Early Gursikhs : Bhai Lalo
Guru Nanak traveled far and wide spreading the message of God. During these missions, he blessed many individuals and made them his disciples. One such man is Bhai Lalo, a poor carpenter of Eimnabad.
Bhai Lalo was born on Tuesday, 11th Assu 1509 Bikarmi i.e. 1452 AD. at the village of Saidpur, now known as Eimnabad (Pakistan). His father’s name was Bhai Jagat Ram of the ‘Ghataura’ surname, now known as Ramgarhia. Bhai Lalo was nearly seventeen years older than Guru Nanak. He would spend his days earning an honest living and by remembering God at all times.
When Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana left Sultanpur for their first long journey, the first village they stopped at was Saidpur (Eimnabad). Here they went to Bhai Lalo’s carpenter shop to meet him. When Bhai Lalo opened the door, he was surprised to see Guru Nanak. He was at first in such awe, he could do nothing but stare.
Bhai Lalo took Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana to his house and had a meal prepared for them. Once the meal was prepared, he setup a clean area for the Guru to sit and eat. However, Guru Nanak responded as follows: "You do not need to set up a special area for me to eat, this entire world has been made for us to eat in."
sRI muK kihq Drq hY ijqnI iqqno cOkw jwno[
sc rqy sy sUcy hUey mn ky Brm imtwno[
The entire world is a clean place made for us to eat in.
That person who is filled with truth is clean where ever he goes.
Bhai Lalo obeyed the command and brought the meal to where the Guru was sitting. Guru Nanak then ordered Bhai Lalo to split the food into three portions for all of them to share. Then all three of them sat together and ate the meal.
After eating the meal, Bhai Mardana asked Guru Nanak, ‘This meal tasted like nectar. What had been put in it ?" Guru Nanak replied, "Bhai Mardana, this was the taste of truthful earning which you tasted. This taste is above the taste of worldly delicacies."
After eating the meal, Guru Nanak was pleased with the service and blessed Bhai Lalo by putting his hand on Bhai Lalo’s head:
aUpr sIs auTwivh nw jb sRI gurU hwQ Drw isr qWhI[
Cuivq hwQ kpwt Kuly iqh lokn kI suD BI mn mWhI[
ilv lwg Anwhd kI Duin so ibnsy BvbMDn Aoj mjwlw[
He could not raise his head when the Guru put his hand hand on it.
As soon as the hand touched the head, the doors of the mind were opened and he gained knowledge of the three worlds.
His mind went into deep concentration and he started to hear the music of God’s land. All of the filth in the mind was cleaned away.
Guru Nanak stayed for sometime at Bhai Lalo’s house. In a short time, the Guru’s stay at Bhai Lalo’s house became the talk of the whole town. In those days, high caste Hindus were not suppose to sit with people of low caste. Brahmins and Khatris (high caste) did not like the Guru’s act. They said, "This holy man (sadhu) is a Khatri by caste, but he has a low-caste Muslim as his companion. He lives and dines with a low-caste Hindu. He is doing something which no Hindu should do. He has taken the wrong path."
Some of them went to the Guru. They advised him to give up living with the low-caste carpenter. They said, "You are doing what no high caste Hindu should do."
The Guru replied, " I am not a Hindu. I am not a Muslim. I have a religion of my own. I have no caste. In my view all men are equal. A man who does good, noble deeds is a high-caste man. One who does low, evil deeds is a low-caste man. In my view, therefore, Bhai Lalo is a high-caste man."
As They had no reply to this comment, they went away.
Emiabad belonged to a Muslim chief, named Zalim Khan, who appointed Malik Bhago, a man from the kshatriya high caste to run the village. This man was greedy, proud and cruel, He was a very rich man who had acquired his money through dishonest and wicked means. To show his village neighbours what a good man he was he would hold a feast (Brahm Bhoj) on a certain day every year in which all of the village would come and share his great gift to them. Malik Bhago would also invite every known holy man to his feast and then asked for them to pray for his health, happiness in this world as well as a place in heaven. When he heard that Guru Nanak was in the village he immediately sent a messenger to invite Guru Nanak his feast also. To his great surprise Guru Nanak declined the invitation by saying "We are fakirs, What have we to do with your feast?"
On the day of the feast, the entire village was at Malik Bhago’s house. Many saints also came, but Guru Nanak, Bhai Mardana, and Bhai Lalo were nowhere to be seen. When Malik Bhago saw that Guru Nanak did not come, he got very angry and told his men to go and Bring Guru Nanak to his house.
