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Bhai Mardana


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Bhai Mardana is the most significant character identified in Janam Sakhis after Guru Nanak. Naturally, such honor leaves a deep impression in the readers mind. Bhai Mardana enjoyed the unique honor of being a helper as well as a close confidant of Guru Nanak Dev. Bhai Gurdas places Guru Nanak on the prime pedestal while placing Bhai Mardana on second pedestal.

"Ek Baba Akal Rup Duja Rababi Mardana"

Meaning, one Baba (referring to Guru Nanak in Almighty's forms accompanied by the second Rababi (musician, player of Rabab) Mardana.

This great soul was immensely blessed with the closeness of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Undoubtedly, Bhai Mardana always accompanied Guru Nanak. Yet historians have hesitated to discuss Bhai Mardana. Whatever sketchy details available on his life are incomplete at best and misrepresentative. They are insufficient for a thorough and true assessment of his role, contributions, and stature.

Due to the lack of historical material, it is difficult to write much about Bhai Mardana. Nevertheless, we attempt this presentation with the following thoughts.

Bhai Mardana Ji is the very first entry in Sikh chronology. He was born approximately 10 years prior to Guru Nanaks birth, in 1459, at Rai-Bhoay-Di-Talwandi (district Shekhupura). His mother's name was Bibi Lakho and father's name was Bader of Marasi caste. He was the seventh child of his parents. The earlier six offsprings had died immediately upon birth. Accordingly, some think that he was named "Mur Jana" -- one to die and Guru Nanak Dev Ji changed his name to "Marda Na" -- meaning not to die. However, this isn't believable, since Guru Nanak Sahib was born 10 years after Bhai Mardana. According to Principal Satbir Singh, Bhai Mardana's childhood name was "Dana" and Guru Sah renamed him "Mardana" (emphasizing, in man ways) to influence him towards high moralistic life. This seems a more plausible and believable viewpoint.

Bhai Mardana Ji and Guru Nanak Dev Ji were childhood friends since they lived in the same village.

Being member of the Marasis Rababi fraternity, Bhai Mardana was an accomplished musician. He inherited this art from his family ancestors. Guru Nanak was deeply impressed by his art and that was probably an underlying reason for their strong bond.

While it is well established that Bhai Mardana was married, no information is available on when he get married and to whom. He had at least one child who wasn't lost by history. His was known as Bhai "Sagged," who performed kirtan in Guru Angad Dev's Darbar.

Guru Nanak Dev resigned from his job as storekeeper of a provision store at Sultanpur Lodhi (Kapurthala), and decided to answer his call to rescue this world and establish peace. Mehta Kalu sent Bhai Mardana to Sultanpur to ascertain Guru Nanak's well being. However, Bhai Mardana got entangled in the bonds of Guru's affection and did not return. Guru Nanak successfully sought Bhai Mardana's commitment (sewa) for his cause. It seemed Guru Nanak was waiting for this moment and did not want to make any moves without ascertaining Bhai Mardanascommitment.

Whenever Bani ascended, the strings of Bhai Mardana's Rabab initiated tantalizing vibrations. The holy shabad, right from its origins in Suchkhand, would ride the inaccessible and unapproachable musical tunes and descend into Guru Nanak's soul. Subsequently, Guru Nanak would expose it to the world. During this process, Bhai Mardana's Rabab served to transform the sacred inaccessible and unapproachable music into expressive tunes for this world.

Once Bhai Mardana inquired the reasons behind Guru's recluse. Guru responded, "Listen Mardania, I had blessed you with the string art and longed for this day. It is good that you asked this question." Guru Ji clarified; "Mardania all I have is hunger and poverty with me. If you desire comforts then return to Talwandi."

Guru Sahib had decided to settle at Kartarpur. So without reneging Talwandi, how could Mardana proceed to Kartarpur? Talwandi was representative of all worldly attachments, family worries, and material accomplishment while Kartarpur was Creator's place, representative of good deeds, sewa, simran and true happiness. Mardana reneged all his attachments to Talwandi, saying, "Returning has become difficult for me now. Where could I go? I dont see anyone else like you in this world."

Bhai Mardana Ji dedicated himself for the heavenly and sacred mission of Guru Nanak Dev. Undoubtedly he was the very first to sacrifice himself for the Sikh faith. Bhai Mardana's far sightedness and auspicious vision adopted the hunger and poverty filled, most difficult, path.

Bhai Mardana was extremely simple, pure, honest and friendly. He was a person of very high moral principles and qualities. Persistent like a child he couldn't hide his inner thoughts and feelings. However, his behavior never irritated Guru Sahib who always treated with him with love, affection, and softness.

Bhai Mardana had all the worldly qualities and characteristics. For this reason he could always seek answers to his doubts and questions from Guru Sahib.

Bhai Mardana was simple natured while Guru Nanak Dev Ji was a master of unique strengths who possessed knowledgeable of both worlds - this as well as the next. Despite his humbleness, Bhai Mardana was successful in exposing Guru's divine knowledge and insights to the world. Yet he never exhibited any signs of ego.

Bhai Mardana Ji was well aware that the person he accompanied wasn't any ordinary human being. He always lived in submission to Guru Baba's orders. He had a deep faith in Guru Baba. For such devotion and qualities, Guru Baba always kept him close by and never parted his company. Guru Nanak Dev Ji blessed Bhai Mardana, saying; "Mardania if you are exalted and delighted, so too is this world."

Bhai Mardana, as a result of Guru Nanak Dev Ji's blessing, had acquired the ultimate understanding. He understood the mysterious and incomprehensible secrets of the universe from Guru Baba.

Bhai Mardana received yet another unique honor that no subsequent Sikh could acquire. The middle saloks of Bihagada's vaar are dedicated to Bhai Mardana. This is evident of Guru Nanak Dev's deep love and affection for Bhai Mardana.

