Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, brought down the arrogant walls of caste, creed and religion with love, compassion and humility. In his eyes, all were equal. Sarbat da bhala, (welfare of all) is one of the core principles of Sikhism that can lead us to a humane world.
The saint’s life-long companion was Bhai Mardana Ji, the first Sikh who was born in a Muslim family. The two shared a deep bond.
“Bhai Mardana Ji accompanied the Guru on his long spiritual journeys across India and abroad covering Sri Lanka, Dhaka and even China. He played the role of a true custodian of Guru Nanak’s ideas, principles and faith,” says artist Arpana Caur.
As a reformist, Guru Nanak Dev Ji challenged age-old rituals. “He was a true revolutionary who started the langar where people from all walks of life could sit and eat without any sort of discrimination. He coined the verse ‘Na Koi Hindu, Na Koi Musalman’ and envisioned a society based on truth, gender equality, protection of the environment and universal responsibility. Together, the Guru and Bhai Mardana Ji travelled to propagate the ideals of communal harmony,” says Caur.
Artist Harinder Singh says that the Guru and Bhai Mardana Ji’s friendship was a unique symbol of religious and cultural plurality and they expressed it beautifully through music. “Guru Nanak Dev Ji sang praises of God and Bhai Mardana Ji played the rabab in the tone of love and compassion for the entire humanity,” he says.
Bhai Mardana Ji once asked Guru Nanak Dev Ji about the faith he followed, so that he, too, could convert to the religion of his Guru. The Guru explained to him that a Muslim’s goal should be to become a good Muslim; while a Hindu should try and become a good Hindu, implying that whatever faith you follow, it’s your deeds and actions that should always be pure and honest.
Author Rana Safvi says that the later Gurus had a high regard for the friendship between the two. When Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Sikh guru compiled the Guru Granth Sahib, he chose Bhai Mardana’s grandsons, Bhai Balwand and Satta, for musical compilations to ensure continuity in the singing and music style. “Even today, every Gurudwara carries forward this tradition of Guru Nanak’s humanity and pluralism and Bhai Mardana’s divine music,” she says.
The Guru’s life and teachings embodied the most beautiful human value – compassion that transcends the petty shackles of cast, creed, religion and gender. This is what we must keep alive.
(Inputs by Swati Chaturvedi)