Bhagat Sain
(1390-1440 AD)

"Lord Himself bestows honour on His devotees."

There is no denying the fact that the pure and pious souls influence mankind irrespective of the barriers of any kind. The kings make special efforts to get their history written but because of the precious deeds and altruistic words of the personages saturated in the love of God, new history is compiled daily in praise of them although it may not be possible to ascertain the exact date or year and place of their birth so as to confirm to the definition of history. Keeping their multi-faceted greatness in view, everybody feels proud in linking that personality to himself or considers himself blessed by linking himself with him. This has been the case with several contributors to the Sikh Scripture. Bhagat Sain is one such person. According to some scholars, Sain who was born in 1390 AD, belonged to Karnataka. Their assumption is based on the evidence that Sain was once in the service of the king of Bidar, a town in Karnataka. Some others opine that Sain remained for most of his life in the service of the King of Bandhavgarh in Rajasthan and thus conclude that he might have belonged to Rajasthan. Apart from these two schools of thought, there is another view which believes Sain to be a Panjabi. According to this view, Sain was born in the early morning of the full-moon day of Maghar in 1343 AD in the village of Sohal, in Amritsar district. His father's name was Baba Mukand Rai and mother's Jiwan. When he came of age, he went over to Lahore to stay with his aunt (father's sister). Sain married Sulakhani of Jalkhar, and led a householder's life. They had only one son born to them.

Later on, they migrated to Delhi from where he went into the service of a king of Rajasthan. It was during his stay there that he received spiritual enlightenment. Maybe, the above given facts are not unadulterated history, but this proves beyond doubt that the fame of Sain had reached beyond Panjab up to Rajasthan and Karnataka, but his links with Panjab are well established. Even now there stands a Gurdwara and a water reservoir in the village of Sohal Thathian to commemorate his memory. It is also said that Sain himself inaugurated the digging of this reservoir on the bank of which he used to spend long hours in meditation. Panjab Govt officially celebrated his 654th birthday on 6.12.1997 in this village itself.

The biography of Sain as it emerges from the historically authentic evidences is narrated below:

In the only hymn of Sain that appears in the Guru Granth Sahib (P.695) under Dhanasri measure, he says with genuine pride that only his spiritual mentor Bhagat Ramanand knows the way to Naam-simran, (meditation of Name) and he perceives God as all-pervasive and immensely benevolent. Thus, it becomes obvious that Sain was disciple of Ramanand of Prayag who has been acknowledged the founder-preacher of the Bhakti movement in Northern India. Bhai Gurdas (Varan, X. 16) says that after Kabir, Sain was the second important disciple of Ramanand. Herein Bhai Gurdas gives ample information about him which can be summed up as follows:

After Kabir who enjoyed great name and fame, another person from the so-called low castes to rise to spiritual heights was Sain, a barber by birth, He used to remain absorbed in Divine Name at night and visit early morning to the royal palace to massage the king's body so as to cure it of various physical maladies. One day he had some guests and he remained occupied all the night in Kirtan or singing of Divine eulogy. Thus service of the saints and the Sangat made him miss his duty at the palace to serve the king. Realizing the intensity of his love for the saints and the Sangat, God Himself adopted Sain's form and went over to the palace and served the king. Consequently, the malady of the king was cured. On the other hand Sain, after he got free from his guests, went to the king with utter humility so as to seek forgiveness for his absence. The king saw from afar Sain approaching, an( calling him to his presence the king removed his cloak and put it on him as a token of his pleasure. He further told Sain that the way he massaged him last time had really captivated him. All his ailments have vanished. This was heard by the entire mankind. In this way God Himself intervened to prove the greatness of his devotee. Now let us see what Guru Arjan Dev has said in this connection in one of his hymns:

His devotees, tasks has the Lord Himself
undertaken to fulfil;
These Himself has the Lord come to accomplish SGGS-783

Referring to the incident related above, Bhai Gurdas says.
Learning of the name earned by Kabir,
Another Sikh, who came on the scene was Sain, the barber.
He performed loving devotion at night
and went to the king's court in the morn.
Once many saint-guests came
and Kirtan went on all the night.
He could not leave his saint guests,
and thus tailed to do duty at the king's.
Lord Himself took Sain's form
and entertained the king.
After bidding farewell to all his guests,
Sain reached the king with diffidence.
The king called him from afar,
and summoning near bestowed robes.
You have captivated me,
said the king and numberless people heard this.
Lord Himself bestows honour on His devotees.

When the king heard from Sain's own lips the account of his absence, he thought very highly of the spiritual greatness of the saint. He was so impressed that he, along with his family, became disciples of Sain. Guru Arjan Dev has in a hymn reiterated such a view :
One that is lowly without a name,
By contemplation of the Name in all
four corners becomes revered.
Beloved! Thy sight I seek: Pray grant it
Numberless by Thy devotion are saved. SGGS- 386

The above incident in Sain's life made his faith in God more intense and firm: it is inexpressible in words. From then onward Sain was always absorbed in the meditation of the Divine and sang songs in Praise of God who provides joys to all.

lt was perhaps keeping this episode in view that Ravidas has written about Sain and other saints like him. He said that God is capable of doing whatever he wishes.

Namdev, Kabir, Trilochan, Sadhna, Sain-all are saved.
Saith Ravidas ; Listen ! devotees of God!
All within the Lord's power lies. SGGS-1106

One more point becomes clear from the verse as quoted above: Ravidas was either a contemporary of Sain or was well familiar with his name and fame.

Guru Arjan Dev had composed a hymn in Basant measure wherein the Guru refers to Jaidev's egoity and then his discarding of it. Herein he also said that Sain had adopted the profession of a barber to earn his livelihood. Writing of his fame, the Guru says in a verse as follows:

Sain, the barber, was running errands,
as known to all:
The Lord in his heart taking abode,
among the saints found he mention. SGGS-487

This implies that Sain who did various odd jobs in the village had become very famous. The Guru felt it proper that a person's status should not be determined from one's profession or from the family in which he was born. Rather his deeds should determine his status in society. That is why he says about Namdev: God pushed the Brahmins and Khatris away, and instead embraced a calico printer as His son. Any profession is pious if it is marked by honesty and righteousness.

The hymn of Sain as included, in the Sikh Scripture is given below:
Making devotion the incense, lamp and ghee for aarti,
To the Lord am I a sacrifice.
Sing you paeans of Divine joy:
Sing ever paeans of glory of the Divine king. (Pause)
Lord! realization that Thou art immaculate,
Is for me the noble lamp and the holy wick.
The way of Divine devotion is known to
my master, Ramanand,
Who expounds the Supreme Bliss,
perfection incarnate.
Lord of charming figure ! across the
ocean of existence take me.
Saith Sain : To the Master of Supreme Bliss
be you devoted SGGS-695

This hymn could be summed up as follows : I am sacrifice unto them who are ever absorbed in the aarti of the supreme Lord (In fact the true aarti of God cannot be performed with the help of lamp and incense, rather it is possible only with one's firm faith and deep love for Him.) O God, it is only Thy devotees who recognize You, remember You, and sing Your praises. So please bless me with Thy grace so that 1 am also able to swim across this world-ocean.

Bhagat Sain spent his entire life in the name of God and ultimately breathed his fast in AD 1440 at the age of 50. His followers have been anxious even today to follow in his footsteps and thus make a success of their life by devoting themselves to singing eulogies of the Lord.

Saith Nanak God's devotees hunger to perform
Divine laudation :
The Name Eternal their prop.
Day and night in Joy they abide;
Of these bearing noble qualities
dust of feet they make themselves. -Guru Nanak SGGS-466



quick links