Sri Chand (1494 to 1643), also called Baba Sri Chand is the elder son of Guru Nanak and the founder of the ascetic sect of Udasis. He was born to Mata Sulakhani on Bhadon sudi 9, 1551 Bk / 9 September 1494 at Sultanpur Lodhi, now in Kapurthala district of the Punjab. This type of arrangement where the child is born at the mother’s parental home was a quite common and accepted custom at that time.
Sri Chand mastered the techniques of yoga at a very young age. He remained devoted to his father, Baba Nanak and established the Udasi order. He travelled far and wide and spread awareness of Guru Nanak.
Baba Sri Chand was held in great esteem by the ensuing Sikh Gurus. Baba Mohan, the eldest son of Guru Amar Das and the person who is best known as the custodian of Guru Sahib’s Pothis (hand written verses) from which Guru Arjun Dev compiled the Guru Granth Sahib also became a renunciate, possibly influenced by Sri Chand.
Guru Hargobind sent his son Baba Gurditta to Sri Chand. He became Sri Chand’s successor and is regarded as a patriarch of the Udasi Sampardai (order). Baba Gurditta was the father of Guru Har Rai, the grandfather of Guru Harkrishan, the older brother of Guru Tegh Bahadur and the uncle of Guru Gobind Singh.
After his father, Guru Nanak left Nankana Sahib, Sri Chand stayed in Dera Baba Nanak and maintained Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s temple. Later he established the Udasi order.
After Guru Nanak left home on his travels to distant lands, Baba Sri Chand’s mother, Mata Sulakhani took him and his younger brother, Lakhmi Das, to her parents` home at Pakkhoke Randhave on the left bank of the River Ravi.
Guru Nanak had discourses with various yogis and their disciples like Gorakh, Bhangarnath, Loharipa, Hanifa, Kanifa, Bharthari etc. He taught them by answering their direct questions.
When Guru Nanak, after his travels, had settled down at KARTARPUR on the right bank of Ravi and not far from Pakkhoke, Siri Chand rejoined the family.
Reburial of Guru Nanak’s Ashes
Guru Nanak having chosen one of his disciples as his spiritual successor, passed away at Kartarpur on 7 September 1539 and a monument was raised over the site where his ashes were buried. As the monument was washed away by floods in the river, Siri Chand had the urn containing the ashes salvaged, reburied it at some distance close to the well of Ajitta Randhava, a devotee of the late Guru, and built a mud hut over it. The place came to be revered as a dehri or samadh (mausoleum) of Guru Nanak around which the present town of Dera Baba Nanak grew. It is mentioned in accounts of the time that that when Guru Ram Das met Baba Siri Chand, Baba Siri Chand Ji commented that Guru Ram Das had the longest beard he had seen. Guru Ram Das replied, “It is to wipe the feet of the saints like you”. Guru Ram Das bent down to do so, and Siri Chand pulled his feet back in surprise.
Teaching of Sikh Traditions
Baba Siri Chand stayed on at Pakkhoke Randhave for some time. He gathered around him a band of his own disciples who, like him, shunned the householder`s life and practiced austerities. With his disciples he traveled throughout the length and breadth of India, initiating many as Udasin or Udasi (lit. indifferent, stoic) sect who functioned as itinerant teachers and established missionary centres at different places in the country and beyond.
Through these Udasin Guru Nanak`s word was also carried to far corners of the land. Baba Siri Chand`s own main centre was at Barath, eight kilometres southwest of Pathankot in Gurdaspur district of Punjab. Baba Siri Chand also kept in touch with successive Gurus during his long life of well over a hundred years. The Gurus held him in high esteem. In 1626, when at the behest of Guru Hargobind, his eldest son, Baba Gurditta, proceeded to found the town of Kiratpur in the lower Sivalik hills, he had the ground broken by Baba Siri Chand Ji.
Baba Sri Chand died at Kiratpur on Magh sudi 1,1685 bik/ 13 January 1629. Udasi Traditions say that he never died but he vanished into the forest of Chamba. After Baba Siri Chand went invisible, the son of Guru Hargobind, Baba Gurditta became his successor as head of the Udasis. The Udasis protected and maintained the historical shrines of Anandpur, Hazoor Sahib and Amritsar for over a hundred years after Guru Gobind Singh’s death.