- Col (retd.) Dr. D S Grewal
In 1986-87, I was posted as a Major at an army outpost in the village of Segang-Menchukha in the north western corner of West Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh, India. One night I was woken up by a loud and persistent knocking at my door. “Who could it be at this time?” I wondered. When I opened the door, I found it to be the village headman locally known as the Gaon Burha. He was in an obvious state of distress and told me that his son was dying of a very severe pain in his stomach and if I could send for a doctor. I considered it fit to check the patient myself before I telephoned the doctor, who was some distance away and the track was quite hazardous. I decided to accompany the Gaon Burha.
He led me to his wooden hut, which was divided into two, the portion in front was for cooking and at the rear was the living room where I found a young boy writhing in pain and crying. As a precautionary measure, I had taken some pain-killing and digene tablets with me, which I offered to the sick boy. A Lama who was standing nearby told the boy not to take the medicine. It puzzled me but there was little I could do because the superstitious people of this region hold the Lamas in great esteem for all matters
However, immediately after, the Lama started saying a prayer obviously in order to appease the evil spirits. He first fashioned an idol with rice and butter, lit some incense and to the accompaniment of the ringing of a bell started murmuring his prayers calling ’Nanak’ ‘Nanak’ . After he had finished doing so, he took the incense to the bedside of the sick boy, read out and chanted “Om Mani Padme Hum” to him and then asked him to take the medicine I had given.
The idol that the Lama had made aroused my curiosity. I asked him as to whose idol was it that he worshipped. “Nanak Lama,’ he said. I must say I was quite perplexed with his answer because I never expected anyone in this area, nearly 2000 kilometers away from Punjab, would know anything about Guru Nanak much less worship his idol. I probed him for further details. He told me: “We worship Nanak Lama and consider him as one of our Guru Rimpoches. We call him Nanak Lama of Amritsar also. His idol is worshipped in our gompha on Dorgilling Hill. It is said that the Guru visited this area and meditated at Pemoshubu. Pemoshubu lies about 15 kilometers away from where we were.
“During his meditation at Pemoshubu,” continued the Lama, “the Guru was attacked by a bear but the huge boulder, under which the Guru was meditating, lifted him up and took him in its lap. According to this legend the bear could do nothing and therefore soon after made his retreat. The marks of the Guru’s body are still etched on this boulder and we go there to worship every year in the last week of the month of March, because that is the month when the Guru is said to have come here. A fair is held to commemorate Guru Nanak’s visit.
Quite close to the boulder there is a cave through which the Guru used to pass to have his bath in the rivulet called Bamchu. Again it is commonly believed that only people with a clean heart can pass through the cave. Others, no matter how lean and thin they are, cannot pass through the entrance of the cave.
The Lama continued with his story, “The place where the Guru used to have his bath in the rivulet is now a natural shallow pool which is full of small black as well as white pebbles, and the water is always still. Whenever we want to know whether or not any particular wish of ours is going to be fulfilled, we close our eyes, repeat the wish, pray to Guru Nanak, and pick out a pebble from the pool. If the pebble is white, we believe, this wish is bound to come true. If the pebble is black, it will not be. If it has both black and white spots on it, the wish will be only partially fulfilled. You can try any number of times; the color of the pebble you pick out is always the same thereafter.”
I must say I was quite intrigued by the Lama’s story and persuaded him to take me there for confirmation. He agreed. Next morning we set out. In order to get to Pemoshubu, we had to pass through a thick forest, which was infested with bears, tigers and wild boars. Leaches stuck over every now and then and we had difficulty removing them. The track at times had vanished under the undergrowth and we had to cut the waggling branches to clear our way to the place in the dense jungle. In the midst of the thick undergrowth, we found a small clearing where an old traditional white Boddh flag, printed with ‘Om Mani Padam Hum’ was aflutter. The Lama told me that every time the flag flutters, God’s name goes into the air 1001 times.
From the clearing, we started our decent towards the Bumchur river. After walking down for about five minutes we came across a huge boulder which appeared to be about 30 feet high and with a length and breadth each of about 20 feet. It was leaning towards the east. Below it there was a rough platform on which were lying a number of white cloth flags with inscriptions on them in the Tibetan language.
The Lama bowed in deep reverence and started to ring his bell and chant hymns. He also laid on the platform a new white cloth flag as his offering. He then showed the marks of the bodies etched on the boulder. These were about ten feet above the ground. There appeared the impressions of two bodies etched on the boulder one of a bigger man and the others of a small one. The Lama told me that the bigger one was that of Guru Nanak’s and the smaller ones were of his companions. The impression of the head, the shoulders, the arms and the upper part of the bodies were very clear. It did not look as if they had been chiseled but naturally hewn. Since I had no means of verifying the veracity of these marks, I did not question the authenticity of what the Lama said and bowed my head in reverence.
After that, the Lama took me further down through a cave and from its ****her end we could see the beautiful rivulet, Bamchu flowing by. Down below, at one corner, I could clearly see the white and black pebbles lying at the bottom.
