Bhai Nand Lal Goya.

Bhai Nand Lal Goya (1633-1713) was a great scholar of Persian, he was one of the fifty-two poets in the court of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He was born in a thriving town called Ghazni in Afghanistan in 1633 and was thus 23 years older than Guru Ji. His father was Diwan Chajju Ram, the Mir Munshi or Chief Secretary of the Governor of Ghazni. He was a very intelligent child, and in a short time acquired great efficiency in Persian and the Arabic languages. He had a natural aptitude for poetry and began composing poetry at the age of 12 under the pen name ‘Goya.’ He lost both his parents by the age of 19. Finding no suitable opening for his talents in Ghazni in 1652 he left for Multan. There he married a girl with a Sikh background and found work too. His wife being of Sikh background used to recite Gurbani and knew Gurmukhi as well and since Bhai Nand Lal was also of the spiritual bent, he also began the singing of Guru’s hymns.

In those days Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s name was on everyone’s lips in Northern India. Bhai Nand Lal Goya made up his mind to meet Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Leaving his family behind, he left for Anandpur Sahib, not realising that he would never ever return to Delhi again.

According to Guru kian Sakhian, Bhai Nand Lal arrived in Anandpur Sahib on Baisakhi day of 1682 and received Guru Gobind Singh Sahib’s blessing. Upon seeing the Guru for the first time his soul was so profoundly affected that he put it down in poetry :



"O prince of heaven, king of all that is beautiful, pray do not come more beautiful.

I have no more strength left in me, Allured, charmed and fascinated by thee, I sacrifice unto thee. Glory Glory O beloved.

From the beautiful bow of your eyebrows, you shot the arrow of your glance, the arrow of love is through my heart , there is no cure, no remedy."

He spent his days with Guru in a mystical contemplation and composed poetry in which, his spiritual experience, is the pre-eminent element. He is said to have kept free kitchen (langar) at Anandpur, which was commended by Guru Sahib Ji as a model for others to follow. After staying at Anandpur Sahib for some time he left to serve as Mir Munshi under Prince Mauzzam (later to become Emperor Bahadur Shah), due to an acquaintance of his father, named Wasif Khan. The present emperor Aurangzeb wished to convert him to Islam because he had so beautifully interpreted verses of the Quaran. Fearing persecution Bhai Nanad Lal and his family left for northern India. Leaving his family at Multan he once again came to stay with Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Anandpur Sahib in 1697. Contrary to some accounts, Bhai Nand Lal Ji did initiate into the Khalsa and became Bhai Nand Singh, how could he not?

He was a devout disciple of Guru Sahib Ji and of course Guru Ji would bless him with the amrit of the double edged sword. However, he was still affectionately known as BhaiNand Lal.

Bhai Nanad Lal Ji was at Nanded in 1708 when Guru Sahib Ji ascended the heavens and returned to Multan where he opened a school of higher education in Persian and Arabic. His two sons Lakhpat Rae and Lila Raam continued to manage the school started by their father.

Bhai Nand Lal Ji’s works are fine commentaries on Guru Ji’s teachings and the Sikh way of life. The Rehat Namam’s written by him, are a dialogue between Guru Gobind Singh Ji and him concerning the code of conduct of the Khalsa.

He is an honoured Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib whose name continues to be remembered with affection and esteem. His poetry in Persian has formed a place of its own in Sikh canon and religious tradition. It is held in great reverence just like the compositions of Bhai Gurdas Sahib and can be sung along with the hymns of Guru Granth Sahib at Sikh congregations. Bhai Nandlal wrote 10 pieces of work: 7 in Persian and 3 in Panjabi. They consist of:

The author called it Bandginama (Book of Prayer) and composed it in Persian. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib changed its title to Zindginama (Book of Life). Its theme is the ‘love of God and devotion to Guru’; God is described as Creator of Universe and as One who has imparted life to all creatures. It contains 510 verses and is believed to be his first piece of work, which he wrote after he shifted to Anandpur to join Guru Sahib Ji. At places the verses echo those in the Guru Granth Sahib.

