Sikh Bhagats : Bhagat Sain ji
SAIN, whose one hymn has been included in the Guru Granth Sãhib, is counted among the disciples of Rãmãnand (13001411). Guru Arjan, Nãnak V, says in one of his hymns in the Holy Book that the name of Sain was a household word as a bhakta of rare devotion (GG,487). In another, hymn, he refers to him as an example of dedication to the service of holymen. Bhakta Ravidàs in a sabda in the Guru Granth Sähib ranks Sain with Nãmdev, Kabir, Trilochan and Sadhnã in piety (GU. 1106). According to Bhãi Gurdäs, Sain was the disciple of Rãmänand and he had adopted him as his preceptor on hearing of the fame of Kabir (1398-1518) who, too, was Rãmãnand’s disciple. All accounts agree that Sain was a barber, some stating that he served at the court of the king of Revã, then called Bändhavgarh, in Central India, while others hold that he was attached to the court of the ruler of Bidar in South India. Those supporting the South Indian tradition believe that Sain was a disciple of jnãnadeva. What is the best àrati or form of adoration of the Lord is the theme of Sain’s pada incorporated in the Guru Granth Sãhib. According to Sain singing of His praise and meditating on His Name constitute the highest worship. These alone will ferry one across the fearful ocean and bring him liberation.
There are two varying accounts of bhagat Sain’s life. Some people hold that he was an employee of the ruler of Bidar and a faithful devotee of Saint Gyaneshwar. But according to the popular tradition he was a barber who served as a personal attendant under Raja Ram, the ruler of Bandhawgadh.
Bhai Gurdas, who regards him as a follower of Gosai Ramanand says that under Kabir’s influence, Sain the barber became a bhagat. His nights were consecrated to a loving adoration of the Lord while the days were devoted to the humdrum duties at the King’s darbar. Bhagat Sain as been classfied with the other greater bhagats in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib,
With thy grace, O Lord I were redeemed
Namdeva, Kabir and Trilochan
As were Sadhna and Sain.
Guru Arjan writes,
Jaidev has abandoned ego,
And, Sain, the barber, has been redeemed by serving the Lord.
Deeply interested in bhagati, Sain was always found in the company of the holy. Once a member of sadhus gathered together and went on reciting kirtan throughout the night, thus preventing Sain from attending to his work. Next morning when he went to the Raja and apologise for his absence from duty. The Raja remarked that he had done his job well.
Sain was overwhelmed with gratitude that God came to his rescue. The Raja realised that he had reached to such a elevated stage that God had sent someone else in place. Thus the Raja and his entire family became the devotees of Sain.
Shabad by Bhagat Sain in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib
With incense, lamps and ghee,
I offer this lamp-lit worship service.
I am a sacrifice to the Lord. || 1 ||
Hail to You, Lord, hail to You!
Again and again, hail to You, Lord King, Ruler of all! || 1 || Pause ||
Sublime is the lamp, and pure is the wick.
You are immaculate and pure, O Brilliant Lord of Wealth! || 2 ||
Raamaanand knows the devotional worship of the Lord.
He says that the Lord is all-pervading, the embodiment of supreme joy. || 3 ||
The Lord of the world, of wondrous form,
has carried me across the terrifying world-ocean.
Says Sain, remember the Lord,
the embodiment of supreme joy!
Bhagat Sain was a disciple of Bhagat Ramanand and consequently lived in the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century of the Christian era. He was a barber at the court of Raja Ram, king of Rewa, then called Bandhavgarh. The tendency of the age was towards devotion and religious composition, and Sain found leisure in the midst of duties to study the hymns of Ramanand, shape his life on the principles inculcated in them, and successfully imitate their spirit and devotional fervour.
The accomplishments and duties of an Indian court barber at the time of Sain were and are still of a miscellaneous character. He is something of a surgeon and ordinarily a marriage or match-maker, he oils the king’s body, shampoos his limbs, pares his nails, shaves his face and head, if he be a Hindu, and clips his moustaches, if he be a Musalman; amuses him with gossip and tales; often plays the rebeck and sings his own compositions, which deftly combine flattery of his master with social satire or pleasentry.
