Labanas (During Sikh Guru's period)
Sikhism does not endorse caste based distinctions in society that lead to unequal opportunities for some people. In fact, Sikhism completely rejects class or race based distinctions between humans, that leads us to make an inequitable society. Such distinctions have surfaced only due to ill interests of certain section of people, who, on the pretext of making a society more manageable through these classifications, eventually paved the way to an unequal grouping within the human race. This article is just for information purpose and to share how people from different castes came into the Sikh fold. So, please treat this article as a source of general information about this issue and kindly do not amend this article to highlight this important underlying Sikh principle. If you have any comments, please discuss them appropriately here
Sikh Lobanas played many important role during the times of the Sikh Gurus (in Gurukaal). Several key incidents in time of ninth and tenth Gurus are attributed to this Sikh community. Baba Makhan Shah is a devout Sikh and was responsible for finding the ninth Sikh Guru, (Guru Tegh Bahadur) and Lakhi Shah cremated the body of ninth Guru in his house. Lobanas also fought many wars with Guru Gobind Singh and Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.
Lobanas (or Labana) are a tribe who live all over India. Labanas have their own language called "Lubanki" which is a dialect. However, this language is only spoken by Labanas outside the Punjab, state of India. The Labanas of Punjab and Haryana are mostly Sikhs and speak mainly Punjabi or Hindi. The term Lobana appears to have been derived from Salt Trading, LUN ("salt") and the BANA ("trade") & Iron Dress up, Loh (Iron) and Bana (Dress), which relates them with trading and warriors too.
It is said that Lobanas are of Turkish origin they travel from Turkey toward India and that is why they are also called "Banjaras" because during travel they have to set up some business on their way.
Details of some prominent Lobanas in Sikh History is given below:
BABA MAKHAN SHAH LOBANA
Makhan Shah 'Lubana' (also written as Lobana) was a devout Sikh and a rich trader from Tanda district Jhelum (now in Pakistan) who used to bring valuable merchandise by sea from far away lands and sell it wholesale in parts of Gujarat and Punjab in India.
Once, while he was returning home with his ship carrying valuable goods over the vast seas, his ship got caught up in a furious storm. At first he did not think anything of the storms as these were quite common in that area. But soon, the waves were coming over the deck of the ship. The gale was blowing full force. The ship creaked as it was tossed about. Makhan Shah's return trip was becoming a nightmare. He was sailing, fully loaded with his valuable trade goods northwards, up the coast of India towards the Gulf of Khambhat.
It was the worst weather he'd ever encountered. He was on deck at the helm and the situation seemed near to hopeless. The wheel had been tied fast, so the rudder would steer a straight course, something that seemed nearly futile and impossible, yet absolutely necessary if he was not to lose this ship. The fury of the storm mounted. A large wave broke over the deck, and the ship rolled dangerously in the choppy sea.
Anything that wasn't fastened down was tossed about. Another larger wave broke, washing fully over him. He nearly lost his footing. The force of it tore at his dastaar, flinging it loose. Drenched with seawater, it hung heavily flapping wildly about. He unwound it, with hands clumsy from the cold, removing and lashing himself to the helm with it, just as another wave broke over him, knocking him off his feet, threatening to drag him overboard, as he fell, stumbling, to his knees. Groping about, he found the wheel again, and clung to it, gripping it tightly, his knuckles scraped and bleeding from his fall.
His joora had come down completely. His long wet Kesh were blowing about like heavy ropes in the gale force winds, blinding him. Raindrops were pelting his face like tiny needles, and salt spray was stinging his eyes. The sky was black with clouds. No guiding star, nor any point of light, was visible at all. Wave after wave washed over the craft, beating and hammering it relentlessly. It rolled wildly, creaking and groaning as though it would split at the seams. A box broke loose from where it had been secured on deck and was washed over board. The crew's frightened voices, calling to each other, could be heard above the howling winds, as they struggled to lower the sails.
Lightening struck, lighting up the dark sky with flash, and crash of thunder, when suddenly the mainsail split with an unearthly rant. The force of it nearly snapped the mast. The ship dropped sharply from the impact, then shot up again, bobbing crazily. The bonds, holding fast the wheel at the helm, broke loose from the stress of the violent motion. The wheel began turning freely with the rudder, as the craft was dashed wildly about in the churning sea.
