When we do paath of Sri Guru Granth Sahib jee, we read about Ajaamal Paapi at quite a few places. Here is a brief story of his life. Hopefully this will help us understand baani better.
Ajaamal was born to a Raaj Purohit (head priest) and in a high caste (so called) within already high caste of Hindus i.e. Brahmins. Raaj Purohit means the main pujaari (priest) of a kingdom. A Raaj Purohit is like the head priest of a kingdom and the kings refer to their raaj purohits for any questions on religion.
Ajaamal was brought up in a very religious atmosphere and was provided with Sanskrit education from an early age. By the time he reached the age of maturity, he became well-versed in all 4 Vedas, 18 Puraanas and other important religious books of those times. His father was a man of high probity and integrity. He used to admonish him against doing paap karma (sins). He further told him to never go in the southern part of the city because that part of the city was full of scoundrels and prostitutes. Innocent Ajaamal who had not been exposed to any evil in his life felt his curiosity getting aroused at the mention of the Southern part of the city but he continued to abstain from going that way.
He got married to a beautiful and good-hearted woman. They had a couple of children and led an uneventful life until his father died. He was then appointed to the post of Raaj Purohit. His life continued in normal fashion until that fateful day when he had to go to the southern part of the city. It was probably his destiny to go to that part of the city.
He was on horseback and as he approached the inner city, he came off his horse and parked it by the tree. He started walking on foot and reached that part of the city where there are brothels and pubs. He had never been exposed to such scenes. There were women standing outside the brothels luring customers in. He was taken aback at such open display of Kaam (sex).
Then one woman, who knew all the chalitters (wiles of seduction), looked at Ajaamal with such a look that Ajaamal got stuck right there. She was in an embraced position with some man, with her face towards Ajamal. His feet could not move any further. Then she without speaking, just with a hand gesture, asked him to follow her. She was a young and promiscuous woman in her early twenties. He resisted but could not resist for too long. Finally he gave in to the temptation and started walking behind her.
That day changed his life forever. He became a regular visitor to this Ganika (prostitute, bad woman). Soon others found out about his double life. His wife pleaded with him to stop seeing the prostitute but he did not listen to anyone. Everyone was wondering why he could not leave this prostitute and what wrong did he see in his beautiful, homely and good-natured wife.
When the king found out, he was quite upset at Ajaamal but wanted to give him a second chance out of his respect for Ajaamal’s father. He tried to persuade Ajaamal to mend his ways but soon found out that Ajaamal was not going to stop seeing the Ganika (prostitute). Ajaamal was spending his money very recklessly and in order to protect his legitimate children and wife, the king decided to banish him from his kingdom. He confiscated all his property and gave it to his wife and children. Thereafter he banished Ajaamal and the prostitute from his kingdom.
Great calamities befell on both Ajaamal and the prostitute. They moved out of the kingdom and starting leading a very destitute life. Ajaamal was left with no money, and now had to work very hard to earn his living. He used to cut wood from jungle all day and sell it in the city. He started gambling, drinking and doing other bad things. He and his mistress used to fight endlessly and had a lot of children together. In short, their life was a hell.
The poverty took its toll on Ajaamal and he became old before his age. He got infected with many diseases and suffered a lot. He and his mistress had several children together. Ajaamal had to work very hard to feed his new family. When Ajaamal hit old-age, his body became very weak but he had to work to feed his family. He sometimes used to regret his decision but it was too late to go back now. He knew that no one would accept him back.
Anyway, later in his life he had a son and the day his son was born, some saadhu jan (holy men) came to his house to seek refuge from bad weather. Ajaamal out of his good karma, did sewa of those Sadhoos. The Saadhoos had ridhi-sidhi (extra-sensory powers) and sensed that Ajaamal had led a very terrible life and that in the next world he would suffer badly in the hands of Jammdoots (messengers of death).
