During the times of Siri Guru Arjun Dev jee, Sultanis or Sakhi Sarvars were very powerful in Punjab. Sakhi Sarvars believed in their Pir whom they called Sultan. The puritan Muslims like Wahabis don’t consider the Sakhi Sarvars as real Muslims since they believe in Pirs and worship the Kabars (graves) but in those days, normally the Sakhi Sarvars served as a first step for Hindu to convert to Islam.
There were three main leaders of Sakhi Sarvars in Majha, Doaba and Malwa and all three were very rich and prominent persons. Bhai Langah of Majha was a major leader of Sakhi Sarvars in Majha zone (Lahore, Amritsar, Tarn Taran Area) of Punjab and when he converted to Sikhi, it served as a major blow for the Sakhi Sarvars. From Doaba zone (Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Phagwara), Bhai Manjh became converted to Sikhi.
In Malwa, Bahlol (Bhai Bahlo) was a big landlord and a very prominent leader of Sakhi Sarvars. He used to keep a Khoondi (cane) in his hand and used to attend big festivals of Sakhi Sarvars along with his thousands of followers.
Birth, Childhood and Becoming a Prominent Sultani
ਦੇਸ ਮਾਲਵੇ ਫਫੜੇ ਪਿੰਡ ਮੈ, ਸਿਧੂ ਜਟ ਅਲਦਿਤਾ।
ਹੁਤੋ ਚੌਧਰੀ ਵਡ ਸੁਲਤਾਨੀ, ਬਹਿਲੋ ਸੁਤ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਦਿਤਾ।
According to the above written verses of Giani Gian Singh, Bhai Bahlo was born in the house of Chaudhari Aldita (Allah Ditta) who was a very rich and big Sidhu landlord of village Phaphra. As per the Sakhi Sarvari tradition, Bhai Sahib was given the Muslim name of Bahlol.
As Bahlol grew up, he took up his family religion and became a very prominent member of Sakhi Sarvar religion. At that time whole of Malwa was coming under the influence of this sect. The sect’s growth in Majha and Doaba had been checked by Guru Sahibaan but Sakhi Sarvars were still flourishing in Malwa zone.
The followers of Sakhi Sarvar were called Sultani and their leaders used to carry Sarvari Khoondi (cane). Sarvari Khoondi is also called Aasa which a long stick that the members of other Sufi sects too carry. Bhai Bahlo became the strongest leader of Sultanis and had thousands of followers. Like other Sarvaris, he also used to provide supernatural services like driving out ghosts, and other occult services like Black magic etc.
Guru Sahib’s Hukamnama to Bhai Bahlo
Guru Sahib’s ways are mysterious. There are ones who are always in service of Guru Sahib and then there are ones who are oblivious of their spiritual status. Sometimes the ones who seem oblivious of spirituality, all of sudden are awakened by Guru Sahib and they attain everything in no time. This is what happened in the life of Bhai Bahlo.
While Bhai Bahlo was busy spreading the Sultani faith in Malwa and had no idea about Guru Sahib, Siri Guru jee had different thoughts for him. Guru Sahib gave a Hukamnama to one of his Sikhs and ordered him to deliver the Hukamnama to Bhai Bahlo. The Sikh arrived with the Hukamnama and gave it to Bhai Bahlo. Bhai Bahlo was surprised beyond belief to receive this Hukamnama. He did not know Guru Sahib and had never contacted Guru Sahib, nor he had ever spoken to any Sikh of Guru Sahib. He was thinking that how did Guru Sahib know about him. Guru Sahib had ordered him to come to Him. His reaction after reading the Hukamnama has been captured by Kavi Santokh Singh as follows:
ਹਮ ਕਬਿ ਮਿਲੇ, ਨਹੀਂ ਕਬਿ ਗਏ।
ਲਿਖਿਨਿ, ਪਢਨਿ ਕੋ ਪ੍ਰਥਮ ਨ ਭਏ।
ਤਿਨਿ ਸਮੀਪਿ ਕਿਮ ਜਾਵਨ ਬਨੈ।
ਦੇਖਹੁ ਕਰਿ ਬਿਚਾਰ ਨਿਜ ਮਨੈ।
(I have never met Him and I never went to him. I never wrote to him anything nor read anything about Him (Guru Sahib). How can it be fair to go to him.)
He was thinking that he is the leader of thousands of people. How would it be right to go to the spiritual leader of other religion. He had so much respect amongst people there. He feared that he would lose all this status and respect if he went to Guru Sahib. After doing deep thinking he came to the conclusion that there was nothing for him to gain if he went to Guru Sahib.
After meditating thus, he refused to obey the Hukam of Guru Sahib and said that he had nothing to gain by going to Guru Sahib. He said that even a foolish person in his situation would not go to Guru Sahib and lose everything he possessed.
