Bhai Kaliana was one of the followers of Guru Arjan. When the Guru needed money for the Golden Temple, he asked for help from his Sikhs. Kaliana offered help to the Guru and said, “My Lord, I shall go to the hill Rajahs in the North and collect money. I will also preach the Guru’s word there.” The Guru agreed and Bhai Kaliana set out for Mandi. On reaching there, Kaliana found the place so pleasant that he decided to stay there and tell people about the Guru’s way of life. He sent money to the Guru and received permission to stay a little longer.
The king of Mandi and his subjects used to celebrate a special festival of religious worship every year. Everybody in his kingdom was required to join in the celebrations by order. That year the order read – “All the people will keep one day’s fast. Nobody will sleep at night. Tomorrow all must go to the temples and break the fast by drinking water in which the idols have been washed. Those who do not obey these orders will be punished by law.”
All the people obeyed the king’s order. Bhai Kaliana was the only one who did not keep the fast and so did not join in the celebrations. When the king learnt about this, he was extremely angry. At once he gave orders for Kaliana’s arrest. So Kaliana was brought before the king. Burning with anger, the king said, “Who are you? What is your religion? Why did you not obey my orders?”
“Sir,” said Bhai Kaliana very humbly, “My name is Kaliana. I am a Sikh of the famous Guru Arjan, the fifth in the line of the great Guru Nanak. Like all his followers, I recite only hymns in praise of God and have no faith in stone idols which neither see nor hear nor speak. I wonder how a stone can be pleased and what we can gain from it! God is the life within our lives. He is ever merciful to us all. Yet that God you suppose to be a stone. How can God be pleased with you when you regard him as no better than a stone that lies around everywhere and is kicked by our feet.”
The king was mad with anger. At once he ordered Kaliana to be put into prison. The next day, Kaliana was again ordered to come and bow down to the idol. But Kaliana refused and said, “My idol is living. He is the great Guru Arjan, the king of holy men. I will bow only to him and to no one else.”
Red with anger, the king ordered that one leg of Bhai Kaliana be cut off and that he should be dragged out of the kingdom by the other leg. After giving these orders, however, the king fainted so the punishment was delayed. Doctors came and tried their best to cure the king but it seemed as if he was dead. Some wise men said, “This is all due to the unfair punishment given to the holy stranger. Instead of punishing him, the king should have shown respect to him.”
One of the king’s officers at once went to the jail and requested Kaliana to come to the king’s bedside. Kaliana came and said, “I am very sorry for the king, but I have done nothing to him. I have no power to help him either. All such power lies with God. I can only say prayers and that too, only if you promise to make the king believe in God instead of a stone.” The wise men and the ministers standing there promised to do that.
Kaliana stood up, folded his hands, asked the others to join him and prayed to God to save the life of the king. As soon as Kaliana had finished the prayer, the king rose up as strong as before. He bowed to Kaliana and said, “O holy man, please pardon me.” Saying this he fell at Kaliana’s feet. He then ordered his men to make his horse ready and to tell his queens to dress up quickly. When all was ready he requested Kaliana to lead them all to the Great Guru Arjan as quickly as possible.
The king, the queens, and many of his officers, set out to see the Guru at Amritsar. On the way, hundreds of other people joined them. Kaliana was leading them and they were all singing hymns in praise of God.
“Did God put aside all other days of the month That He should have been born on the eighth’! Man, led astray by error, utters nonsense. God is not subject to birth and death. Man takes cakes and gives them secretly to an idol. O faithless animal, God is not born, nor does He die. All your sin results from fondling an idol; May the tongue that says ‘God entered the womb’ be burnt; Nanak’s God is everywhere.”
“Having found the company of holy men; I have rejected all ideas of duality. There is no enemy and no stranger; Everybody is my friend. Whatever God wills, is all honey to me; This noble instruction I have gained from the holy. One and the same God fills every heart; And it is this presence of the Lord everywhere that Makes Nanak feel jubilant.”