In his compositions popularly known as ‘Babar Vani’ Nanak has commented on various factors reflective of the state of society, its erosion of moral values and the widespread suffering that befell people as Babar’s forces attacked the country then ruled by Muslim Afghan Lodhi kings. A look at these compositions would add to our understanding of Nanak’s sensitivity to the happenings, his deep sense of empathy and the sense that he makes of this cataclysmic event in the lives of innocent people.

The Guru was equally opposed to the idea of either the invaders imposing their culture on the subjugated populace or the people copying the culture of the ruling elite. With advent of Muslim rule the Hindu culture started acquiring Islamic tinge because of the pressures of the ruling elite. See Basant Hindol, M I, p. 1191

Guru Nanak pointed out the greed and hypocrisy of Brahmin and Mullahs, caste injustice and misrule. This is fundamentally different from individual salvation catering religions and universal Sikhi for the spiritual well being of society as a whole.


In Malar he observes, “Deer, falcons and government officials are known to be trained and clever. When the trap is set, they trap their own kind; hereafter they will find no place of rest. He alone is learned and wise, and he alone is a scholar, who practices the Name. First, the tree puts down its roots, and then it spreads out its shade above. The kings are tigers, and their officials are dogs; they go out and awaken the sleeping people to harass them. The public servants inflict wounds with their nails. The dogs lick up the blood that is spilled. But there, in the Court of the Lord, all beings will be judged. Those who have violated the people’s trust will be disgraced; their noses will be cut off.”[1]


Babar himself has admitted in his memoirs that his soldiers committed excesses over the people. In the first invasion of Babar the people were mercilessly killed and tortured by Mughal soldiers as Guru Nanak says in a composition in Asa,“having brought Khurasan under His protection God dispatched terror to Hindustan. The Creator Himself does not take the blame, but sent the Mugal as messenger of death. There was so much slaughter that people screamed. Didn’t You feel compassion, Lord? O Creator Lord, You are the Master of all. If the powerful strike out against the powerful, then it may not cause grief to any one. But if a ravenous tiger attacks a flock of sheep and kills them, then its master must answer for it. This priceless country has been laid waste and defiled by dogs. No one will cherish the dead when they are gone. You Yourself unite, and You Yourself separate; I gaze upon Your glorious greatness. One may give himself a great name, and revel in the pleasures of the mind, but in the eyes of the Lord and Master, he is just a worm, for all the corn that he eats. Only one who dies to his ego while yet alive, obtains the blessings, O Nanak, by chanting the Lord’s Name.”[2]


In his third invasion 1521 AD, inhabitants of Syedpur now Eminabad, Gujranwala Dist Pakistan did not submit to Babar’s forces. Guru Nanak saw the atrocities committed and laments in a composition in Asa,“Those heads adorned with braided hair, with their parts painted with vermilion – those heads were shaved with scissors, and their throats were choked with dust. They lived in palatial mansions, but now, they cannot even sit near the palaces. Hail to You, O Father Lord, Hail to You! O Primal Lord. Your limits are not known; You create, and create, and behold the scenes. When they were married, their husbands looked so handsome beside them. They came in palanquins, decorated with ivory; water was sprinkled over their heads, and glittering fans were waved above them. They were given hundreds of thousands of coins when they sat, and hundreds of thousands of coins when they stood. They ate coconuts and dates, and rested comfortably upon their beds. But ropes were put around their necks, and their strings of pearls were broken. Their wealth and youthful beauty, which gave them so much pleasure, have now become their enemies. The order was given to the soldiers, who dishonored them, and carried them away. If it is pleasing to God’s Will, He bestows greatness; if is pleases His Will, He bestows punishment. If someone focuses on the Lord beforehand, then why should he be punished? The kings had lost their higher consciousness, reveling in pleasure and sensuality. Since Babar’s rule has been proclaimed, even the princes have no food to eat.  The Muslims have lost their five times of daily prayer, and the Hindus have lost their worship as well.Without their sacred squares, how shall the Hindu women bathe and apply the frontal marks to their foreheads? They never remembered their Lord as Raam, and now they cannot even chant Khudaa-i. Some have returned to their homes, and meeting their relatives, they ask about their safety. For some, it is pre-ordained that they shall sit and cry out in pain. Whatever pleases Him, comes to pass. O Nanak, what is the fate of mankind?[3]

