Bhai Budha occupies a unique position in Sikh history. He applied tilak of guruship to five Gurus, saw seven Gurus and remained in close association with first six Sikh Gurus from 1521 to 1628 for over one hundred years. He was the first priest of Hari Mandar, and laid the foundations of Dera Baba Nanak and most of the holy buildings at Amritsar. His original name was Bura. He was born on October 22, 1506 A.D. His father’s name was Sugha Randhawa and mother’s Gauran. They lived in Kathu Nangal village of Amritsar District. After some time they settled down in Dhalla village not far away from river Ravi opposite Kartarpur.
In 1524 A.D. Guru Nanak along with Bala was returning to Kartarpur on the western bank of river Ravi where he was living. On the way in the jungle the Guru sat under a tree to take rest. Near-by he saw a boy grazing cattle. The Guru called him, and asked him about his village and parents, etc. Then he told him to go and look after his cattle. The boy enquired if he could do him any service. The Guru said there was nothing to be done by him and he had called him by the way.
Bura found out the name of the village where the holy man lived. Next morning he took a pot full of butter-milk with a lump of butter floating in it to the Guru. He presented his humble gift in all reverence and humility, and listened to the Guru’s sermon with care and attention. At the end Bura asked the Guru to tell him the way to attain salvation. Nanak remarked that such a problem did not concern a boy at that young age. As Bura insisted, the Guru remarked that he was young in age but great in wisdom and was not Bura but Burha or Budha, because he talked like an old man. Since then Bura came to be called Bhai Budha. He became a sincere devotee of the Guru, spent a good deal of his time with him, and lived like a hermit.
At Guru’s house Bhai Budha served with utmost devotion. He rose early under the light of stars, cleaned the house, polished the hearth with sticky mud, filled the pitchers with water, milked cows and buffaloes, worked in the fields and served in the langar. He attended all the sermons of the Guru, and was always at the Guru’s beck and call. Whenever Guru Nanak went on a preaching tour in the neighbouring villages, Bhai Budha took care of the Guru’s household, and served Mata Sulakhani, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das like a true devotee.
Later on Nanak decided to nominate his successor. He chose Bhai Lehna for this purpose. One day the Guru held a special langar and then a durbar. He placed a coconut and five paise before Bhai Lehna, called him Angad and appointed him the next Guru. At the Guru’s bidding Bhai Budha applied the tilak on Angad’s forehead.
On Guru Nanak’s death in 1539, Guru Angad left Kartarpur and established his seat at Khadur near river Beas. Bhai Budha lived at Kartarpur. Guru Nanak’s elder son, Sri Chand, was not happy at his supersession in favour of Angad. The new Guru did not like to give any offence to Nanak’s family. He shut himself up in the house of an old woman named Bhirai at village Sanghar, and told her not to disclose his identity. The Guru spent his time in meditation, and for a year and six months1 Sikhs could not trace him. They approached Bhai Budha who led them first to Khadur and then to Sanghar. He prevailed upon the Guru to give up seclusion and resume his duties.
Once there were heavy rains in summer. The river Ravi was heavily flooded. It ate away a lot of land. Nanak’s tomb situated on the river bank stood in great danger. Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das dug up the brass pitcher containing Guru’s ashes. At some distance they decided to bury ashes in a new village. The foundation stone of the first building there was laid by Bhai Budha and the place was called Dera Baba Nanak.
Guru Angad invented Gurmukhi script. In order to popularise it, he started teaching it to the children of the Sikhs. Bhai Budha also learnt it and then took up the Guru’s duty to teach it.
At the time of Amar Das’s nomination to guruship, it was Bhai Budha who performed the tilak ceremony. Guru Amar Das shifted his headquarters from Khadur to Goindwal in order to avoid any conflict over the issue of succession with Guru Angad’s sons. Even there the new Guru was not left in peace. Following the example of Guru Angad, he left Goindwal and hid himself up in a hut in the jungle near Basarke village, with instructions that he should not be disturbed. Bhai Budha jumped over the back wall and persuaded the Guru to attend the Sikhs who were regularly calling at Goindwal.
The tilak ceremony of the fourth Guru, Ram Das, was also performed by Bhai Budha. Guru Ram Das started digging the tank of Amritsar, and Bhai Budha was made the superintendent of digging operations. It was under his care that the tank was completed.
Bhai Budha applied tilak to the fifth Guru, Arjan. He was the youngcst son of Guru Ram Das. Arjan’s eldest brother Prithia was intensely hostile to Arjan and persecuted him as much as he could. As Guru Arjan had no issue for many years, Prithia proclaimed that the Guru was not destined to have any offspring, and the guruship would eventually come to him. To Guru’s wife, Mata Ganga, was cut to the quick at such remarks. She begged the Guru to bless her with a son. He told her to get the blessings of Bhai now Baba Budha. The Baba was then living in the jungle of Basarke village. Mata Ganga waited upon Budha in a grand procession with rich presents of food, sweets and fruits. Budha did not like this show and remained cold. She complained to the Guru. He advised her to go there again like a peasant woman with bread butter-milk and onions only. The lady was blessed. The sixth Guru Hargobind was her only child.