Bhai Mardana's role in Janam Sakhis is one of helper. As a helper, Bhai Mardana developed the plots to seek answers from Guru Nanak Sahib. His difficulties with resisting hunger, repeatedly wanting to return home, expressing greediness, being fearful, pretending to be devoid of understanding and knowledge, etc. are merely symbolic roles. All such characteristics can only belong to someone who doesnt shed such evils yet owns the ultimate truth. Evidently, the Mardana of Janam Sakhi is very different from true Mardana and the Sakhi's authors have used him symbolically. Dr. Gurcharan Singh clarifies by suggesting that:

"Such roles are written in contradiction with Guru Nanak Sahib's divine knowledg and insights. However, Mardana's involvemen in such small worldly worries not only sharpens Guru Sahib's divine insights but enlighten them like the sun."

According to Bhai Khan Singh, Bhai Mardana died on 13th Mugar Sanmat 1591 in Afghanistan on the banks of Kuram. Guru Nanak himself cremated his body. This is implausible because Guru Nanak Dev Ji was in Kartarpur in Sanmat 1591. Further his return trip, if any, to Afghanistan for Bhai Mardana's cremation is not mentioned anywhere. On the other hand, some historians have stated that Bhai Mardana died in Kartarpur, 8 days after Guru Nanak Dev Ji's death. Yet Hari Ram examined the engraved writings of Baghdad and declared that Bhai Mardana died there during the Baghdad trip. As such it is difficult to determine when Bhai Mardana die and where?

In conclusion, all we can say that Bhai Mardana was a person of utmost religious character. However, his roles mentioned in Janam Sakhis are difficult to reconcile. Yet they do not diminish any of his qualities.

Bhai Mardana was the very first kirtania of Sikh history. His Rabab, even to this day, serves as the source of motivation for our kirtanias. Every Sikh, as well as kirtania, can learn a lot from his selfless dedication, sacrifice and humility filled life.

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Guest kaur1699

This sounds beautiful...

Whenever Bani ascended, the strings of Bhai Mardana's Rabab initiated tantalizing vibrations. The holy shabad, right from its origins in Suchkhand, would ride the inaccessible and unapproachable musical tunes and descend into Guru Nanak's soul.
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  • 2 weeks later...

vaheguru ji ka khalsa vaheguru ji ke fateh

excellent post on mardana but i would just like to clarify one point. u said that Guru ji has written two ballards in praise of mardana? I heard in katha from a few vidvans that in fact that was mardanas own bani.

Maharaj has always prommised mardana and said to everyone that mardana would not die. he was born to a family that had many children but all died at very young ages or at birth. when mardana was born his family were so pessimistic that they named him marda, that he is going to die as well. When Guru Nanak asked his name and he replied my name is marda, Guru Ji said i dont like that name, Im going to call you Mardana, as your not going to die, you will be amar i.e. immortal for ever.

Hence in bani Mardana is amar and when we do matha dhekh to Guru Granth Sahib we are doing matha dhekh to Mardana. Secondly, Guru Nanak also said to people there is no difference between Nanak and Mardana. People say that sikh changed its essence over time that the Guru was high and the rest low and then Guru Gobind Singh took amrit him self and made "apai Gur Chela" he is the Guru and the disciple in one (in the words of Bhai Nand Lal goya.) In the same when when he said Mardana and Nanak are the same, the chela (disciple) and the Guru became one because Mardana has reached this avastha.

Mardana also used to preach to others and was believe it or not a Guru figure to others, although im not sure to how many he was a Guru to. In that we he would spread the word of Guru Nanak and never called him self a Guru. It was the way others refered him as being. Where Maharaj says theres no difference between him and Mardana this is evident in the bani where its heading is Salok Mardana, and Mardana writes two saloks with both signed nanak at the bottom. As Guru ji denoted the title to him as being the same as nanak.

Bhul Chuk Maaf

Rishipal Singh (London)

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  • 1 month later...

vaheguru ji ka khalsa vaheguru ji ke fateh

excellent post on mardana but i would just like to clarify one point. u said that Guru ji has written two ballards in praise of mardana? I heard in katha from a few vidvans that in fact that was mardanas own bani.

Maharaj has always prommised mardana and said to everyone that mardana would not die. he was born to a family that had many children but all died at very young ages or at birth. when mardana was born his family were so pessimistic that they named him marda, that he is going to die as well. When Guru Nanak asked his name and he replied my name is marda, Guru Ji said i dont like that name, Im going to call you Mardana, as your not going to die, you will be amar i.e. immortal for ever.

Hence in bani Mardana is amar and when we do matha dhekh to Guru Granth Sahib we are doing matha dhekh to Mardana. Secondly, Guru Nanak also said to people there is no difference between Nanak and Mardana. People say that sikh changed its essence over time that the Guru was high and the rest low and then Guru Gobind Singh took amrit him self and made "apai Gur Chela" he is the Guru and the disciple in one (in the words of Bhai Nand Lal goya.) In the same when when he said Mardana and Nanak are the same, the chela (disciple) and the Guru became one because Mardana has reached this avastha.

Mardana also used to preach to others and was believe it or not a Guru figure to others, although im not sure to how many he was a Guru to. In that we he would spread the word of Guru Nanak and never called him self a Guru. It was the way others refered him as being. Where Maharaj says theres no difference between him and Mardana this is evident in the bani where its heading is Salok Mardana, and Mardana writes two saloks with both signed nanak at the bottom. As Guru ji denoted the title to him as being the same as nanak.

Bhul Chuk Maaf

Rishipal Singh (London)

lol, the article was taken from somewhere

but thanks for posting that info :P

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