The lama bent over the small pool. Chanting Guru Nanak’s name, he took out a stone from the pool; it was white. He was too happy. When I enquired as to what he had wished, he told that he had wished for another son. I was astonished at his material attachment despite being a Lama. A junior commissioned officer Subedar Surat Singh Yadav, an Ahir from Haryana, who had accompanied us too did the same and prayed for becoming a Subedar Major. He got the black one. I knew it was not possible for him to become one. They both insisted that I too try for one. I had nothing on mind, as God has always been kind to me. However, a momentous thought came to me, “Why not wish to make a Guru’s place of worship at the place if the Guru had come here?” Having wished this, I took out a pebble and found it to be white. Hence I pondered over the complete question; I considered it impossible to construct a place of worship at such a remote place, where besides bringing the construction material from the low lands in Assam, reaching and clearing the forest were the major problems. I thought it better to consider it as a bad joke. Moreover this was the aftermath of 1984 riots, when we could not think of doing such things.
However, my Subedar was quick to respond. “There will have to be a place of the Guru’s here”, he assumingly said. “But how I alone can make a place in such a difficult area?” I raised my doubt. “Why do you feel alone Sahib? We all will make it,” added the burly Subedar. “We will make Guru Nanak’s place here. It is His wish,” said the Lama authoritatively. I was in a divided state of mind, but the other two had already started playing this idea in their minds seriously.
“We should not alter the originality and serenity of this place and keep it as it is”, said Subedar Surat Singh. “Better place for the Gurudwara will be the triangular area between the two rivulets; that is within the limits as prescribed by the religious edicts”. Subedar Surat Singh further said, “It should be within 500 yards of the place of event,” he explained. I was unaware of all this. As we walked across to the place and examined the area, I found the Lama to be in meditation sitting on a stone. I found the area to be flat but full of big trees and with thick under growth. However, it was not slushy because of the close flowing stream and the slope of the land into the streams.
It required enormous effort to clear the area. For bringing stones to this place was another very difficult preposition as even nails would have to be got from Tinsukhia, which for an ordinary person would have taken 10-15 days journey one way. The other alternative was through air i.e. helicopters, but priority of helicopters was the ration for soldiers and ammunition for guns, more than anything else. In addition the carriage of these items for 16 kilometers from the helipad was another difficulty. The first requirement, however, was to clear the thick under growth up to the selected place which itself was a major task. I did not thick it feasible to prepare a worthwhile place of worship under these conditions.
“This is an auspicious place, 15 days hence is the auspicious day to carry out stone laying for the worship place”, the Lama announced keeping his eyes closed”.
It is perfectly alright. We will clear the place within that time”, Subedar Surat Singh took upon himself voluntarily, the preliminary task of clearing the area and also the track to the place. The area was studied minutely and the place was selected where the Lama finally put a small stick and a small piece of cloth bearing ”Om Mani Padme Hum” hanging over it as a flag. As we returned, Subedar Surat Singh studied the route seriously. The Lama told us whom all to contact locally for construction of the place of worship.
I thought of ways to get the building material. It was better to make a wooden structure, which should consist of at least three rooms, one for main worship, one for the helper and the religious teacher and one for storage and other accessories. This could also be used for any person from outside who wished to stay at the place for a night or so. It would require about 800 wooden planks and about 100 CGI sheets in addition to other building material. “How can we manage all this”? I passed on the question to Subedar Surat Singh. Nothing seemed to unruffle the Subedar as he appeared to be quite determined.
“We will prepare the planks ourselves by sawing wood. CGI sheets can be arranged by air from Dinjan (Assam),” he said as if it was not difficult at all. On return, Subedar Surat Singh was heard stating the whole incident to the men of my unit with a lot of enthusiasm. These deeply religious Ahirs from Harayana, took every word of Subedar Surat Singh seriously and promised him that they would do every bit to carry out the “Will of God”.
The work started without delay and the men, who were eager to do something, swung into action. Meanwhile the Lama had told Segang people about the event. The Gaon Burha came with his men to help us in whatever way we wanted to utilize him. Subedar Surat Singh asked for the help of a carpenter and a saw a man whom the Gaon Burha deputed without hitch. I requested him to get the land transferred to the institution, which he agreed heartily. He along with the Lama planned to meet the Extra Assistant Commissioner, Manchuka for permission and transfer of the land on the name of Gurdwara as a religious institution.
Work started the very next day with clearing a part of the route by the soldiers and a group of villagers. I wrote a letter to my wife, then located in Dinjan (Assam), giving all the details and requested her to buy the required number of CGI sheets and other material and to arrange the money for the same. Bringing the material to Menchukha from Dinjan-Tinsukhia was certainly a problem. I thought of it for 2-3 days when I met the pilot of the helicopter providing us supplies. He too was eager to visit the place. I took him through the difficult route. After paying his obeisance he saw the area around closely and mentioned that about 500 yards away, there was good ground that could be developed into a dropping zone and if some effort was put in, it could also be converted into a helipad. For this, permission and clearance had to come from higher headquarters.