Before leaving they had mercy on Ajaamal. They noticed that Ajaamal was totally entangled in the attachment of his family and because of his bad karma, he was not worthy of receiving Naam. They knew that if he did not do bhagtee i.e. Naam jaap, he would suffer in the hands of Jammdoots. They finally came up with an idea. They told him to name his latest born son "Narayana". Obeying what the saadhoo said, Ajaamal named his son - Narayan. We should remember that Narayan is one of the qualitative names of God.
Ajaamal became very fond of his son and lovingly called him " Narayana Narayana " all day. By this time, his diseases overpowered him and he lay at deathbed. As he lay in his bed, waiting for death, he still had moh (worldly attachment) for his youngest son and kept calling him lovingly " Narayana, Narayana ". Saying " Narayana " felt very good to him and he said more and more of " Narayana ". He felt good saying " Narayana Narayana ". He started feeling comfort saying “Narayana Narayana.”
When his death time came close, Jammdoots started visiting him and he could see them approaching him. The sight of Jammdoots greatly terrified him and out of fear, he called his son Narayana by name. He kept saying “help me Narayana, save me Narayana”. As the Jammdoots approached him, they realized that they could not reach him as he was saying God's naam (kirtam naam, not satnaam i.e. Vaheguru).
Jammdoots could not get close to him but his end was fast approaching. Ajaamal just kept calling his son Narayana and jammdoots totally became helpless. By this time the good angels (devtay) came to get Ajaamal. The Jammdoots and the angels started having debate on who was to take him to the next world. This debate is highly interesting and is written in great detail in Sri Madd Bhagwat Purana.
Anyway, the angels reminded the Jammdoots that whoever does kirtan or recites Naam, jammdoots are not allowed to catch them. The Jammdoots went back to Dharam Rai, their master and Dharam Rai confirmed that whoever does kirtan or Naam, Jammdoots are not allowed to get near them. This dialogue of Dharam Rai is recorded in Gurbani as follows:
JAH SADHOO GOBIND, BHAJAN KIRTAN NANAK NEET||
NAA HAO, NA TU, NA SCHOOTAY, NIKAT NA JAAYEEYO DOOT||
(O Jamm doots, where ever the Saadhoos of Gobind-Vaheguru do kirtan (singing praise) or do bhajan (meditation on Naam) of Vaheguru, never ever go close to that place. If you violate this, then neither you nor I would be spared of the punishment)
In the end jammdoots could not reach him and he was taken to the next world by devtaas (good angels of heaven).
Gurbani says this very clearly that whoever says name of Vaheguru in the last moments of his life, does not go to jammdoots. So Ajaamal, who was maha-paapi (great sinner), went to heaven (heaven is much lower than Sachkhand) instead of going to hell. He was surely destined to go to hell if he had not recited Narayana unwittingly.
If kirtam naam (qualitative naams that describe one or more qualities of Vaheguru) can have so much effect, imagine how great an effect the true Naam, that Guru Nanak Dev jee has brought to this world, would have. Let us learn this lesson from this saakhi to make Naam as integral part of our life as breathing is.
Here are some of the pankitis from Gurbani that allude to Ajaamal’s story:
AJAAMAL PAAPI JAG JAANAE, NIMAK MAAHE NISTAARA||
(The great sinner Ajaamal, whom was notorious in the whole world, was delivered by Vaheguru in one instance)
AJAAMAL, GAJJ, GANIKA, PATIT KARAM KEENAY||
TAYOO UTTAR PAAR PARAE, RAAM NAAM LEENAY||
(Ajaamal, the elephant and Ganika did many bad karma but by taking Naam, they swam across this ocean of world)
AJAAMAL KO ANT KAAL MEH, NARAYAN SUDH AAYEE||
JA GATT KO JOGISUR BAANCHAE, SO GAT CHHIN MEH PAYEE||
(Ajaamal realised the Naam the greatness of Naam in his last moments. He received such honour in few moments that great Yogis attained in many years of penance)