Kalaam-e-Goya - Poetry of Bhai Nand Lal Goya in English

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Kalaam-e-Goya - Poetry of Bhai Nand Lal Goya in English book by Pritpal Singh Bindra.

This book has been released by Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President, SGPC at about 1,500 Sikh Scholars' Seminar, held at Institute of Sikh Stdies, Chandigarh on Nov. 15/16, 2003. It is available from the Institute at [[email protected]]

Bhai Nand Lal Goya

(1633 - 1713Ad)

Outside Guru Granth Sahib, the holy Sikh Scripture (consecrated 1604AD), and next to the Epics and Quatrains of Bhai Gurdas (1551-1637AD), the Kalaam-e-Goya, the poetry of Bhai Nand Lal Goya (1633-1713AD) is considered as the most ardent by the celebrated literary enthusiasts and the lay-zealots. He was a contemporary and the poet laureate of Guru Gobind Singh (1667-1708AD).

His father, Diwan Chaju Ram, was in the employ of the court of Prince Dara Shakoh, the eldest son of Emperor Shah Jahan, at the regional capital of Multan. When Dara Shakoh moved to Ghazni in Afghanistan, Diwan Chaju Ram accompanied him. He was appointed as the chief secretary of the royal court. Bhai Nand Lal was born there in 1633AD when his father was just over the age of fifty.

The boy Nand Lal was very brilliant and, apart from good knowledge of Persian and Arabic languages, he gained an insight into the temporal and the spiritual values of life. It is said that, when a religious priest wanted to put a wooden necklace around his neck to initiate him into the Vaishnav denomination, he refused to acquiesce. He wanted to gain full religious knowledge before he could consent to the ritual. His age at the time was seventeen (Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha specifies it as 12).

He was still under twenty when his father died. According to the custom prevalent, he was offered a job in the royal court, which was much lower in rank. He wanted to take over his father's position. He was dismayed and, after selling all his property there, and collecting all the money, he moved back to Multan (now in Pakistan), at his parental abode. Wasif Khan, the Mughal Chief at Multan had been a friend of his father. He offered him the job of a secretary. Through hard work and his intellectual capability, he soon took over the administration as the principal secretary. Some accounts contend that he rose to the position of Deputy Governor of the Province.

There he was married to a girl belonging to the Sikh religion. He was very much impressed by the thought and the spiritual values depicted in the verses from Guru Granth Sahib rendered by his wife.

In 1682AD he came on a pilgrimage to Amritsar and from there he decided to proceed to Anandpur Sahib to seek celestial enlightenment at the portal of Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Master. Aurangzeb had issued strict orders banning all activities pertaining to art and music. It is assumed that Bhai Nand Lal moved to Anandpur to escape the Emperor's wrath against the literary endeavour in general.

Although Bhai Jee did create exquisite poetry but he had not gained much prominence. A diamond remains obscured covered in the dust till it is captured by the vision of a shrewd assayer. When he presented himself at the Celestial and Temporal Court of Guru Gobind Singh, he tendered and recited his epic poem Bandgi Nama, An Ode to Worship. It overwhelmed Guru Jee aesthetically and he wrote a couplet at the back of the book,

`Whose cup is filled with nectarous aqua,

`He gets the epistle of life revealed to him.'

And the name Zindgi Nama, The Epistle of Life, was assigned to the book.

He did not stay at Anandpur Sahib for a long time. It is said, on the recommendation of Guru Jee, in about 1678AD, he joined the cerebral faculty of Prince Muazzam (later Emperor Bahadur Shah) and accompanied him to the South as his principal secretary.

Emperor Aurangzeb once asked the exposition of a certain Ayat (Couplet) from the Holy Quran. Various Mohammedan priests expounded but the Emperor was not convinced. The interpretation presented by the Prince seemed very authentic and, on enquiry, the Emperor learnt that Bhai Nand Lal, a Hindu, had explicated it. He commented why had such a learned and intelligent person not come under the folds of Islam as yet. Suspecting Aurangzeb's motive, he escaped and came back to Anandpur after about one year. (This could be one of the points of Aurangzeb's vengeance against Guru Jee).

Although Guru Jee wanted Bhai Nand Lal to stay there just contemplating on his literary debuts, his humility led him to spend most of his time serving in the Langar, the community kitchen.

He was at Anandpur up to 1705AD when, under the deceitful promises of the Mughal forces, Guru Jee had to abandon the place. In the melee that followed, whole family was scattered. Nothing much is known about his where about till the death of Emperor Aurangzeb. It appears that he rejoined his previous master, Prince Muazzam, who had crowned himself as the Emperor under the name of Bahadur Shah. It is said that Bhai Nand Lal was instrumental in persuading Mata Sundri and Mata Sahib Deva to move to Delhi after the upheaval of Anandpur Sahib. They stayed there till the last days of their lives.

