Leprosy treatment tradition by Sikh Guru Sahiban

Dr Amrit Kaur | October 22, 2020 06:34 PM
Gurdwara Chhota Nankiana Sahib, Dipalpur,District Okara , Pakistan
Dr Amrit Kaur

 Leprosy which is also called Hansen’s disease is a chronic and infectious disease that causes skin lesions and nerve damage. It mainly affects nerves,  skin, eyes, the lining of the nose, and peripheral nerves. With early diagnosis and treatment, this disease can be cured. But still in several countries including economically advanced countries like the USA lepers still exist. The leprosy-stricken persons have to undergo not only physical pain but also mental pain because of people in their surroundings look at them with hatred. The very word “leprosy” evokes fear. The lepers are treated almost as outcastes. They are considered untouchables. There is a social stigma on lepers. Wherever a leper goes, the people rush away from him/her hurriedly to avoid being touched by him/her.

All Sikh Guru Sahiban were benevolent and compassionate towards miserable persons. They were sensitive to the pain of all persons and rendered help irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. Wherever they came across a leper they cured him/her. Because of their beneficent bent of mind, Guru Sahiban treated all types of sick persons and helped those persons who were in trouble. 

Because of their inability to do any job they have to resort to begging. The benevolent persons who take pity on these beggers and want to help them by giving money to them throw the money into their begging bowl from a distance.  As such the leper always has to undergo mental pain at all times and in all circumstances.

All Sikh Guru Sahiban were benevolent and compassionate towards miserable persons. They were sensitive to the pain of all persons and rendered help irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. Wherever they came across a leper they cured him/her. Because of their beneficent bent of mind, Guru Sahiban treated all types of sick persons and helped those persons who were in trouble. 

Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539) during his four udasis (long journey) cured  many lepers. Although here only two examples are being given. During his first  udasi, which was the longest, starting in 1499 and ending in 1505, Sri Guru  Nanak Dev Ji along with Bhai Mardana Ji while visiting cities and villages in  Punjab after visiting Kasur (now in Pakistan) and Patti (now in District Tarn Taran  of Punjab) reached the town Dipalpur which now falls in District Okara of  Pakistan. In this town none of the residents invited them for staying with them.  They saw a cottage outside the village in which a Muslim leper named Noori (  Nauranga) was living. Guru Sahib and Bhai Mardana Ji spent the night near that cottage under an old pipal tree. They overheard the wailing of the leper during whole of the night because he was in pain. At the time of day break Noori came outside and said Garib Nivaj (nurturer of the poor), not to speak of a human  being, even an animal or a bird does not come near me because I am stricken by  leprosy and everybody wants to stay away from the foul smell emanating from  my body. I consider myself very lucky that you have come close to me. The  beneficent Guru Sahib became merciful and he uttered the following shabad  (hymn) : 

dhanaasaree mahalaa pehilaa ||jeeau tapat hai baaro baar || tap tap khapai bahut bekaar ||jai tan baanee visar jai ||

jiau pakaa rogee vilalai ||1||bahutaa bolan jhakhan hoi || vin bole jaanai sabh soi ||1|| rahaau ||jin kan keete akhee naak ||

jin jihavaa ditee bole taat ||jin man raakhiaa aganee pai || vaajai pavan aakhai sabh jai ||2||jetaa moh pareet suaah || sabhaa kaalakh daagaa daag ||daag dos muh chaliaa lai ||

darageh baisan naahee jai ||3||karam milai aakhan teraa naau || jit lag taranaa hor nahee thaau ||je ko doobai fir hovai saar || naanak saachaa sarab daataar ||4||3||5||

 (SGGS Page, 661- 662)

This means that : My soul burns, over and over again.Burning and burning,  it is ruined, and it falls into evil.That body, which forgets the word of the  Guru's Bani,cries out in pain, like a chronic patient. ||1||To speak too much  and babble is useless.Even without our speaking, He knows everything.  ||1||Pause||He created our ears, eyes and nose.He gave us our tongue to speak so fluently.He preserved the mind in the fire of the womb;at His  Command, the wind blows everywhere. ||2||These worldly attachments,  loves and pleasurable tastes,all are just black stains. One who departs, with these black stains of sin on his face shall find no place to sit in the  Court of the Lord. ||3||By Your Grace, we chant Your Name.Becoming attached to it, one is saved; there is no other way.Even if one is drowning,  still, he may be saved.O Nanak, the True Lord is the Giver of all. ||4||3||5||

