If you walk from Rang Mahal towards Dabbi Bazaar, just next to Sonheri Mosque in Kucha Jamadaran is Baoli Sahib, a water-well built by the fifth Sikh guru Arjan in 1599 AD. The history of this place is woven with amazing stories slightly connected to current political happenings.
This well is located next to Loha Bazaar with an opening on Kesera Bazaar. It was to this open space, then a small garden owned by the Sodhi family that came Guru Arjan. As fate would have it the famous Chajju Bhagat came to pay his respects and handed over a bag with 282 gold mohars. In those days Chajju was a Bhatia money changer and he told him that this money is not accounted for in his ledgers. So the guru was free to use it for any religious purpose.
So it was that Guru Arjan built this well with that money. Amazingly, the story goes that the gold belonged to a Pathan trader who had left it with Chajju, who had not entered it on his books and had forgotten about it. When requested Chajju refused to pay back. The case went to the local judge in Lahore who ruled against the Pathan. But then while cleaning his shop he found this bag of gold mohars. Adding another 100 mohars he went to return the bag, but the Pathan refused to take it as he had lost the case, saying: “I have left it to Allah”. So it was that this bag of gold mohars ended up with Guru Arjan.
Incidentally, the temple of Chajju Bhagat is on Hospital Road at the back of Mayo Hospital on Dhani Ram Road. Chajju became a ‘bhagat’ and one day, in 1692, he entered his house and just disappeared, even though the door was locked from the inside. Maharajah Ranjit Singh used to visit this temple every Thursday. These days a free school is being run there by an NGO backed by a Lahore entrepreneur and philanthropist.
But back to Baoli Sahib and Guru Arjan. The real reason Baoli Sahib is famous among Sikhs is because it was at the Gurdwara Baoli Sahib in Dabbi Bazaar that the original Adi Granth was kept by the Sodhi family. Was this the original text? There is consensus among almost all Sikh scholars that the ‘pothi’ of Kartarpur was brought here by Guru Arjan, who finalised the holy book started by Guru Nanak. The word ‘pothi’ means a ‘bound book’ with the closest Punjabi word being a ‘potli’. The Kartarpur Pothi began its journey with Guru Nanak (1469-1539) at Kartarpur in Pakistan, the place where Nanak passed away.
His ‘grave’ and his ‘samadhi’ both are at this place with Muslims and Hindus both declaring him a ‘holy man’. When the cloth covering his dead body was removed it was discovered that only flowers remained. Half were buried and the other half ‘cremated’. Hence the immense significance of this place, which Pakistan has offered to open visa-free for Sikhs pilgrims. One hopes this is accepted by the Indian government, and needless to say the Pakistanis must remain steadfast on this promise come what may.
The initial Adi Granth passed through four gurus’ hands, the other three being Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das and finally Guru Arjan. It was Guru Arjan who completed work on the Adi Granth, the predecessor to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This was completed at Kartarpur and brought to Lahore. For this reason the original text of the Adi Granth is called the Kartarpur Pothi. It must be pointed out that a few scholars think it was the Kartarpur near Jalandhar, which others dismiss as contrary to facts.
The grandfather of Guru Arjan was Hardas Ji Sodhi, father of Guru Amar Das, who lived in Dabbi Bazaar where the Baoli Sahib exists. When Guru Arjan died at the hands of the Mughals in Lahore, the ‘pothi’ was passed on to the grandfather as the sole and true inheritor. Now this most Sikhs dispute for they claim it belonged to the community. The Sodhi family have won several legal battles during British days as well as after 1947 in India. But the fact is that even today the Sodhi family is in possession of the irreplaceable Kartarpur Pothi.
The manuscript of this religious book is also known as the ‘Fifth Gurus Book’, and during the rule of Maharajah Ranjit Singh the book was occasionally put on display in the Lahore Fort. We read of a grand procession from Dabbi Bazaar by Sikhs to the Lahore Fort and back during the Sikh era. But then the Sodhi family always brought it back to Dabbi Bazaar and their Baoli Sahib garden and gurdwara. The Sodhi family would once a year take it back to Kartarpur in great pomp and then return to Lahore with it.
When the British took over in 1849, this manuscript was deposited in the Lahore Fort Toshakhana. The Deputy Commissioner, Major MacGregor, took charge. Immediately the Sodhi family petitioned the East India Company for return of the Kartarpur Pothi, and the Deputy Secretary of the Board of Administration, Major Burns, restored it to the Sodhi family. Since then it has been with the family even though the major Sikh organisations have tried through courts to take possession of it.
However, we do know that Major Burns stipulated that the Sodhi family make an exact copy of the Kartarpur Pothi so that it could be presented to Queen Victoria. A word about the origins of the Sodhi family is in line. We know that Rama and Sita had two sons, they being Lav and Kush. The foundations of Lahore are ascribed to Lav, while that of Kasur to Kush. They lived in peace but their ancestors did not. Raja Kal Ketu, a descendant of Kush defeated Raja Kal Rai of Lahore, who was a descendant of Lav. Kal Rai migrated to Sandoh Desh where he married the raja’s daughter Rani Kumari.
The ruler soon aged and became a ‘sadhu’ and handed over rule to Kal Rai, who had a son named Sodhi Rai. Being aware of his father’s history, Sodhi Rai trained a large army and attacked Lahore and defeated Kal Ketu. He was now the undisputed ruler of the Punjab with Lahore as his capital. The descendants of Kush scattered all over India and became scholars of the Vedas. They were henceforth called Bedis. The Sikh gurus were either Sodhis or Bedis. It is no wonder that Nanak was born near Lahore and his mother was a Bedi.
As Guru Arjan belonged to the Sodhi family his coming to Dabbi Bazaar and digging a well at Baoli Sahib is no surprise. The knocking down of the Gurdwara at Baoli Sahib also needs to be redressed. This is part of our heritage and will bring forth the importance of the Kartarpur Pothi to the Sikh faith. One hopes the political scene unfolds peacefully concerning the visa-free visits by Sikh pilgrims.
NOTE: In my column of Sept 16, 2018 regarding the stories old maps tell us, I had dwelt on the six houses owned by the Sundar Das family. The famous barrister Mr Aitzaz Ahsan has been kind enough to add to our understanding of the scant history of this place. He points out that an additional three houses also existed along the Canal edge as recorded in the revenue record of the estate of Village Mian Mir as it existed before 1938. This is now part of Zaman Park.
His grandmother, Mst. Amtul Qayyum built one of the three mentioned houses in 1934-35. This over eight kanal house was inherited by her daughter Mst. Rashida Ahsan in March 1938. Mr Aitzaz Ahsan has “always lived in and still occupies that house built before 1938”.
He has pointed out that the other two houses were owned by Sardar Abdur Rasheed and Prof Sharif. He concludes with the remark:“We may be called the ‘aborigines’ of Zaman Park!”.The house, Number 5 (Nehr Ghar) has since been devolved to the four children of Mr Ahsan’s late mother. Thank you for the interest and for educating us.
Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2018