Guru Nanak in Maharashtra
I had the good luck to be connected with Maharashtra for over seven years in various capacities. During my stay in Maharashtra I have been able to visit almost every part of the state, and was astonished and pleased to find the Name of Guru Nanak in many parts, even in the remote areas. Sikhism is generally revered and Hindus have a special place in their hearts for the Sikhs. Local Sikhs, specially the Vanajara and Sikligar Sikhs, who have a large presence in the state enjoy a place of pride in the politics and administration of the state. Guru Nanak visited almost all the key religious centres and places of political importance in Maharashtra and is stated to have met the famous saints of the state and collected their hymns during his visit.
Saint Namdev (1270-1350) belonged to village Narsi Bamani, in Sitara District of Maharashtra, who visited Punjab along with his follower, Gyan Dev and stayed in village Ghuman, in District Gurdaspur, where he breathed his last. 61 hymns of Saint Namdev are included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Arjun Dev included not only the hymns of saints Namdev from Maharashtra but also one hymn each of Bhagat Trilochan (1267-1335) and Parmanand (1483-1593) in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Shivaji, the great warrior and pride of Maharashtra, is stated to have been initiated into martial arts by his guru Samrath Ram Das after having been impressed by Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru of Sikhs, about the importance of use of sword in defence of the poor and the oppressed and for the protection of the justice. Abchal Nagar, Nanded Sahib where Guru Gobind Singh entered the eternal light, is of equal reverence for all castes and religions, and they all visit the place in large numbers. Abchal Nagar is one of the five supreme religious seats (Takht) of the Sikhs.
Guru Nanak came to Maharashtra during his travels to the South (Dakhan Udasi) from Madhya Pradesh side. He reached Ramtek, a place to 48 Kms North-East of Nagpur. The place is connected with Lord Rama, who is stated to have come to the place. The place captivated Lord Rama who stayed at the place for sometime. Temples of Lord Rama and Lakshman can be seen atop a hill in whose foots lies a lake known as Ram Sagar. Kalidas the famous writer is said to have been attracted by the scenic beauty of the place, when he wrote the famous ballad ‘Meghdoot’ at the place.
The natural beauty of the place attracted Guru Nanak and he is stated to have stayed here for four months during which he attended the fairs of Kartik Poornima and Ram Naumi. The famous Ganapati movement was in full force during the period, but the leader of the Ganapati movement Acharya Jagan Prakash became disciple of Guru Nanak after listening to his discourses. A gurdwara commemorates Guru Nanak’s visit to the place.
After Ramtek, Guru Ji visited Tumsar and Kamptee before reaching Nagpur. Tumsar is an important railway station on Howrah-Nagpur rail line, and Kamptee is now an important Army Cantonment. The area is primarily inhabited by Gond Tribe. Their only dress has been the cloth around their waist. People are poor and hunger is endemic. There are very few doctors and the people do not have money to spend on health care. Number of people die of hepatitis, small pox, snake bite, etc. Death from these diseases over the centuries causes a natural fear of these in their minds, and they have started worshipping these diseases to appease them. Nag Devta, Haiza Devta and Chechak Devta became their famous deities over a period. Guru Nanak explained to these people about the disease and asked them to keep clean, drink clean water and worship only the True Lord and not these assumed deities.
From Nagpur Guru visited Amravati, Akola, Malikapur and Buldana, stay for sometime at Burhanpur. A Gurdwara on the Northern Bank of river Tapti commemorates Guru Nanak’s visit to the area. Later Guru Gobind Singh stayed near the place before reaching Nanded. The Gurdwara is looked after by a Maharashtrian Vanjara Sikh and maintained well. The Vanjara priest told me that people from his community are devout Sikhs and always eager to partake of Amrit. This place is very close to the spot where Mumtaz, the wife of Shah Jehan, died and was later shifted to Agra where, now, Taj Mahal stands as a monument to her memory. From Gurdwara, the natural scenic beauty is bewitching. On southern bank of Utavli, Hazrat Nizam-ul-Din, a descendant of Sheikh Farid lived in a thatched hut. Guru Nanak held discussions with Sheikh Braham and other Sufis at the place.
From Burhanpur, the Guru proceeded to the south and visited Narsi Bamani where saint Namdev was born. Through Hingoli he went to Aundha Nagnath a place connected with Saint Namdev preaching. Adi Jyotirling is stated to have been established at this place. Nagnath temple is another place of attraction. From Aundha Nagnath Guru Nanak came to Basmat and then reached Nanded.
