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At the Feet of the Master

While Madho Das was enjoying an ascetic life at Nanded, practising his Yoga and Tantras, Guru Govind Singh was fighting his crusades a0ainst the religious intolerance and political iniquities of his time. The policy of Aurangzeb, aiming at the wholesale Muhammadanization of his empire, had not very much succeeded. The Mahrattas in the south and the Sikhs in the north had risen to be the defenders of their persecuted brethren. During the closing days of his life, the Emperor had either foreseen the grave consequences of his religious persecutions or his sense of penitence had over-powered his fanaticism. Inspired by some such feelings he addressed a conciliatory letter to Guru Govind Singh inviting him to the Deccan for negotiations. The Guru in reply sent his famous epistle, the Zafarnamah, inviting the Emperor's attention to his unkingly behaviour towards his. subjects, and telling him, in so many words, that he had taken to the sword as the last resort and would willingly enter into peace negotiations if the Emperor was to come to the parganah of Kangar.1 But Aurangzeb was infirm and week, and his health was failing. And as, in addition to this, the Guru's messenger,

Bhai Daya Singh, did not return from his mission in due time, Guru Govind Singh himself set out for the Deccan in connection with the peace negotiations.

Guru Govind Singh was near Baghaur (Rajputana), when he received the news of Aurangzeb's death. And, he was in the neighbourhood of Shahjahanabad (Delhi),2 on his way back to the Punjab, when the heir-apparent, Prince Muhammad Muazzam,3 begged the Guru's assistance against his usurping brother Muhammad Azam,4 who had ascended the throne on the death of their father in contravention of the primogenitary right of his elder brother. Like a true saint, the Guru lent a helping hand to Muazzam in the battle of Jajau5 (18th June, 1707), in spite of the fact that his father had been his and his ancestors' bitterest enemy. He was invited by the new Emperor Muhammad Muazzam Bahadur Shah at Agra, where on the 4th Jamadi-ul­ awwal 1119 (2nd August, 1707), a dress of honour, including a jeweled scarf, a dhukhdhukhi, an aigrette, etc., worth sixty thousand rupees, was presented to the Guru as a mark of his gratitude.6 It appears from the Guru's letter of 1st Kartik, 1764 (about the 15th October, 1707), addressed to the Sikhs of Dhaul, that the old negotiations, that had brought him so far, were then in progress and that he soon expected to return to the Punjab. But the Emperor had, soon after (12th Nov., 1707), to leave for Rajputana,7 and then for the Deccan, to crush the threatening rebellion of his brother Kam Bakhsh. The negotiations, it seems, were not as yet satisfactorily concluded, and the Guru, therefore, accompanied him to the south. For about ten months, the negotiations were carried on during this long expeditionary march,8 but on the arrival of the royal camp at Nanded they appear to have broken off. All attempts at making peace for the suffering millions had failed, and no resource was left but to invoke the aid of All-Steel. The Guru, therefore, separated himself from the royal camp, and Bahadur Shah hurried on towards Hyderabad Deccan. The Guru stopped at Nanded. This happened in the last week of September, 1708.9 It was here that he met Madho Das Bairagi.

While at Dadu-dwara10 (Narayana, Jaipur State), Guru Govind Singh had heard from Mahant Jait Ram of a peculiar occultist Bairagi Madho Das of Nanded, who delighted in practising incantation on his Sadhu visitors and guests to their great annoyance. Jait Ram had himself been ridiculed by Madho Das. He had, therefore, warned Guru Govind Singh against visiting the Bairagi. But the Guru disregarded the warning, and on his arrival at Nanded, repaired to the Bairagi's monastery. Madho Das was not then present in his Mutth. The Guru occupied the only cot available there and laid himself down to wait for him, while his Sikhs busied themselves in cooking meat for their meal. This exasperated the zealous and devoted vegetarian disciples of the Vaishnavite Bairagi. They at once ran to inform him about this strange visitor. The Bairagi was red with anger and his fury knew no bounds. He, perhaps, considered the use of his cot by a stranger an intrusion upon his spiritual rights as the head of the monastery, or a challenge to his supernatural powers, and the cooking of meat in its precincts an irreligious act. In vain he called in the assistance of secret spirits; in vain he exhausted all his Yogic powers and occultism in trying to overturn the cot, on which the Guru was seated. The Guru's mind was too strong for these things. All his efforts, therefore, ended in failure. Thus baffled, the infuriated Bairagi hurried to the spot, determined to wreak vengeance upon his so called intruder. But he came, he saw and was conquered!

On his coming into the presence of the Guru Madho Das respectfully addressed him. The following dialogue is recorded in the Zikr-i-Guruan wa lbtida-i-Singhan wa Mazhab-i-Eshan by Ahmad Shah of Batala.

