Baba Kalu, the father of Guru Nanak, had worldly ambitions for his only son and wished that he should learn how to read and write and one day take his own place as the revenue superintendent of the village. So when Nanak was seven he was led to Gopal, the pdndhd, who felt happy to have with him a pupil so well spoken of in the village. He gave Nanak a place among his other pupils seated in a row reverentially on the ground in front of him. On a wooden slate he wrote down the first few letters of the alphabet of Sidhongdid or Sindhangdid script then in vogue among the commercial class, and gave it to Nanak to learn from.
One day, as goes the legend, Nanak filled both sides of the slate with a composition written in his own hand. The teacher was surprised to see the tablet and curious to know what the child had written, he asked him to read aloud. To his amazement, it turned out to be a poem in Punjabi, a kind of acrostic which Nanak had extemporized with verses written to match the letters of the alphabet. In it he had reflected upon questions far beyond his years. The main one he had in mind was, “Who is truly learned?” Certainly not he who knew the letters of the alphabet, “but he who arriveth at true understanding through these.”
Though it will remain debatable at what point of his career Guru Nanak composed this sabda, it is included in the Guru Granth Sahib with the explanatory note Patti Likhi, i.e. “thus was the tablet written.” Pandha Gopal acknowledged Guru Nanak`s precocious genius for poetry and revelation, and considered himself fortunate in having been instructed by his pupil so marvelously gifted.
1. Kohli, Surindar Singh, ed., Janamsakhi Bhai Bala. Chandigarh, 1975
2. McLeod,W.H., The B40 Janavi-Snklu, Amrirsar, 1980
3. Harbans Singh, Guru Nannk and Origins of the Sikh Faith. Bombay, 1969