The Gurdwara of Sardar Natha Singh Shaheed, Sialkot, Pakistan
The Bhats were bards who recited poetry, singing praises to God from the teachings and inspiration from the Gurus.

Bhat Bani recorded under the title ‘Bhata de Savaiyye‘, is the name given to the composition of the Bhats as included in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (pp.1389-1409).

During the time of Guru Amar Das ji, some Bhats reached the plains of the Punjab. Only a handful of Bhats would have come to the Punjab from the south, and their influence saw non-Sikhs from all communities to be mesmerised into Guru Nanak’s teachings. The Bhat Sikhs grew in population from the mass-followers from the Punjab. Hence the majority of Bhat Sikhs are of Punjabi origin.

Of the early Bhats, Bhai Bhikha and Bhai Toda embraced the Sikh faith during the time of Guru Amar Das. Bhai Gurdas also gives a brief account of Bhats in his Varan, XI.21.

Bhai Kalh, a leading Bhat poet, took it upon himself to note down some of the verses of the Bhats from the vahis and passed it on to Guru Arjan Dev at the time of the compilation of the holy Granth. Bhai Vir Singh writer of the Guru Granth Kosh, notes that 17 Bhats contributed to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The only record of the emphasis and word of WAHEGURU in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is only in the Bhata de Savaiyye where it is continually recited. For more on the Bani of the Bhats. Click Here

Most of the Bhat Sikhs in the Punjab, took Pahul during the time of Guru Gobind Singh when the tenth Guru started the Khalsa Panth. The Bhat Sikhs were known for their strong Sikh beliefs and promoted greatly the necessity and ideology of becoming a Khalsa and keeping a turban and beard especially after the time of the Gurus when many Sikhs became sehajdhari.

From being bards, the Bhat Sikhs took up arms, as in the teachings of the Saint-Soldier, and contributed to many of the Guru’s military campaigns against the Mughals.

When the imperial Mughal forces were dispatched towards the Lakhi Jungle under the command of Qammar Beg and Lalla Beg, Guru Hargobind Sahib had only three to four thousand warriors. On 16th December 1634 the Sikh forces under the command of Rai Jodh and Kirt Bhat waged a guerrilla attack on Mughal forces at night, whereby the Sikhs routed and defeated the enemy. Guru Sahib lost 1200 Saint Soldiers including Kirat Bhat Ji. On the other side Sameer Beg and his two sons Shams Beg and Qasim Beg were also killed. The Mughal forces fled to Lahore leaving behind the dead and wounded.

Bhat Mathura was also trained in martial skills during the time of Guru Hargobind Sahib. He fell martyr in the battle of Amritsar which according to the old scripture Bhat Vahi Multani sindi and took place on the 14 April 1634.

After the Battle of Kartarpur, Guru Hargobind Sahib moved towards Kiratpur Sahib, which was under the rule of Raja Tara Chand (a hill state chief). Guru Sahib's entourage was suddenly ambushed by a contingent of royal forces under the command of Ahmed Khan in the village Palahi near Phagwara town on 29th April 1635. It caused considerable loss on the Guru's soldiers. In which Bhai Dasa Ji and Bhai Sohela Ji (sons of Ballu Bhat, and grandsons of Mula Bhat) sacrificed their lives.
Bhai Mati Das being sawn in two by the Mughals
During the time when Bhai Dyala was boiled alive in a cauldron of boiling water, Bhat Sati Das was wrapped in cotton wool and set on fire on the 11th November 1675 by the Mughal authorities for refusing to denounce his faith. His brother Mati Das was also tortured to death, by having his head sawn in two.

Bhat Kirat’s grandson Bhat Narbadh (son of Keso Singh) was in attendance to Guru Gobind Singh and accompanied him to Nanded (now Sachkand Hazur Sahib) where Guru Ji spent his last days. In the Bhat-Vahis, Bhat Narbadh records an entry, of the conferment of Guruship upon the Guru Granth Sahib in 1708 upon the death of Guru Gobind Singh.

In 1711, Keso Singh and six other Bhat's were buried alive, under orders of Emperor Bahadur Shah for refusing to denounce their faith. The other six were Tara Singh, Seva Singh, Deva Singh, Desa Singh, Hari Singh, Narbadh Singh. Keso Singh Bhat was the grandson of Bhat Kirat, and great-grandson of Bhat Bhikha.

During the Sikh Misal period after Guru Gobind Singh ji’s departure, up until the reign of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, the Bhats took arms and fought with various Misals. Amongst the prominent Misals associated with the Bhats was that of the Nihang Misal, later known as the Shaheed Misal after the martyrdom of its most prominent Misal Sardar, Baba Deep Singh Shaheed.

Amongst the eminent Bhat Sardars was Bhai Natha Singh Shaheed. During his time, Sardar Natha Singh maintained the Gurdwara Baoli Sahib at Sialkot. The Gurdwara was built on the site where once stood the house of Maula Karar. Maula was afraid to meet Guru Nanak on his visit to Sialkot, and at the instance of his wife stayed inside and died of a snake bite. It was here that Guru ji recited the Shabad :

‘False is friendship with the false and greedy. False is its foundation. O Mullah, no one knows where death shall strike’
(SGGS, p.21)
The Gurdwara now in Pakistan was beautifully built but now is a school for the blind. The Gurdwara’s land is now occupied and the sarowar built by Bhai Natha Singh is adjacent to it, but the complex is gradually heading towards extinction. After the Shaheedi of Sardar Natha Singh, his fellow Misaldars built his Samadhi in Sialkot.
‘Jatha Sant Bhuriwale’ leaving Amritsar Station, London, c.1940
On the 4 April 1940, the ‘Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandak Committee (S.G.P.C.)’ of Amritsar sought the service of Sant Puran Singh Bhuriwale for the construction work at the Golden Temple. The service included purchasing the various Bungas and properties of private individuals around the Golden Temple, and to construct a wider marble walkway and four entrances at the holy shrine. Sant Puran Singh instructed a Jatha led by the renown Amritsar Hazuri raagi, Gyani Santokh Singh Nirpakh. Ragi Santokh Singh a most respected Bhat Sikh of his time, came from a family of missionaries, his father Baba Tara Singh had served as a Sikh priest for the British Indian Army.

The Jatha of Santokh Singh together with his brother Gian Singh Taak, and Jagjit Singh Nanra left to tour Asia, and then UK, USA and Canada to raise money for the cause. Named the ‘Sant Bhuriwale Jatha,’ they arrived in England on the 18 August 1950 and were welcomed at the Khalsa Jatha British Isles head quarters at ‘Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala’ two days later.
Gyani Santokh Singh Nirpak and his Jatha receiving Saropa at the Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala by Sant Singh Pardesi and Rewal Singh, August 1951
After travelling the whole of Britain, On the 18 August 1951, the ‘Jatha Sant Bhuriwale’ bided farewell to the Sikh community in Britain after collecting generous sums for the Golden Temple. The Jatha had served the sangats of Britain with their shabad kirtans during their stay, and on leaving the Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala, the Khalsa Jatha British Isles under its President and Secretary, Sant Singh Pardesi and Sarwan Singh Chakal, presented the Bhuriwale Jatha with ‘Saropas’ and to Gyani Santokh Singh Nirpakh a ceremonial sword inscribed to him. On his return to Amritsar, Giani Santokh Singh was presented with a one inch miniature copy of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib by the SGPC for his sewa, and a ceremonial inscribed sword.
1. A copy of this manuscript is kept at Punjab university,
Patiala, India