Guru Sahib’s second Hukamnama
The Sikh came back to Guru Sahib and narrated everything that had occurred to Guru Sahib. Siri Guru jee smiled mysteriously and asked the messanger Sikh to convey the following Bachans to Bhai Bahlo. The Sikh travelled back to Bhai Bahlo and conveyed the following message of Guru Sahib:
“O Bahlo, you have forgotten everything and have become a disciple of a Turk (Muslim Pir). You have forgotten your Bhagti of previous lives and started worshipping graves of Turk Pirs. You have become a follower like sheep but don’t realize that the Pir you worship will not help you in this world and the next world. You are my Sikh from previous lives.”
When Bhai Bahlo heard this, he was just amazed. The Bachans of Guru Sahib were causing his heart to flutter. He felt that he was getting pulled towards Guru Sahib. He tried to resist his heart.
The Sikh continued to give him Guru Sahib’s message, “The time for you to receive the Amrit that you had been begging, has arrived. You did massive Bhagti in your previous lives and now the time to receive reward for all that hard work has arrived. You had been demanding salvation, emancipation. Come and receive the salvation you were seeking.”
Bhai Bahlo was just amazed. He could not say anything. His heart had softened up. Now he served the Sikh dutifully and humbly. He still could not get himself to go to Guru Sahib. He requested the Sikh to deliver his message to Guru Sahib. The message was as follows:
ਮੈ ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਜਾਨਤਿ ਨਾਹੀਂ।
ਹੁਤੋ ਜਨਮ ਕਿਤਿ ਜਾਚਤਿ ਆਹੀ।
ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਪਤਾ ਕੋਇ ਦਿਖਰਾਵੈਂ।
ਨਿਜ ਸ਼ਕਤੀ ਕਰਿ ਮੋਹਿ ਬੁਲਾਵੈਂ।
(I am ignorant and don’t know anything. I don’t remember seeking anything in my previous lives. May Satguru show me something (something to convince me). Let Satguru use his personal power and call me.)
Guru Sahib’s third Hukamnama
The messenger Sikh came back to Guru Sahib and delivered Bhai Bahlo’s message. Guru Sahib wrote something on the Hukamnama and asked the Sikh to deliver it to Bhai Bahlo. Now some Shardha for Guru Sahib had awakened within Bhai Bahlo. He took the Hukamnama Sahib and placed on his head. When Bhai Bahlo read Guru Sahib’s Hukam, he remembered the relevant parts of his past lives. He said to himself that now it was necessary to go to the refuge of Guru Sahib. He decided to kill his ego and the thought of what others who considered him to be their leader, would think.
He still had some feelings and fear of his Pir and for this reason, did Ardaas that he would be going to Guru Sahib but if the Pir could stop him to reach river Satluj, he would forgo his journey to Guru Sahib.
Meeting Guru Sahib
With these thoughts, he started his journey to Siri Amritsar Sahib. What could the Pir have done to stop Bhai Bahlo when Guru Sahib Himself was on the head of Bhai Bahlo. Bhai Bahlo crossed the river without any difficulty. As soon as he crossed the river, he removed his Sakhi Sarvari clothes and threw away the Aasa (the stick) in the river.
Few days later he arrived at Siri Amritsar. He was surprised to see the spiritual atmosphere of Siri Amritsar Sahib. Thousands of Gursikhs were chanting Naam, reciting Baani and selflessly doing Sewa there. He felt lucky to have come to this place which was like Sachkhand on Earth.
When he saw Guru Sahib, he was filled with bliss. He fell at Guru Sahib’s Charan Kamal. With eyes full of loving tears, throat that could hardly utter a word, he begged Guru Sahib for Naam. He earnestly thanked Guru Sahib for doing the effort of Himself calling Guru Sahib. Guru Sahib accepted his pleas and blessed him with Naam. Next he was given the Hukam to do sewa at the Sarovar of Amritsar Sahib. He was to be paid for doing Sewa. Even though, he did not want to accept salary for his sewa, he could not disobey Guru Sahib’s order.
Bhai Bahlo’s Sewa
He started working in the potter’s kiln (oven) where bricks are baked. He worked there as hard as he could and for as long as his body would let him. At Amritvela and evening time he attended Sangat to listen to Kirtan and Katha. All day he spent his time in doing Sewa and chanting Naam. This had a profound impact on his mind. His mind was purified and soon the glow of Gurbani was glowing in his mind.
Bhai Bahlo noticed that Guru Sahib only accepted such bricks in sewa that were fully hardened and red in colour. Someone told Bhai Bahlo that if human excreta and cow dung was used along with other fuel, it helped in getting the bricks to fully harden. Bhai Bahlo got an army of sewadaars and acted on this advice. The work was very dirty and not many people were willing to undertake this work but Bhai Bahlo, whose only aim was to please Guru Sahib had no qualms over doing this sewa. While doing this sewa, his clothes became very filthy and he smelled really bad but he continued with the sewa. When all the kilns were opened, it was found that Bhai Bahlo’s bricks were the best. Guru Sahib was very pleased with Bhai Bahlo’s work but kept quiet at that time.