Nanded appears to be the garbled name of Nandigaon or the old fort Nanagiri. It was then in small hutments like Sidhnathpuri, Brahmpuri, Wazirabad, etc. Guru Nanak stayed 3 miles away in the north-east of the city where old Wazirabad existed. A Muslim saint, Sayyad Shah Hussain used to stay at the place then. He was also known as Lakad Shah faquir. Gurdwara Mal Tekri stands at the place of Guru Nanak’s visit. The grave of the saint, Sayyad Shah Hussain Lakad can be seen behind the Gurdwara. On the head side of the grave the date of the death of the saint is given as 1010 Hijri i.e., 1610 A.D. This shows that the saint survived till the breathing last of the Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. A legend told by the priest of Gurdwara Mal Tekri is as follows :
‘A Muslim saint was in deep meditation in a thatched hut and occasionally prayed. "O Wali Peer Nanak! I have heard that you are a true representative of the Lord and redeem the strayed. I cannot reach you as I am unable to walk even; I have no sight in my eyes. People say that you can reach the hearts of others. If so, please do understand my feelings and come and redeem me without further delay". Guru Nanak reached him during his prayers. Guru Nanak asked him to open his eyes and see for himself as to who was present in front of him. The saint fell at the feet of the Guru and prayed, "O Great One, I am emancipated by your effulgent presence, hearing my prayers, this hut is blessed by your presence."
Guru Nanak embraced him with affection and blessed him. "O saint! You have become like a log praying. Now your prayers are answered. Time will come when the people will come to the place where you have been meditating. This place will soon be known world over. You are quite old and unable to look after yourself. You must not do anything else except cleaning this place daily. You will get two ashrafees daily which shall meet your daily requirements."
"Whatever you say is an order for me, O Nanak", said the saint and observed the daily cleaning ritual till he died after surviving for a long period. He was buried close-by and a Gurdwara came up at the place later."
The caretaker of the grave told me that Guru Nanak told Lakad Shah Faqeer, "that a large amount of money is kept buried at the place which shall be later required by his successor. You must look after the place till the arrival of a successor who will take out the money from the place for the need of his followers. You will get two asharfees daily to protect the money."
Lakad Shah Faqeer lived till the arrival of the Guru Gobind Singh and handed over the money buried at the place. Guru Gobind Singh distributed the money among his army who could not be paid earlier. The place was known as Mal Tekri from that day onwards. There is no historical record found to confirm these two legends. However, the booklet prepared by Gurdwara Board Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Abchal Nagar Sahib Nanded, records: Gurdwara Maltekri is located two Kms from Takht Sachkhand Sahib on the bank of Godavari in Brahampuri Mohalla, near Gurudwara Sangat Sahib. Gurdwara’s old names were ‘Chakrimal’ and ‘Mal Tilla’. Before proceeding to Bidar, Guru Nanak stopped at this place. Later, Guru Gobind Singh got money out of this place and distributed to his soldiers. It is said that Guru Nanak had foretold that when the Khalsa numbers 16 crore, money from the place (Maltekri) will be taken out and free kitchen will started for them....At one time the Muslims tried to take over the place by burying their dead at the place and by converting Gurdwara into a mosque. A dispute arose between Muslims and Sikhs about the occupation. The case was taken up to the court of Nizam of Hyderabad and later to the Highcourt at Calcutta. The judgement finally announced on 8 January 1930 was in favour of the Sikhs and, on Government orders, the buried bodies were taken over and the place handed over to the Sikhs and it became an important pilgrimage for the Sikhs."
The Gurdwara is frequently visited. Almost all the travellers who come to pay obeisance at Abchal Nagar come and pay obeisance at this place too. The caretaker of the grave also gets sufficient money in addition to the money offered at the Gurdwara by the visiting Sikhs. The Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee of Abchal Nagar controls and maintains this place as well.
From Nanded Guru Nanak entered Andhra Pradesh and visiting Nirmal, Medak and Wazirabad District, reached Bidar in Karnatak. Guru Nanak re-entered Maharashtra after his return from Sri Lanka wherefrom he came via Kerala and Karnataka. He reached Pandharpur, the place known for the Temple in honour of Lord Vithoba. Other temples are Lakshmi Temple, Pundalik Temple, Vishnupad temple, Tribkeshwar Temple, Malikarjan Temple, Ambabai Temple, Sri Ram temple and Sri Nam Dev temple. Saint Namdev stayed for most of his life in Pandharpur and got married at this place in Samwat 1458 (1351A.D.) Sri Namdev temple was constructed in honour of Sri Namdev. Vithoba and Rukmani are the key deities at the place. Vithoba or Vithal/Bethhal is a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. Fairs are organised in the months of July and October-November (Assadi ikadsi and Kartic ikadsi)
Namdev was a tailor by trade and in the eyes of caste Brahmins the tailors belong to lower caste and untouchables. Namdev fought for equality whole of his life and asked people not to do idol worship. Guru Nanak held discussions with the followers of saint Namdev and also collected the verses of Sri Namdev. These verses were later added into Sri Guru Granth Sahib by Guru Arjun.