The work progressed faster than expected. Soon the Assam Rifles soldiers also joined. The senior most officer of the area was the Battalion Commander of Mahar Regiment and at that time Major Yadav, again an Ahir, was officiating. As I told him about the place, he too went there out of curiosity. Visiting the area, he recommended deploying a company on the nearby hill as he found it to be yet an unknown route from the enemy side and needed an immediate coverage. The development of the area turned out to be much faster than I would have expected. Later, higher commanders of Army, Air Force and Assam Rifles, who visited Manchuka and made it a point to visit the place.
With the help of the local carpenters and soldiers three rooms were constructed. As the development on the other side caused a great threat to the valley, a brigade was later planned to move to the place and a key location point was planned. Accordingly, an artillery field firing range was also proposed. A company of Bengal Engineers comprising of Sikhs landed which not only improved the local constructions but was also given the task of preparing an advance landing ground for airplanes as well as helipads and tracks/roads to various locations. The place was given the name “Guru Nanak Taposthan” and had become a great place of worship not only for the local people but for all outsiders as well, who longed to carry some worthwhile memories back home.
There was a big local on 24 March (1987) as this was the occasion mentioned by Lama on which Guru Nanak had come to the place. We arranged to give free lunch for all people and had hymn singing. Sri Guru Granth Sahib too had been placed by then, which I got on one of my visits to Tinusukhia. Initially, I carried out the daily routine prayers and rituals at the place and the Lama helped me. Later a soldier from the Engineer Company took over the task on himself.
We celebrated Baisakhi as the soldiers of the Engineers Company comprised of Sikhs who took keen interest in celebrating this occassion. We were able to have an Akhand Path i.e. non-stop recitation of the entire Sri Guru Grant Sahib within 48 hours.
Being inquisitive, I studied the travels of Guru Nanak to the Himalayan region and his contact with Lamas in great detail. These details were published in three books: (a) The Amazing Travels of Guru Nanak to Himalayan Region, (b) Guru Nanak’s travels to North East and (c) So Than Suhawa.
Guru Nanak came in contact with Lamas during his visit to Himachal Pradesh in the Rawalsar area. The discussions at Mansarovar-Sumer Parbat were the turning point. During his discourses with Siddhas, Guru Nanak left a deep impact not only on Siddhas but also local people who were mainly of Tibetan origin. Amongst them was the then King of Tibet Trasuing Deochung, who was a Lama from Karmapa sect. He became Guru Nanak’s follower and invited Guru Nanak to Lhasa, the invitation that Guru Nanak accepted.
Guru Nanak advanced through Nepal to go to Tibet. He returned from Mansarovar all along Kali Nadi, which flows along the western border of Nepal. Thereafter through Terai region he entered Nepal. Through Chatra, Guru Nanak visited the fort of Dhomri. Shivpur and to Brahamkund where he attended a fair and delivered discourses to the people gathered. After Brahamkund, Guru Nanak visited Lakhanpur and Palti Lake, there from through the hills of Hawal Khanchi he reached Krishna Tal area and preached True Name. After Krishna Tal, he proceeded through Dhaulagiri ridges to Belagarh and reached Kathmandu and Bhakatpur area, the twin capitals of Patan and Banepa of the later Malla King.
Guru Nanak proceeded through Doleghat, Chiyauba, Surka, Kirtanti, Chap, Nambo, Kabra, Valleys of Jarsakhola and Sikri Khola, Kiri and Batasha Danda ridge, Those, Shivalaya to Jhoding monastery at Thodungla and reached Bhander. From Bhander he is likely to have proceeded through Lamjurala, Sherpa villages of Dradobuk and Junbesi and visited Chiwang monastery. From Jusebi, he proceeded further through Phalali to Jubing, Kharela, and Phakding and to Namche Bazar, From Namcha Bazar his next visit was to Khumijing monastery and Thayangboche situated at 3867 meters in the lap of Amba Dablam (6856 m). Guru Nanak then visited Thyangboche monastery an important centre of Lamas, where Guru’s idol and a manuscript has been preserved. Thyangboche Monastery is one of the most beautiful sites on a table land amidst breath taking scenery surrounded by the Panorama of Khumbu-Himalayas with Mount Everest. The Head Lama of the Thyangboche Monastery is a reincarnation highly revered by Sherpas. Guru Nanak held discussions with the Head Lama of the Thyangboche Monastery.
The Lamas were highly impressed by Guru’s teaching and became his followers. Major H..S. Kohli leader of the famous Indian expedition to Mt. Everest mentions of a large sized idol and a manuscript of Guru Nanak at Thyangboche Monastery. He writes: The cupboards in Gompha contained many manuscripts. There were idols of past lamas. These included an idol of Guru Nanak, Guru Rimpoche. Tibetans call Guru Nanak, Guru Rinpoche. His Holiness the Head Lama told him that some writings of great Guru were in his personal possessions. From Thyangboche, Guru Nanak came back to Khumijing on the trading route of India-Tibet and proceeded to Tibet through Nanak La Pass (5500m) (same name appears in the maps) and reached Tingri Dzong in Tibet where he had gone on the invitation of Trasuing Deochung, the then local Nyingmpa chief/king to help him in the reconstruction of Sakya Monastery. Guru Nanak is said to have reached this place in the ninth month of Tibetan Calendar. According to a Karmapa legend Guru Nanak is said to have reached this place, tied the witches and turned them into masks (immobile/inactive). On the day of annual celebrations of this monastery these witch masks are stated to be shedding tears and dance bound by chains. Guru Nanak was presented a robe by the local chief/king which is now preserved in Lachen Monastery (North Sikkim). This writer examined it at Lachen and later received the photographs of the items of Guru Nanak preserved at Lachen Gopha.