 Listening to this hymn, the leper got rid of his disease. He fell on the feet of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and started praying to God. When the news of leper’s becoming healthy reached the villagers, they realised that the person whom they had not given a place to stay was a saintly person. They all rushed to have darshan (holy glimpse) of Guru Sahib, requested for forgiveness and sought his blessings. Guru Sahib became very happy and said that they will be blessed if they build a dharamsal in the town where passers-by can take rest,  and where you will provide food and clothes to the poor. The villagers wholeheartedly accepted Guru Sahib’s verdict. In due course of time as per the orders  of Guru Sahib they built a dharamsal which existed until 1947. Iqbal Qaiser in his book Sikh Historical Shrines in Pakistan (1998) has stated that the dead pipal tree under which Guru Sahib and Bhai Mardana Ji spent the night became green again and is standing even today. Until 1947 near the pipal tree grave of  Noori existed. In the sacred memory of sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji , at this place  Gurdwara Chhota Nanakiana Sahib has been established. 

Gurdwara Nanaksar Sahib village Pangri,District Nanded, Maharashtra

 Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji during his second udasi which was towards the south visited some areas in Maharashtra. On his way from Nanded to Bidar, he reached the village Pangri which falls in the Tehsil and District Nanded of Maharashtra and is about 10 kms south-west from Nanded across the river Godavari. In this village there is a Ber tree where Guru Sahib sat in devotion for nine days and nine hours. One day Bhai Mardana Ji requested ‘Oh! My lord, I am very thirsty. I want water’. Guru Ji in reply ordered him to  take up the Rabab (a string instrument) and play upon the “Dhun of Kartar” (Tune of  Almighty Lord). Obeying Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s order Bhai Mardana Ji started playing upon the Rabab. Suddenly a spring of cool and sweet water appeared. Guru Ji revealed the secret of water, ‘This pious land belongs to God, that is why the water is so cool and sweet’.  During the course of the discussion, a leper came and requested Guru Sahib to become kind enough to remove his leprosy so that he could get rid of this agony. Guru Sahib asked him to take a bath under the spring and asked him to drink the water of the spring. Thus, the patient recovered from leprosy by the grace of Guru Sahib. He then requested Guru Sahib to bestow upon this spring to become a Sarovar (holy pool) so that many people could get rid  of their sorrows and pains. Guru Sahib blessed the spring to become a Sarovar and said that whosoever is childless or is suffering from any disease takes a dip in this sarovar with faith and devotion, his/her hopes and wishes will be fulfilled. The ber tree is still existant.  In the sacred memory of Guru Nanak Sahib to this place Gurdwara, Nanaksar Sahib has been established.

Gurdwara Jhira Sahib, Kanjhla, District Sangrur, Punjab

 Sri Guru Amar Das Ji (1479-1474) the third prophet - teacher of the Sikhs  cured the leper named Murari whose original name was Prema. In general, the names of Matho and her husband Murari are remembered together, Because  Sri Guru Amar Das Ji blessed both of them. Murari was a resident of village Khai which at that time fell in District Lahore of old Punjab. He was stricken by leprosy and became an orphan at an early age. Therefore, he had to resort to begging for his living. On hearing about the compassionate nature and spiritual eminence of Sri Guru Amar Das Ji he reached Goindval Sahib which now falls in district Tarn Taran of Punjab to obtain the blessings of Guru Sahib. At Goindval Sahib he was served food in the langar (community kitchen) but because of leprosy, he was not allowed to have a darshan (holy glimpse) of Guru Sahib.  When Guru Sahib heard about this incident, he asked his disciples to send Prema inside to see him. Guru Sahib took him under his care and treated him. With Guru Sahib’s grace and treatment Prema got rid of leprosy and became a healthy attractive-looking young man. Guru Sahib named him ' Murari. At Guru Sahib’s suggestion Bhai Sihan an Uppal Khatri Sikh without the knowledge of his wife got his daughter Matho to married to Murari. When the mother of Matho learnt about it she went to meet Guru Sahib and complained that her daughter was got married to a person who was without a name, the names of whose parents and his caste were also not known. Guru Sahib told her that Murari the person with whom her daughter had been married was his son and Sikh. From now onwards they shall be jointly known as Matho-Murari, where her daughter’s name will precede her husband’s name. The mother of Matho became satisfied.  Sri Guru Amar Das Ji blessed both of them and appointed them to head a Manji (a seat for propagating religion) around Murari’s village Khai. It may be added that Sri Guru Amar Das Ji had established 22 Manji’s (diocese or preaching districts) in different parts of India to propagate religion. Sri Guru Amar Das Ji placed these Manjis under the charge of pious Sikhs who besides disseminating the Guru's message and looking after the sangat within his jurisdiction were to transmit disciple’s offerings to Goindval Sahib.

