History of Bhai Kanhaiya ji

Bhai Kanhaiya giving water without discrimination

Bhai Kanhaiya or Bhai Ghanaiya (1648 - 1718) (also spelt Ghaniya, Kanhiya), was a Sikh of Guru Tegh Bahadur and was the founder of the Sevapanthi or Addanshahi samparday (brotherly orders) of the Sikhs.

He was born in a Dhamman Khatri family of Sodhara near Wazirabad in Sialkot district (now in Pakistan) and his father was a wealthy trader. The village was named Sodhara as it was said to have 100 doors and pathways into it.

From a very young age Bhai Sahib use to keep coins in his pocket so he could give them to anyone he saw who was in an unfortunate position. The locals were astonished at the compassion and thoughtful nature of someone so young. As he grew a little older he began to help the poor in other ways. He would wait on the paths of the village and when seeing a poor person carrying a heavy load he would offer to carry the weight for them for a few miles. He would do this every day, carry the heavy weight poor people were forced to carry on their heads for many miles back and forth from the village. When Bhai Kanhaiya's mother found out she was worried that people would think poorly of a rich trader's son doing such menial labor. But Bhai Kanhaiya was adamant, insisting he was unable to see the suffering of others and would do anything in his power to alleviate some of their hardships even for a few hours. This shows that Bhai Shaib had compassion and a desire to help others from a very young age.

After Bhai Sahib's father passed away, Bhai Kanhaiya Ji took over the family business. While trading one day he came across a devotee of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji called Bhai Nanua Ji. Bhai Nanua was a loving Sikh who woke up early at Amritvela to recite Gurbani. One morning Bhai Kanhaiya sat with Nanua Jee and was captivated with the Shabads that he heard:

One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru: Raag Gauree, Ninth Mehla: Holy Saadhus: forsake the pride of your mind. Sexual desire, anger and the company of evil people - run away from them, day and night. ||1||Pause||One who knows that pain and pleasure are both the same, and honor and dishonor as well, who remains detached from joy and sorrow, realizes the true essence in the world. ||1||Renounce both praise and blame; seek instead the state of Nirvaanaa.O servant Nanak, this is such a difficult game; only a few Gurmukhs understand it! ||2||1||

Sorat'h, Ninth Mehla:O dear friend, know this in your mind. The world is entangled in its own pleasures; no one is for anyone else. ||1||Pause||In good times, many come and sit together, surrounding you on all four sides.But when hard times come, they all leave, and no one comes near you. ||1||Your wife, whom you love so much, and who has remained ever attached to you, runs away crying, ""Ghost! Ghost!"", as soon as the swan-soul leaves this body. ||2||This is the way they act - those whom we love so much. At the very last moment, O Nanak, no one is any use at all, except the Dear Lord. ||3||12||139||

One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru: Salok, Ninth Mehla: If you do not sing the Praises of the Lord, your life is rendered useless. Says Nanak, meditate, vibrate upon the Lord; immerse your mind in Him, like the fish in the water. ||1||

Upon hearing the above Bani written by Guru Tegh Bahadur Jee Bhai Kanhaiya's soul was awakened. He had not thought about the reality of death and the importance of meditation. Although he had carried out many good deeds he realized he had missed the essence of Naam and Gurbani too. Then upon hearing the following:

The Naam remains; the Holy Saints remain; the Guru, the Lord of the Universe, remains. Says Nanak, how rare are those who chant the Guru's Mantra in this world. ||56||

Bhai Kanhaiya asked Bhai Nanua to let him know the Mantra of the world. Bhai Nanua directed Bhai Kanhaiya Ji to visit Guru Tegh Bahadar Ji to discover more so Bhai Kanhaiya immediately left.

His quest ended when he met Guru Tegh Bahadur and accepted initiation as a Sikh at his hands. Here Bhai Sahib stayed and continued to serve the Sangat. Bhai Kanhaiya was the designated water carrier for Guru Ji and afterwards in Langar. He also looked after Guru Sahib's horses as a stable hand. While serving the horses one day, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji visited Bhai Kanhaiya and blessed him, advising him that his future should be filled with serving humanity at large.

Kanhaiya established a Dharmshala at Kavha village in the present Attock district of Pakistan which he turned into a preaching centre.

His special mission was selfless service of humanity with no distinction of nationality, caste or creed. In 1704/5, he was on a visit to Anandpur when the city was attacked by a combination of Rajput hill troops and their Mughal allies.

During the frequent sallies and skirmishes between the Sikhs and the enemy around Anandpur, Bhai Kanhaiya was often seen carrying a mashak (a goatskin water pouch), serving water to anyone who was thirsty, quenching the thirst of the dying and wounded soldiers.

He did this sewa (selfless service) with love and affection without any discrimination, giving water to both friends and foe. His acts of compassion stirred up stern criticism amongst his fellow Sikhs, who complained to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, pointing out that Bhai Kanhaiya Ji was even serving the fallen Hindu and Mughal attackers.

They were especially annoyed because the city had been surrounded, stopping the supply of food and water, and here was Bhai Kanhaiya sharing what little water they had. They had tried to stop him many times, but Bhai Kanhaiya would not pay them any heed.

Bhai Kanhaiya's benevolent actions eventually led to a summon by Guru Ji who explained that he had received a complaint about his actions on the battlefield.

Guruji said, “These brave Sikhs are saying that you go and feed water to the enemy and they recover to fight them again – Is this true?”
At the Guru's Darbar
Computer Model of Bhai Kanhaiya Asthan, Gurdwara Aduti Sahib, Mohiwall, Anandpur Sahib

Bhai Kanhaiya Ji replied "Yes, my Guru, what they say is true. But Maharaj, I saw no Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. And, ... Guru Ji, .. they all have the same God’s Spirit? – Guru Ji, have you not taught us to treat all God's people as the same?"

The Guru was very pleased with the reply. Bhai Kanhaiya Ji had understood the deep message of Gurbani correctly. Guru Ji smiled and blessed Bhai Kanhaiya. Guru Ji said, "Bhai Kanhaiya Ji, you are right, you have understood the true message of Gurbani". He then told the Sikhs who had complained that Bhai Kanhaiya had understood the deeper message of the Gurus' teachings correctly and that they all would have to strive to learn lessons from the priceless words of Gurbani.

Guru Ji also gave Bhai Kanhaiya Ji some medical balm and said, “From now on, You should also put this balm on the wounds of all who need it”'

Then turning to the sangat Guru Ji said, Saadh sangat ji, Bhai Kanhaiya is a God-fearing saintly soul. His impartial and non-biased behavior towards others has led him to achieve Sehaj-avastha. Let him carry on with his mission. Many more will follow in his footsteps in the years to come and keep the tradition of Nishkam sewa alive."

Guru Ji reminded the Sikhs of Guru Arjan Dev Ji's Shabad:
SGGS Page 1299 Full Shabad
I have totally forgotten my jealousy of others,

since I found the Saadh Sangat (the holy congregation).

No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger. I get along with everyone.

Whatever God does, I accept that as good. This is the sublime wisdom I have obtained from the Holy.

The One God is pervading in all. Gazing upon Him, beholding Him, Nanak blossoms forth in happiness.