When the men came and confronted Guru Nanak, he agreed to go to Malik Bhago’s house. The Guru took along with him a roti (bread) from Bhai Lalo’s house.
When he arrived there Malik Bhago said, "You know today the entire town is feasting in my house. How is it that you have rejected my invitation."
The Guru replied, "I eat what I like. I refuse to eat what I do not like. I like the food given by Bhai Lalo. I do not like the food given by you."
Malik Bhago said to Guru Nanak in great anger, "You are dishonouring Kshatris by eating dry chapaties in the house of a low caste carpenter. I invited you to this feast which offers delicious food, why are you refusing to eat this ?"
Guru Nanak replied, "To me, no man is high or low caste, everyone is equal."
Malik Bhago then questioned, "Why is it that you have accepted coarse food from a low-caste carpenter, but do not wish to eat my richly-made dishes, which everybody else seems to enjoy so much?"
Guru Nanak said, "Your food is not pure. I can not eat impure food. Your blood soaked food does not agree with me. So, I do not like to take it.
Malik Bhago said, "You are trying to tell me that the dishes prepared by me are impured and polluted with blood while the crumbs of Lalo’s house are pure? How dare you say this."
Guru Nanak said that he could prove it. He asked Malik Bhago to bring a tray with the food he has prepared. When the tray came, in one hand he held a richly greased pooree (bread) from Malik Bhago’s feast and in the other hand he held the roti (dry bread) that he brought along from Bhai Lalo’s house.
He squeezed them both. To the surprise of the crowd, drops of milk trickled from the dry bread of Bhai Lalo, while from the bread of Malik Bhago came drops of blood.
This event is described in the Mahima Parkash:
lY ipMfI swg kr imh dbweI[
sRvq dUD qW mYN AdkweI[
Bojn jg kr sO ly mlw[
rkq kI Dwrw qw mo clw[
The Guru said, "You have seen the difference between Bhai Lalo’s food and yours. Bhai Lalo is a good, God fearing man who earns his food through honest labor and shares his earnings with others. Such a person’s food is pure. It is sweet like milk and honey. But you are a different kind of man. Others work for you and you take away most of what they earn. You do not let them have enough to eat. They are ill fed and hungry. What you eat is full of their blood. You are proud, cruel, and greedy. You never think of God. How could I agree to eat your food full of poor people’s blood?"
The Guru’s words went deep into Malik Bhago’s heart. He fell at the Guru’s feet, and said, "Tell me, O holy man, how I may get pardon for my sins?"
The Guru replied, "Give all you wealth to the poor. Do honest work to earn your living. Be good and kind to all. Give up your pride. Be humble. Always remember God. Love all men as your brothers. Help everyone who needs your help. Serve all who need service. That is the way to win God’s forgiveness and love."
Guru Nanak lifted him up gently, embraced him and said, "Remember Bhago, your annual feast will bring you no credit until you really mean to help the poor and the weak. Charity given out of ill-earned wealth brings no blessings."
The news spread that a Guru, who could challenge caste and authority, with such courage unknown before, travelled the countryside. More and more people came to listen to the enlightening words of the Guru.
Once, the Sultan of Emnabad’s son fell ill and could not be cured by any doctor.
After a lot of search and trials by ‘Faqirs’, somebody suggested that Guru Nanak is in Eimnabad, he may cure the boy. The Sultan’s wife came and grabbed the Guru’s feet, asking for help. The Guru advised him that his sons good health lay in the blessed crumbs of a pious man.
Guru Nanak asked Bhai Lalo to bring a piece of bread (roti) from his house. Having brought the bread, Guru Ji asked the boy to eat the piece of bread. As soon as the boy ate it, he was cured of his illness. This miracle made the name of Bhai Lalo famous as a pious and saintly man.
There was a small well in the courtyard of the house of Bhai Lalo where Guru Ji used to have his daily bath. This well was filled up in later years but recently the Ramgarhia Community bought this house of Bhai Lalo and the historic well was re-dug. This is one of the most important places of Guru Nanak’s divine journeys – which is now included in a Sikh’s pilgrimage to the holy places in Pakistan.
Bhai Lalo was blessed by Guru Nanak to spread the message of the Divine Name. He became a devout Sikh and preached the Guru’s gospel to the people of Saidpur.