It is a collection of 63 ghazals. This work contains his personal spiritual experience and in many ways explains the spirit of Gurbani. Some scholars have translated this particular work in Panjabi.

It is in prose, but contains a few verses at the end. It is in praise of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. This work is full of Arabic and difficult Persian words.

(Treasure book) It renders homage to Gurus whom the poet recalls in his deep personal devotion and veneration. It is both, in prose and in poetry. The poet calls Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the supreme dervish and all his successors being One with him in spirit, embodying the same message. The book concludes with his humble supplication to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib that his life may be dedicated to Guru and that he may forever remain attached to his feet.

Jot Bikas (Panjabi):
It contains 43 couplets. It is mainly devoted to the explanation of Guru Arjan Sahib’s Jaitsri ki Vaar, with special reference to Ten Gurus being of One spirit, on life. This is often deemed as an exposition of the Persian works in Panjabi but that is not the case, this is an entirely independent piece of work.

Jot Bikas (Persian):
It contains 175 couplets and is a laudation of Ten Gurus and their spirit being One. This composition is in deep reverence of Gurus and depicts how the spirit of Guru Nanak Dev Ji passed on to his successors. He calls Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, a complete man.

Rahit Nama:
It is in the traditional form of poetry where the composition is in the form of a dialogue between a guru and his disciple. Here it is in the form of a dialogue between Bhai Nand Lal Goya and Guru Gobind Singh Ji during which Guru Gobind Singh Ji expounds the rules of conduct laid down for a Gursikh. This discourse took place at Anandpur on 5 December 1695, i.e. before the creation of the Khalsa and is written in Punjabi.

Tankhah Nama:
‘Tankhah’, a Persian word, means salary, reward or profit, and ‘Nama’, also Persian, denotes an epistle or a code. It was composed in Punjabi after the creation of Khalsa. In Sikh usage, however, Tankhah stands more for a religious penal code. Any Sikh, who received Pahul (nectar of the double-edged sword) for initiation into the fold of the brotherhood of Khalsa, if commits a breach of Rahit and is found guilty of Kurahit (misconduct) is subject to be fined and is called a Tankhahi. This concept of Tankhah is based on the concept of forgiveness. Once a Sikh admits and seeks forgiveness for his mistake in front of Panj Piare he is ‘rewarded’ with a particular seva. After the seva as decided by Panj Piare has been performed, that Sikh is once again considered a member of Khalsa Brotherhood. The last verse of Tankhahnama, which the Sikhs usually recite in unison after Ardas, contains the well-familiar verse, Raj karega khalsa ...

It is a collection of letters in Persian prose written to his relatives and friends. These serve as a model for letter writing and contain invaluable historical information regarding the political, social and economic conditions of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib’s time.

It is in Persian and contains the ‘praise of Almighty along with Gurus. In this composition Bhai Nand Lal also gives his interpretation of Sikh concepts. Alexandar Von Humbolt who has translated some of Bhai Nandlal Goya’s work in “The Pilgrims Way” has this to say about him “Goya was among the masters who could put in verse what he felt deep within, and like the entirety of his self laid at the sacred feet of the great Guru, the Beloved. And no doubt, those who surrender the self, master the world.” The common theme in his verses is presented in the below mentioned poem:


  Give me my beloved, the Cup of life, in which I may colour my heart,
and my eyes become clear for solving the riddle of riddles.
On my way to the beloved every footstep jingles with happiness,
the bells calling for the night’s halt have no meaning, nor the temptation of the Resting-place.
God is present.
Look! Here is Holy Light! Neither the whirlpool bars the lover’s way or the torrent, or the shore.
Why, O heart, are you vainly wandering round the desert and the wood,
the queen of beauty resides in your own eyes.
Wherever I look, I find nothing else but Holy Presence.
Then, O Goya, where can I go, if I leave the world and its trappings?