“Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, in the 19th century, had acknowledged the contribution of my family regarding Sikhism. Rai Issa Khan Bhatti was bestowed with the title of ‘Khan Bahadur’ and was appointed as in-charge of a sub-jail in Thatta Issa. Maharaja Ranjeet Singh divided the 750 square metres of land to be used for Gurudwara Janamstan, Gurudwara Mal Sahib and Bal Lila.”
Eighty kilometers south-west of the city of Lahore, is Nankana Sahib Gurudwara; standing tall, receiving hundreds of worshipers and pilgrims daily. The lanes of the city still have the medieval touch. One can easily judge that the city’s residents have not moved an inch from the sacred and saintly values imparted by Guru Nanak Dev Ji some 500 years back.
Some 5km from Nankana Sahib is the Kot Hussain Khan village, wherein the 500 years old ancestral mansion of Rai Saleem Bhatti, who recounts the above instance, is located. He is proudly the 19th generation of Rai Bular Bhatti, the son of Rai Bhoe Bhatti, a Rajput Muslim noble of the Bhatti clan in the 15th century who founded the Rai Bhoe Di Talwandi. After the death of Rai Bhoe Bhatti, the ownership was given to Rai Bular Bhatti; his son and the feudal lord whose office of accountant was held by none other than Mahatma Kalu, Baba Nanak’s father.
As it goes, one day young Guru Nanak went and fell asleep in the garden. The day went down but he did not rise. For that duration, Rai Bular was occupied in his business. Coming back, he entered the fields and saw that a young boy had fallen asleep under the tree. When he looked around, he saw the shade of other trees had gone but that of the tree under which Nanak was asleep was still existent. Rai Bular, awestruck by the extraordinary phenomenon, asked his men to awaken him. When young Nanak was raised, it was found that he was the son of his accountant, Kalu. Rai then sent for Kalu and recognising the divinity of Guruji, he asserted “Nanak is a great man, my town is a sacrifice to him.”
The Bhatti family continued to be an important part of the Sikh history all throughout the Mughal reign, Khalsa empire, the British rule and maintained its prominence in the contemporary Pakistan politics.
During the partition, Rai Hussain Khan Bhatti (16th generation of Rai Bhatti) personally escorted to safety over 1000 Sikhs. Heartbroken by partition, he died in 1948. Rai Sawar Bhatti (18th generation) donated his 10 acres’ land to the Nankana Foundation Trust for the purpose of generation of funds for the maintenance of the Nankana Sahib Gurudwara and the Sikh population. For sometime, government didn’t give permission for the establishment of the trust. But later, Rai Bashir Bhatti, former member of the Parliament of Pakistan initiated the foundation.
The Bhatti family has played an important role in strengthening the Sikh-Muslim ties in Pakistan. Rai Hadayat Khan Bhatti after the initiation of the Sikh pilgrimage to Nankana Sahib in the 1980s, welcomed the Sikh pilgrims with open arms to his home and had carried the procession on 500th anniversary of the birth of Baba Nanak.
“The Bhatti family often hosts delegations from India. My father, Rai Akram Bhatti had hosted the Chief Justice Harban Singh, and the former Ambassador to Pakistan and Foreign Minister of India in 1981, and Maharani Heminder Kaur of Patiala,” he puts it.
When he was asked about how the two nations can come closer considering the escalating tensions on the border and LoC, he said, ”Public can play a pivotal role to bring the two nations closer. Both Indians and Pakistanis should reduce hatred and compete together against others in the economic sphere.”
About the Author:
Proponent of a free society. An agnostic. Likes to have medium sized chocolate shakes daily but says “I’m on dieting”. Likes to listen to songs but does a strange gibber when asked to sing them. Cares a fig about green eyed monsters. The bone of contention, a square peg in a round hole, the whirl in the whirlpool, a fly in the ointment. Everyone’s pal.