Madho Das : Who are you?

Guru Govind Singh : He whom you know.

Madho Das : What do I know?

Guru Govind Singh : Think it over in your mind.

Madho Das (after a pause) : So you are Guru Govind Singh !

Guru Govind Singh : Yes !

Madho Das : What have you come here for?

Guru Govind Singh : I have come so that I may convert you into a disciple of mine.

Madho Das : I submit, my Lord. I am a Banda (a slave) of yours.

The erstwhile proud and invincible Bairagi Madho Das submissively fell down at the feet of Guru Govind Singh and accepted his creed without a word of argument. He had, in fact, become the Master's at the very first Sight, and now the touch of his feet had the effect of the philosopher's stone, and the dross of the Bairagi was at once transformed into the gold of Sikh Banda, a man or a slave of the Guru.

Guru Govind Singh clearly perceived what was yet vital in the youthful ascetic, and he relumed it with Promethian fire. He availed himself of this psychological moment, dressed him like a Sikh, and administered to him the Immortalising Draught, the Amrita of the Khals Church, and regularly baptized him with all the rites usually performed at the Amrita or the Pahul ceremoney.11 The ex-Bairagi was now given the new name of Banda Singh, though through-out his life and afterwards he was popularly known, and recorded by historians, by his self- conferred title of Banda, or Banda Bahadur.12 In an instant he was a changed man. He was now no longer a Bairagi. He had now become a full-fledged Sikh-a disciple of Guru Govind Singh-a member of the Khalsa brotherhood. He had now found a true preceptor and saviour in Guru Govind Singh, who became the centre of all his religious devotions. His monastic establishment was at once dissolved and he followed his Lord to his camp to prepare for his new mission-a new life.

 Notes and References

  1. It thou hast any belief in God, delay not in the matter. Thou keepest no faith and observest no religion.

Thou knowest not God, and believest not in Muhammad.

Thou hast no idea what an oath on the Quran is, and canst have no belief in Divine Providence. .... .... ....

It is thy duty to know God. He never ordered thee to molest others.

Thou art seated on an Emperor's throne, yet how strange is thy justice and thy regard for religion? .... ....

Promises not meant to be fulfilled injure those who make them.

Smite not any one mercilessly with the sword, or the sword from on high shall smite thee. .... .... .... Thou art proud of thine Empire, while I am proud of the kingdom of God the Immortal. .... .... ....

As for myself, I was only constrained to engage in a combat. .... .... ....

If thou come to the village of Kangar, we shall have an interview. Thou shalt not um the slightest risk on the way, as the whole tribe of the Bairars is under me.

Come to me that we may speak to each other, and that I may utter kind words to thee.

(Extracts from the Zafar Namah of Guru Gobind Singh)

  1. Sainapat, Sri Gum Sobha. 90.
  2. Prince Muhammad Muazzam was the second son of Emperor Aurangzeb, born of Begam Nawab Bai on the 30th of rajab, 1053 (14th October, 1643). He became the heir-apparent after the death of his elder brother Muhammad Sultan on the 7th Shawwal, 1087 (14th Dec., 1676.)
  3. Prince Muhammad Azam was the third son, born of Dilras Banu Begam on the 12th Shahban, 1063 (9th July, 1653). On the death of Aurangzeb, on the 28th Zi-ul-Qada, 118 (3rd March, 1707), Amir-ul-Umara Wazir Asad Khan hastely called in Azam, who, on the completion of the funeral ceremonies and the lapse of the first few days of mourning, ascended the Imperial throne on the 10th Zi-ul-Hi.tia, 1118 (14th March, 1707), and proclaimed himself the Emperor of India under the title of Padshah-i­ Mamalik Azam Shah. He is also known as Tara Azam, or Azam Tara.
  4. Situated between Agra and Dhaulpur. The battle-field was 4 miles north­ east of Jajau. (J. N. Sarkar's note in Irvine's Later Mughals 1, p. 25).
  5. Bahadur Shah Namah-entry dated 4th Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 1119 A.H.; Hukamnamah or Letter of Guru Govind Singh dated lst Kartik 1764 (October, 1707); Irvine, Later Mughals, I. 96; Sri Guru Sabha, p. 94-5; Sri Guru Partap Suraj XIV. p. 6174-5.
  6. According to the Hadiqat-ul-Aqalim Khan-i-Khanan Munim Khan had advised the Emperor to annex the territories of the Kachhwahya Rajputs and to distribute them among the Imperial Amirs, who were still clamouring for jagirs and salaries. Also see Irvine's Later Mughals, I. p. 46.
  7. During this long march, Guru Govind Singh occasionally separated himself from the Imperial camp for missionary purposes.

