Bhai Bala Sandhu (1466-1544)
Bhai Bala was, according to popular belief, was a lifelong companion of Guru Nanak who was the son of Chandar Bhan, a Hindu Jatt of Talvandi Rai Bhoi (also spelled Bhoe) or Talvandi Sabo (the village of Guru Nanak’s youth. Now known as Nankana Sahib the village fell on the side of the line drawn through the Punjab when the British divided India into two countries on religious lines. Three years senior in age to Guru Nanak, the two were childhood playmates in Talvandi. From Talvandi, he accompanied Guru Nanak to Sultanpur where he stayed with him a considerable period of time before returning to his village.
According to the Bala Janam Sakhi, Bhai Bala at the instance of Rai Bular set out from Talvandi to join Guru Nanak who had already left Sultanpur on his travels abroad and met him in Bhai Lalo’s home at Saidpur. After Guru Nanak’s passing away. Guru Angad, Nanak II, invited Bala from his native Talvandi to come to Khadur and narrate to him events from the First Guru’s life. Very graphic, if somewhat miraculous, is the version contained in an old text, the Mahima Prakash. To quote: “Guru Angad one day spoke to Bhai Buddha, ‘Seek the disciple who accompanied the Master, Guru Nanak, on his journeys far and wide, who heard his preaching and reflected on it, and who witnessed the many strange events that occurred; secure from him all the circumstances and have transcribed a volume which may please the hearts of those who should apply themselves to it.’ Bala Sandhu made his appearance.”
The anecdotes narrated by Bala were recorded in Gurmukhi characters in Guru Angad’s presence by another Sikh, Paira Mokha. The result was what is known as Bhai Bale Vali Janam Sakhi, a hagiographical account of Guru Nanak’s life. Bhai Bala died in 1544 at Khadur Sahib. A memorial platform, within the precincts of Gurdwara Tapiana Sahib, marks the site where his mortal remains were cremated.
Among modern researchers, the identity (even his existance?) of Bhai Bala is as controversial as is the authenticity of the Janam Sakhi ascribed to him. Bhai Bala is mentioned neither by Bhai Gurdas Ji who has recorded the names of a number of Sikhs contemporary of Guru Nanak, nor by the authors of Puratan Janam Sakhfand Mi’harban Janam Sakhi, both older than Bala Janam Sakhi, the oldest available manuscript of which is dated 1658. However, owing to the popularity the last named Janam Sakhi has attained and the fact that the 19th century chroniclers such as Bhai Santokh Singh and Giani Gian Singh have relied on it more than on any other, the name of Bhai Bala is firmly established in Sikh lore.
But it is most surprising that such a renowned Sikh of Guru Nanak Dev, called Bhai Bala, was totally ignored by the accepted top-most scholar-poet of Sikhism, named Bhai Gurdas Bhalla, who in his 11th Var, while giving the list of the devotees of Guru Nanak Dev, omitted the name of Bhai Bala! Bhai Gurdas even included the name of nawab Daulat Khan Lodi, as the devotee of Guru Nanak Dev, but not of a Bhai Bala. In the first Var, Bhai Gurdas very briefly gave an account of Guru Nanak Dev’s life. While describing the Third missionary Tour of Guru Nanak Dev for visiting Mecca, Madina (sic), Baghdad and other places, Bhai Gurdas states-“Baba went to Baghdad and stayed there at the outskirts of the City. There was one God-man, the Baba, and the second one was Minstrel Mardana.”‘
(ABOUT COMPILATION OF SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB, p165).
- MacaulifTe, Max Arthur, The Sikh Religion. Oxford, 1909
- McLeod, W.H., Guru Nanaic and the Sikh Religion. Oxford, 1968
- Harbans Singh, Guru Nanak and Origins of the Sikh Faith. Bombay, 1969
- Kirpal Singh, Janam Sakhi Prampara. Patiala, 1969