Guru Arjan appointed Budha tutor of Hargobind. For the compilation of the Adi Granth Budha was sent to Mohan to bring the collection of the hymns of the previous Gurus and on its completion. he was made the first priest of the Hari Mandar. Having placed the bound copy of the Holy Granth on a cot, Baba Budha carried it on his head barefoot to Hari Mandar, followed by Guru Arjan also bare-foot with a peacock feathers’ fan waving over the sacred scriptures. Bhai Gurdas was third to follow at the head of sangat. The first recitation was done by Bhai Gurdas.
Prithia lodged a complaint with Emperor Akbar while on a visit to Panjab that the Adi Granth contained objectionable material against. Hinduism and Islam. The Guru sent the holy book to the Emperor at Batala under care of Bhai Gurdas and Baba Budha. As no undesirable matter was found therein, the Emperor sent them back with khilats and presents. The foundation stone of Santokhsar tank at Amritsar was laid by him.
Baba Budha applied the tilak of guruship to Guru Hargobind. The young Guru asked him to adorn him with a sword. Baba Budha. had never handled a sword. He put it on the wrong side of the Guru. When the Guru pointed out the mistake, the Baba wanted to remove it to the other side. The Guru did not permit him to undo a holy act. He asked him to tie another sword on the right side. Thus the Guru was adorned with two swords called by him as the symbols of Miri and Pin. After this the Baba laid the foundation stone of Akal. Bunga and Akal Takht.
When Guru Hargobind was imprisoned in the Gwalior fort, Mata Ganga sent Baba Budha there to bring the news about the Guru. Budha visited the place 768 kilometres away at the head of many sikhs. The tank of Kaulsar at Amritsar was constructed under Budha’s supervision from 1624 to 1627. He passed away in 1628 AD at the age of 122 years. His son Bhana erected Budha’s tomb in 1629 at Ramdaspura.
Devoted Service to Six Gurus
Guru Nanak & Guru Angad Dev
Bhai Buddha became a devoted disciple. His marriage at the age of seventeen at Achal, 6 km south of Batala (31°- 49’N, 75°- 12’E), did not distract him from his chosen path and he spent more time at Kartarpur where Guru Nanak had taken up his abode than at Katthu Nangal. Such was the eminence he had attained in Sikh piety that, at the time of installation of Bhai Lahina as Guru Angad, i.e. Nanak II, Guru Nanak asked Bhai Buddha to apply the ceremonial tilak on his forehead. Bhai Buddha lived up to a ripe old age and had the unique honour of anointing all of the four following Gurus. He continued to serve the Gurus with complete dedication and remained an example of holy living for the growing body of disciples.
Guru Angad Dev ji invented Gurmukhi script. In order to popularise it, he started teaching it to the children of the Sikhs. Bhai Budha also learnt it and then took up the Guru’s duty to teach it.
Guru Amar Das & Guru Ram Das
He devoted himself zealously to tasks such as the digging of the baoli at Goindval under the instruction of Guru Amar Das and the excavation of the sacred tank at Amritsar under Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan. The ben tree under which he used to sit supervising the excavation of the Amritsar pool still stands in the precincts of the Golden Temple. He subsequently retired to a bar or forest, where he tended the livestock of the Guru ka Langar. What is left of that forest is still known, after him, as Ber Baba Buddha Sahib.
Guru Arjan Dev & Guru Hargobind
Guru Arjan Dev ji placed his young son, Hargobind, under Bhai Buddha’s instruction and training. When the Adi Granth (Guru Granth Sahib) was installed in the Harimandar on 16 August 1604, Bhai Buddha was appointed granthi by Guru Arjan. He thus became the first high priest of the sacred shrine, now known as the Golden Temple. Following the martyrdom of Guru Arjan on 30 May 1606, Guru Hargobind raised opposite the Harimandar a platform called the Akal Takhat, the Timeless Throne or the Throne of the Timeless, the construction of which was entrusted to Baba Buddha and Bhai Gurdas, no third person being allowed to take part in it.
The young Guru Hargobind asked Baba Buddha ji to adorn him with a sword. Baba Buddha ji had never handled a sword. He put it on the wrong side of the Guru. When the Guru pointed out the mistake, Baba ji wanted to remove it to the other side. The Guru did not permit him to undo a holy act. He asked him to tie another sword on the right side. Thus the Guru was adorned with two swords called by him the swords of Miri and Piri. So at the Akal Takht Sahib, Bhai Buddha performed, on 24 June 1606, the investiture ceremony at which Guru Hargobind put on two swords, one on each side, symbolizing miri and piri, sovereignty and spiritual eminence, respectively.
Baba Buddha passed his last days in meditation at Jhanda Ramdas, or simply called Ramdas, a village founded by his son, Bhai Bhana, where the family had since shifted from its native Katthu Nangal. As the end came, on 16 November 1631, Guru Hargobind was at his bedside. The Guru, as says the Gurbilas Chhevin Patshahi, gave his shoulder to the bier and performed the last rites Bhai Gurdas, further to quote the Gurbilas, started a reading of the Adi Granth in memory of the deceased. The obsequies concluded with Bhai Gurdas completing the recital and Guru Hargobind presenting a turban to Bhai Buddha’s son, Bhana. Two shrines stand in Ramdas commemorating Baba Buddha, Gurdwara Tap Asthan Baba Buddha Ji, where the family lived on the southern edge of the village, and Gurdwara Samadhan, where he was cremated.