GOPĀL was the name of the village pāndhā or Brāhmaṇ tutor in Talvaṇḍī Rāi Bhoe, now Nankāṇā Sāhib in Pakistan, during the childhood of Gurū Nānak (1469-1539) . Bābā Kālū, the father of Gurū Nānak, had worldly ambitions for his only son and wished that he should learn how to read and write and one day take his own place as the revenue superintendent of the village. So when Nānak was seven he was led to Gopāl, the pāndhā, who felt happy to have with him a pupil so well spoken of in the village. He gave Nānak a place among his other pupils seated in a row reverentially on the ground in front of him. On a wooden slate he wrote down the first few letters of the alphabet of Sidhoṅgāiā or Sindhaṅgāiā script then in vogue among the commercial class, and gave it to Nānak to learn from. One day, as goes the legend, Nānak filled both sides of the slate with a composition written in his own hand. The teacher was surprised to see the tablet and curious to know what the child had written, he asked him to read aloud. To his amazement, it turned out to be a poem in Punjabi, a kind of acrostic which Nānak had extemporized with verses written to match the letters of the alphabet. In it he had reflected upon questions far beyond his years. The main one he had in mind was, "Who is truly learned?" Certainly not he who knew the letters of the alphabet, "but he who arriveth at true understanding through these." Though it will remain debatable at what point of his career Gurū Nānak composed this śabda, it is included in the Gurū Granth Sāhib with the explanatory note Paṭṭī Likhī, i.e. "thus was the tablet written." Pāndhā Gopāl acknowledged Gurū Nānak's precocious genius for poetry and revelation, and considered himself fortunate in having been instructed by his pupil so marvelously gifted.


  1. Kohlī, Surindar Siṅgh, ed. Janamsākhī Bhāī Bālā..Chandigarh, 1975
  2. McLeod, W.H., The B40 Janam-Sakhi, Amritsar, 1980
  3. Harbans Singh, Guru Nanak and Origins of the Sikh Faith. Bombay, 1969

Gurnek Siṅgh