Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2.Inheritors of the Legacy

Our family is blessed because of the grace bestowed upon us by Baba Nanak……Rai Saleem Akram
Most of what we know about the legend and life of Guru Nanak, comes to us through the much-loved tradition of stories or as we call them the Janam Sakhis. For centuries the storytellers in our villages in Punjab have narrated these tales imaginatively interlaced with events of history, perhaps crafting it a little here and there, swaying with the mood of the rapt listeners.

Life in the 15th century on the fertile plains between river Indus and river Ganges, was to say the least quite short on tranquility and fraught with dangers of invading and marauding armies. However, in midst of all this was Rai Bhoi di Talwandi, a cocoon, lovingly nurtured by a temperate ruler… Rai Bullar Bhatti, a Muslim Rajput. He was a gentle giant; Hindu’s and Muslims respected him and lived in harmony on his estates on the banks of river Ravi.
Rai Bular

A few decades ago, the estate was re-named by his grandfather after his father Rai Bhoi …..It was earlier called Raipur and later came to known as Nankana Sahib.
Kalyan Das lovingly called Mehta Kalu, was a well-read, respected resident of the village. He was a ‘Patwari’ in service of Rai Bular, for those who do not know……Patwari is a revenue officer of lands and estate…let me tell you it was a very important position in those days. Nanak was born to Mehta Kalu and his wife, Tripata Devi, in 1469. This environment and backdrop was his home; here Nanak spent his growing up years. Rai Bular a kindhearted but an astute ‘Sardar’, was quick to become aware of the divine grace in Nanak and remained his devoted disciple for years and years to come.
Guru Nanak on his part never let Rai Bular down and was amazed by the fervor of his esteem and affection. Such was the bond between them that in spite of his long travels…..udasis’s, Guru Nanak would always stop to spend time with him….Rai Bular felt blessed. It is said that towards the end of his days, when he breathed his last Guru Nanak was by his bedside.
 Rai Bular’s deep devotion and affiliation with Nanak is not a moot point for it is genuinely chronicled in Sikh history. What I would find interesting, really interesting is to look at how the divine blessings have impacted the history of family over the centuries?
This is the story of Rai Bular's descendants, now spread all across the world. The family has not only kept alive their ancestral links but has maintained its emotional and spiritual attachment with Sikhism for the past several generations notwithstanding the fact that they are devout Muslims.
 Naam japna……kirat karna……vand chakna… for twenty generations of Bhatti’s in Nankakana Sahib has been a divine blessing. They are perhaps blessed with the opportunity of continuance of the word of Nanak through ‘Naam’ and ‘Sewa’ ….. This established I was curious to graph their passage through the years.

Who are these inheritors of Rai Bulars legacy and unending wealth of accredited spiritual benevolence that they enjoy? It would be interesting to follow up on this….and follow up I did. I wrote mails, sent emails and waited …..Months slipped by and so did my preliminary doodles and interest in the search….no response. Then one day my inbox had a mail from one Z Bhatti….he was a descendant of Rai Bular Bhatti…he was now in US… that was the link I needed….you could say, to kind of  spur on my interest again.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was deeply impressed as well by the ‘sewa’ and devotion of this incredible family and its immense contribution to Sikhism over the years. He conferred upon Rai Issa Khan ….the 15th generation of Bhatti, the title of Rai Bhadur and was made in charge of a sub-jail as well in Thatta Issa village. He was furthermore appointed honorary magistrate with additional powers to collect the revenue.
Rai Hussain
Before I forget, let me repeat a possibility that the Maharaja himself hailed from same lineage as Rai Bular, tracing his descent from Raja Rai Bhuni Khan. A chronicle of the Bhatti family….has a detail recorded in Tarik-e-Bhattian.

Towards later part of the same century in 1887 another Bhatti’s efforts were acknowledged, Rai Hussain was honoured by Queen Victoria at the golden jubilee celebrations of her coronation. This was for his leadership in Hindu Muslim unity, public service and vision. He was chief of his village…’.Kot Hussain Khan’ and the surrounding villages as well.

Partition was a horrendous time for Punjab. It was brutally torn apart and along
with it was destroyed the weft and warp of generation’s of brotherhood interwoven
with care and love. Bequest of Baba Nanak was being trampled by madness that
had engulfed all.......................
Mohan Singh, the most eminent poet of the day raised an appeal to Guru Nanak. There is agony in his words, a lament in the phrase. In the turmoil and mayhem created by the stampede of religious fanaticism, the message of Guru Nanak given centuries ago was lost:

O Baba tera watan hai veeran ho gaya
Jugaan di saadi sabhta pairin chitad gae
Sadian de saade khoon da nahaan ho gaya.
(O Baba, your land has been devastated.
Our age-old culture is molested under feet.
And our blood of centuries alienated.)

