Raja Rattan Rai: Bhai VIR SINGH. Translated from Punjabi by BIMAL KAUR
Extracts from ‘Sri Guru Kalgidhar Chamatkar’ (1925), by Bhai Vir Singh
Chapter 2 (continued from yesterday)
The Raja ordered five of the swiftest horses and when he learnt of Guru Sahib’s emphasis on Sikhs training in weaponry, he placed an order for the best guns and rifles with the local gunsmith.
A novelty was one called Panj Kalaa. When attached to a sash, it resembled a small dagger; when a knob was pressed, it became a small gun resembling a modern-day pistol; another twist gave it the shape of a mace.
Along with these, he ordered a low stool made of sandalwood, which converted into the ancient game of Chauparr. It was like blackgammon, played with an oblong dice and it had four puppets sitting around it like players.
From Dacca, which was famous for its mulmul – a supremely fine cotton fabric – this and silks were sent for along with pure pearl strings, gold ornaments studded with gems for wearing on the turban.
While all these preparations were going on, the Raja called his council of Ministers and handed over the reins of the kingdom to them to oversee its smooth running in his absence. All the Ministers had been in service for a long time and they had received the gift of naam from Guru Tegh Bahadar. They were very happy to see their young sovereign follow in his father’s footsteps.
The Raja discussed with his mother all his plans and showed her the gifts for Guru Sahib which he was collecting. She was overjoyed at his enthusiasm. She had revealed another secret to him that she had a beautiful saroop of Guru Granth Sahib from which she recited paatth daily. She taught the same to him and it became a part of his morning routine as well.
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“pir ratiarrae maiddae loen maerae pyare chatrik boond jivae ..."
O my dear heart, my eyes are longing for the Almighty’s darshan, like the papiha (Lovebird) longs for that celestial drop of water from heaven [GGS:452].
One day, after completing his day’s work, the Raja came into his mother’s room. His eyes were full of tears, but his cheeks were flaming red. Sitting beside his mother, he said:
“Gurbani says, ‘Get rid of your ego,’ and Ammi, whatever I have prepared for Guru Sahib with so much enthusiasm, I have done with my love, my eagerness to please Him, my wish that He likes them and blesses me. What if He does not like any of these things which reek of my ego and He pushes me away?”
Overcome with emotion, he choked but his tears would not stop.
The mother looked tenderly at her son and gently said:
Listen, child, your father spent a great deal of time after having darshan of Guru Tegh Bahadar, with five gursikhs who stayed back to assist in our journey into Sikhi. They trained us in the Sikh way of life and helped us in achieving a state of naam ras. Only then did they return home.
From whatever we achieved and received by Guru’s grace, I can confidently say that the exuberance and joy you are feeling are pure emotions and not the result of your vanity. You are making all these efforts for the happiness of your beloved Guru whom you love. This desire to please Him is a gift from Waheguru, a blessing which fills your heart with so much elation.
A heart which has felt the tender touch of beloved Guru Sahib and in which there is a longing for His darshan, so intense as to make every other act appear meaningless, cannot be considered egoistical. The desire to collect gifts of rare beauty to present to the beloved and feel joy in His happiness is a sure sign of selflessness.
My darling, in our love for Guru Sahib and Waheguru, we need to be without any desire or wish. This will enable us to rise to a higher spiritual state. I feel that your love for Guru Sahib is filling you with a yearning for His darshan and to please Him in every possible way.
Raja: Amma ji, I do have a selfish wish. At times I am filled with love for Him, yet at other times I feel a great fear of death. What happens after fills me with a deep sadness. Then I feel the urgent need to meet Him and please Him so that He takes pity on me and relieves me from the cycle of birth and death. So you see, Amma ji, some self-interest has crept into my devotion. Help me find a cure for this.
His mother smiled and said: My sweet child, the wish to purify one’s soul by removing the taint of selfishness caused by maya, is a step on the path of true Sikhi. Our spirit is a part of Waheguru and the desire to free it of all worldly entanglements comes from an awareness that we are sleeping soundly in the lap of moh-maya from which we need to wake up. And this realization comes with Waheguru’s grace.
Raja: Then, Amma ji, are my love and eagerness correct?
