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The Magic Of Kartarpur - IV







There was a knock on the door of Lalo’s simple and humble home. When he opened the door he was awestruck to see Guru Nanak and Mardana, and fell at the Guru’s feet. This was Narayan, a-visiting Himself! 

As a downtrodden on the lowest rung of society, he didn’t even know how to welcome them to his dilapidated home. Once somewhat composed, he requested them to come in and have a meal. 

Lalo was used to having to demarcate and cleanse a square space (chaunka) within which a visitor could sit and eat, as was required of a ‘low’ Hindu caste receiving one of a ’high’ caste. As he began to wash the floor, Guru Nanak stopped him: “Lalo, there is no need for a special area. The entire world is His chaunka. Come sit with us and let’s break bread together.”

Lalo laid out before the two all he could muster from the meagre food he had in his almost bare cupboard.
Mardana took a bite and, with the very first morsel, said: “Baba, I have never had a tastier meal before.”

Guru Nanak replied: “Mardanya, this taste is due to his honest labour that beats all other tastes of worldly delicacies.“

Word quickly spread through the village that an unusual holy man had arrived, accompanied by a ‘low-caste’ Muslim, a Marasi, as his companion. Soon, delegations of Hindus arrived to express their shock and to advise Guru Nanak to flee Lalo’s abode, leaving Mardana behind. His being in the company of the two, they said, was unholy and foolhardy.

But, Guru Nanak explained, “I am neither a Hindu nor a Muslim. Humanity is my religion. I have no caste. I see all people as equal and noble. They are of a high caste if they make an honest living and practice compassion. Bhai Lalo, despite his tattered clothes and humble hut, is such a man.”    

News of this exchange reached Malik Bhago, the corrupt and dishonest village chief who annually held a feast to flaunt his wealth and impress the village with his feigned magnanimity. He would invite the Brahmins, and after treating them with the rich repast, have them pray for his good health, happiness and also an ultimate place in the heaven. 

When he heard about the new arrival, he immediately sent a messenger to invite Guru Nanak to his great feast. 

To his great surprise, Guru Nanak declined his invitation. Malik Bhago was enraged and ordered his goons to bring the Baba to him by force, if necessary. 

Before he left, Guru Sahib took a roti from Bhai Lalo’s house, and put it in his bag, in case he would get hungry.

When Guru Nanak arrived at Bhago’s mansion, the latter was livid that he, Guru Sahib, had dishonoured all Khatris and their ‘caste’ by accepting coarse food from a low-caste carpenter and by rejecting his, Bhago’s, feast of delicious food.

Guru Nanak declined to partake of any food at the feast. Bhago demanded an explanation for the affront.

“Your food,” said Guru Nanak, “is not pure. It is soaked with blood and it does not agree with me.”

Bhago was beside himself in rage. “You insult this wonderful food as impure? And what you were offered by that low-caste is pure?”

Guru Nanak was silent for a few moments. Then he reached over and picked up a roti from the thaali (platter) of delicacies that had been placed before him.

He then dug into his bag and pulled out the roti he had brought with him from Lalo’s.

He held Bhago’s roti in one hand, and Lalo’s in the other, and squeezed both his fists tightly.

Legend says that Bhago’s roti began to drip with blood. From Lalo’s roti in the other hand emanated a trickle of milk. 

Guru Sahib gently said: “Lalo’s roti is the fruit of honest labour, O Bhago. It’s sweet and sumptuous and life-giving. Yours, however, is the product of dishonesty and all that you have taken away from the poor. It is not palatable, it is but poison. Lalo’s is as sweet as milk, yours reeks of blood.”

It is said that Malik Bhago fell at Guru Nanak’s feet and begged forgiveness. “Baba, how do you I wash my sins away?” he entreated.

“Return all the wealth to the poor that you have robbed. Do honest work and be kind and humble towards all. Above all, remember at all times The One, the Lord of all creation, of the rich and the poor, the ‘high‘ and the ‘low‘. In His eyes, we are all His children.”

He then opened his arms wide. Bhago and Lalo, both teary-eyed, together fell into Nanak’s embrace.

December 16, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), December 16, 2015, 10:34 PM.

Guru Nanak Sahib lived on a farm and worked on a farm in the latter part of his life in Kartarpur. He had an instinctive association with those who toiled for a living through manual labor. Of all men and women, he chose Bhai Lalo, the carpenter, as his companion. In Sikhi, every form of labor is considered sacred when performed as a duty in spirit of worship.

2: Sangat Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), December 17, 2015, 12:25 PM.

"hatth kar val ... dil kartar val" - 'While your hands toil, keep your thoughts on Him'. What could be simpler! Guru Nanak showed us the way by doing it Himself.

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