Once, there was a shortage of langar supplies. Bhai Bahlo who used to get paid for doing sewa, had saved all his funds. He presented his savings and with that the langar supplies for that time were supplied.
Bhai Bahlo’s sewa Accepted
Bhai Bahlo’s condition had become such that he had only one aim of doing sewa. He hardly spoke to anyone and because of working with excreta and cow dung, his clothes were very filthy during the day. Many people avoided him and some even made fun of him. Some even thought that he had gone crazy.
When he was not working on the kiln, he used to work on digging out soil from the Sarovar. Some sewadaars used to fill his bucket so heavily that it would be very hard for one person to lift but Bhai Bahlo never complained. He always stayed focus on Naam and Sewa. People mocked him but his mind had been imbued with Naam so deeply, that he never got angry, upset, or ashamed, because of the mocking. His heart was contented with Naam.
Whenever he used to see Guru Sahib, he could not keep his eyes away from Guru Sahib. His eyes were full of love for Guru Sahib. Then he used to forget all his tiredness and fatigue. He had so much love that it seemed as if his heart was beating only for Guru Sahib.
Guru Sahib was not unknown to the love of Bhai Bahlo but wanted him to get more purified. But one day, Guru Sahib could no longer restrain Himself. Bhai Bahlo had been dealing with excreta and his clothes were very dirty. The bad-smell coming from him was unbearable. He saw Guru Sahib along with some Gursikhs coming towards him. He could not think of appearing before Guru Sahib in such condition. He tried to hide behind other sewadaars but then noticed that Guru coming right towards him. When Guru Sahib came close to him, he moved backwards. Guru Sahib moved forward and he moved backwards. Then the thought came to his mind that moving backwards would amount to disrespecting Guru Sahib but to appear before Guru Sahib in such filthy condition too was disrespectful.
As he was engaged in such thoughts, he inadvertently fell at the Charan Kamal of Guru Sahib. Guru Sahib lifted him up and tightly embraced him. All curtains blocking the spiritual treasure within, were lifted in that instant. Bhai Bahlo accomplished Jyot-Vigaas there and then. Guru Sahib had done his kirpa.
More Blessings from Guru Sahib
After the completion of the Sarovar and Siri Harmandir Sahib, a samagam was held to thank Vaheguru. Baba Buddha jee was the first one to receive siropa and honour from Guru Sahib. The second one after Baba jee to receive the Siropa was Bhai Bhagtu jee. He was blessed with many boons and the responsibility to do Parchaar of Sikhi in the area of Brars. Then came the turn of Bhai Bahlo jee. Guru Sahib first all blessed him with the title of “Bhai” and called him Bhai Bahlo. Bhai Bahlo jee’s original name was Bahlol but Guru Sahib changed it to Bahlo and also blessed him with the title of “Bhai”.
Guru Sahib was still not satisfied with his blessings. Guru Sahib gave him the boon of “Bhai Bahlo, Sabh taun Pehlo” meaning Bhai Bahlo is number one out of Sewadaars. Guru Sahib was still not satisfied and then lovingly asked him to ask for more. Bhai Bahlo’s eyes were filled with divine tears and with trembling body, he asked for nothing but Naam and Sikhi for eternity. Guru Sahib was filled with love. Guru Sahib got up from His throne and embraced Bhai Bahlo very tightly and declared him the leader of Sikhs in Malwa zone. Then Guru Sahib through another blessing gave him access to all Akali Shaktis (positive extra-sensory spiritual powers, Ridhi Sidhi). Anything that Bhai Bahlo would say and do would come true.
Hukam to go back Home
Thereafter Guru Sahib gave Bhai Bahlo the Hukam to go to his home and do Parchaar of Sikhi in Malwa zone of Punjab. Bhai Sahib arrived at his home and the whole village and friends were surprised to see him in Sikhi baana. He no longer was carrying the Aasa (long stick of Sakhi Sarvars), or wearing Sultani clothes. His shining face was showing the inner Avastha of a Brahmgyani.
The Sakhi Sarvars were furious. They first cajoled him to come back to his old faith and then threatened him but Bhai Sahib remained unmoved. Soon he started doing parchaar of Sikhi and in a matter of short time, Sikhi started spreading very rapidly in that area. Twice a year, at Vasaakhi and Diwali, he used to go to Siri Harmandir Sahib with thousands of Sikhs.
Bhai Sahib continued doing sewa and Parchaar of Sikhi in Malwa. Bhai Sahib was one of the greatest Sikhs of that time along with Bhai Manjh jee, Bhai Bhagtu jee, and Bhai Langah jee. May Guru Sahib bless us with such Sikhi as these great Gurmukhs had.
Bhul Chuk dee Maafi jee.