BABA MAKHAN SHAH LOBANA THE GLITTERING JEWEL OF SRI GURU TEGH BAHADUR’S DARBAR
Sri Guru Teg Bahadur was the youngest son of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib, born on 1st April, 1621 A.D (24 Chet, 1678 Bikrami) at Guru Ki Nagri Amritsar. He became the ninth Guru of the Sikhs on 16 April 1664 A.D. (8 Visakh 1721 Bikrami) History of the Sikh Religion Vol 1, P. 153. After the death of Sri Guru Har Krishan, a dispute arose regarding the declaration of next Guru. Sri Guru Har Krishan had made out that the next Guru would be at Bakala. Bhai Makhan Shah‘s efforts made the task easy for declaration of Sri Guru Teg Bahadur as the ninth Guru of the Sikhs.
Bhai Makhan Shah was the son of Bhai Das and Pota of Artha . He was the rich trader of Pelia Gaurta of Lobana tribe. He was born on 7th July, 1619 A.D. (23 Ashad 1676 Bikarmi) at village Tanda in the Jhelum District (now in Pakistan). W. Crooke in his book “Tribes and casts of north west India (Vol. 1. P.154)”, basing his account on many authorities, gives an elaborate account of the Supreme teacher. According Bhai Vahi Tumar Bijiauton Ki . Bhai Makahn Shah was the son of Das, Grandson of Artha. Great –grandson of Bana . A decedent of Bahorhu. Bhai Makhan Shah was Pelia by cast belong to village Tanda in pargana Muzaffrabad (Kashmir). Their principle village is Tanda (which means large caravan of loaded bullocks). all these places described as Tanda were slowly and slowly established as permanent Deras of Lobana tribe with the passage of time they attained their identity with suffixing the nearest villages name i.e. Tanda Urmar, Tanda Mari, Tanda Mota. Records pertaining to 1891 and 1901 censes revealed that Lobanas had semi permanent establishment in Bahawalpur State and they were 56 thousands in numbers. One third of them were Lobana Sikh and the remaining were Sehaijdhari Sikhs. They were mostly traders and some of them were earning their livelihood from allied professions as Munshis / Clerks. Gujrat Kathiawar had 64 thousands Lobana traders. Many of them had their trade links with Arab countries (imperial gazzeted of India, 1908 Vol. XV, P.177). in the mean while a number of villages had come up in the most of the districts of the undivided Punjab , in the 3rd 4th quarters of the 19th century , Labanas participation in the armed forces was noticed and they proved to be very good soldiers not only this , they also adopted the profession of Agriculture in addition to trade. This became necessary due to fall in the trade in the light of lying of new railway lines in India by the British rulers.
Bakala is the historical village in the Amritsar district in Bakala , Bhai Mehra devout discipline of Sri Guru Hargobind had built up beautiful house just before the birth of Baba Teg Bahadur and invited Sri Guru Hargobind Ji and his mother Mata Ganga to be the first to step in to the house and grace it with their presence . A week later, Mata Ganga breathed her last. After performing the last rites of his mother Sri Guru Hargobind left the place blessing Bahi Mehra and the house he had built. Bhai Mehra begged the Guru to make the house his permanent abode. Sri Guru Hargobind appreciated his devotion and sentiments and assured him that one of his successors would come to the place and stay there for quite a long time. It is quite possible that when Sri Guru Hargobind asked his son Baba Tegh Bahadur to go and stay at Bakala, he had this promise to Bahi Mehra in mind also Bakala was an ideal place, where he could live in solitude. For nearly 20 subsequent years Guru Tegh Bahadur lived in solitude amid the busy surroundings of Bakala, like a moon moving among the faint stars.
On March 30, 1664 when Sri Guru HarKrishan passed away, he declared that his successor was to be found at Bakala. The body of Sri Guru HarKrishan was cremated on the banks of the river Jamuna. It may be noted that the immersion of the mortal remains of the late Guru in the waters of the Ganaga at Hardiwar was performed (vide Bhat Vahi Talauda pargana Jind ) on May 13 1664 by Mata Sulakhni , Baba Ram Rai and Diwan Dargha Mal. It was after this that preparations were set afoot for the installation ceremony of the next Guru. Nearly twenty two pretenders set themselves up as successors of Sri Guru HarKrishan at Bakala. Dhir Mal the elder son of Baba Gurditta had set up his camp at Bakala and organized various propaganda to capture Guruship. All these persons had created a tense situation at Bakala. Being a disciple of Sri Guru Har Rai, well versed in Sikh traditions and the history of its leadership, he knew that only one Guru Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur could succeed him.