"At this time the army was marching southwards towards Burhanpur. Guru Govind Singh, one of the descendants of Nanak, had come into these districts to travel and accompanied the royal camp. He was in the habit of constantly addressing assemblies of worldly persons, religious fanatics, and all sorts of people." [Tarikh-i-Bahadu Shahi-Elliot, VII, 566].

Also see Sri Guru Sabha, 97Fl01; Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion under Banda, Cal. Review, 1881, Vol. 73, p. 155.

  1. Emperor Bahadur Shah crossed the Godavari River at Nanded on the 7th October, 1708 (Irvine's Later Mughals, I. 59), and, as he was hurriedly pushing on towards Hyderabad on the military expedition against his rebellious brother Kam Bakhsh, he could not have arrived here many days earlier. It may, therefore, be safely presumed that Guru Govind Singh, who, according to all Sikh and other accounts, accompanied the royal camp as far as Nanded, must have arrived here during the last week of September, 1708. Macauliffe's date, July-August 1707, is incorrect on the very face of it. The Guru was then at Agra, and up to the 24th August 1708, the Imperial camp of Bahadur Shah was still on the left bank of the Ban Ganga, far distant from Nanded.
  2. The religious place of the followers of Saint Dadu, situated in the village of Narayana (Jaipur State, Rajputana), three miles from the Phulera Railway Station on the B.B. & C.I.R. line. (Bhai Kahan Singh, Mahan Kosh. p. 1881, 'Dadu',)
  3. Ghulam Hussain Khan-He was a Sye by profession, that is, one of those attached to the tenets of Guru Govind (Singh) and who from their birth or from the moment of their admission, never cut or shave either their beard or whiskers, or any hair whatever of their body. (Raymond-Seir-Mutaqherin, I 82; Briggs 72-3.)

M'Gregor, W. L.-Banda immediately consented, received the Pahooldee and became a Sikh. (History of the Sikhs, 1846, p. 106).

Muhammad Latif-Govind and Banda soon became intimate friends, and the former, by his persuasive eloquence and religious zeal made such a deep impression on the mind of Banda that he was initiated in to the Pahul, and became a disciple of the Guru.       (History of the Punjab, p. 294).

Panye, C. H.-Here (at Nander) he spent much of his time in the company of a bairagi hermit, afterwards known as Banda, the 'slave', whom he converted to his own faith and baptized, and to whom he became so much attached that he nominated him his successor, not as Guru, but as Commander of the forces of the Khalsa. (A short History of the Sikhs, p. 43).

Macauliffe, M.A.-The Guru instructed Banda in the tenets of his religion, and in due time baptized him according to the new rites. (The Sikh Religion, V. p. 238).

Ibbetson-Maclagan-Rose-Guru Govind Singh perished or disappeared in 1708, a year after Aurangzeb had died in 1707. He was succeeded as military leader, but not as Guru, of the Sikhs by Banda, the 'slave' of the departed Guru, once a Bairagi devotee but converted to the Sikh faith by the Guru's supernatural powers. (A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab & N. W. F. P. I. 698).

Browne, James-One Bundah, a Bairagi Fakeer.................... .intimate friend of Gooroo Govind...........went to all the most powerful and zealous of the Sicks, who had been the followers of Gooroo Govind Singh and having excited in them the same spirit with which he himself was actuated and enrolled himself in the fraternity of the Sicks, he, with surprising diligence and activity, and aided by uncommon abilities, collected the sect together in arms from all quarters. (History of the Origin and Progress of the Sicks - India Tract ii. 1787-8, p.9.)

Forster, George-A tradition delivered to the Sicques, limiting their priests to the number of ten, induced them to appoint no successor to Govind Singh. A Sicque disciple, named Bunda, who had attended Govind Singh in the Deccan came........into the Punjab, where claiming a merit from his late connection, he raised a small force. His successes at length drew to his standard he whole body of the Sicque nation.

lraeat Khan-He (Guru Govind Singh) was succeeded by Bunda, one of his followers. (Memoirs of the Mughal Empire, 143.)

Lovett, S. V.-The Sikhs were commanded by a Rajput convert of Govind's, named Banda. (India. 34,)

Also see the works Harisi, Kamwar, Qasim, Muhammad, Qalandar, Malcolm, Thornton, Adams, Crowther, etc. Besides these, there are many more early and contemporary authorities, who, without any exception, mention Banda as 'the Sikh' chosen disciple', disciple', 'follower'. and 'devoted follower' of Guru Govind Singh.

  1. Panth Parkash, Gyan Singh, fifth edition, p. 328

Macauliffe has given him the name of Gurbakhsh Singh [Sikh Religion. V. 238], but he has not mentioned the source of his information. The writer learns from Sardar Bahadur Bhai Kahan Singh of Nabha that he had heard of this name from his ancestors and old Sikhs like Baba Nihal Singh and Viveka Singh.