From Tibet, the Guru entered Sikkim through Chorten-Nyima-la. Near Chorten Nyi-ma-la there are 108 small lakes commemorating Guru’s visit. As per this legend seeing the natural beauty of the area, Guru Nanak got in ecstasy and broke his rosary. The 108 beads spread around and formed into small lakes. This added to the beauty of the area further.
After crossing Chorten Nyi-ma-la pass, Guru Nanak came to Dolma Sampa and Tongpen route of Muguthang. He also visited Kedang, Bendu, Sherang, Lyingka, and number of other homes sprung up during the upsurge of Nyingmapa Karmapa sect from Tibet.
In Muguthang valley there is a lake which according to local legend, had demons who used to swallow human beings possibly Cannibals as Cannibalism was prevalent in that area. Local people requested Guru Nanak for protection. Guru Nanak picked a huge boulder and threw it towards the lake. Sensing the danger the lake devils, a make and female came out of the lake and requested for forgiveness. Guru Nanak forgave them and held the falling stone with rope. The same stone with lake marks can still be seen hanging over the lake. These two devils were forbidden from eating human flesh and were redeemed by guiding them to True Name, the Name of the God. An annual local fair honoring Guru’s visit is held every year at the place since then. Guru Nanak thereafter visited Kedang, Sherang and Culang valleys. At Kedang, he was enchanted by the beauty of the green rich valley. He blessed the valley as happy bewitching and called it “ki dang’ (which astonishes).
From Muguthang through Guru Nanak went to Lawu Gompha where from he proceeded towards Gurudongmar. In Gurudongmar lake area, the graziers approached Guru Nanak to solve their problem of water shortage as the lakes all around froze in winter due to low temperature at that altitude (17500 feet). Guru Nanak hit the water with his stick. The ice melted giving way to milky water. Since then the water of the lake is stated to have never frozen. The lake and the hill feature atop came to be known as the Gurudongmar Lake and hill respectively. This writer found these names even in the maps printed in nineteenth century. He also found the water of the lake unaffected even in December-January, when the snow falls unto 10 feet and the temperature falls to minus 30 degrees.
Some graziers projected another problem to Guru Nanak. Due to the effect of altitude, their virility was affected. They requested him to do something about it. Guru Nanak blessed the Gurudongmar Lake saying whoever takes the water of this lake would grain virility and strength. The people of these areas have firm faith in Guru’s words and they consider the water of the lake as nectar.
This lake is the originating source of Teesta River. A gurdwara was constructed at the site during the writer’s presence at the adjoining hill of 22000 ft. for over three months. Guru Granth Sahib was also established though the service of a regular priest could not be obtained despite our best efforts. It was because of extreme cold conditions there. The 800 by 500 square yards lake became a place of great attraction soon after my earlier articles on this subject. A helipad has been constructed and a well-constructed track leads unto the Gurdwara and the lake site. Groups of Sikhs especially from Delhi visit this place each year in March and September, as these are the best months to visit this glacial belt.
From Gurudongmar, Guru Nanak came to Thanggu. At Thanggu he relaxed under a boulder stone. Having heard about his super powers the people already thronged to him. He blessed the devotees and delivered sermons. His footmarks were stated to be existent on a huge boulder by the side of Teesta River, but the ignorant road construction party blew off the boulder stone in 1987. The stone fell into the river and was recovered by Lachen Lama and preserved in Lachen monastery. At Thanggu, in Guru’s memory, a Gompa and a Chorten were constructed in which small 1,002 idols of Guru Nanak are preserved. A Gurdwara has been constructed in the engineer company area to commemorate Guru Nanak’s visit to this place. His next stay was at Lachen.
In Lachen Gompha Guru Nanak’s foot mark are preserved on a piece of stone. A dress given to him by the then Tibetan king, the footmarks on stone and a kamandal of the Guru are also preserved. From Lachen he proceeded towards south and relaxed near Munsithang where he found a hot water spring. His body marks exist near this location.
Form Munsithang, Guru Nanak moved to South Chugthang (height 6000 feet). Local people call Chungthang as Nanakthang. Here Guru Nanak spent his third and fourth night after his visit to Gurudongmar. There is a boulder stone about 20 feet in diameter and 20 feet high commemorating Guru Nanak’s visit. As Guru Nanak relaxed near this boulder a demon staying on nearby hill, threw a heavy stone on Guru Nanak. The boulder was brought to a halt by Guru Nanak with a stick. He then climbed on the stone to warn the demon. Finding Guru Nanak unaffected the demon fell at his feet. Guru Nanak asked him not to disturb the local people and to leave the place and follow the True Name of Lord, which he finally did. Footprints indicating Guru Nanak’s climbing atop the stone are stuck into the earth in a straight posture. The stick has now taken the shape of a tree and is known as “Babe di khoondi”.