A few months passed in this state of confusion , and then in the month of August (Bhadon Amavas, 1721 BK, 11 August 1664) a Sikh sangat (congregation) from Delhi arrived in Bakala in obedience to the Late Guru’s command for the installation ceremony of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur . The Sangat was headed by Diwan Dargah Mal son of Dwarka Das Chhibar, a prominent devotee of Sri Guru HarKrishan Bhat Vahi Taluada Pargana, Jind makes mention of several other eminent Sikhs who accompanied the sangat from Delhi. Some of them were Chaupat Rai son of Pera grandson of Gautam Chhibar, Jetha son of Mai Das and grandson of Ballu and great grandson of Maula Mani Ram son of Mai Das and grandson of Ballu Jammu son of Padma and grandson of Umiada and Mata Sulakhni mother of Sri Guru Harkrishan. The aforesaid Bhat Vahi also refers to the presence on this occasion of Dwarka Das son of Arjani Sahib and grandson of Baba Mohri Bhalla who was the younger son of Sri Guru Amar Das and Baba Gurditta Randhawa son of Baba Budha. A mention of these two people is also found in Sri Guru Kian Sakhian by Sarup Singh kaushish . How they happened to be there is no where explained but the possibility is that special message must have been sent to them to come at Bakala, (Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur by Fauja Singh name Gurbachan Singh Talib)
The installation ceremony was held at regular diwan specially convened for the purpose. Diwan Dargah Mal informed the assemblage about the late Guru’s decision regarding the nomination of Tegh Bahadur as his successor and then presented to him the five pieces and one nariyal (coconut) he had brought from Delhi, in token of the conferment of Guruship of him. The tikka ceremony (fixing of saffron mark on the forehead) was performed by Baba Gurditta son of Baba Budha . This was followed by all people assembled there coming up one by one and paying homage to the new Guru with what voluntary offerings he or she could conventionally make . Normally speaking a formal installation ceremony such as the above should have put at rest all doubts and controversies regarding the succession, but it did not yield the desired result rather as if stimulated by it, the contenders became even more active and assertive and continued to misguide the in suspecting Sikhs who happened to visit Bakala to see the new Guru’s blessings.
Not worried by what Dhir Mal and other impostors were doing and confident truth would ultimately prevail, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur went about his work in the normal way. Ten days after his accession on Bhadon Sudi 10 (august 21) he went to Kiratpur to condole with Bibi Roop Kaur the deaths of her father, Guru Har Rai and her brother Sri Guru HarKrishan Dev. According to Bhat Vahi Multani Sindhi and Guru Kian Sakhian, he was accompanied during this journey by Baba Dwarka Das son of Baba Arjani Sahib, Diwan Dargha Mal son of Dwarka Das Chhibar and Jaggu son of Padma. The visit synchronized with the holy ceremony of immersion of the Guru’s ashes in the waters of Satluj on 22 August 1664 AD..
Exactly two months after the installation ceremony on the occasion of diwali a very important event took place at Bakala which brought to an end the acrimonious controversy regarding the question of succession. There was the coming of one Makhan shah Lobana with a view to meet the Guru and by way of thanks giving making an offering of certain previously pledged 500 gold mohars to him with his two sons Lal Chan and Chandu Lal and his wife Slojai. He was a rich trader with a large convoy of horses, bullocks, camels and cart carrying tents and goods, guarded by a strong body of armed men . His main business was to supply provisions to moving Mughal armies by Land/ River. Only recently a ship carrying him and his goods had been caught up in a storm. His life and goods were in great danger. In this hour of difficulty he prayed to Sri Guru Nanak to help him to safety. He vowed that if he escaped the apprehended ship wreck, he would donate to the Guru 500 gold mohars. His prayer was answered and he was in a mood of thankfulness for the divine mercy bestowed on him. He had first gone to Delhi but hearing that Sri Guru Harkrishan had passed away and that his successor was at Bakala, he arrived here. But he was greatly bewildered to see a whole contingent of Gurus each one of them claiming that he alone was the true Guru whereas all others were mere imposters.
