Baba Siri Chand (1494 to 1643)

Founder of the Udasi Sect

Modern-day Bronze Likeness of Baba Siri Chand Sculpted by Amrit Singh Khalsa
Modern-day Bronze Likeness of Baba Siri Chand Sculpted by Amrit Singh Khalsa. Photo © [Courtesy SikhiWiki / Hpt]

Birth and Childhood of Baba Siri Chand:

Baba Siri Chand, (Sri Chand) the eldest son of First Guru Nanak Dev, was born in Sultanpur to mother Sulakhani in the year 1551 S.V. Bhadon, Sudi 9, the ninth day during the waxing, or light phase following the new moon, (calculated to be about August 20th, September 9th, 18th, or 24th, in the year 1494 A.D.
Historic shrine, Gurdwara Guru Ka Bagh, of Sultanpur Lodhi, in Kapurthala, Punjab, India marks the birthplace of Baba Siri Chand.

When his father began a series of Udasi missionary journeys that took him far away from his family, Siri Chand and his younger brother Lakhmi Das went with their mother to her parents home in Pakkhoke Randhave at River Ravi. Siri Chand spent much of his boyhood in the care of the Guru Nanak's sister Bibi Nanaki, and also in Talwandi (Nankana Sahib of Pakistan), the hometown of his with his paternal grandparents. During his youth, for a period of about 2 1/2 years, Siri Chand was schooled in Srinagar, where he excelled at studies.

Spiritual Udasi:

As an adult, Siri Chand became a spiritual aesthetic and lived his life as a celibate recluse. He founded a sect of Udasi yogis who followed a strict path of renunciation. Baba Siri Chand reunited with his father, when Guru Nanak settled at Kartarpur, where the guru passed away September 7, 1539 A.D. Before his departure from the world, Guru Nanak chose a successor.

Neither the renunciate Siri Chand, nor his younger merchant brother Lakhmi Das, met with the guru's criteria, instead Guru Nanak selected his devoted disciple Lehna, who he renamed Angad Dev.

Relationship With Sikh Gurus:

Though he chose not to marry, Siri Chand helped to raise Dharam Chand, the son of his brother Lakhmi Chand, and grandson of Guru Nanak Dev.

During his long life span, Siri Chand continued to maintain favorable relations with five succeeding gurus of the Sikh faith, and their families yet never fully embraced his father's teachings, preferring the path of austere meditation to the life of a householder. Even so the subsequent Sikh gurus and their devotees treated him with utmost love and respect:

  • Baba Mohan, eldest son of Third Guru Amar Das followed the example of Siri Chand and led an aesthetic life.
  • Siri Chand used his influence to help persuade Emperor Jahangir to release Har Govind from imprisonment in Gwalior Fort about 1619.
  • Baba Gur Ditta son of Sixth Guru Har Govind, who would eventually succeeded Siri Chand as head of the Udasi order, requested Siri Chand to break ground at the founding of Kiratpur in 1626.
  • Fourth Guru Raam Das visited and bestowed gifts upon Siri Chand at his encampment in Barath during the year 1634 S.V.
  • Baba Siri Chand in turn visited the Sikh encampments, and settlements, in the year 1636 S.V. He entered a discourse with Fourth Guru Ram Das and bantered with the guru about his long beard during a discussion about the merits of the ascetic life verses the life of a householder.
  • Fifth Guru Arjun Dev also met with Baba Siri Chand at Barath in 1655, to obtain manuscripts for inclusion in compilation of Adi Granth. Baba ji suggested to the Guru that his composition Sukhmani Sahib be lengthened from 16 to 24 Astipadi (section of eight verses). Guru ji asked him to contribute to the effort. The first line of Astpadi 17 is attributed to Baba ji who replied with a slight variation his father's verse Sach Mantar:
    Aad sach, Jugaad sach|| Hai bhe sach, Nanak hosee bhe sach || SGGS||285
  • Baba Siri Chand attended cremation rites of the revered Baba Buddha who expired November 16, 1631 A.D.at Jhanda Raamdas.

Departure of the World:

Many miracles are attributed by the Udasi sect to their founder a siddhi master of yogic powers, Baba Siri Chand from the time of his birth, and onward throughout his life, up until his departure from the world. Baba Siri Chand left the Udasi order in the care of Sixth Guru Har Govind's eldest son Baba Gur Ditaa, who lived from November 15, 1613 until March 15, 1638. Baba Siri Chand made his way to the edge of the forest, and to the astonishment of those who followed, he vanished into the jungle. His whereabouts could never be located, nor his remains ever discovered.

Baba Siri Chand is said to have had the characteristics of a yogi at birth, with a skin pallor resembling the greyish cast of ash, to have retained a youthful appearance of about 12 years of age for all of his life, and to have lived on earth to the advanced age of either 118, 134, 135, 149, or 151 years.

Despite discrepancies of dates, Baba Siri Chand apparently out lived Baba Buddha. Various dates are given by historians for his death or departure, the earliest being 1612, another is January 13, 1629 A.D. (Magh, Sudi 1, first day of the new moon 1685 S.V.), and yet another being sometime in 1643. Miscalculations, or misunderstandings, of calendar conversions quite likely account for discrepancies regarding dating of historic events, and years of life attributed to Baba Siri Chand.

Note: Dates given according to the ancient Indian Calendar are noted S.V. standing for Samvat Vikram the Bikrami calendar of ancient India.