Sitting at the top of the stone, Guru Nanak opened his lunch pack consisting of rice packed in banana leaves. The local people had not seen such banana leaves. They prayed to Guru Nanak, “There is no rice or bananas in our area. Please favour us with these”. Guru Nanak threw some left over rice around the boulder and buried the banana leaves. He then announced, “Henceforth paddy and bananas shall always be grown in this valley”. Chungthang is the only place around in the area for long where paddy and bananas grew since Guru Nanak’s visit.
A woman living in a nearby hut requested, “I have to bring water from a distance. I am old. Moving down and climbing up is very difficult for me. Pray, do something about it.” Guru Nanak scratched one side of the boulder with his hands and there appeared a spring. This spring (Chasma) on the side of the boulder has been flowing ever since. The Guru Nanak’s blessing to these people is the reason for the prosperity of Chungthang valley. The local people always remember him and worship him with great devotion.
Guru Nanak visited North Sikkim during his Sumer Udasi (third itinerary) around the year 1516 AD. I have been able to discuss the background of Lamas and Lepchas and Guru Nanak’s visit in Sikkim during my stay in 1971 and later from 1987 to 1991. Various Lamas and local people told the details of Guru Nanak’s visits to Tibet, Sikkim and beyond to me. Lamas of Thanggu, Lachen, Lachung and Muguthang gave most of the details, which have been examined and incorporated here.
They also say that Guru Nanak’s sacred scripture and one tourlice were left under a boulder stone, which will be taken out by Guru Nanak’s successor at an appropriate occasion. The local Lamas worship Guru Nanak as Nanak Lama. They built a Gompha (Lama Temple) commemorating his visit. In the Gompha, a lamp of pure ghee burns day and night to vitalize the memory of the visit.
The Assam Rifles Batallion stationed at Chungthang constructed an impressive Gurudwara under the guidance of Subedar Major Bhullar. The Gurdwara is now called Gurdwara Nanak Lama. The local MLA takes keen interest in the protection, maintenance, and upliftment of the place. “Babe di khoondi” is now a shapely tree, which attracts the visitors and the worshippers alike. The footprints are well preserved. The water from the spring is considered as a source of strength and sign of purity and is being taken as charanamrit. The rice field is secured by a wall around the periphery. The kesari flag can be seen from miles and one has not to do any effort to find the place as it is now in the centre of the valley as well as the town.
From Chungthang, Guru Nanak is also said to have proceeded to Phodong. A grand monastery is the reminiscent of Guru Nanak’s visit. The head of the monastery is considered as the reincarnation of Guru Nanak and an organized succession system exists there. The present successor of Nanak Lama was installed in 1989. The installation ceremony appeared in the columns of local papers with photographs.
From Phodong, Guru Nanak retuned to Chungthang and went to Lachung (height 9500ft). In Lachung monastery at the top of a nearby hill there were excellent wall paintings depicting Guru Nanak's visit to the area which now stand obliterated. After Lachung, Guru Nanak is stated to have stayed at Yumthang enroute to Tibet and Bhutan. At Yumthang, Guru Nanak found these people quite unclean. They never took bath for months as the water of the area was cold. Guru Nanak removed a stone and a hot spring appeared. The gushing water formed a rivulet. Guru Nanak asked the local people to have regular bath and worship God early in the morning. These people follow Guru’s teaching till now. From Yumthang, Guru Nanak went to Pharidzong through Pyakochin and Ghorala. At Pyakochin a writing in Gurumukhi on a stone pillar commemorates Guru’s visit.
Guru Nanak is said to have entered Bhutan from North-East Bhutan after his visit to Sikkim and Chumbi valley. From Pharidzong in Chumbi valley, he entered Paro valley, and visited the Dukhgyel Dzong, the eastern fort of Bhutan, famous for its great round towers. Tak-sang (Tiger’s Deb) was the next place he visited. Ha and Paro monasteries were also visited by him. This monastery is a valuable treasure of art and religious paintings and manuscripts. The Guru’s painting is also said to be preserved there. The holy Guru is believed to have tamed the dreaded demons and tigers of the area. Tiger’s Den is stated to be the reminiscent of the same event.
