Saturday, December 10, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

Bhai Bhagatu (d. 1652), a devoted Sikh who served the Fifth, Sixth and the Seventh Gurus, was the son of Adam (Uddam in some chronicles), a Siddhu Brar ofMalva country. Sikh chronicles record that Adam, without a son for a long time and despaired of prayers at the feet of different holy men, Muslim as well as Hindu, was advised by a Sikh to go to Guru Ram Das. Adam reached Amritsar and dedicated himself to the service of the Guru and the sangat. The Guru was pleased by his humility and sincerity. Adam received his blessing and had a son born to him.

Bhagatu, as the son was named, grew to be a saintly person with a firm faith in the Guru. He made frequent visits to Amritsar where he stopped for long intervals rendering diligent service as construction of the Harimandar was in progress under the guidance of Guru Arjan. He was at Kiratpur in 1644 when Guru Har Rai succeeded Guru Hargobind on Guru Nanak's throne. He later retired to his village, but continued to visit the Guru, especially on Baisakhi and Divali. During one of these visits. Guru Har Rai said to him, "You are fairly old now; it is time you were married." The Guru was referring metaphorically to death, alluding to Shaikh Farid's line in the Guru Granth Sahib : The soul is the bride, Death the bridegroom; He will wed her and take her away. (GG, 1377) But the simpleminded Bhai Bhagatu, taking the remarks literally, was greatly perplexed. He had two grownup sons from his wife, now long deceased, and remarriage at his age would in any case be ridiculous. He went home without giving a reply, but the Guru's words continued to ring in his ears. He was still ruminating over the "strange" suggestion when he made his next visit to Guru Har Rai, at Rartarpur, in presentday Jalandhar district. The Guru asked Bhai Bhagatu why he looked so preoccupied. As Bhai Bhagatu shyly and haltingly revealed his problem. Guru Har Rai smiled at his naivette and told him that he had merely meant to comment on his age.

Bhai Bhagatu now feeling relieved, stayed on in the service of the Guru until he died shortly after the next Baisakhi festival in April 1652. Guru Har Rai personally performed his last rites, and praised his simplicity and devotion. Bhai Bhagatu's elder son, Gaura, through his enterprising spirit and prowess, became a minor chief at the village of Vinjhu, near Bathinda. One of his descendants, Bhai Desu Singh, founded the Sikh state of Kaithal in the eighteenth century.

A gurdwara, Bhaiana Bhagatu, named after the celebrated Bhai is located near village Gobindpura, about 11 km northeast of Bathinda (30°14'N, 74°58'E). An annual fair is held there on the occasion of Baisakhi.

References 1. Santokh Singh, Bhai, Sn Gur Pratap Suraj Granth. Amritsar, 1926-37
2. Gian Singh, Giani, TwanJkh Guru KhaJsa. Patiala, 1970

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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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