Hari Ram Gupta (History of the Sikhs) maintains that Bhai Nand Lal was present at the Emperor's Lohgarh campaign against Banda Bahadur in 1710. When Bahadur Shah died in 1712 he accompanied his son Jahandar Shah and came to Delhi. Farukh Siyar assassinated Jahandar Shah in 1713AD. Bhai Nand Lal, somehow, escaped the rage of Farukh Siyar and went to Multan. `There he opened a school to impart higher education in Persian and Arabic. He died in 1718AD*. In 1849, at Punjab's annexation, the British found this school functioning under the patronage of Nand Lal's descendants.'

  • According to Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha - 1705AD and Dr. Ganda Singh - 1713AD




A yearning for celestial adoration engendered my existence, otherwise, I fancied not the tangibility.(1)

How creative is the life passed in his retention,

Diversely, what gain I have under this blue dome.(2)

With the lack of your remembrance I wane,

And without your recollection what use is my living?(3)

My heart and soul are sacrifice to that pious being,

Who revealed to me this kindly light.(4)

Neither there was the earth, nor the sky,

When the obsession for a glimpse of yours brought me down to pay my obeisance.(5)

Oh Goya, I can endure not, without pondering upon you,

And soon I will be liberated to converge into my benefactor.(6)(1)


Both, the temporal and the heavenly worlds are in the halter of the fairy-faced benefactor.

And both the domains are not worth the price of my friend's one hair.(1)

We can face not even one sidelong blink of the friend's looks,

Enough is for us, his one glance, which grants us a long mortality.(2)

He epitomizes a Sufi, but sometimes he becomes a venerator and sometimes he is self-absorbed.

Clever though he is, he is multifarious.(3)

Who else can appreciate his pinkiness except a fancier?

The value of garnet is assessed only through the vision of a gems' assayer.(4)

Through all the moments and all the winks, Goya remains alert,

To relish the vanity of the benefactor's vision.(5)(2)


Oh, Saqui, give me the cup-full, which endows hilarity to my heart,

And the pious vision, which enables me to pass through all the impediments.(1)

Proceeding to the portal of my revered one, I feel exuberance.

The bell in the neck of the camel is tolling unnecessarily, I am not amenable to an interlude.(2)

God is omnipresent, you just concentrate to go for his vision,

May there be many hurdles and rivers with no coasts.(3)

Why are you roaming around in the jungles and the barren lands?

Whereas the Sultan of the Graciousness has created his image in your own vision.(4)

Wherever I look, I see nothing but the essence of his piety.

Goya asks, how and where could I surrender this world and the people there in?(5)(3)


Come, Saqui, fill here the cup with colourful wine,

As the crimsoning wine endows the celestial glimpse.(1)

If the gargling of decanter announces Mansoor's Anal-u-haq*,

Then who would care for the inebriation of wine and where about of that mental cup.(2)

The world is enveloped in the darkness but, my friend, you brighten the self,

And illuminate your semblance, as the luminescence is needed.(3)

Even an iota of his remembrance, expands the whole existence,

But, only if one gets just a speck out of leisure.(4)

Both eyes of mine are the embodiment of the flowing rivers,

And every tear out of them will enliven the garden once again.(5)(4)

(*Mansoor raised the slogan of `The God is in me' and he was persecuted)


Travellers on celestial paths must have reverence,

Along with the remembrance in their hearts and the meditation on their lips.(1)

At all the places, the resplendence of the God, Almighty,

We have found absorbed in the congregation of the elderly.(2)

Without his vision, the temporal eyes attain not the light,

But we perceive the Lord among all his people.(3)

Our eyes are opened not, without his splendour,

And then, in all the creation, we find the Almighty.(4)

The dust of the pious feet enlightens the heart,

Subject to your affinity with the people advancing on his path.(5)

Who is there, Goya, whose aspirations are fulfilled not,

Provided he has fully subdued his mind (ego).(6)(5)


In fondness for you, every one came rolling over his head,

And established his sovereignty over all the nine domains.

But only his arrival was auspicious and the departure propitious too,

Who, Oh Goya, had found the true way.(1)


The eye, which recognizes not the Almighty, is unenlightened,

And expends this precious life just remaining oblivious.

Weeping, he emanates and departs with obscured aspirations.

Alas, he, in his coming and going, accomplishes naught.(2)


Oh, You, the breeze, don’t blow away the dust from the portal of my benefactor,

The adversary may, otherwise, sneer at you for lacking affection.(1)

Except the beloved, there is none else at the Kabah and the Temple of Idol,

How can the sparks produced through the striking of the stones be dissimilar?(2)

The sky bends to pay obeisance to the earth,

Because the devotees of the Almighty spend a few moments there in meditation.(3)

Under the shades of the tree of Tooba, the desires are fulfilled,

But only under the shelter of the piety, the Almighty is accessible.(4)


From Pritpal Singh Bindra's forthcoming book, KALAAM-e-GOYA; Poetry of Bhai Nand Lal Goya to be published in Autumn 2000.

References available from the Author.