A unique personality of Sikh History, Baba Buddha Ji was born in village Kathunangal of the Amritsar district of Punjab, in 1506. His father, Bhai Sugha Randhawa, was a Sikh farmer. Nobody would have imagined that this child, named Boora, would live for 125 years. Or he would become one of the staunchest and earliest devotees of Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539), the Founder of Sikhism. In fact, the 3rd Guru Sahib, Gur Amar Das (1479-1574) called him “The Pillar of Sikhism”. Today, he is remembered as the renowned Warrior-Saint-Scholar invited to anoint five Sikh Gurus who succeeded Guru Nanak, the First Guru of this religion.
From “Boora” to “Baba Buddha”
As a child Boora used to go to nearby meadows to graze the family cattle. One day he happened to meet Guru Nanak who was passing through the place. During their conversation, Boora started asking many questions from Guru Sahib; like the purpose of human life, about death, Dharma and God, and how should one worship God. Guru Nanak answered the questions to the child’s satisfaction but found them unusual for his tender age. It is believed that Guru Nanak said that Boora’s name should be Baba Buddha, which means wise old man.
As a young man, Baba Buddha acquired the skills of horse-riding, swordsmanship and other accomplishments of warriors. He also learnt Punjabi language and Gurmukhi script from Bhai Lehna ji, who later became Guru Angad Dev (1504-1552), the 2nd Sikh Guru, after Guru Nanak. He would volunteer for service of Sangat (congregations of devotees), who used to assemble for listening to the teachings of Gurus. Also, he would daily bring milk from his farm for use in the Community Langar, the free meals served to all on such occasions.
Baba Buddha Invited to Crown Five Sikh Gurus
The intellectual and spiritual status of Baba Buddha became so high with time that people respected him as a Brahmgyani (a perfect saint-scholar). He was given the rare honor of being invited to anoint the five Sikh Gurus who succeeded Guru Nanak, at the time of their ascending the Spiritual Throne called Gur-Gaddi at the formal coronation of the Guru Sahibans. Thus, he became the only person to meet six Sikh Gurus in his life-time and acquire divine knowledge from them.
Construction work supervised and performed by Baba Buddha
He was asked by Guru Amar Das to supervise construction work of the main Gurdwara at Goindval, (called Axis of Sikhism), a city near Amritsar. This shrine has a unique attached Baoli for taking bath, 84 steps downwards that lead to a well. The 4th Guru Sahib, Guru Ram Das (1534-1581) entrusted him the responsibility of excavation of the Sarovar (water tank) at Amritsar, in the midst of which holy Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) was constructed. He not only supervised but actually performed the work manually, with dedication. The ber tree under which he used to rest is now called Baba Buddha’s Beri. He was also assigned construction work of the historic Akal Takht (Eternal Throne) by the 6th Guru Sahib, Guru Har Gobind (1595-1644), who was son of the 5th Guru Sahib, Guru Arjan Dev (1563-1606).
According to a popular story, Guru Arjan Dev was blessed with the birth of his son on the prayer of Baba Buddha to God. The education and training of young Har Gobind Sahib was entrusted to Baba Buddha. Akal Takht represents the Assertion of Sikh Sovereignty by Guru Har Gobind Sahib, defying the Moghul Emperor Jahangir who had banned wearing of a sword, horse-riding, and sitting on an elevated throne more than three feet high. Baba Buddha anointed Guru Sahib on Akal Takht, the 12 feet high throne, and gave two swords, and applied all marks of Royalty to Guru Sahib. One sword represents Royalty while the other stands for Spiritualism of the Sikhs. The two Nishan Sahibs (Sikh Flags) on the Akal Takht indicate the same concept.
An interesting event in his life shows how resourceful Baba Buddha was. It is said that Guru Amar Das went into solitary meditation at an undisclosed location after he learnt that the two sons of Guru Angad Dev were not happy with his becoming the successor of their father. When, after some time, Sikhs requested Baba Buddha to find the where-abouts of Guru Amar Das, he found out the location. On reaching there Baba Buddha noticed that there was an Instruction on the front door not to open it. Baba Buddha opened a passage into the room by making a hole in the back wall and requested Guru Amar Das to meet the devotees. The pleasently surprised Guru Sahib ultimately accepted Baba Bddha’s request. A Gurdwara, known as Sannh Sahib, stands at that place today as a memorial of this event.
Baba Buddha was The First Mukh-Granthi (Head-Priest) of Darbar Sahib, Amritsar
In 1604, Guru Arjan Dev had completed the work of compiling the Gurbani (the holy poetical hymns) of the first five Sikh Gurus (and some other saints) at Ramsar in Amritsar. This compilation, known as Adi Granth, was carried by Baba Buddha on his head, along with Guru Sahib and the Sikh Sangat, from Gurdwara Ramsar to Darbar Sahib. Guru Arjan then appointed Baba Buddha the First Mukh-Granthi (Head-Priest) after the Adi Granth was installed there. The hymns of Guru Teg Bahadur (1621- 1675), the 9th Guru Sahib, were included in the Adi Granth by the 10th Master, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). Guru Sahib prepared the present, final version, of this holy scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, at Talwandi Sabo, now called Takht Damdama Sahib.
[ Bhai Gurdas (1551-1636) helped Guru Arjan Dev in writing the Adi Granth and worked along with Baba Buddha during construction of the Akal Takht. He was an accomplished writer, historian, and preacher. Being a distinguished scholar, he was appointed the First Jathedar (Chief) of the Akal Takht. ]
Baba Buddha expired at village Ramdas in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, in 1631. Guru Har Gobind Sahib was present with Baba Buddha during the last moments of his life and performed his last rites. Today there is a memorial, called Gurdwara Samadhan, at Ramdas where Baba Buddha was cremated, on the banks of river Ravi (opposite Kartarpur Sahib, now situated in Pakistan).
(By : Professor Dr Surjit S. Bhatti, Formerly, Dean Sciences, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar)