Nankana’s Endowment Lands
Charnjit Singh Bal
Like many Sikhs I too believed that Maharaja Ranjit Singh granted the endowments lands to the Guru Nanak’s birthplace Gurdwara at Nankana. Although Bhai Kanh Singh Nabha’s Mahan Kosh (circa 1930 AD publication) does mention ‘the Gurdwara has 18000 acres and 9,892 Rupees of endowments to its name, it does not mention as to who bequeathed the land. Now a Punjabi article named ‘Koh-e´-Noor da Paarkhoo (appraiser), Rai Bulär, Khan Sahib’ by Dr. Harpal Singh, published in S. G. P. C’s December 2003 volume of Gurmat Perkash apparently gives authentic information about the historical fact as to who bequeathed 18750 acres endowment land to Guru Nanak Sahib. The English translation of the article,
There is another Sakhi, a tradition, which is not mentioned in our Sakhies, that relates Rai Bulär with Baba (Nanak) Jee. A very important phenomenon happened, but, I am surprised, it is not included in the Sakhies. A pious Muslim narrated this Sakhi to me.
At Nankana Sahib after I paid homage, listened the Keertan (Sikh inspirational music) and partook Langar I thought of meeting and talking to the Muslims. I told a police officer that I am a Professor I want to meet some Professor or Master (high school teacher). The D. S. P. said, there is a college about two furlongs away, go there. I started walking and came to a gate. In English and Urdu was written, ‘Guru Nanak Degree College, Nanaka Sahib’. I went inside but didn’t see any one. The watchman said Salaam and asked politely; do you need any help? I asked, is there no Professor around? He said that there are, but they are on duty at the examinations, I can call anyone you say. I told him I will be back in an hour, at about five o' clock, and started to walk back.
A six and half foot tall, 65-70 year old pious Muslim in Salwar and Kameez (baggy pants and shirt), wearing a turban came walking briskly towards me and said, Sardar Jee Sat Sri Akal; why are you going away? When I saw you I told my labor to quit work. I am the contractor, building a hostel for the students. Come this way, we will talk. Two or three chairs were fetched. None of the laborers went home, they all sat around us on the ground.
During the talks I asked, how much land is in the name the Gurdwara? He said why do ask this question, was there any problem with lodging or boarding? I said there wasn’t any problem, but since this is the birthplace of my Baba (Nanak), don’t I have the right to be concerned? He said absolutely not, only the revered personages bear that responsibility, our responsibility is to recite scriptures (to praise the Lord). Hazrat (revered) Baba Nanak is caring about us.
I said, ok, but do I have right to know? He said yes, you have right to know. There are seven and a half hundred Murabas (5x5)x750 or 25x750=18750 acres) in gurdwara’s name. I asked did Maharaja Ranjit Singh grant this land? The contractor said no, the Maharaja never granted that much land to any Gurdwara. Our ancestor, Bhatti Sardar bequeathed this land. I asked who is Bhatti Sardar? He asked, you don’t know Bhatti Sardar? Here every child of fifty villages knows his and (Nanak) Baba’s name. His name was Rai Bulär, Khan Sahib. You haven’t heard Sardar’s name? I said his name pervades in every particle of our being brother, but I didn’t know that Rai Bular was a Bhatti.
There are many Bhatti villages here. The contractor said we are not ordinary Bhattis. I too am Bhatti. Our Sardar was the first who recognized the master of all worlds, Baba (Nanak). Our Sardar recognized a Koh-e´-Noor (Nanak) when he was in his childhood. Now hear (endowment) land’s account.
Rai Bular Khan Sahib who owned 1500 Murabas (37500 acres) was a wealthy landlord and self-esteemed man but a paragon of nobility. He revered Baba Jee. His age was getting past 40 years but no children. It is said that he mounted his horse and went to tour his Murabas. Guru Baba’s age was around 12 or 13 years (circa 1481/82). Baba was tending to herd of pasturing buffaloes. Rai Sahib dismounted from his horse, removed his shoes, stood close to Baba Jee and said, Baba, fulfill my this desire to see a child playing in my house. He had gone to beseech, with this wish in mind. Baba Jee gave his blessings and said Rai your wish is fulfilled; do not lose faith.
