BUḌḌHĀ, BĀBĀ (1506-1631), a most venerated primal figure of early Sikhism, was born on 6 October 1506 at the village of Katthū Naṅgal, 18 km northeast of Amritsar (31º-36'N, 74º-50'E). Būṛā, as he was originally named, was the only son of Bhāī Sugghā, a Jaṭṭ of Randhāvā clan, and Māī Gāurāṅ, born into a Sandhū family. As a small boy, he was one day grazing cattle outside the village when Gurū Nānak happened to pass by. According to Bhāī Manī Siṅgh, Sikhāṅ dī Bhagat Mālā, Būṛā went up to him and, making obeisance with a bowl of milk as his offering, prayed to him in this manner : "O sustainer of the poor! I am fortunate to have had a sight of you today. Absolve me now from the circuit of birth and death. " The Gurū said, "You are only a child yet. But you talk so wisely. " "Once some soldiers set up camp by our village, " replied Būṛā, "and they mowed down all our crops-ripe as well as unripe. Then it occurred to me that, when no one could check these indiscriminating soldiers, who would restrain Death from laying his hand upon us, young or old. " At this Gurū Nānak pronounced the words : "You are not a child; you possess the wisdom of an old man. " From that day, Būṛā, came to be known as Bhāī Buḍḍhā, buḍḍhā in Punjabi meaning an old man, and later, when advanced in years, as Bābā Buḍḍhā. Bhāī Buḍḍhā became a devoted disciple. His marriage at the age of seventeen at Achal, 6 km south of Baṭālā (31º 49'N, 75º 12'E), did not distract him from his chosen path and he spent more time at Kartārpur where Gurū Nānak had taken up his abode than at Katthū Naṅgal. Such was the eminence he had attained in Sikh piety that, at the time of installation of Bhāī Lahiṇā as Gurū Aṅgad, i. e. Nānak II, Gurū Nānak asked Bhāī Buḍḍhā to apply the ceremonial tilak on his forehead. Bhāī Buḍḍhā lived up to a ripe old age and had the unique honour of anointing all of the four following Gurūs. He continued to serve the Gurūs with complete dedication and remained an example of holy living for the growing body of disciples. He devoted himself zealously to tasks such as the digging of the bāolī at Goindvāl under the instruction of Gurū Amar Dās and the excavation of the sacred tank at Amritsar under Gurū Rām Dās and Gurū Arjan. The berī tree under which he used to sit supervising the excavation of the Amritsar pool still stands in the precincts of the Golden Temple. He subsequently retired to a bīṛ or forest, where he tended the livestock of the Gurū kā Laṅgar. What is left of that forest is still known, after him, as Bīṛ Bābā Buḍḍhā Sāhib. Gurū Arjan placed his young son, Hargobind, under Bhāī Buḍḍhā's instruction and training. When the Ādi Granth (Gurū Granth Sāhib) was installed in the Harimandar on 16 August 1604, Bhāī Buḍḍhā was appointed granthī by Gurū Arjan. He thus became the first high priest of the sacred shrine, now known as the Golden Temple. Following the martyrdom of Gurū Arjan on 30 May 1606, Gurū Hargobind raised opposite the Harimandar a platform called the Akāl Takht, the Timeless Throne or the Throne of the Timeless, the construction of which was entrusted to Bābā Buḍḍhā and Bhāī Gurdās, no third person being allowed to take part in it. On this Takht Bhāī Buḍḍhā performed, on 24 June 1606, the investiture ceremony at which Gurū Hargobind put on two swords, one on each side, symbolizing mīrī and pīrī sovereignty and spiritual eminence, respectively.
Bābā Buḍḍhā passed his last days in meditation at Jhaṇḍā Ramdās, or simply called Ramdās, a village founded by his son, Bhāī Bhānā, where the family had since shifted from its native Katthū Naṅgal. As the end came, on 16 November 1631, Gurū Hargobind was at his bedside. The Gurū, as says the Gurbilās Chhevīṅ Pātshāhī, gave his shoulder to the bier and performed the last rites, Bhāī Gurdās, further to quote the Gurbilās, started a reading of the Ādi Granth in memory of the deceased. The obsequies concluded with Bhāī Gurdās completing the recital and Gurū Hargobind presenting a turban to Bhāī Buḍḍhā's son, Bhānā. Two shrines stand in Ramdās commemorating Bābā Buḍḍhā, Gurdwārā Tap Asthān Bābā Buḍḍhā Jī, where the family lived on the southern edge of the village, and Gurdwārā Samādhāṅ, where he was cremated.
Gurdīp Siṅgh Randhāwā