; "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim."

The reappearance of Guru Ji and his revolutionary slogan made him the talk of the town. Everyone was singing praises of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the town echoed with the sounds of "Dhan Guru Nanak". One evening Bhai Jai Ram Ji returned home and asked Bebe Nanaki, how it feels to hear accolades of her younger brother. Bebe Nanaki's reply was that it made her feel good and blessed. Bhai Jai Ram added; "You are blessed as you are his sister and have blood relation with him. But I am blessed too as I am married to you, and because of that relationship, even I am related to him."

Soon, Guru Ji planned to start on his missionary work to spread his message to the world. She assured him that she will look after his family and their old parents in his absence. In fact Guru Ji's older son Baba Sri Chand was raised by her. She always supported Guru Ji's plans and mission as she fully understood the divine mission. Whenever her parents or Guru Ji's in-laws complained about prolonged absence of Guru Ji from the family, she firmly defended Guru Ji's actions. It is no wonder that she was revered and honored as the First Sikh of Guru Ji.

Bebe was well aware of the musical talent of her brother, so she persuaded Mardana to accompany her brother on tours. She also bought him a Rabab (musical instrument with strings) to play. The intriguing aspect of the purchase of Rabab was that Guru Ji did not have funds to pay for it, and he would not ask her for money. But on her own, by intuition she sensed that, and gave the funds to Mardana with instructions that Guru Ji should not know about it. Thus tradition of recitation of hymns with the help of musical instruments was born. It is still the prevalent practice in Sikhism and it played a stellar role in the preaching of Sikhism.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji visited his maternal family village Dera Chahal many times during his journeys. There was a water tank (sarovar) near the Gurudwara but it has disappeared and at that place there is now Government run Girls School (see image).

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At the end of his second tour in 1518 Guru Nanak Dev Ji returned back to Sultanpur, to visit Bebe Nanaki. When Guru Ji was about to depart for his third tour, Bebe Nanki approached him with a request to stay for a few days, sensing her end approaching. She wanted Guru Ji to perform the last rites. All her life she was so accepting of the divine will that she never asked for Guru Ji's blessing for child to be born to her or for longer life. Interestingly, she passed three days after making the request to Guru Ji to stay little longer, in the month of November. Guru Ji performed last rites of Bebe Nanaki and was again getting ready for his departure. Now, Bhai Jai Ram Ji told Guru Ji that the time for his departure was approaching too. He requested Guru Ji to delay the departure again and perform his last rites as well. Guru Ji accepted the request and three days later Bhai Jai Ram Ji passed away. Guru Ji again performed the last rites and then started his journey.

We cannot forget the role and contribution of Bebe Nanki in the spread of Sikhism. A visit here is our homage to her and an inspiration to us from the First Sikh. Let our prayer there be; "Bebe Ji! Please bless us so that we may become Second Sikh."

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Related articles:

 

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 1: Kartarpur

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 2: Janam Asthaan

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 3: Sacha Sauda

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 4: Birthplace of Langar

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 5: Bed of Stones

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 6: Birth of Martyrdom

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 7: Mother's Birthplace

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 8: Panja Sahib

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 9: Baba's Tree

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 10: Nanaki's Birthplace

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 11: 4th Guru Birthplace

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 12: HotBed of History

Quest for Khuley Darshan - Part 13: Conclusion

 

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