But not so for inheritors of Rai Bulars name, they upheld the humane traditions of their most famous ancestor during the Partition. Rai Hussain, the distinguished and much feted father of Rai Bashir Bhatti a renowned politician himself, assumed the role of a savior and personally escorted to safety over a thousand Sikh families. All the same the aftermath of the carnage left him heartbroken, both at the loss of thousands of innocent lives, and the tragic bifurcation of his beloved Punjab. And it is said that seeing the massacre, a veritable bloodbath of camaraderie on the lanes and by lanes of the once peaceful ‘mohalla’s’ ….he lost the will to live.
 Post 1947 communal and community efforts were in disarray and gaps were left in the social fabric even at Nankana sahib … The Bhatti’s, this time the father-son duo, Rai Rehmat Khan and Rai Anayat, collected the revenue for the up keep of the seven historical gurdwaras.

Later Rai Bashir in early 1994 initiated a process … to build an institution ‘Nankana Sahib Foundation’ on the ten acres donated by his nephews Rai Sarwar Khan and Rai Ahmed Khan at Kot Hussain Khan ,about five kilometers from Nankana Sahib. The rationale behind setting up the trust was to generate revenue for the ‘sewa’ at Nankana Sahib….. But, the then Government of Pakistan headed by Benazir Bhutto did not give permission for the trust, and I am told that for a long time all that stood representing the vision of the Trust  was only a gate at the site.Today i have heard that amultistory building is under construction.
Rai Hadayat Bhatti
Reverence for ‘Babaji’ is an undisputed common heritage of the entire Bhatti clan cherished lovingly over centuries; hence as a   consequence all members of the family have always been close to the Sikhs. But perhaps on Rai Hadayat Khan, the 17th descendant of Rai Bular, we could confer a special mention, for he dedicated his endless time and effort to work tirelessly towards strengthening Sikh-Muslim relations. He led the Sikh procession on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Guru Nanak's birth… true  to form, keeping in sync the family philosophy  and principles ,he carried forward  the spirit of service in his two sons … Rai Aslam and Rai Akram by example
Presently I have heard from various people that the hospitality of  Rai Akram, a practising lawyer at Nankana Sahib is indeed heartwarming ,he and his family  welcome the  ‘yatris’ with open arms to their homes and heart. That apart his personal conviction and faith in tenets of Sikhism is so strong I am told that he firmly believes that he owes the birth of his elder son, Rai Mohammad Saleem Akram, to the blessings of Baba Nanak.
Father and son...Rai Saleem Akram and Rai Akram
Saleem, a young criminal lawyer at the Lahore High Court, says: "It is because of Baba Nanak that I am in this world. For us, Babaji has a special place in our lives and our family is blessed because of the grace bestowed upon us by Baba Nanak." ‘Babaji’, continued the 19th generation descendant of Rai Bular, ‘is revered by all of us as our father.’
The spirit of ‘sewa’ and the subsequent opportunity to act upon is only bequeathed on the blessed…….Baba Nanak….or Babaji …as the Bhatti clan lovingly refer to him,  has for twenty generations been granted his benevolence and they continue in their efforts to be a part of related celebrations. ……they even took part in the tercentenary celebrations of the birth of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib in 1999.

It is said that acts of good deed by one saintly soul in the family has a ripple effect on generations to come…..So be the truth of Bhatti family,  the inheritors of Rai Bulars legacy. It is said that this family has been blessed by Baba Nanak’s eternal prayer.
However as a member of the Sikh community I reiterate sentiments of many in expressing our goodwill and gratitude to them for being a voice of sanity in the world getting divided on religious lines.
Other personalities include
Rai Salamat Ali Bhatti;
 Rai Shahjhan Khan Bhatti, MPA;
 Brig. Jehanzeb Khan Bhatti;.
 Rai Aurangzeb Bhatti.
Rai Babar Hussain Bhatti(late).

Sometime late last year I was delighted to be in touch with members of the Bhatti clan.....I was told by Rai Saleem Akram  that in the year 2009 they held an  Eye Camp  with the help of Canadian Delegation organized in Gurdwara Janamastan Nankana Sahib..... 60 patients were operated ,
whereas in 2010 75 operations were performed by the doctors in 3 days camp.