Under large canopy sat Dhir Mal on a raised platform with the holy Sri Adi Granth he placed two mohars before Dhir Mal. Dhir Mal blessed him and offered him a rob of honor (Saropa) After spending about two to three hours with Dhir Mal, Makhan Shah came back disappointed and disgusted.
Every day Makhan Shah visited three to four pretenders and offered two mohars to each one of them. None of them could claim that he had vowed the offering of five hundred mohars. He was so much disappointed that he had a sleepless night. The next morning he was worried and perplexed not knowing what to do. He came out of the tent and looked at the crowd he asked is there any other Sodhi Baba in Bakala whom I have not able to meet as yet? The agents and advocates of impostor gurus at once replied there is none beside those you have already met but this was contradicted at once by a lad saying, there is one more Baba Sir who lives in the silence of his meditation who is he ? Asked Makhan Shah eagerly. The boy replied he is Baba Tegh Bahadur people sometimes call him Baba Tegha. Go and meet him and he will not even talk to you. He is the only Sodhi Baba living in Bakala for the last many years and all these twenty two claimants are new comers to Bakala. Sir I can show you the house and you can know the truth yourself. Advancing towards the boy Makhan Shah said come my lad show me the house of Baba Tegh Bahahdur. Just before he reached the house a messenger from holy mother Nanaki met him and advised him to meet the guru alone. This was exactly what Makhan shah wanted. When he opened the door he was greeted by holy mother Nanaki. Makhan Shah bowed reverently and touched her feet. She blessed him, and guided him through a large courtyard to Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur’s room. In the courtyard Makhan Shah saw some familiar faces. He recognized Diwan Dargah Mal and Bhai Gurditta whom he had met at the court of Sri Guru Har Rai. He wanted to talk to them but holy mother Nanaki pointed to the room on the right side where he would find Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur. As he stepped into the room he felt a strange atmosphere of peace and meaningful silence.
The next movement he stood at the entrance of meditation cell, wherein he could see Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur sitting in the resplendent joy of supreme enlightenment. Deeply moved but without saying a word he stepped down in to the cell and after placing two Mohars before the Guru he bowed low in humble reverence. God bless you my man but why only two Mohars after pledging to offer five hundred said Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur. The Guru is never in need of anything but a Sikh is expected to keep his pledge to the Guru. Makhan Shah was so overwhelmed by this chance discovery of the true Guru that quite for some time he could hardly speak. He placed his head on the feet of the Guru and wept like a child. The love and light of the Guru swept through his mind, body and soul. It happened on 7-10-1664. Makhan Shah came out of Guru Ji room climbed on the roof and flew his chadar over his head and started saying “Guru Ladho Re” Guru Ladho Re”( have found the Guru). I have found the Guru come one come all, the true guru is here. Thousands of people were waiting to have the darshan of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur. He asked two of his men to announce by the beat of the drum that the true Guru is Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur and none else. He asked his attendants to bring all the gifts respectfully to the Guru’s house while he himself carried a robe of honor specially prepared for the Guru. Makhan Shah appealed to Guru Ji to give audience to the people waiting outside and let the people see the true Guru. I am servant of the sangat, I will come out and greet the sangat said Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur in utter humility. With a compassionate smile on his face Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur said so you could not resist the temptation of shouting and proclaiming your discovery from house top, yes Gurudev said Makhan Shah, I just could not resist the temptation. In the courtyard a manji was placed and on it Makhan Shah placed five hundred Mohars before the Guru and also offered special robes and gifts. All the rich and poor who had come, there made their offerings and met the Guru one by one. The Guru blessed them all and sang Shabad (Hymn) in Rag Sorath. Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur was enthroned as the Ninth Nanak. Makhan Shah took care to inform all new comers that Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur had finally been declared the Ninth Guru of the Sikhs. One impostor after another started leaving Bakala. Dhir Mal himself feared that his growing unpopularity at Bakala might reduce even his earlier influence, he had been calling himself Guru within this region for the past twenty years. Dhir Mal was so demoralized by his growing unpopularity that he planned to assassins his uncle Guru Tegh Bahadur so that after the murder he would be the senior most Sodhi to claim and acquire the Guruship of the sikh community. Ram Rai was not in the field. He had already kept out of the contest. Dhir Mal realized that as long Makhan Shah and Kirpal Chand, Bhai Jetha and Bhai Dayala were near the Guru he could not succeed in his plan of killing Tegh Bahadur. There was a sudden calm in Dhir Mal’s camp. No one in the least suspected that it was the lull before a storm. Dhir Mal and his shihan masdands (agents) within a week collected weapons including spears, swords, bows and arrows and on a fateful day early in the morning Dhir Mal sent a number of spies who were asked to give him report about everything that was happenings in the darbar of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur.
