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Bhai Kanhaiya ji

Bhai Kanhaiya (1648-1718), was a Sikh of Guru Tegh Bahadur and was the founder of the Sevapanthi or Addanshahi sect of the Sikhs. Bhai Sahib was born in a Dhamman Khatri family of Sodhara near Wazirabad in Sialkot district (now in Pakistan). His father was a wealthy trader, but he himself being of a religious bent of mind left home when still very young and roamed about with saddhus and ascetics in search of spiritual peace.

His quest ended as he met Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-75) and accepted initiation at his hands. Kanhaiya established a dharamsdhal at Kavha village in the present Attock district of Pakistan which he turned into a preaching centre. His special mission was selfless service of humanity with no distinction of nationality, caste or creed. In 1704/5, he was on a visit to Anandpur when the city was invaded by a combination of hill troops and the imperial Mughal army.

During the frequent sallies and skirmishes between the Sikhs and the enemy, Bhai Kanhaiya was often seen carrying a mashak (a sort of pouch made of goat's skin that was used to carry water from one place to another), to serve water to anyone who was thirsty. He took upon the task of quenching the thirst of the wounded soldiers in the battle of Anandpur Sahib in 1704. He did this sewa with love and affection without any discrimination between the Guru's Sikh soldiers and the Mughal armies' soldiers. His act of compassion stirred up stern criticism amongst his fellow Sikhs, who went ahead and complained to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, pointing out that Bhai Kanhaiya Ji was serving water to the wounded soldier's from the enemy camp. They were especially annoyed because the Mughals had surrounded the city and stopped all their food supplies, and here was Bhai Kanhaiya sharing with them what little water they had. They had tried to stop him many a time, but he would not pay any heed.

This great deed of Bhai Kanhaiya to roam around serving water to the wounded and the dying without distinction of friend and foe eventually led to a summon by Guru Ji. This benevolent action of this special Sikh had upset some Sikhs who went directly and complained to Guru Gobind Singh that Bhai Kanhaiya had been resuscitating the fallen enemy soldiers. Guru Gobind Singh summoned Bhai Kanhaiya and explained that he had received a complaint about his actions on the battlefield.

Guruji said, “These brave Sikhs are saying that you go and feed water to the enemy and they recover to fight them again – Is this true?”

Bhai Kanhaiya Ji replied "Yes, my Guru, what they say is true. But Maharaj, I saw no Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. And, ... Guru Ji, .. they all have the same God’s Spirit? – Guru Ji, have you not taught us to treat all God's people as the same?"

The Guru was very pleased with the reply. Bhai Kanhaiya Ji had understood the deep message of Gurbani correctly. Guru ji smiled and blessed Bhai Kanhaiya. Guru Ji said, "Bhai Kanhaiya Ji, You are right. You have understood the true message of Gurbani". He then continued and told the Sikhs that Bhai Kanhaiya had understood the deeper message of the Gurus' teachings correctly and that they all have to strive to learn lessons from the priceless words of Gurbani.

Guru also gave Bhai Kanhaiya Ji medical Balm and said “From now on, You should also put this balm on the wounds of all who need it”'

Then turning to the sangat Guru Ji said, Saadh sangat ji, Bhai Kanhaiya is a God-fearing saintly soul. His impartial and non-biased behaviour towards others has led him to achieve Sehaj-avastha. Let him carry on with his mission. Many more will follow in his footsteps in the years to come and keep the tradition of Nishkam sewa alive."

 

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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