The story of Tiger’s Den monastery as recorded in Sikh chronicles is as follows. “At one place in that region there were millions of lions. The Guru asked his companion Mardana to play upon the rebec. On hearing the sweet music the hearts of the lions were softened and they came near the Guru. The Guru asked them. “How have you come here?” They replied, “On seeing you we have gained the power of speech. Our previous sins had brought us in this form. We have a feeling that you have come to us as a redeemer”. The Guru asked again, “On what food do you live?” They replied,” We have eaten up all the animals of this forest, which is spread over one hundred yajnas. Now if anyone amongst us feels drowsy, he is immediately eaten up by others, therefore we always stand without sleep. The Guru said, “You will become human beings in your next birth but you will get the final emancipation only on following the instructions of the preceptor”. The Guru left the forest and came to the town. The local people were too afraid of the lions because the lions were very fierce and they spared no one. They said, “We have built this town on the tip of the mountain and have kept the cannons on all sides. We do not understand how you have not been devoured by them”. Guru Nanak replied,” I have made them non violent. All of them will die after some time for want of food”. All the inhabitants of the town felt very much pleased and became disciples of the great Guru”. The legend, which the Bhutan Lamas described to me, was very similar.
From Paro, Guru Nanak visited Thimpu and Tashi-Cho-Dzong. Over looking Tashi-Cho-Dzong is the White Glacier of the three Spiritual Brothers. This is said to be in reminiscence of the visit of Guru Nanak and his two disciples. At Tashi-Cho-Dzong, Guru Nanak visited the chief monastery. The head Lama of the monastery benefited from his company and translated several hymns of the Guru in Bhutia Language. The Guru also visited the residence of the Dharamraja and held discourses with him. The details of discussions as recorded in Janamsakhi B 40 are as follows:
“Story of Bhutan Desh starts: Nanak Baba came to Bhutan country. He came and stayed in a garden. Whosoever came to pay him obeisance, stayed there itself, neither he could get up nor could go home. People discussed about this. They talked about Guru Nanak stating, “A great man has come to this country that neither eats nor drinks anything nor speaks to anybody. Neither he begs nor does he take any offering from anyone. He is without any desire”. The king of the area heard of this and came to him (Guru Nanak). He brought choicest dresses and eatables and fell at his feet (Guru Nanak). By then Baba (Guru Nanak) had watched the system of the functioning of the state. The king used to weed grass. He wore fur dress. Whenever a girl from his kingdom married, instead of going to her husband for the first night she was sent to the king. Baba Nanak told the king, “O king! Whatever evil you are doing, you must leave this. This is the order of the Guru. Whatever you wish you must ask from me. Guru Nanak is in a mood to bless you”. The king then said,” O Baba, rice and wool are in abundance in my country but nothing else grows”. Guru Nanak blessed him with all types of mines, fragrances and cloth. The mines included those of gold, silver, zinc and lead. Many products like musk, silk and fruit started growing in those mountains. The king along with his people then became the disciples of Guru Nanak. Baba taught them true name; to give alms to the poor and to have regular bath. A temple (Dharamsala) was established on the name of Guru Nanak. Guru then planned to move from the place. The king and the public came to request the Guru to stay. “This country has been blessed by your arrival. You must stay here it self.” Baba understood that these people would not leave him like that. Sitting amongst them, he flew into the air and went to another country. Those sitting at the place were astonished. They exclaimed, “Guru was sitting with us a short while before, now he is seen nowhere. What unnatural event has happened! He has vanished! It must be some miracle. We have not enjoyed his company to our heart full. He was great worshipper of God, very close to Him, but we could not identify such a savoir and helper of mankind”. They were repentant of this, but Baba had gone. They started their daily life by regular prayers of the True Lord, giving alms to the poor, having regular baths and living truthfully”.
Guru Nanak is said to have then visited Bumthang. The legend of “Hidden Treasure of Bumthang” is said to be connected with Guru Nanak. The legend goes like this: “Pamlingpa, a dwarf like blacksmith and resident of Kunzamgda, when reached the age of twenty-seven, went to the forest to look for mushrooms, but found none. On his way back he met a hermit with a long white beard said to be Guru or “Rimpoche” Nanak. Pamlingpa spoke to him full of respect, sadly mentioning that he had not found a single mushroom. The Guru smiled, bowed and with his hands pushed aside the twigs that were spread on the ground, revealing a whole bed of wonderful mushrooms. Pamlingpa collected them and invited the old man to the meals; Guru Nanak gave him a scroll of paper roll to preserve.
When they arrived at Pamlingpa’s hut, the Guru stayed in the adjoining room and Pamlingpa cooked the mushrooms with five kinds of fragrant herbs. When they were ready, he went to the Guru, but the Guru had disappeared. Pamlingpa called him again. He searched for him everywhere but in vain. Finally and sadly, he ate the mushrooms alone. Afterwards he climbed the roof of his hut, lay down and musingly watched the clouds sweeping over the sky. Then he took the scroll of paper given by the Guru from his pocket and studied ponderingly. He had not learned to read, but intuitively he grasped the deeper meanings of the written message or it had been whispered into his ear. “Go to the burning lake. There you will find a hidden treasure”. For the message was written in the so called “fairy script” derived from Devangri script of the Gods (probably Gurmukhi) which only a few could read. Pamlingpa understood more with his heart than with his mind, and it began to dawn on him that the heart might have been a manifestation of Guru Rimpoche, who himself showed in this form in order to receive Pamlingpa as his true follower. Thus according to the legend, Pamlingpa realized that he was in fact the embodiment of the true Guru. The legend goes on to describe how Pamlingpa got the spiritual treasure from the lake. This portion of the legend is akin to the legend connected with Guru Nanak’s attainment of enlightenment in Wein River.
