Baoli at Goindwal & Dr. W.H. McLeod’s Misconception

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Pritpal Singh Bindra In a divergent discourse in his book, “The Evolution of the Sikh Community”, Dr. W.H. McLeod infers that the erection of the Baoli at Goindwal Sahib has been in deference to the thought and the teachings of Guru Nanak. Although in a few rejoinders* most of the absurdities raised by him have been appropriately delved, this aspect has not been elaborated. Being close to the modern age, the Sikh history is very precise and unambiguous (unless some self-motivated individuals or organizations dump in the vagueness and uncertainties). It does not take a highly qualified scholar or an eminent historian to enunciate the truth. The facts are easily verifiable by an ordinary lay reader. It is a well known fact that Guru Amar Das Ji extensively travelled to the places of the pilgrimage, both before and after the attainment of the Gurudom. He saw people taking arduous journeys of hundreds of miles - some never reached their destinations and some never returned home to see their loved ones. There is no dearth of stories of innocent people being exploited and plundered by the so-called priests at such ‘tirath asthans’. The pilgrims were harassed and expropriated by the officials of Mughal Sarkar's Tax (Jaziya) Collectors. On top of all that Guru Amar Das Ji observed thousands dying of cholera and other diseases by having to dip in (and drink) the polluted and contaminated water. Guru Amar Das Ji wanted people to be emancipated of such miseries. His ever innovative mind thought of providing people with places for the attainment of peace of mind and solitude, and such places he wanted easily approachable with clean environments. The erection of the Baoli at Goindwal Sahib was just the beginning; the number of baolis, sarowars, wells, etc. existing these days is the testimony to the fact. Any such ‘water-place’ is not there for the worship of itself as such but as a means to worship the God, Almighty. Why such a ‘water-place’ is needed? One cannot be more explicit and precise than Guru Arjan Dev Ji, “After taking bath, remember thou thy Lord; thus thy soul and body shall be disease-free. (KAR ISHNAN SIMIR PRABH APNA MAN TAN BHEYE AROGA" Sorath M. 5 Guru Granth Sahib, p 612) Guru Granth Sahib is the most factual contemporary historical reference. Among all the Shabds by Guru Amar Das Ji there is not a single one that refers the Sikhs to the Baoli at Goindwal Sahib for their emancipation and salvation. On the other hand, in conformity with the teachings of Guru Nanak, Guru Amar Das Ji enunciates: “By no means this dirt of ego is washed off, even though one may have ablution at hundreds of places of pilgrimage” Sri Rag M.3, p39. “By daily bathing in holy water egotism goes not” Gauri M.3, p 230.” “In thy own home is everything, O man, and there is nothing abroad” Asa M.3, Ashtpadi, p 245. “Divine knowledge is neither gained at Banaras, nor is divine knowledge lost at Banaras” Gujri M.3 Panchpade, p 491. “God is the true place of pilgrimage, where man bathes in the lake of truth and the Guru-beloved, He himself makes realize this. The sixty-eight places of pilgrimage, the Lord has shown to be the Guru’s Word, bathing wherein, the filth of sin is washed off” Suhi M.3, p 753. “He, whose within is soiled and unclean, He is cleansed not even if he visits all the pilgrimage-places and roams the whole world” Basant M.3, p 1169. The Bani in the Granth Sahib was written by the Gurus, compiled by the Gurus, recited millions of times by themselves and anything that does not confirm to the Bani itself is not truth. As the end I would like to quote from Dr. S.S. Kholi’s essays “Constant Unity in Sikh Thought.” “We do not know how McLeod has concluded that the ‘tirath’ of Guru Amar Das Ji was Baoli Sahib and not the Name of the Lord?... Thus for Guru Amar Das Ji also, like Guru Nanak Dev, the real Tiratha is the Word of Guru or the Name of the Lord. How can a foreign missionary, who boasts of using the most scientific methodology for his conclusions, know the real spirit of Sikhism without delving deep into the compositions of the Gurus?” (8I.P.S. Babra, Sikh Review, Calcutta Feb. 1991)

  • Sikh News & Views, Nov. 1991
  • Advanced Studies in Sikhism

“The praise of His Name is the highest of all practices; It has upraised many a human soul. It slakes the desire of the restless mind, And imparts an all-seeing vision. To a man of praise Death loses all its terrors; He feels all his hopes fulfilled; His mind is cleaned of all impurities; And is filled with the ambrosial Name. God resides in the tongue of the good. O that I were the slave of their slaves.” (Sukhmani 1.4) “As a pillar supports the roof of a house, So does the Guru’s word prop up the mortal’s spirit. As a stone laden in a boat can go across a stream, So can the disciple attached to the feet of the Guru cross the ocean of life. Darkness is dispelled by the light of a lamp, So is man’s inner self illumined by the Guru’s smiling face. As in the wilderness a benighted traveller picks out his path by a flash of lightening. So does a man find the light of his own soul by the superior light of the Guru. O if I could find the dust of such a saint’s feet! May God fulfil my heart’s desire!” (Sukhmani XV.3) Vain are the distinctions based on caste and pedigree, All human beings look up to one Protector. Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Sri Rag