God is said by the Hindu chronicler to have cherished Sian as a cow her calf. He frequented the society of holy men and was very happy in their company. He performed for them all menial officies, for he believed that serving saints was equivalent to serving God himself.
The Bhagat Mal contains a legend which at once illustrates Sain’s devotion to saints and the estimation in which he was held for his piety. When going one day to perform his usual ministrations for King Raja Ram, he met some holy men on the way. He thought it was his first duty to attend to them, He took them with him, and began to render them with the customary services. With the greatest mental satisfaction to himself he gave them consecrated and secular food to relieve their souls and bodies. In thus acting Sain disregarded his duty to the king and braved his displeasure.
The legend states that a holy man, by God’s favour, in order to avert the king’s wrath and save Sain from punishment, assumed his appearance, and having gone and performed the customary duties for the king, took his departure. Soon after Sain arrived and began to apologise for the delay. The king said, “Thou hast only just gone after the usual services to me; why apologise?” Sain replied, “ I have not been here. Perhaps thy majesty sayest so to excuse my absence.” The Raja then knew that a special providence had intervened and performed for him the usual tonsorial duties. He was at once converted, fell at Sain’s feet, worshipped him as his guru, and thus sought an asylum in God. It had at any rate at the time of the composition of the Bhagat Mal become an established custom that the successive kings of the house of Bandhavgarh should always be disciples of the descendants of Sain. They are now said to be followers of Bhagat Kabir.
Having made an oblation of incense, lamp, and clarified butter,
I go to offer to Thee, O God.
Hail to Thee, O God, hail!
Ever hail to Thee, O Sovereign God!
Thy name is the best lamp, meditation theron the purest wick;
Thou art alone the Bright One, O God.
It is the saints of God who feel divine pleasure;
They describe Thee as all-pervading and the Supreme Joy.
Thou, of fasniating form, O God, float us over the ocean of terror.
Sain saith, worship the Supreme Joy.
- Macauliffe, M.A (1909). The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus Sacred Writings and Authors. Low Price Publications
There is no denying the fact that the pure and pious souls influence mankind irrespective of the barriers of any kind. The kings make special efforts to get their history written but because of the precious deeds and altruistic words of the personages saturated in the love of God, new history is compiled daily in praise of them although it may not be possible to ascertain the exact date or year and place of their birth so as to confirm to the definition of history. Keeping their multi-faceted greatness in view, everybody feels proud in linking that personality to himself or considers himself blessed by linking himself with him. This has been the case with several contributors to the Sikh Scripture. Bhagat Sain is one such person. According to some scholars, Sain who was born in 1390 AD, belonged to Karnataka. Their assumption is based on the evidence that Sain was once in the service of the king of Bidar, a town in Karnataka. Some others opine that Sain remained for most of his life in the service of the King of Bandhavgarh in Rajasthan and thus conclude that he might have belonged to Rajasthan. Apart from these two schools of thought, there is another view which believes Sain to be a Panjabi. According to this view, Sain was born in the early morning of the full-moon day of Maghar in 1343 AD in the village of Sohal, in Amritsar district. His father’s name was Baba Mukand Rai and mother’s Jiwan. When he came of age, he went over to Lahore to stay with his aunt (father’s sister). Sain married Sulakhani of Jalkhar, and led a householder’s life. They had only one son born to them.
Later on, they migrated to Delhi from where he went into the service of a king of Rajasthan. It was during his stay there that he received spiritual enlightenment. Maybe, the above given facts are not unadulterated history, but this proves beyond doubt that the fame of Sain had reached beyond Panjab up to Rajasthan and Karnataka, but his links with Panjab are well established. Even now there stands a Gurdwara and a water reservoir in the village of Sohal Thathian to commemorate his memory. It is also said that Sain himself inaugurated the digging of this reservoir on the bank of which he used to spend long hours in meditation. Panjab Govt officially celebrated his 654th birthday on 6.12.1997 in this village itself.