Babar’s invasion greatly upset the existing condition. Continuing in Asa he questions, “Where are the games, the stables, and the horses? Where are the drums and the bugles? Where are the sword-belts and chariots? Where are those scarlet uniforms? Where are the rings and the beautiful faces? They are no longer to be seen here. This world is Yours; You are the Lord of the Universe. In an instant, You establish and disestablish. You distribute wealth as it pleases You. Where are the houses, the gates, the hotels and palaces? Where are those beautiful way stations? Where are those beautiful women, reclining on their beds, whose beauty would not allow one to sleep? Where are those betel leaves, their sellers, and the harem? They have vanished like shadows. For the sake of this wealth, so many were ruined; because of this wealth, so many have been disgraced. It was not gathered without sin, and it does not go along with the dead. Those, whom the Creator Lord would destroy – first He strips them of virtue. Millions of religious leaders failed to halt the invader, when they heard of the Emperor’s invasion. He burned the rest houses and the ancient temples; he cut the princes limb from limb, and cast them into dust. None of the Mugals went blind, and no one performed any miracle. The battle raged between the Mugals and the Pat’haans, and the swords clashed on the battlefield. They took aim and fired their guns, and they attacked with their elephants. Men whose letters were torn in the Lord’s Court were destined to die, O Siblings of Destiny. The women – Hindu, Muslim, Bhattis and Rajputs – some had their robes torn away, from head to foot, while others came to dwell in the cremation ground. Their husbands did not return home – how did they pass their night? The Creator Himself acts, and causes others to act. Unto whom should we complain? Pleasure and pain come by Your Will; unto whom should we go and cry? The Commander issues His Command, and is pleased. O Nanak, we receive what is written in our destiny.”[4]


In Tilang he prophetically said that “As the Word of the Forgiving Lord comes to me, so do I express it, O Lalo. Bringing the marriage party of sin, Babar has invaded from Kabul, demanding our land as his wedding gift. Modesty and righteousness both have vanished, and falsehood struts around like a leader. The Qazis and the Brahmins have lost their roles, and Satan now conducts the marriage rites. Muslim women read the Koran, and in their misery, they call upon Khhuda. So do the Hindu women whether of high social status or lowly. The wedding songs of murder are sung, O Nanak, and blood is sprinkled instead of saffron. Nanak sings to the glory and praises of the Lord and Master in the city of corpses, and voices this account. The One who created, and attached the mortals to pleasures, sits alone, and watches this. The Lord and Master is true, and true is His justice. He issues His commands according to His judgment The body-fabric will be torn apart into shreds, and then Hindustan will remember these words. Coming in seventy-eight (1521 A.D.), they will depart in ninety seven (1540 A.D.), and then another disciple of man will rise. Nanak speaks the Word of Truth; he proclaims the Truth at this, the right time.”[5]       

Different annotators of SGGS agree that the verse signifies Guru Nanak made prophecy about the rise of Sher Shah Suri before his death in 1539 AD.  This is not improbable, as Guru Nanak witnessed the weak rule of Humayun and the strong will of Sher Shah Suri for nine years after death of Babar in 1530.

Let us now try and summarize what the Guru seems to be saying:

Babar’s invasion[s] terrified Hindustan and this priceless country defiled by dogs was laid to waste with none paying any attention to the dead. Even the princes have no food to eat since Babar’s rule has been proclaimed. This came to happen because ruling elite had lost their higher consciousness as they reveled in pleasure and sensuality. The rulers and their superior officers go and harass sleeping people with collaboration and help of petty officials in their corrupt practices.

The Qazis and the Brahmins have abdicated their moral and ethical influence in the Public space that seems to be in control of Satan. In people’s quest for riches modesty and righteousness both have yielded to falsehood. Their wealth was not gathered without sin. For the sake of this wealth, so many were ruined; because of this wealth, so many have been disgraced.

The Creator Lord strips those whom He would destroy of virtue. It would thus seem that the Creator Himself sent the Mugal as messenger of death to punish these erring people. If someone focuses on the Lord beforehand, then why should he be punished? Muslims now have lost their five times of daily prayer, and Hindus who never remembered their Lord as Raam cannot even chant Khudaa-i.

