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The Magic Of Kartarpur - III





What of Mardana? The one who had spent all his life with Guru Nanak.

Bhai Gurdas in his vaars places Mardana on the very next pedestal: “Baba Nanak was one with the Almighty, and second to him was Rababi Mardana”.

How blessed was he to have that closeness with Guru Nanak! 

Mardana was no ordinary person. He was Nanak’s friend and disciple like no other. The minstrel had the liberty to joke with the Guru. At times he would even get angry and questioned his actions.

One day, Mardana told Nanak: “Don’t feel too great. I am no less. You are His minstrel and I am yours”.

Another thing that was special about this association: Mardana was a Muslim, and a Marasi, which was then considered one of the ‘lowest’ castes, while Nanak came from a family which was ’Khatri’ and a Bedi, which was then considered one of the ’highest’ castes.

It was an age when even a shadow of such a ‘low’ caste was considered pollution by the Hindu firmament and warranted punishment to the ‘lesser’ caste and a slew of self-cleansings -- a situation which sadly still remains in present day Hinduism.

Guru Nanak rejected the blight of casteism, preaching against it all his life. And the embodiment of this aspect of his life-work was that he embraced Mardana as a brother.

How did Guru Nanak meet him?

One day he heard someone playing a rebeck (rabab) and went up to him and said: “You play very well. Come with me we will combine raag with shabad and transform it into kirtan“. 

That was the birth of gurbani kirtan.  

In 1524 at Kartarpur Mardana fell ill. Guru Nanak knew that his life-long friend’s  time had come to go Home. He asked him how he would like his body to be disposed? That is, would he like it buried like a Muslim, or cremated, or consigned to a river or put in the Well of Death of the Parsees. Or he could have a permanent memorial by his body being entombed in marble. 

Wise Mardana said: “Wah, Baba, wah! Master, you have released my soul from the body, why imprison my body in stone again?”

Guru Nanak embraced him and said: “Mardanya, you have become truly enlightened!” 

Mardana has been honoured by the inclusion of three of his compositions as shabads in Bihaagre ki Vaar in The Guru Granth Sahib.

December 10, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: K.N Singh (Johor Baru, Malaysia), December 10, 2015, 4:24 PM.

Excellent article with a prime lesson that association with the Guru, through His Granth, is the key to salvation and liberation of the soul. What happens to the body after that is of no consequence.

2: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), December 11, 2015, 9:50 AM.

"Jin manas tai devtai keeyai karat n laagee vaar" [GGS:463] - "the Guru transforms persons into angels in no time". Guru Nanak first met Bhai Mardana in 1480 at Talwandi (Now Nankana Sahib, Pakistan). Their companionship lasted for 54 years. Bhai Mardana one time begged with joined hands to Guru Nanak that 'you are One with God and you should never separate me from yourself.' Baba replied: 'Mardanyaa, I am pleased with you. Wherever you live, I will live". Mardana died in 1534 at Kartarpur. Guru Nanak Sahib personally disposed his body in River Ravi.

3: Dya Singh (Melbourne, Australia), December 11, 2015, 3:46 PM.

Wah, Sangat Singh ji. So simply put, yet profound! Please keep writing these simple sakhis which have such profound messages. Reminds me of the work that Inni Kaur is doing with her 'Journeys with the Gurus'. So important for the younger and future generations of Sikhs.

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