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 tranquillity 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 fervour 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 the 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 emails, 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 the 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 Bahadur 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 the 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 withit was destroyed the weft and warp of generation’s of brotherhood interwoven with care and love. Bequest of Baba Nanak was being trampled by the 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 saviour 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 upkeep 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 kilometres 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 a multistory 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 are 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 a 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.