was a wealthy merchant by the name of Makhan Shah, who belonged to the
Labana tribe of "Vanjaras" (literally meaning merchants). He was once
sailing in the high seas on his business exploits when he suddenly found
that his sea vessel was stuck in sand and would move no more. Every effort
was made by his marine engineers to refloat it but to no avail.
Makhan Shah suddenly noticed that there was a devout Sikh of Guru Nanak Ji
on board, who was then reciting aloud the melodious hymns of the Great
Gurus. Makhan Shah enquired of his Sikh passenger if his Great Guru could
help him get out of trouble. The Sikh replied that the Guru helps all His
Sikhs in distress, wherever they may be. All a Sikh need do is to pray to
God through his Guru with a pure heart and full faith.
Shah then requested the holy Sikh to pray on behalf of the crew and the
passengers, and Makhan Shah himself. Makhan Shah also promised that on his
return to India he would pay a personal visit to the Great Guru and offer
him five hundred gold sovereigns and thank him a million times for helping
him in the middle of no where. The holy Sikh then asked all the crew and
passengers to stand up with folded hands. He himself stood in front of the
congregation with folded hands, too. He then recited the names of Guru Nanak
Ji, Guru Angad Ji, Guru Amardas Ji, Guru Ramdas Ji, Guru Arjan Ji, Guru
Hargobind Ji, Guru Hari Rai Ji and Guru Hari Krishan Ji.
then said to the Great Guru Nanak that although "your Ninth Form is not
known to us Lord; wherever you are, help your Sikh get out of this
distress." He then repeated that Makhan Shah had promised the House of Guru
Nanak a personal visit and an offering of 500 gold sovereigns. The
congregation then bowed their heads to the Great Guru Nanak. Suddenly the
wind blew from the right direction and with the right force and before
anyone could notice the ship was rolling again. Makhan Shah and the holy
Sikh thanked their Guru and longed for His "Darshan" (audience) and blessing
on return to India.
soon as his business transactions were completed, Makhan Shah set sails for
India, anxiously waiting for the audience with the Ninth Guru Nanak, who was
yet unknown to the public. On reaching India, he went straight to Delhi from
where he heard that on Sri Guru Har Krishan Ji's Ascent, He ordained the
Sikhs with the words "Baba Bakale" (i.e. the Baba is at Bakala). It
was clear that Guru Har Krishan had wished his Grand-uncle Tegh Bahadur ji
to be his successor to the Spiritual Throne of Guru Nanak, and hence the
word "Baba", which in the Punjabi language means grandfather. This statement
was unambiguous at the time when it was made, for there was only one person
in the village Bakala at that time whom the Guru could have referred to as
his Grandfather (baba) and that was Baba Tegh Bahadur ji.
as soon as other nearby relatives of Sri Guru Har Krishan ji came to know of
His last words, they all reached Bakala in the hope of making some wealth by
fooling the Sikhs. The chief amongst those was Dhirmal, who was the eldest
son of Baba Gurditta, and a grandson of Guru Hargobind ji. He was not a
grandfather of Guru Har Krishan ji, but merely an uncle.
since all male descendants of the Gurus are addressed as "Babas" even to
this day, Dhirmal interpreted the order as being that the future Guru is to
be a Sodhi Prince residing at Bakala. The next Guru had to be a Sodhi
Prince, for Bibi Bhani had wished that this spiritual Kingdom of Guru Nanak
should stay within her descendants. But, even under this broader definition
of "Baba," Dhirmal had no claim to the Holy Throne of Guru Nanak, for he was
not at Bakala at the time of Guru Har Krishan Ji's ascent.
reaching Bakala, Makhan Shah found to his surprise that there were
twenty-two different Sodhi Babas each claiming to be the genuine Ninth Guru
of the Sikhs. Each of them employed agents who wittingly attempted to
justify their respective master's claim to the Holy Throne of Guru Nanak.
Since Dhirmal was a very near relative of Sri Guru Har Krishan Ji, he
naturally had a stronger claim, and hence a bigger tent and a larger
Shah decided to visit each one of these "impostor" gurus in turn. On
visiting each one of these self-proclaimed gurus, he gave them an offering
of two gold sovereigns. They all blessed his soul and wished him prosperity
and good health. But Makhan Shah was not satisfied with these few kind
words. He had decided within his heart of hearts that He who is the genuine
Guru of the Sikhs and He who can rescue his ship in the high seas, can
certainly demand him to produce the offering of five hundred gold
sovereigns, which he promised when in distress.
meeting all the twenty-two impostors Makhan Shah was utterly disappointed.
