Kids Corner


Raja Rattan Rai:
Part I

Bhai VIR SINGH. Translated from Punjabi by BIMAL KAUR




Extracts from ‘Sri Guru Kalgidhar Chamatkar’ (1925), by Bhai Vir Singh

Chapter 1

"tunn birahu jagavai maerae pyarae neend n pavai kivai ...”

O my Beloved, the longing for the Almighty is like a sharp pain piercing my body. It keeps me awake and will not let me to sleep. [GGS:452]

A handsome young man, Raja Rattan Rai, stood in front of the mirror, combing his flowing hair. Suddenly, he paused as he spotted a mark on the upper edge of his forehead. He peered closely. He felt that it looked like a script but it was not very clear. Then he thought, maybe the mark was made by a childhood injury, but its outline was very different.

It continued to intrigue him and he wanted to find out more about it. He decided that his mother would be sure to know, so, tying his turban quickly, he went to her room.

He found his mother sitting with closed eyes and folded hands, deep in prayer. Without disturbing her, he quietly sat down. After a while when she opened her eyes, he went forward and bowed down to touch her feet. She took him in a close embrace and kissed his forehead.

The Raja said, “Amma ji, what is this mark on my forehead?” and he removed his turban so that she could see it.

The mother looked at the mark, bowed her head and a few tears fell from her closed eyes. The Raja became very upset, thinking that he had made his mother unhappy. Hurriedly he spoke, “Amma ji, have I been disrespectful? Is that why you are crying?”

The mother opened her eyes, which were still brimming with tears and looking at her son, she gestured a ‘no’. She wanted to talk but her throat was choked with emotion and she could not utter a word. The son took her hand lovingly in his and said, “Amma ji, please don’t cry. If you don’t want to talk about it, then I won’t ask, but please smile.”

After a few moments of silence, the mother cleared her throat and said, “My darling, this mark was not made by an injury. This contains the story of your life and in it is hidden the secret of your and my salvation.”

The Raja spoke in an urgent voice, “Amma ji, then tell me about it, please.”

“My darling, I hope that when you hear the details, by Waheguru’s grace, a feeling of divine devotion and love will fill your heart,” said the mother. “You are very young, and the mind is preoccupied only with having fun and enjoying oneself. At this tender age, the responsibility of the kingdom has also fallen on your shoulders. To learn this secret, you must compose yourself and listen with complete concentration and reverence. Had your beloved father been alive, he would have revealed this to you in his wise and balanced manner. Now the Lord’s will has given this difficult task to me.”

Raja: You are my beloved Amma ji, the best Ammi anyone can have. Don’t fret so much and tell me and I promise that I shall only do what my Father wanted of me and which will make you happy.

Mother: Then listen, my dear, dear son. You were sent to us by the Lord when we were well-advanced in age. Aurangzeb was the Emperor of our country at that time. He was autocratic and ruled the people with cruelty, causing them much distress and hardship.

Our Heavenly Father sent a special soul to this world to aid the suffering people and introduce them to lives of truth and godliness. My son, that holy spirit was known as Guru Nanak.

[Here, the mother's face glowed red. She lowered her forehead and touched it to the ground. When she lifted it up, a few tears shone on her cheeks. The Raja held his breath and listened in silence.]

Mother (continues): “Yes, my son, Guru Nanak appeared in Punjab, which bore the brunt of the atrocities committed by the barbaric rulers. He travelled almost all over the world and spread the true name of the Lord and brought people close to Waheguru.

Raja: Tell me, Amma ji, tell me quickly, where is He now?

Mother: My child, He completed His divine work and returned to the Lord. However, He left behind another soul, who carried His divine light within him, Guru Angad.

When Guru Angad left this world, He passed on to Guru Amardas the same light and divine duty.

In this way, my dearest, seven Guru Saheban followed Guru Nanak. Then came  Guru Tegh Bahadar, with the same aura of divinity and godliness. We had only heard about the other Guru Sahib, but blessed are these eyes as they gave me the opportunity to have His darshan.

Excited, the Raja said: “When, Amma ji, when was this?”

Mother: At that time you had still not come into this world.

Raja: And you went yourself for His darshan?

Mother: Yes, my child. He had come to bring Waheguru’s message for the people of Assam. Earlier, Guru Nanak had come and travelled all over the land. There is a gurdwara in His memory in Dhubrri. Similarly, Guru Tegh Bahadar came for liberating our souls from the worldly ills and to reveal to us the true spiritual life. His fame spread and your father heard about Him from various people. So, he decided to take all of us for His darshan.