Mother: Whatever is happening here is as per our Master’s wishes and blessings. When He feels benevolent towards anyone, He creates the love of Guru Sahibi in his heart.
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Finally, the day dawned, when they were to depart for Anandpur. The Raja had ordered a comfortable palanquin for his mother and another for her maids. All the gifts were safely packed in strong wooden boxes and loaded on horses. He himself, along with his close companions, the chief minister and a number of soldiers to provide security on the way, rode on horse-back.
The Raja had planned the route well. Whenever they came to a village where Sikhs lived and there was a gurdwara, the party would stay for a couple of days and hear about the experiences of the Sikhs who had personally had Guru Sahib’s darshan and received His blessings. They would visit the gurdwara and offer parshad and stay to listen to the kirtan and gurbani recitation.
Soon they reached Patna Sahib, where Guru Gobind Singh was born and had spent His childhood years. They went to the gurdwara, bowed in veneration and applied the dust on their foreheads. The sangat gathered and warmly welcomed the Raja and his party.
After the evening satsang, the Sikhs narrated Guru Gobind Singh’s childhood activities, to which the Raja listened with rapt attention. He was overwhelmed to meet the people who had met Guru Sahib and been blessed by Him. Listening to their experiences increased the love for Him in the Raja’s heart and he spent ten days there. He visited the banks of the River Ganga (Ganges) and bathed in the same waters in which young Gobind used to frolic with his group of friends. He even saw the earthen pitchers which had been playfully pierced by His arrows. They had been preserved very carefully fond memory of His years there.
Before leaving, the Raja gave a substantial sum for the renovation of the building in which young Gobind was born.
Continuing their journey at a good speed, the cavalcade reached the River Sutlej. As they neared Anandpur, they saw lush, green land with numerous shady trees. Selecting a beautiful spot, the Raja gave orders to make camp. Large tents were erected and soon everyone was comfortably settled.
Meanwhile news reached Guru Sahib that the Sikh Raja of Assam had arrived. He sent messengers with orders: “The Raja is our guest and proper arrangements must be made for his stay. Food and water for him and the people accompanying him and everything else necessary for their comfort must be made available. For the horses, elephants and other animals, fresh grass, hay and oats and water must be sent to the camp at the earliest.”
Mama Kirpal Chand, who was Guru Sahib’s maternal uncle, went and welcomed the Raja, his mother and the other members of his party. He personally supervised all the arrangements for their stay and explained Guru Sahib’s daily routine to them.
The Raja and his companions were very pleased with the warm welcome they received. The night was spent to ease the fatigue of the long journey. Early next morning, the Raja’s Diwan (minister) went to meet Mama ji to request for an appropriate time to come for Guru Sahib’s darshan.
Meanwhile, the Raja’s mother, Rani Swaranmati, called him to come and sit with her. Taking his hand in hers, she spoke softly:
My son, you have brought exquisite gifts for Guru Sahib, but remember that whatever we have is His; nothing belongs to us. We have to offer these gifts joyously, with the hope that Guru Sahib will accept them and be pleased with our humble devotion. The enthusiasm, love and reverence that you are feeling are by His grace. Hold these blessings close to your heart and let no other feelings ever replace them.
The Raja sat with head bowed, listening to his mother with concentration. Then, he uttered just one word, “Ardas”. Immediately his mother stood up, folded her hands and with eyes closed, she began to pray:
O Waheguru ji, we do not have the refinement to be able to perceive your presence. We are crude, worldly people and can only pray for your grace. Earlier you had appeared in the form which we could see and gave us thrilling glimpses of a world we could not fully comprehend. Since that time we have lived with your memory and pined for your darshan as our Guru. And now, with your benevolence, you have given us the opportunity once again to satisfy these yearning eyes. Bless us that we see you and absorb the image for all time in our hearts. Let there be only you and nobody else.
I am grateful that the son you sent with your blessings has come to love and revere you. May he hold this love in his heart for all time to come. Bless him so that he clings to you as a child clings to his mother, never to forget you. We are weak and get distracted by the world and can only beseech you to hold us close so that we stay on the right path, our faces directed only towards you. We have come to your door-step with the complete belief that our weaknesses will be forgiven and that You will be always there to show us the right path. Please bless us!