He had come to Bakala in the hope of receiving audience with the True Guru
but was being led astray by impostors. These pretenders did not know that
the night cannot be prolonged simply by hiding the Sun. When the night is
dark different stars may be mistaken to be the Sun. But, in the words of
Bhai Gurdas, as soon as the sun rises all other stars disappear and the
darkness vanishes. So, the truth could not be hidden for long, it had to
appear sooner or later.
Shah enquired of a young lad as to whether there was another Sodhi Baba in
Bakala, who may have a legitimate claim to the Spiritual Throne of Guru
Nanak. The lad replied there was one other Baba, whose name was Baba Tegh
Bahadur. He told Makhan Shah that Baba Tegh Bahadur ji was of a very
different nature and that he did not like any pomp or show.
was humble and had a charming personality. Whilst other Babas had come from
nearby towns, Baba Tegh Bahadur had lived and meditated at Bakala for
twenty-six years. Makhan Shah had longed to see such a pure soul. He knew
that Baba Tegh Bahadur ji could be the True Guru. So, he asked the lad to
show him the place where Baba Tegh Bahadur ji was meditating.
reaching the place (now known as Bhora Sahib), Makhan Shah bowed in
reverence to Mata Gujri and Mata Nanaki (wife and mother respectively of
Baba Tegh Bahadur ji). He then retold Mata Gujri that he had come from far
off lands and would like to have an audience with Baba Tegh Bahadur ji. Mata
Gujri went and told Baba Tegh Bahadur ji that someone had come to see Him.
Baba Tegh Bahadur ji at once ordained that he be sent in. On
going into the cell where Baba Tegh Bahadur ji had been meditating for the
last twenty-six years, Makhan Shah found a glow of Divine Light and
sweetness. Baba Tegh Bahadur ji's face was radiantly glowing like the sun
and Makhan Shah could not dare look eye to eye with Him. Makhan Singh was so
pleased and impressed that he at once prostrated before the True Guru.
still being not sure, he made up his mind to offer only five gold sovereigns
(instead of two that he had given earlier to the twenty-two impostors). He
placed this offering before Baba Tegh Bahadur ji and kowtowed in reverence.
On seeing this, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji, the Ninth Sovereign on the Throne of
Guru Nanak, said to Makhan Shah, "Makhan Shah, why five instead of five
hundred gold sovereigns as promised to Guru Nanak? It is not good to back
out of promises."
Shah was amazed, overjoyed and stuck for words. He could not understand as
to why the Guru had not disclosed His identity earlier. He kowtowed again in
reverence to the Great Guru and requested that he be allowed to make the
Guru's identity public. The Guru said to Makhan Shah that the responsibility
of the Throne of Guru Nanak was heavy and that the time had not yet come to
make Himself public. The Guru hinted that by accepting the seat of Guru
Nanak, He will have to lay down His life for the cause of the Dharma
Makhan Shah did not under stand all this. He felt that the Sikhs were being
led astray by those impostors, and that sooner the Guru disclosed His
identity, the better it would be. The Guru then said to Makhan Shah that
whosoever declared the identity of the Guru shall suffer the consequences
both in this world and the next. Makhan Shah accepted this condition
readily, for he knew that he was disclosing the identity of the Guru for the
greater good of the Sikhs as well as the Indians as a whole. Then,
Makhan Shah got on to the top of the house and waving a cloth he Shouted
aloud, "I've found the Guru! I've found the Guru!!" So, in this novel
fashion the identity of Guru Tegh Bahadur ji was disclosed by Makhan Shah
Vanjara. Soon afterwards an investiture ceremony was conducted, where Bhai
Gurditta (a descendant of Baba Budha Jee) presented Guru Tegh Bahadur ji
with a coconut and five paisas
(An Indian coin).
was the customary way of Investiture in the House of Guru Nanak. The people
were so much overjoyed that they wanted their Guru to be taken out in a
procession so that everyone could have his Darshan. This was accordingly
arranged. Dhirmal could not bear this out of jealousy and had one of his
agents named Shihan fire a bullet aiming at Guru Tegh Bahadur ji. The bullet
passed close to the Guru's forehead. There was a slight bleeding.
this incidence the Great Guru calmly remarked that "a Tilak of blood was the
most appropriate for Tegh Bahadur." Of course, no one understood what the
Guru had meant, but looking at the incidence from hindsight, we know that
the Guru was referring to His unique and supreme sacrifice at Delhi, which
was yet to come.