As soon as Makhan Shah and his men had left the durbar for meals and Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur was left only with a few personal attendants and members of household with about a hundred fully armed men shihan’s rushed out of the house commanding all other men of his gang to follow him. Dhir Mal followed them in the rear to watch and direct the operations, if possible. The raiders powered upon everyone they met. Kirpal Chand, Bhai Jetha, Bahi Dayala put up a stout defense with whatever stick or staff they could get hold of. In the next movement shihan’s aimed a bullet at Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur and fired point blank. Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur had a minor bullet injury on his shoulder. Kirpal Chand and Bhai Jetha asked all the men to hold their arms and be prepared to punish the bandits and redeem the stolen goods. A messenger was immediately sent to Makhan Shah. Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur urged everyone not to be upset by the material losses. Soon Makhan Shah arrived with his armed men. Makhan Shah was shocked at the damage done to the durbar and injuries sustained by Guru Ji and others. Makhan Shah marched with his men towards Dhir Mal’s house. Dhir Mal bolted the doors from inside and shihan’s took the responsibility to defend the house.
The next movement Makhan Shah was at the door loudly asking Dhir Mal to surrender all stolen property immediately or be prepared for dire consequences. Shihan’s and Dhir Mal’s gang hurled abuses at Makhan Shah and Kirpal Chand and their men. The next movement, Makahn Shah and Kirpal Chand ordered their men to storm Dhir Mal’s house and punish everyone who resisted but to avoid killing anyone. After a tough fight every one of Dhir Mal’s masands and hired bandits were arrested and dragged to the presence of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur. Addressing Dhir Mal Makhan Shah said I have spared your life just because you are Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur’s nephew otherwise I would not have hesitated to destroy a cowardly killer like you. Dhir Mal and his masands were down on their knees begging the Guru to pardon their offences. Deeply moved by their tears of repentance, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur not only ordered their immediate release, but even resented the harsh treatment accorded to them. Explaining his action Makhan Shah said Gurudeva if we allowed ourselves to be robbed and plundered the way Dhir Mal and his masands have done we might be completely annihilated. How could we tolerate their attempt to murder Thee Master? All the items brought from Dhir Mal camp were returned as per Guru’s directive. Dhir Mal then reprimanded Shihan for all these happenings and next day left for Kanpur
Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur had gone in silent meditation for five days without having taken any food or water. Holy mother Nanaki, Mata Gujri, Bhai Gurditta and Diwan Dargha Mal took some food, water and fruit and hurried to place. They were followed be Makhan shah and other disciples. On November 22 1664 ad Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur left for Amritsar in response to invitation of Dwarka Das and Bhai Garhia. Makahn Shah’s convoy carried provisions. There are two different versions of what happened to Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur at Amritsar. According to the evidence of Bhat Vahi Tumar Bijlaution ki and Guru Kian Sakhian by Sarup Singh Kausihsh, no untoward event came to pass on this occasion and Harji son and successor of Baba Meharban and the then custodian of Harmandir sahib, Amritsar along with his son Kanwal Nain and the local sangat came round and made obeisance before Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur and personally took him inside the premises of the Harmandir Sahib. According to Dr. Tarlochan Singh as soon as Guru and others reached straight at Harmandir Sahib to pay obeisance to the sacred place, they found the doors of the entrance closed to them. The whole of Amritsar was now under the control of Harji Mina. The Mina’s had full control of Harmandir Sahib and they were afraid that they would be thrown out in the same manner as Dhir Mal had been thrown out from Bakala. Makhan Shah said to the Guru I will not let them treat us like that permit me Master to compel them to open the doors. No Makhan Shah said Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur calmly we will never use force. Just then a peasant woman named Hariyan of nearby village Valla stepped forward and begged the Guru to spend the night at Valla as her guest. Makhan Shah now found an opportunity to enter the temple and pay his homage to the sacred shrine. He then denounced and admonished the priest in the presence of the women who had come there to question them. When the priest came to know that the man addressing them was Makhan Shah who had severely punished Dhir Mal, they became cautions not to annoy or contradict him. They started making lame excuses to defend their action. Makhan Shah explained to them how he had tested all the impostors and how Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur had been acknowledged as the rightful successor to Sri Guru Har Krishan. Makhan Shah told them I would (handle all of you) teach you a lesson here and now but Gurdeva has ordered me to be tolerant towards even notorious people like you.’’
