SIALKOT (32030`N, 74°32`N), an ancient town now in Pakistan, was visited by Guru Nanak more than once during his travels across the country. According to Gian Ratanavali, better known as Janam SakhiBhai Mani Singh, supported by local tradition, as he once arrived here travelling from his native Talvandi, via Saidpur, and took his seat under a ber tree southeast of the town across the Aik stream, he learnt that a Sun faqir, Hamza Ghaus, had laid the town under a curse of destruction and was undergoing a chalisa, or fortyday selfmortification, for the accomplishment of the doom he had invoked on the citizens.

The reason for his wrath was the failure of a Khatri inhabitant, Ganga, to fulfil his promise to present the firstborn of his three sons he owed to his (faqir`s) own blessing. Guru Nanak reasoned with Hamza Ghaus that he must not blame the sins of one person upon the entire populace among whom there might be some good and wise men. To make a test, the Guru sent his companion Bhai Mardana into the town to purchase one farthing`s worth of truth and one farthing`s worth of falsehood.

Mardana went from shop to shop showing the slips the Guru had given , but no one understood the strange request until one shopkeeper, Mula by name, took the slips from him and writing on their back die words “Life is false” and “death is the truth”, returned these to Mardana who brought them back to where Guru Nanak and Hamza Ghaus had been waiting for him. These answers mollified the faqir and pleased die Guru, who went to meet Mula. Mula felt heartily rejoiced to see the Guru and turned a disciple. He gave up his business and accompanied Guru Nanak on his travels through Kashmir and parts of Afghanistan.

According to Miharban Janam Sakhi, Guru Nanak, during his stay at Kartarpur after his long travels, visited Sialkot once again to see Bhai Mula. This time, records the Miharban Janam Sakhi, he was accompanied by a band of barebodied ascetics. Mula, at the suggestion of his wife, who had from a distance seen the Guru approach, hid himself in a dark room at the back of the house. As the Guru arrived and enquired about Mula, the latter`s wife replied that he was not at home and had gone out of town.

Guru Nanak left after uttering a couplet:nali kirara dosukurai kuri pai; maranu najapai mulia aval kitai thai (False is the friendship of shopkeepers; one never knows, 0 Mula! where death may befall one) (GG, 1412). Bhai Mula died soon after. Although the Meharban Janam Sakhi says that he was struck by remorse and was pardoned and blessed by the Guru before his end, popular tradition attributes Mula`s death to a snakebite he suffered in his place of hiding itself. There were two historic gurdwaras in Sialkot both affiliated to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which were abandoned at the time of the 1947 exodus.

GURDWARA BABE DI BER marks the site where Guru Nanak had stayed under a ber tree, still preserved, at the time of his first visit to the town.In 1913 when the mahant or priestincharge, Harnam Singh, died, the government recognized a minor as his successor and appointed an apostate, Ganda Singh, as sarbarah or manager. This was resented by the Sikhs who, organizing themselves into Khalsa SevakJatha, challenged the arrangement and sought management of the shrine to be transferred to a committee chosen by it. As the law court dismissed theJatha`s suit, it launched an agitation which took the form of meetings and processions to press its viewpoint.

In face of the mounting protest, the government relented and withdrew on 5 October 1920 the case against Sikh leaders who were being prosecuted, and extended recognition to the 9member committee which had already occupied the Gurdwara. This could be counted as the first episode in the longdrawn campaign for the reform of the management of Sikh shrines in the Punjab. GURDWARA BAOL1 SAHIB, named after an open well with steps descending to water level (baoii, in Punjabi), marks the house of Bhai Mula. This shrine too was abandoned following partition of the Punajb in 1947.

References :

1. Harbans Singh, Guru Nanak and Origins of the Sikh Faith. Bombay, 1969
2. Kohli, Surindar Singh, Travels of Guru Nanak. Chandigarh, 1969
3. Narotam, Tara Singh, Sri Guru Tirath Sangrahi. Kankhal, 1975
4. Gian Singh, Giani, Twankh Gurduarian. Amritsar, n.d
5. Vir Singh, Bhai, ed., Puratan Janam Sakhi. Amritsar, 1971
6. Santokh Singh, Bhai, Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth Amritsar, 1927-35