Makhan Shah was taking a beating tied to it, he surely couldn't take much more. His chest and shoulders were bruised and aching, yet without being bound there, he would already have been washed over, and drowned in the black, raging sea. Fearful, the tiny ship was buffeted about mercilessly in the vast, huge, angry, ocean. Large, dark, menacing rocks loomed perilously close, along the jagged coastline. Threateningly, like teeth in the cavernous jaw, of the horrible witch maya, which eats up the world, they waited hungrily, to break and smash the ship to bits.
Wave after wave broke, washing over the boat. Each enormous swell seemed like a giant mouth about to swallow the sinking ship into its dark unforgiving depths forever. Another wave broke over the deck, tearing his clothing away, leaving him clad only in tatters. The sails were hanging in shreds. The crippled ship was taking on water. The end seemed inevitable. Salty tears sprang to his eyes, spilling, mingling, with the salty water of the sea, pouring over his face, filling his nose and mouth.
His options were now limited. Finally, he decided his time had come to remember his Guru and ask for his help. Completely powerless now, he knelt down, and said his Ardas (prayed) to God and Guru Nanak for safety. "Baba jee", he prayed desperately, "Please save my ship and my men... I pledge the 500 gold mohars tied to the belt at my waist, which without your help will soon be at the bottom of the sea. Please accept this as my humble offering. He then recited this Shabad of Guru Arjan Dev:
ਆਸਾ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥ aasaa mehlaa 5. Aasaa, Fifth Mehl: SGGS Page 403 ਅਪਨੇ ਸੇਵਕ ਕੀ ਆਪੇ ਰਾਖੈ ਆਪੇ ਨਾਮ ਜਪਾਵੈ ॥ ਜਹ ਜਹ ਕਾਜ ਕਿਰਤਿ ਸੇਵਕ ਕੀ ਤਹਾ ਤਹਾ ਉਠਿ ਧਾਵੈ ॥੧॥ ਸੇਵਕ ਕਉ ਨਿਕਟੀ ਹੋਇ ਦਿਖਾਵੈ ॥ ਜੋ ਜੋ ਕਹੈ ਠਾਕਰ ਪਹਿ ਸੇਵਕ ਤਤਕਾਲ ਹੋਇ ਆਵੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ apunay sayvak kee aapay raakhai aapay naam japaavai. jah jah kaaj kirat sayvak kee tahaa tahaa uth Dhaavai. ((1)) sayvak ka-o niktee ho-ay dikhaavai. jo jo kahai thaakur peh sayvak tatkaal ho-ay aavai. ((1)) rahaa-o.
He Himself preserves His servants; He causes them to chant His Name. Wherever the business and affairs of His servants are, there the Lord hurries to be. ((1)) The Lord appears near at hand to His servant. Whatever the servant asks of his Lord and Master, immediately comes to pass. ((1)(Pause))
Miraculously the winds started to die down, and the wild seas calmed. Safely secure, in the very centre of the storm, the ship was carried past the dangerous rocks, and guided without further harm, through the treacherous waters, into the nearest harbour, the Port of Surat. The men collapsed in relief. After recovering his strength and attending to his family and work duties, he made his way to Punjab. His only mission now was to fulfil his vow and present himself to his Guru and present the 500 Mohar to the Guru's charity.
Following Guru Har Krishans prophecy that the next Guru would be found in Bakala, that is where he went. But on reaching Bakala he found several imposters, each posing as Guru. He decided to offer only two Dinars to every one posing to be Guru Harkrishan's successor. The true Guru would himself demand the exact amount he had vowed to give. According to him it would not be possible for the false and imposters to define the exact purpose of his visit. Thereby their ignorance, lack of spiritual insight and character would be exposed.
Finding Guru Teg Bahadur
As expected, none of the imposters could recognise him. But he was left with a problem; if none of these men were the Guru then where is the rightful Guru? Then he heard of a solitarian in the area. His name was "Teg Bahedur" and he was the son of Guru Hargobind. So Makhan Shah went to see this man, and when he placed two Dinars before Tegh Bahadur, the great sage at once remarked "God bless you, my man, why only two Dinars after pledging five hundred? The Guru is never in need of any thing but a Sikh is expected to keep his pledge to the Guru." Thus the issue was clinched and the real Guru was discovered by Makhan Shah.