The next day Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur thanked Mata Hariyan and came to Amritsar where the priest tendered a formal apology. After paying homage at the sacred shrine, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur went to Goindwal. From Goindwal Guruji, Makahn Shah, Mati Das and Dyal Das rode on horse backs ahead of everybody and under the supervision of Kirpal Chand followed a large convoy. Now that Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur and his followers had reached Kiratpur in March 1665. A number of distinguished visitors came to pay the homage to the master. Rani Jalal Devi, wife of the Late Raja Dip Chand of Bilaspur offered substantial amount of money and land to build a new city for guru’s residence. Guru refused to accept the land as gift but agreed to buy it on reasonable payment in the vicinity of Kiratpur. Bhai Makhan Shah had made considerable contribution in the payment. An old village Makhowal 8 km away from Kiratpur was selected as the site for the new holy city, which was first called Nanki Chak and after its extension with villages’ Mathpur and Lodhipur is named as ANANDPUR”. (The city of Joy)
The masands from various regions started coming for the Baisakhi. Bhai Rai and his son’s Naghaiya, Hema and others from Delhi also brought special offerings of other disciples, along with other masands. Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur blessed them all and gave robes of honor. A well planned city started being constructed. Land was also given free to the traders and shopkeepers for starting business centers and to peasants to settle there on the condition that they gave a portion of their produce for the common kitchen. The house which Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur built for his residence is called Guru Ka Mehal
As soon as the rainy season was over and it was high time to attend to his trade commitments, with a heavy heart, he asked his men to get ready to depart. He first saw holy mother Nanaki and sought her blessings. The holy mother said Makhan my dear child the services you have rendered will be remembered for all the time to come. To me you shall always be as dear as my son and wherever you go and wherever you are, my blessing shall always be with you. He then bowed in devout reverence to the divine. Guru who affectionately said would you leave us so soon brother Makhan? What will be the Guru durbar without you? Makhan Shah then went to the Guru’s durbar to bid farewell to the Master. With folded hands Makhan Shah stood before Guru Tegh Bahadur, who bestowed on him very costly robes and honour and blessed him Godly grace and said , “ you are the most sincere and loyal devotee of Sri Guru Nanak . All your bonds of birth and death are broken.” Makhan Shah bowed low and placed his head on the lotus feet of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur. The master’s hands blessed him with tender affection and urged him not to make the parting so painful. Without turning his back to the Guru, he came out of the durbar. He left for his destination along with his carvan of men, material and machinery.
Makhan Shah’s contribution in processing the present site of Anandpur Sahib is worth mentioning. Kirpal Chand and Makhan Shah had an active participation during the course of transfer of land. Makhan Shah expired in 1674 AD leaving his wife and sons Lal Chan and Chandu Lal.
For many years Makhan Shah dominated the stage of eventful Sikh history, as defender of faith, champion of truth and revealer of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur. He was a terror to impostors and a relentless fighter against falsehood in all spheres of life. Makhan Shah was a practical soul, powerful and imposing in action, capable of handling laborious tasks, organization and always impatiently patient in upholding and revealing the glory and greatness of his beloved Master. He was decisive and uncompromising in his conviction, inspired and creative in his vision. He was submissive and humble before his Guru . He spent all his time, money and energy under the guidance and inspiration of the Guru, sought to remove the physical, mental and spiritual hungers of the toiling and suffering humanity.