Lehna, whom Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh panth, selected as his successor, was born on 31st March 1504. A Khatri of the ‘Trehan’ class, his father Bhai Pheru was a trader living in the village of ‘Matte di Sarai’ near Muktsar in the Firozepur district of Punjab with his wife Daya Kaur, previously known as Ramo. Later on, he moved to the village of ‘Harike’ for better prospects. Bhai Lehna with Sangat going on holy tours When Lehna became of age, he was married to a girl named ‘Khivi’ who was from the village of ‘Matte di Sarai’, where the family returned sometimes later. Here one daughter Amro and two sons Dasu and Datu were born to Lehna and Khivi. But their stay at ‘Matte di Sarai’ was short lived as the Mughals and Balochs depredated the district, and the family moved to Khadur near Tarn Taran in the Amritsar district. Guru Nanak blessing Lehna after seeing him drenched with filthy water and saying that it was ‘amrit’ not dirty water which was spoiling his clothes. It was here that Guru Nanak named Lehna as Angad after taking him in His arms. Lehna in presence of Guru Nanak Possessing an immensely religious and pious personality, inherited from his mother, Lehna lived a normal life of an ordinary householder. Here at Khadur, the worship of the Devi Durga was very popular and hence Lehna was also attracted to the devotion and homage of the Devi. His religious zeal and leadership qualities made him organise annual pilgrimages of devout Hindus to Jwalamukhi, a shrine of the Devi in the lower Himalayas, where the divine presence is symbolised by fire emanating from the mountains. Pilgrimage to the Jwalamukhi is considered very auspicious for an orthodox Hindu. Guru Nanak blessing Angad Meanwhile Guru Nanak had already established himself at Kartarpur and a Guru’s Sikh by the name of Jodha, living in Khadur, used to recite the Guru’s Bani, which once reached the ears of Lehna. Lehna was taken aback by the sheer simplicity, sweet and divine recitation of it and his innermost feelings were deeply aroused. Jodha told him that this Bani was composed by Guru Nanak who was living in Kartarpur. Lehna felt an irresistible urge to meet the Guru who had composed such a benign and heavenly Bani. The urge to meet such a Guru started to develop in his heart and this opportunity was provided when the next annual pilgrimage to Jwalamukhi was undertaken. Guru Nanak bestowing the Gurgaddi to Guru Angad after putting 5 paise and a coconut in front of him The pilgrims’ journey was broken at Kartarpur, where they decided to pay a visit to Nanak before proceeding to their final destination. This was Lehna’s first casual meeting with Guru Nanak but it had far-reaching consequences on his life. Guru Nanak’s discourse had so much profound effect on Lehna that his truth-seeking anxious soul completely melted and surrendered to the divine glow of Nanak. He there and then decided to stay with Nanak and told his other pilgrims to proceed without him. Thus began the most significant phase in the humble and devoted life of Lehna. Guru Angad listening to Bhai Bala who is narrating the Sakhis of Guru Nanak to the writer Paira Mokha – which later on was called the ‘Bhai Bala wali Janam Sakhi’. Lehna devoted all of his time in listening and digesting in earnest, the ‘discourses and conversations’ of Guru Nanak. His limitless dedication and unqualified submission to Nanak distinguished him from the all other followers. Several anecdotes figuring prominently in the Sikh tradition indicate that Lehna acquired the attributes of a true disciple, which were later explained by Bhai Gurdas in his ‘Vaars':- To become a disciple is, as it were, to become dead. It cannot be done by words. A disciple must be patient, faithful, possess a martyr’s spirit, and free himself from the superstition and fear. He must be like a purchased slave fit to be yoked to any work, which may serve his Guru. He must never be hungry, and never require sleep. He must be ready to grind and bring fresh water for his Guru. He must be ever prepared to fan and wash his Guru’s feet. He must be a sedate servant and never laugh or cry. Guru Angad opened schools for teaching and developing the ‘Gurmukhi’ language, the alphabet of which was initiated by Guru Nanak. Sensing his end was near, Guru Nanak decided to test his disciples’ devotion and obedience with a view to selecting his successor. The nature of the tests and Lehna’s responses were centred on the virtue of obedience and he emerged as the most appropriate candidate to carry the burden. His obedience was unqualified and unquestioning as he devotedly obeyed the Guru’s orders. Guru Angad encouraged sports and had the children play and exercise in such a manner which would benefit their health. The Guru had already started calling him ‘Angad’- a ‘part’ of His divine body after he had embraced Lehna and blessed him with this name. Guru Nanak had tested his Sikhs and his sons, and the whole sect saw what he had done. It was when Lehna was purified that Guru Nanak consecrated him. Emperor Humayun who after losing a battle came to visit Guru Angad, who was sitting in meditation, drew his sword at being ignored. Guru Angad told the deposed king that he should have drawn the sword in the battle field and not in front of ‘fakirs’ (ascetics). Anyway the Guru blessed him after Humayun pleaded sorry. The Guru blessed him for the return of his kingdom in due course. It was in the interest of the Sikh faith as also of the community as a whole that Guru Nanak took the momentous decision of ‘proclaiming the accession of Lehna as the reward of service’. The significance expressed by Nanak on complete surrender to the Guru’s will formed a part of the core of his teaching and became a striking feature of the organisational solidarity, subsequently of the Sikh community. Thus was Lehna ‘purified’ by his sincere and forthright acceptance of the duties of a true disciple. Verses from ‘Tikke di Vaar’ (Satta& Balwand’s)indicate the transformation of the disciple into the Guru:- “Guru Nanak, in bowing to Guru Angad, reversed the order of things (made the Ganga flow backwards), and everybody said, ‘What is this he hath done?’ Again: He put his umbrella over the head of Lehna who was then exalted to the skies.” This is how the new ‘Guru’ was ‘produced’ from the old Guru’s body: “Guru Nanak’s light blended with Guru Angad’s and Guru Nanak became absorbed in him.” And “A scion of Guru Nanak exchanged bodies with him and took possession of his throne.” This concept took firm basis in Sikh tradition. Bhai Gurdas writes: ‘Merging (his) light in (Guru Angad’s) light the Satguru changed his form.’ Again: ‘Changing his body he made (Guru Angad’s) body his own.’ Guru Gobind Singh in his Magnus Opus autobiography, Bachitter Natik, says, “Nanak assumed the body of Angad”.
Guru Angad took over the responsibilities of Guru Nanak’s emerging panth. The disciples of Guru Nanak would no doubt have soon dispersed and gradually disappeared if he (Guru Nanak) had not taken care to appoint an able successor before his death. There were threats from three directions. The swallowing of the community by the declining Hinduism, or it might have gravitated towards asceticism, the Udasi tradition, founded by Guru Nanak’s son Siri Chand, or it might have succumbed to the aggressive impact of the Islam in its Sufi form. Although the appointment of a new successor was not an assurance against any of these threats, but the challenging task entrusted to Angad was ably met by his personality and leadership qualities that were previously latent in his character. Without losing his natural humility he developed a quiet firmness needed to override any obstacles. He not only preserved but also reinforced the solidarity of the infant panth and put it on a track, which led towards self-assertion and development of distinct personality.