The men of Sikh history played vital roles in helping to establish the budding religion of Sikhism. The deeds of courageous warriors and valiant heroes helped to shape the course of Sikhism. Sikh men of old faithfully served the ten gurus and fearlessly fought beside them in battle. Compassionate, yet bold and daring, their qualities have been passed down through the centuries. The dedication of humble saints, steadfast character, and commitment displayed in the face of adversity, and the many sacrifices of Sikh martyrs, serve as an inspiration and as the model and standard of conduct for Sikh values in modern times.
Rai Bular Bhatti (1425 – 1515)
Rai Bular Bhatti of Muslim descent was the resident headman of village Talwandi, now Nankana Pakistan, where Guru Nanak was born to Hindu parents. Rai Bular was one of the first to recognize the spiritual disposition of Guru Nanak after witnessing several miraculous events:
- Restoration of crops damaged by cattle the guru tended.
- Shadow of a tree remains fixed while shading the guru.
- Cobra shades the sleeping guru with its hood.
Rai Bular became one of the guru’s earliest devotees, intervening on the boy’s behalf when the young guru incurred his fathers wrath and arranging for Nanak Dev to attend school. A gift of more 18,000 acres from Rai Bular Bhatti to Guru Nanak’s family is the site of historic gurdwaras commemorating the gurus’ childhood.
Mardana (1459 – 1534)
A minstrel of Muslim descent, Mardana was a close childhood companion of Guru Nanak, the son of a Hindu family. The two met in their ancestral home, Talwandi, now Nankana Pakistan. As they matured, they formed a spiritual bond which lasted a lifetime. When Guru Nanak married and moved to Sultanpur for work, Mardana followed. Guru Nanak’s sister Bibi Nanki encouraged their spiritual endeavors and provided the bard Mardana with a rebab, a kind of string instrument, which he played to accompany the Guru’s hymns. Mardana and Guru Nanak traveled together for over 25 years singing in praise of one God. They made five journeys throughout India, Asia, China Tibet, Middle Eastern Arab countries, and even parts of Africa on their missionary quest
Baba Siri Chand (1494 to 1643)
The eldest of Guru Nanak’s sons, Baba Siri Chand founded the Udasi an order of wandering yogis who renounced the life of a married householder in favor of austere meditation. He lived a long life and maintained cordial relations with the gurus and their families.
Baba Buddha (1506 – 1631)
Baba Buddha met Guru Nanak as a young boy and requested salvation. The guru bestowed him with his name because of the wisdom he showed in remarking that death may claim one regardless of age, and the soul ought to be prepared. Bhai Buddha became one of the most renowned and respected figures in Sikh history, dedicating over a century to the service of the Sikh, and Panth anointing each succeeding guru during his lifetime.
Bhai Gurdas (1551 – 1636)
An orphan related to Third Guru Amardas, Bhai Gurdas grew to be an important figure of the Sikh Sangat. He devotedly dedicated his entire life to service, taking an active part in the various projects of the gurus. Both a scribe and poet, his own writings were said to be the “Key to Gurbani” by Fifth Guru Arjan Dev, whom he assisted in the compilation of Adi Granth.
Kirpal Chand served in the army of Seventh Guru Har Rai. Kirpal Chand’s sister Gurjri became the wife of Ninth Guru Teg Bahadar. Kirpal Chand accompanied Guru Teg Bahadar when he toured throughout regions of Eastern India on a mission campaign and took charge of caring for his sister and the ninth guru’s mother in Patna. After the birth of young Prince Gobind Rai, Kirpal Chand remained with his sister while her husband was on tour and took charge of the child’s welfare and upbringing. Following the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur, Kirpal Chand remained close to tenth Guru Gobind Singh. Kirpal Chand survived Guru Gobind Singh and his four young martyred sons, and spent his remaining years in Amritsar, in the service of Siri Guru Granth Sahib.
Saiyid Bhikhan Shah
A Muslim mystic, Saiyid Bhikhan Shah prophesied the spiritual sovereignty of Guru Gobind upon seeing a radiance in the sky at the time of the young prince Gobind Rai’s birth. The Pir traveled for several months to see the babe, but could not gain admittance because Guru Teg Bahadar away on mission tours had not yet seen his son. Undaunted, Bhikhan Shah engaged in a fast insisting only a glimpse of the child would satisfy his hunger for darshan.
Bhai Bidhi Chand Chhina
Bhai Bidhi Chand Chhina grew up a thief. Upon meeting a Sikh, he changed the company he kept and became a devotee in the court of Fifth Guru Arjun Dev. His loyalty made him a trusted warrior in the army of Sixth Guru Har Govind, and fought in several wars. A master of disguise, Bidhi Chand put his former skills to use on more than one occasion to retrieve two valuable horses, Dilbagh and Gulbagh, intended as gifts for the guru which had been confiscated by Mughal forces. He once risked his life to hide in a firey kiln to escape capture. Bidhi Chand traveled as a preaching emissary to share the guru’s teachings and made friends with a Muslim holy man on his journey. The two developed a bond which last the remainder of thier lives.
Makhan Shah the Sea Merchant (1619 – 1647)
Makhan Shah, the sea merchant of Lubana, was a devout Sikh who helped to establish the reign of Guru Teg Bahadar following the death of the child Guru Har Krishan. At sea an enormous storm threatened his ship and the lives of his crew. Makhan Shah unaware of circumstances made a promise that if his ship and the lives of his men were spared he would make a gift of 500 gold mohars to the guru. Miraculously they survived but Makhan Shah learned that 22 posers had set themselves up claiming to the be the succeeding guru. Makhan Shah managed to make order of the confusion, by locating the reclusive true guru, and exposing the impostors. He ever remained a staunch supporter of the true Guru, even engaging in missionary efforts while on his travels.
Bhai Kanhaiya (1648 – 1718)
Kanhaiya (other spellings – Kanaiya, Ghanaya or Ghanaia) felt the lure of a spiritual life from an early age. He dedicated himself to the service of Guru Teg Bahadur as a young man. Later he founded a mission, in what is now Pakistan, based on the principles of equality of all people. Kanhaiya joined Guru Gobind Singh when the Sikhs were under siege by the Mughal army. He ventured out to tend the wounded on the battlefield. When complaints were made that he had given water to fallen enemy soldiers, Kanhaiya was called to the court of Guru Gobind Singh to answer for his actions. Kanhaiya explained that he followed the principle of equality before all those who had gathered and was rewarded by the Guru Gobind Singh with medicine and bandages.
Joga Singh of Peshawar
Joga Singh was a youth renowned for his fealty to Guru Gobind Singh. He boasted that he would stop whatever he was doing should his guru ever need him. As it happened, Joga Singh’s wedding ceremony was interrupted when a rider showed up with a summons from his guru. Joga Singh dropped everything immediately and left his new bride to ride to his Guru’s side. When evening fell and Joga had to stop to rest his horse he couldn’t help but remember that he was spending his wedding night alone in a strange place along a dark road. Remembering his bride roused his passions. A girl dancing by the bank of the river inflamed them. He spent the entire night wrestling with his desires. Next day he told of a mysterious night watchman who had intervened.