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Guru Nanak and Tilla Jogian

Tilla Jogian, the Hill of Jogis as it is known by the locals, sits some 25 kilometres southwest of Jhelum city and 10 kmwest of the model village of Khukha.

The Tilla is 975 meters (3200 feet) above sea level and is the highest peak in the Eastern Salt Range in Punjab, Pakistan. On the summit it is richly forested with trees and has the ruins of an ancient monastery of Jogis.

It is said to be established in the 1st century CE by the celebrated Guru Goraknath, the founder of the sect of Kanphatta (pierced ears) Jogis. It was finally abandoned, very reluctantly by the Jogis in 1947 following partition of the country.

The place was immortalised by Waris Shah who mentions that Ranjha(of Heer- Ranjha fame) became Jogi and had his ears were pierced here.

Shahid Shabbir who is discovering and sharing the Sikh heritage in Pakistan on Facebook mentioned this place to me.

One of his close associate Mirza Baig who is from Jhelum district shared photographs on Tilla Jogian and informed that Guru Nanak had visited this place.

Both of them have taken the strenuous 4 hours trek to the summit.

A modern marble slab at the Tilla mentioned Guru Nanak’s name among other Jogiswho’s‘Sthan’ (place) is at the Tilla. However I was unable to get any solid reference from Sikh literature about it.

After much research, I stumbled upon a monumental work, “Janamsakhi Tradition -– An Analytical Study” by Dr Kirpal Singh.

He has researched and compared each and every Sakhi of Guru Nanak from different Janamsakhis.

In it, I found a reference to Guru Nanak’s visit to TillaJogian from “Gosti BalNath Nal” as recorded in Miharban Janamsakhi.

This place finds mention in the Ain-i-Akbari (16th century work written by Mughal Emperor Akbar’s minister & friend  Abul Fazl) wherein it is stated that there is a centre of Bal Nath, where Jogis from far and away came to visit this place. Guru Nanak reached here and got lodged at a place which was a little distance away from Bal Nath’s centre.

When Bal Nath learnt that a holy man sat not far from his place, he went to Guru Ji and brought him to his place.

He gave Guru Nanak much respect and asked who his spiritual preceptor was and what was his path to salvation?  Guru Ji  in reply, recited the following shabad:

ਰਾਮਕਲੀਮਹਲਾ੧॥RaamakaleeMehalaa 1 ||

ਹਮਡੋਲਤਬੇੜੀਪਾਪਭਰੀਹੈਪਵਣੁਲਗੈਮਤੁਜਾਈ॥My boat is wobbly and unsteady; it is filled with sins. The wind is rising – what if it tips over?

ਸਨਮੁਖਸਿਧਭੇਟਣਕਉਆਏਨਿਹਚਉਦੇਹਿਵਡਿਆਈ॥੧॥Assunmukh, I have turned to the Guru; O my Perfect Master; please be sure to bless me with Your glorious greatness. ||1||

ਗੁਰਤਾਰਿਤਾਰਣਹਾਰਿਆ॥ O Guru, my Saving Grace, please carry me across the world-ocean.

ਦੇਹਿਭਗਤਿਪੂਰਨਅਵਿਨਾਸੀਹਉਤੁਝਕਉਬਲਿਹਾਰਿਆ॥੧॥ਰਹਾਉ॥ Bless me with devotion to the perfect, imperishable Lord God; I am a sacrifice to You. ||1||Pause||

ਸਿਧਸਾਧਿਕਜੋਗੀਅਰੁਜੰਗਮਏਕੁਸਿਧੁਜਿਨੀਧਿਆਇਆ॥ He alone is a Siddha, a seeker, a Yogi, a wandering pilgrim, who meditates on the One Perfect Lord.

ਪਰਸਤਪੈਰਸਿਝਤਤੇਸੁਆਮੀਅਖਰੁਜਿਨਕਉਆਇਆ॥੨॥Touching the feet of the Lord Master, they are emancipated; they come to receive the Word of the Teachings. ||2||

ਜਪਤਪਸੰਜਮਕਰਮਨਜਾਨਾਨਾਮੁਜਪੀਪ੍ਰਭਤੇਰਾ॥ I know nothing of charity, meditation, self-discipline or religious rituals; I only chant Your Name, God.

ਗੁਰੁਪਰਮੇਸਰੁਨਾਨਕਭੇਟਿਓਸਾਚੈਸਬਦਿਨਿਬੇਰਾ॥੩॥੬॥ Nanak has met the Guru, the Transcendent Lord God; through the True Word of His Shabad, he is set free. ||3||6||

Ang (page) 878 GGS Ji

Bal Nath was highly impressed and said that Guru Nanak had realized God and that devotion (bhakti) was the sole way to God-realization. Guru Nanak stayed with him for some time.There was also a small shrine was built in memory of the visit and before the partition, as per Mahan Kosh by Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, a sadhu used to look after the place.

One of the most detailed work on Jogis is probably “Goraknath and the Kanphatta Yogis” by George Weston Briggs published in 1938.

It has 2 pictures related to Tilla Jogian which the author clicked in early 1920s.

First shows the well maintained structure of Tilla and the second is the Mahant in-charge of the Tilla Jogiyan who surprisingly could be taken for a Sikh.  (Amardeep Singh of ‘Lost Heritage – the Sikh legacy in Pakistan’ fame shared this one with me).

George Weston Briggs writes that these Jogis were called kanphattas as a way of ridiculing them and in early 1900s only Muslims in Punjab would call them by this name. It is interesting as one can draw a parallel to the use of the word ‘Malecha’ by Hindus for the Muslims. Nevertheless the society at that time seem to be still very secular as 40% of Jogis in Punjab were Muslims in early 1900s, as per this book.

A little distance away from this Tillais the famous fort of Rohtas built by Sher Shah Suri.

Nearby this fort, Choha Guru NanakGurdwara commemorates the visit of Guru Nanak during his western Udasi or preaching tour.

The Sikh Encyclopaedia by Dr Harbans Singh states that the nearest source of water for the people of this place during dry season was a spring at the Tilla.

Guru Nanak lifted a stone and caused a spring of sweet water to flow into Rohtas which came to be called Choha Sahib i.e. the holy stream.

A Gurdwara was later raised here and the spring water pool was lined to form a sarovar or holy tank.The Gurdwara Choha Sahib was managed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee before it was abandoned consequent upon the partition of India in 1947.

This in itself is yet another proof that Guru Nanak visited this place.


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