Bibi Nanaki: The first Sikh

Jatinder Singh

Bibi Nanaki was the elder sister of Guru Nanak. She was born in Talwandi 1464. She is the first disciple of Guru Nanak. Thus, the first to embrace the faith. From an early age it became apparent that the brother and sister had a close relationship. Initially, Guru Nanak's parents found it difficult to comprehend the spiritual nature of their son. Bibi Nanaki fully understood her brother and often protected and encouraged him in his mission. There are many stories relating to their mutual affection and her deep faith in her brother's purpose in life.

Bibi Nanaki was married to Bhai Jai Ram from Sultanpur. Her leaving for Sultanpur with her husband from her Father's home was a deeply moving time both for Guru Nanak and herself. Bhai Jai Ram himself had a great respect for his younger brother in law. He respected the Guru for his piety and considered himself blessed for being related to him.

Bhai Jai Ram was a trusted officer at the court of Nawab Daulat Khan Lodhi. He invited Guru Nanak to come to Sultanpur and seek employment with the Nawab. Guru Nanak would live with his Sister and Brother in Law. This was an unorthodox thing to do, as kin seldom live with their daughter's family. However, this invitation clearly shows the love and respect both Bibi Nanaki and Bhai Jai Ram had for Guru Nanak. The Guru accepted the invitation and started work in Sultanpur. His relationship with his Sister and Brother in law evidently became stronger.

Guru Nanak married and lived in Sultanpur for several years. In fact, his children were born there. It was during this time that Guru Nanak received his first revelation. It was on the banks of the River Beas. Guru Nanak realised that he had received the calling from God.

Henceforth, his mission in life was to spread the message of Sikhism. In doing this, Guru Nanak made many long journeys to important Religious Centres, both of the Hindus and Muslims. During these journeys, his family was cared for by Bibi Nanaki. In fact, the elder Son of Guru Nanak was left in Bibi Nanaki's care. She, herself, had no children.

During the rest of their lives, Guru Nanak visited his Sister many times. He had promised to visit her whenever her heart yearned to see him. Not only was he her younger brother, but he was also her Guru.

The last time Guru Nanak met his sister was in 1518. For Bibi Nanaki this visit was filled with joy, but also with sadness. Guru Nanak had said that he would only be visiting for three days. She begged that she should stay a little longer. After two days she suddenly fell ill. She breathed her last as the Guru's sacred hymn, Japji Sahib, was being recited to her. Bhai Jai Ram himself did not live much longer. Three days later he also passed away. For Guru Nanak this was his last visit to Sultanpur. He had kept his promise to his sister and had visited her whenever her heart had called out for him. He was with her when she passed away. Dr Mohinder Kaur Gill, A Sikh scholar, has rightly called Bibi Nanaki as the first Sikh in the world. Bibi Nanaki led a very spiritual life, dedicated to her Brother Guru and the first to accept Sikhism.