After a year a child was born in the house of Rai Sahib. Sardar was so happy that he gave a lavish party that was attended by Daulat Khan, the Nawab (Nabob) of Sultanpur Lodhi. In this assemblage, after thanksgiving, Rai Bular Sahib bequeathed half of his landed property to Hazrat Eminent Baba (Nanak) Jee. So 750 Murabas (18750 acres) were transferred to Baba Jee’s name. That title remains in his name to-date.
About 15 years ago (circa 1988 AD) this matter cropped up in our minds that we are the owners, we hold and farm the land but the title is not in our names. We have been illegally holding the land for generations. We filed a suit in the Skeikhupur court ‘because in his old age our grand old ancestor turned senile, he bequeathed half of his landed property to a Fakir called Nanak. But since, as per inheritance rights, we are the rightful owners, also as we hold and farm the land, its title should be transferred to our names.' Summons, records search and legal arguments took four years. On the judgment date, the verdict was against us, i.e. the title cannot be transferred. We filed an appeal in the high court at Lahore. The appeal process lased for three years. The high court upheld the lower court’s verdict i.e. the title could not be transferred.
We filed an appeal in the Supreme Court at Islamabad. Again the appeal hearing lasted three years. When the time came to pronounce the judgment the bench said come to the court as a delegation of four or five but do not bring the lawyers, as we want to discuss an important matter. We asked, tell us the nature of the matter so that we can come prepared. Since it is a matter common to our clan we have to discuss amongst ourselves. Judges said your filing the suit was not an appropriate action that is what we want to tell you. The court date was set after one month. Each village held its meetings and finally a common meeting of all villages was held. Eight representatives, those who will talk to the judges, were selected.
On the given date hundreds of people came and gathered in front of the court. When our turn came we went inside. I was one of the eight representatives. The judges adjourned courts for one hour. We were ushered into the backroom (judges’ chambers), refreshments were served and then the judges initiated the talk. The honorable judges said ‘we have considered the suit very closely. You have acted erroneously. It would have been better if you had invoked the blessings of the Fakirs against whom you filed the suit instead. The venerated men who showed you the temporal light (way of life), you sued them and stigmatized them by characterizing them as senile.’
‘Since Rai Bular saved half of his land, his half mind at least was sound. But the Fakir (Nanak) in whose name he (Rai Bulär) transferred half of the land’s title had lost all his (mundane) mentality, because he never even looked at the land. His descendents never tried to take possession of the land. The Sikhs never tried to occupy the land nor did they file suits in the courts. You have been holding the land illegally for generations and now you have filed cases in the courts. For ten to twelve years you have been dishonoring your venerated elders. Did nobody advise you not to sin? More than the land they loved you, but you hate those Dervishes and lust for land. The land will stay with you, however it would have been better if you hadn’t filed the suit.’
We said the land is in our possession but the title doesn’t have our names. The judges philosophized, nobody’s name will remain, yours’ nor ours’. The name of providential God will remain and name of pious devotees will remain. Those who cherish Moon and stars will remain nobody else will remain. Our advice to you is that you withdraw the appeal. We said our brotherhood is waiting out side let us consult with them. The judges said by all means, now it is eleven thirty, you can discuss till four in the evening. If you do not withdraw the appeal we will pronounce the judgment. As this advice has been given to you out of court you are not obliged to accept it.
We came out. Outside our brotherhood was waiting. The whole matter was told and ideas were exchanged. In the end it was decided to choose one of the two choices, either to withdraw the appeal or get the judgment against it. From the judges’ talk it was evident that there was no question of our winning. In the evening we appeared along with lawyer and withdrew the appeal. Sardar Jee we were saved. If the appeal hadn’t been withdrawn we would have lost the appeal, worldly honor and the faith (ethos). Now we would be able to stand in front of these Dervishes and ask for their forgiveness. Because they are very compassionate, the parents forgive their errant children.
brother, consider Baba Nanak’s numerous attributes, centuries have passed, he
is still sending the compassionate messages. Through Supreme Court he advised us
to desist from going astray. The Supreme Court made us to desist. Baba Nanak did
not get us dishonored by the Supreme Court, checked us but saved our honor too.
To him hundred thousand salaams! Even today, as per land registry records, Guru
Nanak farms these Murabas. Dr. Harpal Singh, Prof. Sikh Studies, Guru Gobind
Singh Bhawan, Patiala, 27th September 2003
Rationalist readers might find the wizardly attributes ascribed to Guru Nanak Sahib hard to digest but historical facts are apparently irrefutable.