In amazement Makhan Shah proclaimed that he would inform everyone upon discovering the True Guru. Guru Teg Bahadur was still desiring to meditate in solitude and told Makhan Shah not to tell anyone. The Guru tried to discourage him by saying his face would be blackened if he did so. (this is a statement meaning you will be dishonored). Makhan Shah took this as a challenge instead of a curse and put ash on his face and climbed to the roof-top to announce to all that he had found the Guru.
BHAI LAKHI SHAH VANJARA
Bhai Lakhi Shah Vanjara, who took the headless body of Guru Teg Bahadur under the cover of darkness, from Chandni Chowk in 1675 AD and cremated it, putting his house on fire (Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib in Delhi is the site). Did valuable service to Sikhism in November 1675 by the cremation of Guru Teg Bahadur after his execution in Delhi. Afterwards Lakhi Shah, accompanied by his companions, went to Anandpur to pay homage to Guru Gobind Singh. It is said that his services were highly appreciated by Guru Gobind Singh.
BHAI KURAM JEE
the historical place Gurudwara Amb Sahib which has the blessings of The Great Guru Har Rai jee. Here at this place, Guru Ji blessed his Gursikh who felt contented. Bhai Kuram Singh,lubana by caste, a resident of Village Lambian reached Amritsar to have a glimpse of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji. It was season of mangoes and the court of great Guru Arjan Dev Ji was place. The followers were giving their offerings. Followers from Kabul came with ripe mangoes. Bhagat Kuram Singh felt sorry that he had came from the land of mangoes but did not bring any. When darbar ended at night mangoes were distributed as Parshad. All the followers went to their deras to retire.
Bhai Kuram Singh did not eat the mango given to him as parshad. Next day he got up in the morning, took bath and took the mango received as parshad and offered the same in darbar.
Great Guru Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji called Bhai Kuram ji and said "This mango was given to you as parshad but you have offered the same here". Bhai Kuram Singh very humby bowed before the Guru and requested "Your Highness, I have come from the land of mangoes but have not brought any for offering to You, so I retained this for offering to you. Guru Ji ordered him to eat the fruit and promised that his offerings shall be taken.
On the first day of Poh, keeping the previous promise Great Guru Sri Har Rai Ji came here from Kurukshetra, enquired about his follower and came to know that he was deeply engrossed in meditation in the garden. Guru Ji came to him and ordered Bhai Kuram Singh to fulfill his promise of giving mango. He very politely, requested Guru Ji that he is unable to offer the fruit because of its non season. You can do what ever you feel like. Upon listening to his request Guru Ji asked him to see mango tree full of ripe fruits. Bhai Kuram Singh touched the feet of The great Guru and was astonished. Guru Ji told him to offer mangoes to the sangat. Obeying the orders of Guru Ji Bhai Kuram Singh served mangoes to Holy Guru and the sangat.
Bhai Mansukh was the first prominent Lubana to be fascinated by the Sikh way of life, who came in contact with Guru Nanak Dev. He Met Raja Shivnabh in Sri lanka and told him the way of Guru nanak and raja shivnabh was highly impress with him.
Baba Hasna and Baba Takht Mal
Served the fifth and sixth Sikh Gurus.
Served for 9th guru
A devout Sikh of Guru Tegh Bahadur, along with his brother (Nagahia) and father (Lakkhi Shah) and another person by the name of Naik, son ofKahna, brought the headless body of Guru Tegh Bahadur, after he was executed at Delhi's Chandni Chowk under imperial orders, to his home at Raislna (Delhi). Since cremation in the open would not have been possible, they brought the body into the house, which they put aflame. This happened on Maghar sudi 6, 1732 Bk/AD 1675. sacrificed his life in 1703 in the battle of Anandpur.
Lobanas With 10th Gurus & After
Many Lobanas participated in the battles fought by the tenth Guru. After Guru Gobind Singh the Lobanas gave financial and military support to Banda Bahadur on his arrival in the Punjab. They joined Banda's army and took active part in the battles fought by him. The warfare weaponary departments of Guru Gobind Singh ji were mainly controlled & managed by Labanas. Hem Singh fought in battle of anandpur