From Tashi-Cho-Dzong and Bumthang, Guru Nanak is said to have visited Central Bhutan where tell tale indications are available of his visit. He is also said to have visited Askord where Guru Nanak‘s paintings are preserved.
Guru Nanak crossed into Arunachal Pradesh and visited most of this region. First, while going to Lhasa (Tibet) he passed through Tawang after crossing from Bhutan and entered Tibet from Samdurang Chu. He returned form Lhasa and went to the famous monastery Samye and entered Pemoshubu Menchukha in Arunachal Pradesh. He meditated for some time at this location. From Menchukha he went back to Tibet, brought the residents of Southern Tibet and got them settled in Menchukha. Thereafter through Gelling and Tuiting he proceeded to Saidya and Braham-Kund, before entering the state of Assam again.
On further enquires during my visits to the hills and from the study of the books I could link up Guru Nanak’s visit to that of Sikkim and Bhutan. On the basis of information collected, I visited Bhutan and Eastern Arucanchal in 1987 to 1989 and collected more information from Sela, Tawang, Lumla, Zimithang, Lumpung and other parts of the country.
According to this information Guru Nanak went to Bhutan and visited Tashigong- Dzong and Dukti after visiting Hajo in Assam. Thereafter he entered Arunachal Pradesh. He visited Sela and Sabrela and crossed a hill now known as Govindgarh. From there he visited a place now known as Nanak Dzong. He stayed at the place for some days and held discourses. There the people worship him till today as Nanak Lama.
Thereafter, he proceeded further north and visited the famous monastery at Tawang. His painting is still preserved at the monastery. The Lamas worship Guru Nanak as their Guru Rimpoche. As he went further on the route adopted by Dalai Lama while escaping from Lhasa, he relaxed on a boulder and praised its natural beauty. This boulder is marked by its specialty that even during heavy snow, it remains uncovered while the snow engulfs every inch of the area up to six feet in winter. Guru Nanak then went to Nagula, where he meditated for some time. Now a meditation centre has been established for all religions in memory of Guru Nanak’s visit to the place.
When I visited Lumpung monastery and met the head Lama, he told me that Guru Nanak reached Lumpung en route to Lhasa from Twang and stayed at the place for sometime. He showed me a large sized statue of about 20 feet stating it to be of Guru Nanak which I photographed. He also told me that the route adopted by Guru Nanak to the place and to Lhasa was more or less the same as adopted by Dalai Lama during his departure from Lhasa. Guru Nanak visited this monastery in the year 1516 AD and the followers of the Guru projected their doubts, which Guru Nanak cleared.
Guru Nanak entered Tibet (fifth time) again from Negula and reached Lhasa. At Lhasa, Guru Nanak visited the famous Potala, the seat of Dalai Lama. At the time the power was transferred from Kar-ma-pa sect to Ge-lug-pa sect. The Ge-Lug-pa sect had started a reign of terror against the Kar-ma-pa sect, the sect which had become the follower of Guru Nanak.
Guru Nanak is stated to have held discussion with the Second Lama at Potala and requested him to stop the bloodshed. During the stay at Lhasa, he visited the famous monasteries there. In one of the monasteries, where Guru Nanak was offered refreshment, he was approached with a request for answer to certain questions. He answered these questions with great magnanimity.
From Lhasa, Guru Nanak came to Samye monastery. At Samye monastery, Guru Nanak held discussions with the Lamas. From Samye Guru Nanak came to La Khanya and entered India (Arunachal Pradesh) along Yargapchu River into Pemsohubu. It is a thick natural forest area, where beautiful flowers are found spread over miles and miles together.
From Samye Monastery the Guru proceeded southwards towards India. Crossing through La-Khanya, he reached Menchukha a place where Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity is said to have meditated. Guru Nanak was enchanted by the place and stayed for sometime at Menchukha and meditated. He went back to Tibet and brought his followers of Memba sect from Dakbo-Kongba area and got them settled in Menchukha valley. There from through Tibet he proceeded towards Gelling-Tuting valley.
Near Pemoshubu, there is a hill at Segong Dorgilling on the top of which there is one Gompha (Lama Temple). Along with Lord Buddha’s idol it has a life sized idol of Guru Nanak, which the Membas (local tribe) worship. A regular fair is held in the month of January at this place. A Lama told the author, “The monastery had a book of Guru’s Shabds in their language which was destroyed in a fire about fifty years ago”. The head Lama of this monastery had been visiting Gaya as well as Amritsar.
Guru Nanak is said to have visited Shekhar-Bhumja and Dojeeling in Menchukha valley as well. Regular fairs are held in February at these places. Fairs coincide with the dates of Guru Nanak’s visit to these places. Calculation of the days and dates is as per Tibetan calendar.