Since the time of Guru Nanak, we had become Sikhs but had forgotten a great deal. He had destroyed the power of black magic of the famous sorceress, Noorsha, who used to entice people and enslave them. She became His Sikh and began to lead a life of simplicity, serving the needy and reciting Naam. This incident caused Guru Nanak’s name to be known and revered by everyone.

Now, when the people learnt that the Ninth Nanak – Guru Tegh Bahadar had come, they began to travel from far and near for His darshan.

We too reached His presence. A great wave of sweetness and joy swept through our beings, filling us with a lightness of spirit we had never felt before. There was no feeling of strangeness. In fact, we felt as if we had known Him all our lives. After a while, our tongues began to recite ‘Waheguru, Waheguru’.”

Raja: Amma ji, what is ‘Waheguru’?

Mother: It is the name of our Eternal Father, Akal Purakh, and the chant of our Guru Sahib. Your Father was so overcome with emotion that he fell at Guru Sahib’s feet and begged for the gift of Sikhi. Guru Sahib lifted him up and granted Naam Daan (the gift of Naam) to all of us and the blessing of belonging to Waheguru. We became Sikhs all over again.

One day, Guru Tegh Bahadar saw your father sitting in a sombre mood and asked him the reason for his low spirits. Your father replied, ‘Sacche Patshah, I am getting old and do not have a son. I am filled with concern as to who will look after the affairs of this vast kingdom, who will keep the people safe. Earlier, I used to worry all the time, but since I have been blessed with the touch of your feet, I am at peace. Only at odd moments am I filled with confusion.’

Guru Sahib had been wearing a ring which He had taken off and was passing it from one hand to the other while He listened to your father. His eyes closed and opened a couple of times, a strange mystical glow in them. Your father now bowed and said, ‘If you grant me the gift of a son I’ll feel truly blessed to have received a gift from the abode of Guru Nanak’, and he fell at Guru Sahib’s feet.

With a sweet smile on His lips, Guru Sahib touched His ring on your father’s forehead and said, ‘Raja, a child will come from Guru Nanak’s abode. The hair on his head will grow long and must remain so all his life. On his forehead will be the mark of my ring as an assurance that he has indeed come from Guru Nanak.’

So, my son, Guru Sahib’s words came true and a year later you were born. The whole family was astounded to see not only the mark of the ring on your forehead but the mark of ‘Ik Oankar’ in Gurmukhi inside the design of the ring. You have indeed come as a blessing from Guru Sahib and bear His stamp.

*   *   *   *   *
The Raja had been listening with bated breath, tears sparkling on his eye-lashes. Now, he heaved a sigh and asked, “Amma ji, is it possible that I too can have darshan of Guru Sahib?”

His mother sighed deeply and said: “Guru Sahib was against the tyranny of Auranzeb, so He took it upon himself to go among the people to convey His sympathy to them and to give them courage through repeating of Naam. People came from all over and His fame spread.

Auranzeb could not tolerate this and became more ruthless, forcing people to give up their religious faith and accept Islam. Guru Sahib sent him a strongly-worded message to not interfere with the freedom of the people and to allow them to practice their religion of choice freely.

Meanwhile, the Subedars of Kashmir and various other states informed Aurangzeb that those who believed in Guru Nanak’s Sikhi and followed Guru Tegh Bahadar, refused to give up their own faith and stopped others from giving up theirs. ‘If you can convert Guru Tegh Bahadar to Islam, then the whole nation will become Muhammadi in a flash’, the message said.

So Aurangzeb summoned Guru Sahib to his court and urged Him to accept Islam as His faith. But Guru Sahib remained firm in His refusal. For this, he was executed.

Raja: No, Amma ji, no! How could the Emperor take away Guru Sahib’s life?

There was silence for some time, as tears coursed down their cheeks. Then Mother said:

My son, gurbani says:

“janam maran dohu meh nahi junn parupkaari aaye ..."

Death has no relevance for those messengers of the Lord who come into the world to reveal to us His divine message of a higher life of love and meditation, which allows us finally, to merge with the Lord. Once their work in this world is over, they themselves return to Waheguru.  [GGS:749]

Guru Sahib too finished the task given to Him by Waheguru ,and that was to sacrifice His life for a righteous cause. Birth and death are for people like us who are caught in the cycle of our actions.

Raja: I am very unlucky!

Mother: Why do you say that? A Sikh is never unlucky. At present, Guru Tegh Bahadar’s son is very much in this world and carrying on His divine work. The same spirit works through Him and the same light shines through Him. From the time of Guru Nanak, Waheguru has wrought this miracle that even as the physical form changed, the light and aura of Guru Nanak continued to shine through the next Guru.