Friday, November 19, 2010

1.Legacy of Rai Bular Bhatti.......

From the time I started delving into the minutiae of the life and teachings of Guru Nanak the information I gleaned was strewn and many a times not validated….but as I probed deeper the story that had been put together through the centuries was of a life so extraordinary and beautiful that it needs to told over and over again in words and format that is contemporary to each generation.
The divine flow of the life of Nanak has brought to fore many a person….The persona of Rai Bular Bhatti has been very stable and fascinating, rather it had been so out of the ordinary in times far from ordinary….that there was a silent coercion in me to try and fill the blanks left in history…with the help of a little logical imagination.
The Bhatti’s were the ‘Rajput warrior clan of Muslim origin’
Bhatti’s perhaps have taken their name from an ancestor named Bhatti, who was well-known as a warrior when the tribe was located in the Punjab…….were these the ancestors that were perhaps residents of village ‘Jamarai’…. And  Bhatinda?
What happened? What were the compulsions? …..Facts are uncertain, but it seems that this clan was driven southwards, and it found a refuge in the Thar desert, which was henceforth its home.
The majority of the inhabitants of Jaisalmer are Bhatti Rajputs.
 In 1156 A.D. Rawal Jaisal, the sixth in succession from Deoraj, founded the fort and city of Jaisalmer, and made it his capital. Life was never simple in those times ….They had  challengers….the major opponents  of the Bhatti Rajputs were the powerful Rathore clans of Jodhpur and Bikaner.

True to times, medieval history has been brutal…and state of Jaisalmer had to fight for its tactical positioning, many a battle was fought for the possession of forts, waterholes or cattle. Jaisalmer was strategically well placed as it was the halting point along a traditional trade route. The camel caravans of Indian and Asian merchants passed through Jaisalmer, linking India to Central Asia, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Africaand the West.
The Bhattis levied taxes on the passing caravans….this maybe; this was their main revenue stream.
There are ballads still sung of events in 1293 that were cataclysmic. The three Bhatti princes as an act of adventurism captured the caravans filled with treasures belonging to the Sultan of Delhi, this so enraged the Emperor Ala ud din Khilji that his army captured and ransacked the fort and city of Jaisalmer. After  a bloody battle, the city was overrun and one of the Bhatti Rajput prince who survived was taken hostage and was sent in exile to the North of Punjab near Kotli - around 40 miles from what is now called 'Lahore'
Folklore goes that Allaud-din Khilji was so touched by this boys bravery that he honored the boy with a gift of approx.150,000 acres of Punjab's most fertile land as relief  to redeem his refugee status and possibly a means of tacit persuasion to keep the boy from rallying troops and building a new Rajput Bhatti Army to fight the Khilji's. It is said that the exiled Rajput prince was Rai Bhoe Bhatti's father, and the place he founded at Kotli was named Raipur and later Rai Bhoe di-Talwandi after the son.
From records it looks as if some Bhatti's migrated to Kotli …..  now Nankana Sahib in Pakistan and others settled in Larkana in Sind, Pakistan under the name of Bhutto.
In Nankana Sahib, the Bhatti Clan can be traced from the lineage of Rai Bhoe and Rai Bular Bhatti. Rai Bular was the only son of Rai Bhoi, and only brother of six sisters. One of Rai Bhoe's daughters was married toDaulat Khan Lodhi, the Governor of the Punjab . After Rai Bhoe's death, Rai Bular inherited the estate.
Rai Bular Bhatti evidently was a great stabilizing factor in times that were in huge tumult and turmoil. He was head of his little fiefdom and Guru Nanak’s father, Mehta Kalu was his revenue clerk……the patwari.
The exact date of Rai Bular's birth is not known but records kept by bards date it circa 1425 A.D. he died. 1515 AD