Close to Mechukha, there is a snow-white cave. Guru Nanak is said to have meditated in this cave also. It is said that Guru Nanak stayed in this area for about 3 months. According to the local Membas, Guru Nanak brought them from Southern Tibet and got them settled in the valley and they became far better off from their previous settlement. In their songs they give out the legend of their settlements.
From Mechukha, Guru Nanak proceeded towards Gelling and Tuting via South Eastern Tibet along Tsangpo River. Guru Nanak is worshipped in the Gompha of Gelling Tuting valley too. From Gelling Tuting valley Guru Nanak proceeded along Tsangpo (Siang River) and then crossed over to Saidya. From Saidya Guru Nanak went to Tezu and reached Brahmkund on Kartika Purnima . Here he attended the fair, held in honor of Parasuram the Killer of Brahimans who is said to have carved out Brahamputra from the Brahamkund. From Brahamkund, Guru Nanak visited Walong at the eastern edge of Aruchal Pradesh. He is said to have visited Rima in China from here. There from, he returned to Tinsukhia and Dibrugharh to Sibsagar. At Tinsukhia, the followers of Sankar Deb regularly visit Gurdwara on Guru Nanak’s Birthday in honour of Guru’s visit to the area and call Guru Nanak as Guru Bhai of Shankardeb. About 18 kms from Sibsagar, there are ruins of an old kingdom (Swarnpur), which Guru Nanak is said to have visited and held discussions with the ruler of the place who became Guruji’s disciple.
Guru Nanak’s next visit to Tibet was after his return from East Asia. Janamsakhi Bhai Bala states that after visiting Silmila Dweep and Suwarnpur Guru Nanak went to Sumer again. Dr Surinder Singh Kohli wrote that it was about 1517 AD when Guru Nanak entered Kashmir from Sinkiang province of China. In China he is said to have gone as far as Nanking on his return journey. An interview with Chhimed Ringdzin Rimpoche by this researcher revealed that Guru Nanak came from China through North Tibet visiting the famous Kokonoor Lake. The legend of Kokonoor Lake is also attributed to Guru Nanak. After visiting North Eastern Tibet, Guru Nanak visited Lhasa and Mansarovar again and through Gartok (Garu), Pudok and Panjong lake area entered Ladakh via Chushul.
The Guru’s return journey was through Kashmir. Guru Nanak entered Jammu & Kashmir state from Kashgar and Yarkand (China) through Karakoram Pass and reached Leh, as per Dr. Kohli. However, Drs. Fajua Singh and Kirpal Singh mention Guru Nanak reaching Leh through Chushul after the visit of Mansrover. The second route seems more plausible and is considered here. There is a tree near Leh under which Guru Nanak sat and delivered sermons. The tree is treated as sacred by the local people.
From Leh Guru Nanak visited a number of places in Ladakh. At a distance of 24 km to the west of Leh, on Leh Kargil road, in the village Basgo, there is a rock on the roadside about 8 feet high and 8 feet in diameter. It has a cavity, which appears to have the impressions of head, shoulders and upper part of the body of a man.
“Legend has it that a few hundred years ago when Nanak Shah was returning from Yarkand he halted there for sometime. His fame had spread far and wide. Becoming jealous of Nanak Shah’s great virtues a local demon or some other faqir rolled down the huge boulder from a hill to kill Nanak Shah. But by a miracle Nanak Shah walked out unhurt and unscathed leaving a deep impression cast in the stone. Army Engineers of Border Roads constructed a Gurdwara near the place to commemorate the event. The Gurdwara is famous as Pathar Sahib. Gatherings on Sunday and Gurpurabs are attended by the Sikhs serving in the area and local Ladakhis.
Guru Nanak also visited Karu. “There are two small hutments near Karu where the people worship only Guru Nanak and no other God. It shows the impact of Guru’s visit to the place. No Gurdwara has yet been built there. Guru Nanak’s next visit was to Hemus Gompha 40 km south of Leh where he held discussions with Lamas. Many people in Hemus believe that foundation stone of the Hemus Gompha was laid by Guru Nanak. From Leh, passing though Karu and Hemus, he moved towards Skardu. The Guru passed through Bimu, Khaltse Sarkot and Pask along Zanskar River and reached Skardu.” There used to be an ancient Gurudwara before 1949. However its present state is not known.
All the above areas were the places where Guru Nanak came in contact with Lamas. Guru Nanak followers are from Karmapa-Nyingmapa sects which number around 1 lakh (one hundred thousand). These Lamas have their Gomphas where they have established statues of Buddha and other Lamas. Karma Pa and Nyingmapa sects Gomphas have large sized statues of Guru Nanak as both these sects worship Guru Nanak till date. They have been the regular visitors of Sri Harimandar Sahib, which they consider a place of Nanak Lama, but lately they have stopped coming in large numbers as they say that the sewadars there have been treating them very badly. These are devoted Sikhs who follow Guru Nanak’s ideals to the core and have the verses of Guru Nanak translated in Tibetan. We must establish regular contact with them and bring them amidst us with due respect and honour.
The author is Director Principal, Bhai Maha Singh College of Engg. Muktsar, Punjab