Raja: Where is He these days?

Mother: At the foot of the Himalayas, among the Shivalik Hills, on the banks of the River Sutlej in a town called Anandpur.

Raja: It is far but not too far. If you give me permission, I would like to go and have His darshan’ with my own eyes as you did, to place my head on His beloved feet and receive the gift of Naam as you did. And, Amma ji, will you come with me?

Mother: I am getting older. So, what more can I ask for than to be able to once again behold that divine form and receive His touch!

The Raja was so overjoyed at his mother’s words that he touched her feet in obeisance and quickly left to go and make plans for the long journey.

His mother stood with folded hands, deep in prayer, the words pouring out from her soul in thankfulness: “Hey Deen Bandhu (protector of the weak and helpless), by Your grace a son was gifted to us and by Your grace, you have lit the fire of devotion in his heart. I am the luckiest mother in the world that my son has fulfilled my lifelong wish by becoming a devotee of your blessed feet and all this is because of your generosity and love.”

Then remembering her husband’s last words, she addressed his memory: “You had advised me to be careful to keep alive my faith in Guru Sahib and to instil the same love and devotion for Guru Sahib in our son, who was only seven years old when you left us. O my beloved, you must be happy that your son has grown to love Guru Sahib and the responsibility you had placed on my head has been fulfilled by Guru Sahib Himself.”


*   *   *   *   *


Chapter 2


“munn aas udeenee merae pyare duay nain jutae ..."

After waiting so long for His darshan, I am forlorn but my eyes are still glued to the path by which He is to come [GGS:452].


The Raja’s mind was in a turmoil. His mother’s words had given him a different focus in life. It filled his heart and soul. He was eager to leave for Anandpur at the earliest, but a great deal of arrangements needed to be made.

“What gifts should I take for Guru Sahib that He would like? How will I meet Him? Not as the ruler of a kingdom, because a King may have significance here but not in Guru Darbar. The throne there stands for renunciation, for granting true spiritual life to seekers. It is where it is acceptable to give up one’s head but not one’s faith. In such a divine court there would be no special status for an insignificant one, even a ruler, like me.”

Apprehensive thoughts like these were upsetting so that often tears formed in the young Raja’s eyes.

“The Lord whom I have come to love even without seeing Him, will He in turn love me? Will He grant me His grace the way He did to my Father and Mother?

“How should I prepare myself to go into His presence, so that He accepts me? His doorway is filled with hundreds like me, who stand seeking His blessings like my people stand at the doors of my palace awaiting fulfilment of their wishes.”

Raja Rattan Rai began to look for exceptional items to take as gifts for Guru Sahib. Assam is the land of elephants and he found a jet black animal whose forehead was white like ivory. A thick line from this big lake of ivory ran down its back till its tail and thinner lines, like rivulets, flowed down its legs. It was indeed a rare beast. No one had seen another one like it.

Waves of emotion arose in the Raja’s breast as he imagined Guru Sahib riding on it.

“What a satisfying moment it will be for me to see this magnificent sight!” he thought.

Special care was taken of this elephant in the royal stables, while decorative items of rare beauty and value were prepared for adorning it. An intricately carved howda (seat) with a canopy over it, a huge rug made of an expensive material and decorated with precious stones and with fringes of rare pearls on all sides to drape on the elephant’s back, were some of the things being made ready.

Meanwhile, a trainer was engaged to teach the elephant some tricks, such as picking up a flaming torch and holding it aloft to light up the area. When an arrow was shot, it would follow and pick it up in its trunk to lay it at its master’s feet. Another trick it learnt was to hold in its trunk the handle of a beautiful whisk (chaur), in which a cluster of colourful feathers were fixed, and wave it over the heads of all those present.

*   *   *   *   *

[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 …

February 28, 2017


Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), March 04, 2017, 5:41 AM.

Bimal ji, so very nice to have you at long last in the family, enriching it with your contribution with such an opus of poetic resonance. As a granddaughter of Bhai Sahib Vir Singh ji, you have had the honour of having his hand on your head more than once. His touch alone can make a poet. Even an unlettered person would glow in his presence. Bhai Sahib’s writings are spirituals and touch the soul. All in his company returned fulfilled. Please do translate 'Baba Naudh Singh' – which could be called a practical handbook of Sikhi. Also 'Gurmukh Sikhiya'. I know you have been working on these for a long time and help share our religion of love.

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Part I"

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