NAND LAL, BHAI
NAND LAL, BHAI (c. 1633-1713), poet famous in the Sikh tradition and favourite disciple of Guru Gobind Singh. His poetry, all in Persian except for Joti Bigds, which is in Punjabi, forms part of the approved Sikh canon and can be recited along with scriptural verse at Sikh religious divans. Nand Lal adopted the pet name of “Goya”, though at places he has also subscribed himself as “Lal”, the word being the last part of his name. He was a scholar, learned in the traditional disciplines of the time, and his image in Sikh history is that of a man loved and venerated. He is stated to have been 6orn m ^6`SS. By caste he was a Khatri, a class distinguished in Mughal times, like the Kayasthas, for proficiency in Persian, which at that time was the language of official business. His father, Munshi Chhajju Mall, who was an official in the secretariat of Prince Dara Shukoh, Shah Jahari`s eldest son, accompanied him on an expedition to Ghazni in 1639 and was assigned to an army unit stationed there at the end of the operation. He summoned his family from India to join him in Ghazni where his son Nand Lal spent his childhood and early youth.
His father dying in 1652, Nand Lal was left to struggle in life for himself. Some minor post was offered to him in Ghazni, but he decided to return to India. Multan was the ancestral family seat and it was here that Nand Lal settled amid a number of Hindu families like his own that had seen service under the Mughals.That quarter of the town had come to be known as Agha Mohalla, in association with the resident Hindu officials who were known as Aghas, an honorific employed for Hindus who had acquired the trappings of Muslim culture.
In Multan the Subadar, WasafKhan, who had known his father well, offered the talented youth the post of munshi or secretary. By dint of his ability and hard work, Nand Lal soon rose to be the principal secretary (Mir Munshi). He was also posted to administrative appointments and is stated to have become deputy governor of the province. Nand Lal continued in the service of the Mughal State, securing eventually an appointment on the personal staff of Prince Mu`azzam, Aurahgzib`s eldest son.
When he relinquished service cannot be determined exactly.The surmise that he was dismissed by Aurangzib owing to his father Chhajju Mall having been a favourite of Dara is falsified by the fact that he continued long in service under Prince Mu`azzam. The story that he stood in fear of being forcibly converted to Islam also does not seem credi`bfe, for a number of nonMuslims continued to serve under Aurangzib and forcible conversion did not affect the court or the official class. Aurangzib in any case left Delhi in 1680 to campaign in the Deccan, never to return to the capital.
The most likely reason why Nand Lal left Delhi and came to the shelter of Guru Gobind Singh was to seek peace during his advancing years.With his mystical cast of thought he was naturally led to Anandpur where Guru Gobind Singh was inculcating faith in One Supreme God, called by him AkalPurakh, and arousing the downtrodden Hindus to seek a life of self respect and dignity. As a protector ofdharma. Guru Gobind Singh was known far and wide, being the son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, who had become a martyr to freedom of conscience when Aurarigzib`s persecution of nonMuslims was at its height.
According to Guru kidn Sdkhtdn, Nand Lal arrived in Anandpur on the Baisakhi day of 1739 Bk/29 March 1682 and received Guru Gobind Singh`s blessing. He spent his days with the Guru in mystical contemplation and composing poetry in which his spiritual experience is the preeminent element.He is said to have kept a good langar or free kitchen at Anandpur which was commended by the Guru as a model for others to follow. His poetry in Persian, of this period, has passed into the Sikh religious tradition and is held in great reverence.
Besides Nand Lal, a number of other poets kept Guru Gobind Singh company. These others wrote mostly in Braji Hindi, which was acquiring the status of a classical medium. Nand Lal appears to have been Guru Gobind Singh`s sole Persian poet. Nand Lal`s name as the favourite disciple of Guru Gobind Singh has passed into the Sikh tradition and his devotion is commended as an ideal to be followed.
A Rahitndmd or code of Sikh conduct is ascribed to him, besides another called Tankhdhndmd, or a manual of penalties for infringement of the religious discipline. Doubt has been expressed as to whether these two are of Nand Lal`s composition. Both are in the usual Braj idiom current in Sikh religious literature. In each Nand Lal is represented as being the seeker eliciting information from the Guru as to the right doctrine and the right conduct for a Sikh. The Rahitndmd, as the text shows, was composed in Samvat 1752 Bk corresponding to 1695 of the Christian era, while the Tankhdhndmd was composed after the formation of the Khalsa Panth.
Therein occur some of the famous affirmations attributed to Guru Gobind Singh, as to one Sikh hero combating one and a quarter lakhs and the hope that the Khalsa shall one day hold sway. Not much in detail is known about Bhai Nand Lal`s life with the Guru at Anandpur. After the Guru evacuated Anandpur in the winter of 1705, Bhai Nand Lal went to his original home at Multan where he occupied himself with preaching the Guru`s word and teaching Arabic and Persian. For the latter purpose he opened a regular school which was in existence until the occupation of the Punjab by the British in 1849. Among his writings may be mentioned Zindagi Ndmah, Ganj Ndmah, Joti Bigds, Rahitndmd, Tankhdhndmd, Dasturul Inshd, Arz ulAlfaz, DiwaniGoya and the Rubdiydt. Nand Lal died in Multan in AD 1713.
1. Ganda Singh, ed., Bhai Nand Lal Grant`havali. Malacca (Malaya), 1968
2. Santokh Singh, Bhai, Sri Gur Pratap Sura] Granth. Amritsar, 1927-35
3. Padam, Piara Singh, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji de Darban Ratan. Patiala, 1976
4. Macauliffe, Max Arthur, The Sikh Religion. Oxford, 1909
5. Harbans Singh, Guru, Gobind Singh. Chandigarh. 1966