They stood, lost in the fervor of the prayer, their faces awash with tears. Finally, they opened their eyes which were shining with deep adoration. The Raja turned to place his forehead at his mother’s feet. His heart was filled with love and gratitude for it was due to her efforts and loving guidance that he was walking on the path of dharam.
But his mother caught him by the shoulders and said, “No, my son. This forehead is going to touch Guru Sahib’s lotus feet and must not bow to anyone else’s feet.”
Guru Sahib’s messenger arrived then to inform them to come to the diwan as Guru Sahib was already there.
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“gur Nanak tuttha maerae pyare melae harae ..."
O my dear, Guru Nanak in the kindness of His heart has granted me a glimpse of the Lord’s presence [GGS:451].
Accompanied by his minister and other officials, the Raja quickly made his way to the diwan and paused at the entrance. With bated breath and his heart ready to burst with joy, he knelt and touched his forehead to the ground. Keeping control of his emotions, he stepped inside and again bowed in veneration. As he stood up he saw Guru Sahib and was struck by His beauty and spiritual aura.
He felt a pull at his heart as he had never felt before. With hastening steps he reached Guru Sahib and fell at His feet, clasping them tightly and placing his head on them.
The sensations he felt then, he could never have imagined. An electrical current ran through his body and an unbearable sweetness permeated his being. A sense of peace, of purity, engulfed him. His body felt light as air and momentarily, he lost all awareness of himself and his surroundings. With returning consciousness, he realized that all the sweetness and joy he was feeling was emanating from the touch of Guru Sahib’s beloved feet. He did not wish to lose this magical moment and clung to them.
Slowly, he became aware of Guru Sahib’s blessed hand on his head, gently caressing it and sending thrills through his whole being. Then Guru Sahib spoke:
Arise, Raja! You have received Waheguru’s blessings for this and the next life. Arise, Sikha, kalyan! [You are set free from all things which bind you and keep you away from Waheguru!] Arise, Rattan Rai, nihal! [May your spirit always be in a state of exaltation!]
Reluctantly, Rattan Rai let go of Guru Sahib’s feet and sat up. For some time, he sat as if in a trance, then slowly he opened his eyes, glanced at Guru Sahib and again closed his eyes. After a while, as he became more alert, Guru Sahib asked him about the welfare of everyone and the long journey he and his companions had undertaken. The Raja, respectfully replied to the queries.
The minister then stood up and narrated the details of Guru Tegh Bahadar’s visit to Assam where He had met Raja Ram Rai, who had become a Sikh and prayed to Guru Sahib for the boon of a son, which was granted. Then he went on to tell of how Rani Swaranmati, Rattan Rai’s mother, had to take over the reins of the kingdom when her husband passed away at an early age. She had done this with wisdom and compassion. She loved Sikhi deeply and spent a great deal of time in paatth and naam simran. She had brought up her son to be true to Sikh values and to rule over his people with kindness and justice.
Guru Sahib asked the Raja where his mother was and when He was told that she was waiting at the camp for permission to come for His darshan, He immediately sent someone to fetch her. She came with eager steps.
The same spiritual strength and divinity which she had seen in the eyes of Guru Sahib’s father, she now perceived in the son. She was filled with joy and quickly moved forward to place her head on Guru Sahib’s beloved feet. From the touch, He could sense the depth of her spiritual joy which had been granted to her by Guru Tegh Bahadar and which she had nurtured so devotedly. In an emotion-filled voice, He spoke:
“Mai, nihal! Waheguru ji’s blessings are with you now and in the future as well.
Swarnmati, true to your name, your atma too is pure gold. May you always dwell in the presence of Waheguru.
The Raja now folded his hands and spoke beseechingly:
Sacchay Paatshah, grant this lowly creature the gift of Sikhi.
Guru Sahib: “Nihal!”
A great deal of time had passed. Guru Sahib left for His residence and the others too dispersed to go and have their meals and rest.
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[Sardarni Bimal Kaur, the translator, has embarked on a project to make available more of Bhai Vir Singh ji's works in English.]
Continued tomorrow ...
March 1, 2017