A mound with the two wells at its foot is the remnants of Kotli.. One of the tombs on a mound is that of Rai Bular Bhatti, and the existence of this tomb marks a grave-yard there as early as the fifteenth century for the Rajput Bhatti clan.
Guru Nanak was born in Rai Bhoi di Talwandi in 1469. Rai Bular Bhatti is mentioned in several stories in the Janam Sakhis. Historically in retrospect it can be seen that if one man deserves credit for recognising the divinity of Guru Nanak even as a child, it is Rai Bular Bhatti. Guru Nanak’s first disciple was his sister Nanaki. Rai Bular was the second disciple. For Rai Bular, who was a devout Muslim himself, was the one who first witnessed the many incidents in which the young Guru Nanak proved his divine standing.
It significant is to see …..How has the close relationship and proximity with Baba Nanak impacted the history of family over the centuries?
Rai Mohammad Saleem Akram Bhatti and Rai Akram bhatti
As a community we must never forget the respect and honor accorded to Guru Nanak by Rai Bular Bhatti, and till today his descendants refer to him as "Babaji"  in affectionate reverence. Rai Mohammad Saleem Akram Bhatti, the 19th generation descendant of Rai Bular,says  "is revered by all of us as our father."
Till today the Bhatti successive heads of the clan has directly been involved  in unrestricted care of and visits of the yatris  to the Gurduwaras.
The welcome accorded to the Sikh Community as a whole is a matter of extreme delight for the Rajput Bhatti family even today...Today when the world is getting further divided on religious lines, twenty generations have continued to carry on the tradition and legacy of Rai Bula Bhatti ……..It is the blessing of Baba Nanak

Rai Akram Bhatti, the 18th generation of Rai Bular Bhatti following the values and traditions of his ascendents has always welcomed the Sikh Delegations coming from different parts of the world .

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guru Nanak's Ancestral Village...In India

This was the header that caught my interest in a random online search….
Visiting Guru Nanak's Ancestral Village. Yes! in India’….. It sounded interesting for sure, but more than that it was rather intriguing.
Now what is a reasonably common knowledge is that Mehta Kaalu and family lived and were well respected in the neighbourhood of Rai Bhoi Di Talwandi. Moreover as the Patwari of the revenue estates of Rai Bular Bhatti, Mehta Kaalu was held in high esteem. And Rai Bhoi di Talwandi is today ….Nanakana Sahib in Pakistan
So how does Guru Nanak’s ancestral village come to be in India?...

The birthplace of Mehta Kalu
I quite easily sourced the story from the article written by BS Goraya, Editor Punjab Monitor Magazine  , who wrote  about this on one of his sales trip to a village Dhotian…...and was keen to look around and see the places of historical interest. Two kilometers from village Jamarai, is Gurudwara Dera Sahib located in the revenue limits of Lohar village. This was the ancestral village of Guru Nanak Sahib's father……said to be his birthplace. Mehta Kalu was a resident of this village, but perhaps a job  opportunity came his way and he moved to Rai Bhoi Di Talwandi

Another antiquity mentioned was the existence of an old well with some inscription……this was  hidden below in the internal hollow of the dried up well.
Inscription at Dehra Sahib well:-

Ikonkar sri Guru Nanak ji ka khuh. tehal karai tara singh bhanewa tehal singh. varsh. samvat 1883
i.e the well of Guru Nanak it is renovated by Tara Singh nephew of Tehal Singh in the year 1883 samvat which means 1826 AD
This old dried up well  is within the Gurudwara compound,it is said to be the one near which Guru Nanak often stopped and talked with his devotee Ajita Randhawa. . …. Of the historic village of Pakhoke.
Though there is a brick kiln in the vicinity but many pieces of broken earthen vessels were strewn around,which meant that there existed some habitation……… archaeologists surveying the area marked a new site  as Patthewind, up till then a name unknown. This site was near Jamarai on the west banks of the Beas which according to him was the native village of Guru Nanak Dev hence his father Mehta Kallu belonged  to Pathewind near Sarhali…..and Lohar was Patthewind…. And then migration to Rai Bhoi di Talwandi  in Sheikhupura took place. It seems a large chunk of population around Pathewind had migrated to Sheikhupura side.
 It is said…. the ancestor of  Rai Bular was Jama ‘the big or elder’ who founded the village Jamarai near Pathewind.
 Is it possible that the Rai’s migrated as well to the place which is called Rai Bhoi di Talwandi?
As said by the author…. ‘These are the legends that you find at Jamarai.’
There is another interesting story…..The then Governor of the area, Duni Chand met Guru Nanak at Pakhoke and donated 100 acres of land to Guru Sahib. This land is on the right bank of river Ravi ,that would make it towards west of Ravi. On the Guru’s acceptance of the land he decided to settle there and a small building or hut was constructed. Kartarpur thus became the first Sikh centre.
There is a reference in the historical books that Guru formally laid the foundation of Kartarpur ,now in Pakistan,on Magh 13, 1572 Bikrmi year [1515AD]. Though the original abode established by GuruNanank was washed away by floods of the river Ravi.
 The Gurudwara at Kartarpur can be seen from another Gurudwara located across the border in India at the historical town of Dehra Baba Nanak …..It is not Dera, as so many people wrongly call it.Dehra is derived from the word Deh or body