 Sri Guru Ram Das Ji (1534-1581) the fourth prophet-teacher of the Sikhs cured Bibi Rajni's leper husband Vikram Dutt. Bibi Rajni was the youngest of the seven daughters of Duni Chand, Kaura Khatri by caste of Patti, which now falls in District Tarn Taran of Punjab. Duni Chand was a farmer and a tax collector.  He one day asked his daughters as to who was responsible for their good life.  The elder six daughters replied that he provided them all the comforts that they were enjoying but Bibi Rajni said that although their father was very kind to them but it was God Almighty who was the provider of everything. Duni Chand scolded Bibi Rajni as to why she was not grateful to him. To teach her a lesson he got her married to Vikram Dutt, a leper who was a beggar in Patti. Bibi Rajni accepted Vikram Dutt as her husband and putting him in a wicker basket, put  the basket on her head, left Patti and started living with the alms given by some  of her generous wealthy relatives. One day she reached the place where Sri Guru

Ram Das Ji was developing a new habitation which is now known as ‘Amritsar’.  There she left her leper husband by the side of a pond under a jojoba tree and went to the community kitchen which she knew was being organised by Sri Guru Ram Das Ji. Sitting in the wicker basket Vikram Dutt saw that a crow that took a dip in that pond came out in the form of a swan. Becoming stimulated Vikram Dutt crawled down up to the pond and took a dip in that pond. By doing so he got rid of his leprosy. When Bibi Rajni returned with food, she was upset and thought that this person had waylaid her husband. After some dialogue, she was convinced that it was her husband. It had happened due to the grace of Sri Guru Ram Das Ji. They both went to Guru Sahib and narrated the whole incident. Guru Sahib decided to convert this pond into a Sarovar. After converting the pond into a sarovar Guru Sahib named it ' Amritsar ' i.e ‘Sarovar of nectar’ which name was later given to the city. The jojoba tree under which Vikram Dutt had taken a dip is now known as ' Dukh Bhanjni Beri' i.e the Beri' which takes away the troubles. It is still present there in the circumambulation of Sri Darbar Sahib,  Amritsar. In Patti, as a memorial to Bibi Rajni Gurudwara Sahib Mandi Wala (Bibi  Rajni Wala) has been established.

 Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji the (1563-1606), the fifth prophet-teacher of the  Sikhs not only cured lepers at Gurdwara Sahib, Tarn Taran which is now the headquarter of District Tarn Taran of Punjab but also established a Leaper’s  Home. While living at Tarn Taran Sahib, one day while going for a morning walk  Guru Sahib came across a group of 4-5 persons whom he asked as to why they were forcing that person to accompany them. On being asked by Guru Sahib as to who they were and where they were taking the man, he was told that the man was a Chaudhary (a rich man) of village Muradpur, a nearby village, who was afflicted with leprosy and in spite of many treatments it had not been possible to cure him. As per his wishes, he was being taken to river Beas for drowning. Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji asked those men to take that leper to Gurdwara  Sahib which is now known as Darbar Sahib Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji where he himself treated the leper and cured him. Then Sri Guru Arjan Dev ji established a Leper's Home at Tarn Taran Sahib where a large number of lepers started coming for treatment whom he treated and cured.

 About the treatment of lepers by Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib (1595-1644)  it may be said that the water in the pond in the village Hoshiarnagar consecrated by him has medicinal properties to cure leprosy and other skin diseases. This village is 1.5 km south of the railway station Gurusar Satlani and falls in District  Amritsar, Punjab. Guru Sahib while traveling from Lahore to Amritsar made a  night’s halt here near a pond. Now this pond has been properly lined up and is a Sarovar. Because the water of this Sarovar has medicinal properties lepers and other persons suffering from skin diseases take a dip in it with the belief that they will be cured. At this place in the sacred memory of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib,  Gurdwara Gurusar Satlani (Hoshiarnagar) has been established.

 Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib (1621-1671) the ninth prophet- teacher of  the Sikhs treated lepers in the village Kanjhla, which is at a distance of six miles from Sangrur, eight and a half miles from Dhuri and falls in tehsil Malerkotla of  District Sangrur, Punjab. When Guru Sahib reached this village, he found that leprosy was rampant. The residents of the village stayed away from lepers but  Guru Sahib stayed at Kanjhla . He contacted the lepers and treated them. In the sacred memory of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib at this place Gurdwara Jhira  Sahib has been established. (Picture was given at the end)

 Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib treated the patients of diptheria in village  Handhiaya, Tehsil Barnala, District Sangrur of Punjab. The disease diptheria  (choking of throat) was almost an epidemic in this area and taking many lives  daily. This disease is also called ‘tapali’. There develops an ulcer in the throat,  the patient starts trembling and dies. Now Barnala is also a district. 

 In addition to leprosy and diptheria Guru Sahib cured persons suffering from many other diseases. The residents of village Handhiaya especially invited  Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib to their village because they believed that wherever Guru Sahib goes, he treats people suffering from all types of disease.  They also knew that earlier in many villages he had treated persons suffering from various diseases. The village Panchayat of Handhiaya had requested Guru  Sahib for help. Guru Sahib asked the sick persons to take a bath in the nearby pond. Some sick persons resisted because of hatred. Then Guru Sahib himself took a dip in this pond. Then the head-man of the village took a dip in this pond,  then all the sick persons took a dip in this pond. Whosoever took a dip in the pond got rid of the disease.

 After Handhiaya Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib visited the village Dhaula which is five kms south-east from Handhiaya. In this village also diphtheria was rampant and diseased persons were very miserable because of this disease.

 In addition, to Kanjhla, handhiaya and Dhaula Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur  Sahib visited Pharwahi which is five kms south-east from Barnala. In this village,  the disease of cholera was rampant and people were very miserable because of  this disease. In treating the patients of cholera Guru Sahib made use of  indigenous medicines. With the grace of Guru Sahib, the villagers got rid of this disease. 

 Sri Guru Tegh Bahadhur sahib treated the patients of sokra (rickets)  and athrah at Lehal village which is at a distance of about one furlong from  Patiala railway station and bus stand. At this place now Patiala city exists. During the visit of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib at this place, there were only villages and majris. During his stay at Saifabad (Bahadurgarh) on the request of the villages of Lehal, he came to this place. Here the disease of rickets was rampant. He asked the patients of rickets to take a dip in the nearby pond. By doing so they were cured. At this place, some women told Guru Sahib they were suffering from athra (recurrent incident of miscarriage) and also children were dying in infancy. The women told Guru Sahib that a woman who suffers from this disease has to face prejudices on the part of her relatives and acquaintances. Even by her relatives, she is kept away from celebrations because people think that even her shadow should not fall on another woman. Guru Sahib asked all the women suffering from this disease to take a dip in the nearby pond and by doing this they were cured from the disease. This pond has now taken the shape of an 80-yard square sarovar. At this place Gurdwara Dukh  Nivaran Sahib has been established where every month on the occasion of panchmi the fifth day of light half of the lunar month, the devotees in thousands and take a dip in the holy tank because they have faith in the healing qualities of water in the sarovar.

 In India, there are more lepers than any other country. Every year  120,000-13,0000 new cases of leprosy are reported which is 58.8 % of the world’s leprosy cases.

 Nanaksar, is situated 10 km away from Takht Sachkhand Shri Hazoor Abchal Nagar Sahib, Nanded in the southwest direction. It reminds and refreshes the memory of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Guru Ji stopped over here en-route to Bidar. 


References (i) Encyclopaedia of Sikhism published by Punjabi University, Patiala,  Part I , II, II, and (iv), and (ii) Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha’s book Mahan Kosh (1930)  (iii) Historical Sikh Shrines in Pakistan by Iqbal Qaiser (1998) (iv) Historical Sikh  Shrines by Gurmukh Singh (v) Atlas: Travels of Guru Nanak by Fauja Singh Kirpal  Singh (2015) (vi) Guru Hargobind Sahib: Yatra Asthan, Prampravan te Yad Chinh  , 1996 by Sukhdial Singh (vii) Guru Tegh Bahadur Marg: Punjab (1997) by  Sukhdial Singh

 Dr. Amrit Kaur, Retd. Professor, Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, India 


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