SIĀLKOṬ (32º-30'N, 74º-32'N), an ancient town now in Pakistan, was visited by Gurū Nānak more than once during his travels across the country. According to Giān Ratanāvalī, better known as Janam Sākhī Bhāī Manī Siṅgh, supported by local tradition, as he once arrived here travelling from his native Talvaṇḍī, via Saidpur, and took his seat under a ber tree southeast of the town across the Aik stream, he learnt that a Sūfī faqīr, Hamzā Ghaus, had laid the town under a curse of destruction and was undergoing a chālīsā, or forty-day self-mortification, for the accomplishment of the doom he had invoked on the citizens. The reason for his wrath was the failure of a Khatrī inhabitant, Gaṅgā, to fulfil his promise to present the first-born of his three sons he owed to his (faqīr's) own blessing. Gurū Nānak reasoned with Hamzā Ghaus that he must not blame the sins of one person upon the entire populace among whom there might be some good and wise men. To make a test, the Gurū sent his companion Bhāī Mardānā into the town to purchase one farthing's worth of truth and one farthing's worth of falsehood. Mardānā went from shop to shop showing the slips the Gurū had given, but no one understood the strange request until one shopkeeper, Mūlā by name, took the slips from him and writing on their back the words "Life is false" and "death is the truth", returned these to Mardānā who brought them back to where Gurū Nānak and Hamzā Ghaus had been waiting for him. These answers mollified the faqīr and pleased the Gurū, who went to meet Mūlā. Mūlā felt heartily rejoiced to see the Gurū and turned a disciple. He gave up his business and accompanied Gurū Nānak on his travels through Kashmīr and parts of Afghanistan.
According to Miharbān Janam Sākhī, Gurū Nānak, during his stay at Kartārpur after his long travels, visited Siālkoṭ once again to see Bhāī Mūlā. This time, records the Miharbān Janam Sākhī, he was accompanied by a band of bare-bodied ascetics. Mūlā, at the suggestion of his wife, who had from a distance seen the Gurū approach, hid himself in a dark room at the back of the house. As the Gurū arrived and enquired about Mūlā, the latter's wife replied that he was not at home and had gone out of town. Gurū Nānak left after uttering a couplet : nāli kīrāṛā dostī kūṛai kūṛi pāi; maraṇu na jāpai mūliā āvai kitai thāi” (False is the friendship of shopkeepers; one never knows, O Mūlā! where death may befall one) (GG, 1412). Bhāī Mūlā died soon after. Although the Meharbān Janam Sākhī says that he was struck by remorse and was pardoned and blessed by the Gurū before his end, popular tradition attributes Mūlā's death to a snake-bite he suffered in his place of hiding itself.
There were two historic gurdwārās in Siālkoṭ both affiliated to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, which were abandoned at the time of the 1947 exodus.
GURDWĀRĀ BĀBE DĪ BER marks the site where Gurū Nānak had stayed under a ber tree, still preserved, at the time of his first visit to the town. In 1913 when the mahant or priest-in-charge, Harnām Siṅgh, died, the government recognized a minor as his successor and appointed an apostate, Gaṇḍā Siṅgh, as sarbarāh or manager. This was resented by the Sikhs who, organizing themselves into Khālsā Sevāk Jathā, challenged the arrangement and sought management of the shrine to be transferred to a committee chosen by it. As the law court dismissed the Jathā's suit, it launched an agitation which took the form of meetings and processions to press its viewpoint. In face of the mounting protest, the government relented and withdrew on 5 October 1920 the case against Sikh leaders who were being prosecuted, and extended recognition to the 9 member committee which had already occupied the Gurdwārā. This could be counted as the first episode in the long-drawn campaign for the reform of the management of Sikh shrines in the Punjab.
GURDWĀRĀ BĀOLĪ SĀHIB, named after an open well with steps descending to water level (bāolī, in Punjabi), marks the house of Bhāī Mūlā. This shrine too was abandoned following partition of the Punajb in 1947.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)