From Pandharpur Guru Nanak reached Barsi (72 KMs from Pandharpur). Bhagat Trilochan and Parmanand belonged to this place. He held discussions with saint Parmanand (1483-1593) at the place and also collected the verses of these saints and entered in his ‘pothee’. The tomb of Bhagat Parmanand is close to 700 year old temple Bhagwant Mandir (Amreesh mandir) in right hand side of the main gate. Parmanand is described as of low caste (shoodar) on the plate attached to the tomb. From Barsee, Guru Nanak reached Poona covering a distance of aboutr 200 KMs towards North-West. It is famous for its Jyotirling Bhim Shankar on the bank of Sakini river. Poona a very picturesque place is now a famous industrial town is well connected to Mumbai, Goa, Sholapur and Bangalore by rail-lines and roads. Once it was the capital of Marhattas. Guru Nanak asked the people to worship the true Lord and not to get misled into idol worship. A Gurdwara in Ramtekri, commemorates Guru Nanak’s visit to the place.
From Poona, Guru Nanak travelled North and visiting Lonavla, reached Ambernath. Ambarnath is now a famous railways station and Industrial centre on Kalyan-Poona rail line. Art the time of Guru Nanak’s visit the place had Ambarnath a temple in honour of Lord Shiva. This temple still exists and frequently visited by the local population. Area around the temple was then uninhabited. The year of construction of this temple is carved on the temple which showed that it had been there for five hundred years before Guru Nanak’s visit. This ancient temple is mixture of Ajanta-Ellora style and the styles of Southern Indian temples. Made by the then kings of the area, the temple had been famous for Shivratri fair on Falgun Wadi 14; the tradition which is followed to-date. According to Professor Sahib Singh, Guru Nanak came at this place on 25 February 1415 while Surinder Singh Kohli and other historians mention the period to be earlier than this. A gurdwara has been constructed at some distance in the memory of visit of Guru Nanak and a free education school Guru Nanak Public School was started at the place during my stay. Both the Gurdwara and the School have come up well.
From Ambernath, Guru Nanak visited Mumbai Haji Ali and Maha Lakshmi temple. From Mumbai he travelled to Trimbkeshwar, 35 KMs from Nasik. Trimbkeshwar is famous for ancient Jyotirling. Other temples are connected with Ahalya who was redeemed by Lord Rama at the place, Anjneri Hills and Hanuman Temple connected with the birth of Hanuman. Lord Rama is said to have met Hanuman in this area itself. The area is surrounded by high hills where from the Godavri river originates. There are two Akhadas of Udasis, Naya Akhada and Puratan Akhada. Guru Nanak’s footprints are stated to be existing in Puratan Akhada. The recitation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib goes on continuously in the Gurdwaras constructed in Guru Nanak’s memory.
From Trimbkeshwar, Guru Nanak travelled further North-East and reached Nasik. Nasik is the garbled name of Nakhshik or Naushikh, the meaning of first being cutting of nose while the meaning of the second word is nine hilltops. The first name can be connected to the cutting of nose of Sarup Nakha sister of Ravana by Lakhman, brother Lord Rama. The second word can be connected to the nine hills which dominate Nasik. Lord Rama, his brother, Lakshma nand wife Sita passed their fourteen years banishment in a cave under five Badh trees in Nasik at Panchvati on the bank of Godavari.
Guru Nanak held discussions with various saints at thee place. According to the Panjabi Panda, Guru Nanak’s signatures exist in his records. We searched his old records for days together but were unable to locate these as most of the old ones had been eaten by the moth. Records of visit of Maharaja Dalip Singh and Maharaja Kapurthala could be found. The ashes of Maharaja Kapurthala who died in Arab countries and Maharani Jindan, mother of Maharaja Dalip to proceed to Hardwar. A village was purchased by Maharaja Dalip Singh for the maintenance of the samadhi of Rani Jindan. At the samadhi of Rani Jindan the annual Akhand Path was performed till 1960, after which the samadhi was destroyed by the municipality and a huge statue of Sri Hanuman was constructed adjoining the place. A memorial to Maharaja Kapurthala still exists. The land donated by Maharaja Dalip Singh and a Dharmsala constructed by the successor of Maharaja of Kapurthala still exist in dilapidated state, but the portion of it has been sold by the care-takers. Similarly, a gurdwara constructed close-by is badly maintained and will soon vanish if due care is not done. Our efforts to get the lands and portions of Dharmsala from the administration did not succeed and the memory of Rani Jindan at Nasik is gone for ever.
Two small Gurdwaras, one Sindhi and one Panjabi, exist near Ram Kund in the memory of Guru Nanak’s visit.
From Nasik Guru Nanak entered Gujarat and proceeded to Valsad where Nanak Wadi exists in commemoration.
1. Guru Granth Sahib Ratnavali. Punjabi University Patiala. P. 91.
2. Surinder Singh Kohli: Travels of Guru Nanak. P.U. Chandigarh.
3. Seva Singh Koshish: Guru Kian Sakhian. Kalam Patiala.
4. Kirpal Singh: Janam Sakhi Parampara. Patiala.
5. Brief History of Nanded: Gurdwara Board Sachkhand.
6. Sahib Singh: Jivan Britant Guru Nanak Devji (Amritsar)
article by Col. Dr. Dalvinder Singh Grewal