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rai Bhoi di Talwandi to Nankana Sahib


Nankana Sahib Gurudwara

Sikh history originates from Nankana Sahib. Guru Nanak Dev ji, was born here in 1469. The name of the place at that time was Rai Bhoi di Talwandi. But if we step back in history this town was called Talwandi. it was the centre of the Punjab or Panjab as it was called then.
 It is said to have been originally built by a Hindu king called Raja Vairat and Talwandi was totally ransacked and destroyed by wave after wave of invaders and marauders. The earliest historical reference to the city of Talwandi is found in ballads. It is mentioned in the context of the first siege of Jaisalmer which occurred during the reign of Alla-ud-din Khilji (1295-1315).These were the tumultuous time in history , and perhaps to create a bulwark, the self crowned  heads of Delhi Sultanate bundled out Punjab to Muslim warrior chiefs in exchange for peace. One of these chiefs was Rai Bhoi Bhatti, a Muslim of the Bhatti Rajput tribe…..
This is another story that I can follow up in my next posting.

Rai Bhoi along with his son salvaged Talwandi from ruins, and as a part of the restoration built a fortification on a high ground in which he lived safe, secure and a just ruler of over 100, 000 acres land .Talwandi came to be known as Raipur and subsequently as Rai-Bhoi-Di-Talwandi.
After Rai Bhoi's death, his only son Rai Bular Bhatti inherited the legacy. Rai Bular governed the land and town at the birth and during the youth of Nanak. Rai Bular, himself became a devotee of the Guru….

After Bibi Nanaki, we could say that he was his most committed and dedicated disciple,

Rai Bular’s estate had several thousand acres of cultivated land and a boundless wilderness surrounded by a deep and lonely Bar or raised forest. … with jal  predominates, which but there are also found the phulahi  and the jand .....khejri. It was called Nilianwali Bar…. forest where nilgais abound in the 1400s A.D. The wild deer roamed freely in the forest with only occasional travelers to disturb the solitude of its domain. The  hare and the partridges used to cower cautiously along the thickets around the town.

This was the haven where Rai Bular ruled and people of Rai Bhoi di Talwandi lived in a cocoon free of turmoils of the world around them. Rai Bular was a 'gentle giant', towering in stature, but quiet and solitary. Talwandi became a reflection of his personality. It was an idyllic place for the Baby Nanak to grow up and be a Guru, who could lead his people to the sacred path of truth, and open their minds from the superstitions of ages.
Mata Tripta .....Birth of Nanak
Guru nanak's birth took place on the third day of the light half of the month of Baisakh (April-May) in the year 1526 of the Vikramaditya era, corresponding to A.D. 1469.
It was renamed Nankana after the Guru. Nankana Sahib is in Sheikhupura. Nankana literally means Nanak da ana, or "the coming of Nanak".
Nankana Sahib is about 75 kilometers west-southwest of Lahore.

It was renamed Nankana after the Guru. Nankana Sahib is in Sheikhupura. Nankana literally means Nanak da ana, or "the coming of Nanak".

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kal taran Guru Nanak aya

So said Dalai Lama……….
Saints like Guru Nanak make their presence felt in this weary world in order to show the right path to the suffering humanity by personal sacrifice and example. The message of Guru Nanak was a real blessing at the time when India was in grave crisis.

The foundation of Sikhism is laid on the teachings of Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak's teachings centered on the firm belief in one ‘Param Atma’, earning an honest living and sharing, and that all the  people of all religions are the equal.
Guru Nanak disentangled people from the buildup of errors through ages and encouraged them not to harbour prejudices in mind and to reject rules and rituals which shackled them in dogmatic confusion of 'Kalyug', by and by guiding them towards spirituality. Guru Nanak laid stress on keeping true faith in God and pursuing the path of good, and truth which leads one towards God.
 He often said that God was inside oneself.
.................As fragrance abides in the flower
                 As reflection is within the mirror.
                 So does your Lord abide within you,
                 Why search for him without?”..........................
But then, is this not what is said by each and every man of God over the centuries….But do we listen.

Buddha -- The subject on which I meditate is truth. The practice to which I devote myself is the truth. The topic of my conversation is truth. My thoughts are always in truth. For lo! Myself has become the truth.

 Jesus Christ -- Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is within you."

Krishna -- I am the Self, O Gudekesa, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle, and the end of all beings.

 Mohammed -- He who knows his own self, knows God..