The biography of Sain as it emerges from the historically authentic evidences is narrated below:
In the only hymn of Sain that appears in the Guru Granth Sahib (P.695) under Dhanasri measure, he says with genuine pride that only his spiritual mentor Bhagat Ramanand knows the way to Naam-simran, (meditation of Name) and he perceives God as all-pervasive and immensely benevolent. Thus, it becomes obvious that Sain was disciple of Ramanand of Prayag who has been acknowledged the founder-preacher of the Bhakti movement in Northern India. Bhai Gurdas (Varan, X. 16) says that after Kabir, Sain was the second important disciple of Ramanand. Herein Bhai Gurdas gives ample information about him which can be summed up as follows:
After Kabir who enjoyed great name and fame, another person from the so-called low castes to rise to spiritual heights was Sain, a barber by birth, He used to remain absorbed in Divine Name at night and visit early morning to the royal palace to massage the king’s body so as to cure it of various physical maladies. One day he had some guests and he remained occupied all the night in Kirtan or singing of Divine eulogy. Thus service of the saints and the Sangat made him miss his duty at the palace to serve the king. Realizing the intensity of his love for the saints and the Sangat, God Himself adopted Sain’s form and went over to the palace and served the king. Consequently, the malady of the king was cured. On the other hand Sain, after he got free from his guests, went to the king with utter humility so as to seek forgiveness for his absence. The king saw from afar Sain approaching, an( calling him to his presence the king removed his cloak and put it on him as a token of his pleasure. He further told Sain that the way he massaged him last time had really captivated him. All his ailments have vanished. This was heard by the entire mankind. In this way God Himself intervened to prove the greatness of his devotee. Now let us see what Guru Arjan Dev has said in this connection in one of his hymns:
Referring to the incident related above, Bhai Gurdas says.
When the king heard from Sain’s own lips the account of his absence, he thought very highly of the spiritual greatness of the saint. He was so impressed that he, along with his family, became disciples of Sain. Guru Arjan Dev has in a hymn reiterated such a view :
One that is lowly without a name,
By contemplation of the Name in all
four corners becomes revered.
Beloved! Thy sight I seek: Pray grant it
Numberless by Thy devotion are saved. SGGS- 386
The above incident in Sain’s life made his faith in God more intense and firm: it is inexpressible in words. From then onward Sain was always absorbed in the meditation of the Divine and sang songs in Praise of God who provides joys to all.
lt was perhaps keeping this episode in view that Ravidas has written about Sain and other saints like him. He said that God is capable of doing whatever he wishes.
Namdev, Kabir, Trilochan, Sadhna, Sain-all are saved.
Saith Ravidas ; Listen ! devotees of God!
All within the Lord’s power lies. SGGS-1106
One more point becomes clear from the verse as quoted above: Ravidas was either a contemporary of Sain or was well familiar with his name and fame.
Guru Arjan Dev had composed a hymn in Basant measure wherein the Guru refers to Jaidev’s egoity and then his discarding of it. Herein he also said that Sain had adopted the profession of a barber to earn his livelihood. Writing of his fame, the Guru says in a verse as follows:
This implies that Sain who did various odd jobs in the village had become very famous. The Guru felt it proper that a person’s status should not be determined from one’s profession or from the family in which he was born. Rather his deeds should determine his status in society. That is why he says about Namdev: God pushed the Brahmins and Khatris away, and instead embraced a calico printer as His son. Any profession is pious if it is marked by honesty and righteousness.
The hymn of Sain as included, in the Sikh Scripture is given below:
This hymn could be summed up as follows : I am sacrifice unto them who are ever absorbed in the aarti of the supreme Lord (In fact the true aarti of God cannot be performed with the help of lamp and incense, rather it is possible only with one’s firm faith and deep love for Him.) O God, it is only Thy devotees who recognize You, remember You, and sing Your praises. So please bless me with Thy grace so that 1 am also able to swim across this world-ocean.
Bhagat Sain spent his entire life in the name of God and ultimately breathed his fast in AD 1440 at the age of 50. His followers have been anxious even today to follow in his footsteps and thus make a success of their life by devoting themselves to singing eulogies of the Lord.