Women’s suffering knows no end. Muslim women in their misery read the Koran and call upon Khhuda to help them as did the Hindu women whether of high social status or lowly. They, who wore beautiful tresses with parting of hair dyed with vermilion, have their locks shorn with scissors and throats choked with dust. Soldiers were given orders to dishonor them and carry them away. Their wealth and youthful beauty that gave them so much pleasure became their enemies. Many Hindu, Muslim, Bhatti and Rajput women were stripped of their robes from head to foot, while others came to dwell in cremation ground.

Nanak raises questions of Divine response and responsibility when such tragic events hit the suffering humanityand the One who created, and attached the mortals to pleasures, sits alone, and watches it play out. He chides God that didn’t He feel compassion hearing the helpless screams of people being slaughtered? He also raises the moral issue that if some powerful man strikes out against another powerful man it may not be a cause for grief but if a powerful tiger attacks a flock of sheep and kills them, its master must answer.

In this Divine play Nanak wonders ‘The Creator Himself acts, and causes others to act. He issues His command, and is pleased. O Nanak, what is the fate of mankind? Unto whom should they complain? Unto whom should they go and cry?’

And he answers we receive what is written in our destiny and pleasure and pain come by His will. He unites and He separates. Whatever pleases Him, comes to pass. The Lord and Master is true, and true is His justice. All beings will be judged in His court and those who have violated the people’s trust will be disgraced; their noses will be cut off. I gaze upon Your Glorious Greatness.


Baburvani verses by Guru Nanak indeed sum up so much of his thought on the state of the contemporary society that was groaning under the load of relatively inapt governance plus the wrath of invaders looking for greener pastures in this land of plenty. The Guru is unsparing of the ills of the ruling elite and likewise is deeply critical of oppressive ways of the invaders. There is an eerie feel of inevitability ruling over the lives of people who have to bear the brunt of all this happening. The mosaic is complex – none is free of fault including the Divine who is chided but then where is one to go? To whom shall one turn? There are no easy answers but look deep enough and you would find answers to most of the issues that we face in life even today. Profound, touching, humane, empathetic, yet searching deeply within as one gets a peep into the long shadow on our lives of the collective failings of humanity at large.

[1] harnaaN baajaaN tai sikdaaraaN aynHaa parhH-aa naa-o. faaNDhee lagee jaat fahaa-in agai naahee thaa-o. so parhi-aa so pandit beenaa jinHee kamaanaa naa-o. pahilo day jarh andar jammai taa upar hovai chhaaN-o. raajay seeh mukdam kutay. jaa-ay jagaa-iniH baithay sutay. chaakar nahdaa paa-iniH ghaa-o. rat pit kutiho chat jaahu. jithai jee-aaN hosee saar. nakeeN vadheeN laa-itbaar. – Malar M I, p.1288

[2] khuraasaan khasamaanaa keeaa hi(n)dhusathaan ddaraaeiaa aapai dhos n dhaeee karathaa jam kar mugal charraaeiaa eaethee maar pee karalaanae thai(n) kee dharadh n aaeiaa karathaa thoo(n) sabhanaa kaa soee jae sakathaa sakathae ko maarae thaa man ros n hoee sakathaa seehu maarae pai vagai khasamai saa purasaaee rathan vigaarr vigoeae kutha(n)aee mueiaa saar n kaaee aapae jorr vishhorrae aapae vaekh thaeree vaddiaaee jae ko naao dhharaaeae vaddaa saadh karae man bhaanae khasamai nadharee keerraa aavai jaethae chugai dhaanae mar mar jeevai thaa kishh paaeae naanak naam vakhaanaeAsa M I, p. 360

[3] jin sir sohan patteeaa maa(n)gee paae sa(n)dhhoor sae sir kaathee mu(n)neeanih gal vich aavai dhhoorr

mehalaa a(n)dhar hodheeaa hun behan n milanih hadhoor aadhaes baabaa aadhaes aadh purakh thaeraa a(n)th n paaeiaa kar kar dhaekhehi vaes jadhahu seeaa veeaaheeaa laarrae sohan paas heeddolee charr aaeeaa dha(n)dh kha(n)dd keethae raas ouparahu paanee vaareeai jhalae jhimakan paas eik lakh lehanih behit(h)eeaa lakh lehanih kharreeaa garee shhuhaarae khaa(n)dheeaa maananih saejarreeaa thinh gal silakaa paaeeaa thuttanih mothasareeaa dhhan joban dhue vairee hoeae jinhee rakhae ra(n)g laae dhoothaa no furamaaeiaa lai chalae path gavaae jae this bhaavai dhae vaddiaaee jae bhaavai dhaee sajaae ago dhae jae chaetheeai thaa(n) kaaeith milai sajaae saahaa(n) surath gavaaeeaa ra(n)g thamaasai chaae baabaravaanee fir gee kueir n rottee khaae eikanaa vakhath khuaaeeahi eikanhaa poojaa jaae choukae vin hi(n)dhavaaneeaa kio ttikae kadtehi naae raam n kabehoo chaethiou hun kehan n milai khudhaae eik ghar aavehi aapanai eik mil mil pushhehi sukh eikanhaa eaeho likhiaa behi behi rovehi dhukh jo this bhaavai so thheeai naanak kiaa maanukh – Asa M I, p. 417

[4] kehaa s khael thabaelaa ghorrae kehaa bhaeree sehanaaee kehaa s thaegaba(n)dh gaaddaerarr kehaa s laal kavaaee kehaa s aaraseeaa muh ba(n)kae aithhai dhisehi naahee eihu jag thaeraa thoo gosaaee eaek gharree mehi thhaap outhhaapae jar va(n)dd dhaevai bhaa(n)ee kehaa(n) s ghar dhar ma(n)ddap mehalaa kehaa s ba(n)k saraaee kehaa(n) s saej sukhaalee kaaman jis vaekh needh n paaee kehaa s paan tha(n)bolee haramaa hoeeaa shhaaee maaee eis jar kaaran ghanee viguthee ein jar ghanee khuaaee paapaa baajhahu hovai naahee mueiaa saathh n jaaee jis no aap khuaaeae karathaa khus leae cha(n)giaaee kottee hoo peer varaj rehaaeae jaa meer suniaa dhhaaeiaa thhaan mukaam jalae bij ma(n)dhar mushh mushh kueir rulaaeiaa koee mugal n hoaa a(n)dhhaa kinai n parachaa laaeiaa mugal pat(h)aanaa bhee larraaee ran mehi thaeg vagaaee ounhee thupak thaan chalaaee ounhee hasath chirraaee jinh kee cheeree dharageh paattee thinhaa maranaa bhaaee eik hi(n)dhavaanee avar thurakaanee bhattiaanee t(h)akuraanee eikanhaa paeran sir khur paattae eikanhaa vaas masaanee

jinh kae ba(n)kae gharee n aaeiaa thinh kio rain vihaanee aapae karae karaaeae karathaa kis no aakh sunaaeeai dhukh sukh thaerai bhaanai hovai kis thhai jaae rooaaeeai hukamee hukam chalaaeae vigasai naanak likhiaa paaeeai – Asa M I, p. 417

[5] jaisee mai aavai khasam kee baanee thaisarraa karee giaan vae laalo paap kee ja(n)n(j) lai kaabalahu dhhaaeiaa joree ma(n)gai dhaan vae laalo saram dhharam dhue shhap khaloeae koorr firai paradhhaan vae laalo kaajeeaa baamanaa kee gal thhakee agadh parrai saithaan vae laalo musalamaaneeaa parrehi kathaebaa kasatt mehi karehi khudhaae vae laalo jaath sanaathee hor hidhavaaneeaa eaehi bhee laekhai laae vae laalo khoon kae sohilae gaaveeahi naanak rath kaa ku(n)goo paae vae laalo saahib kae gun naanak gaavai maas puree vich aakh masolaa jin oupaaee ra(n)g ravaaee bait(h)aa vaekhai vakh eikaelaa sachaa so saahib sach thapaavas sacharraa niaao karaeg masolaa kaaeiaa kaparr ttuk ttuk hosee hidhusathaan samaalasee bolaa aavan at(h)atharai jaan sathaanavai hor bhee out(h)asee maradh kaa chaelaa sach kee baanee naanak aakhai sach sunaaeisee sach kee baelaa – Tilang M I, p. 722

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *