It is said that Bhai Bala who was a life-long companion of Guru Nanak, was the son of Chandar Bhan, a Sandhu Jatt of Talvandi Rai Bhoi, now Nankana Sahib in Pakistan. Three years senior in age to Guru Nanak, he was his childhood playmate in Talvandi. From Talvandi, he accompanied Guru Nanak to Sultanpur where he stayed with him a considerable period of time before returning to his village.
According to Bala Janam Sakhi, Bhai Bala at the instance of Rai Bular set out from Talvandi to join Guru Nanak who had already left Sultanpur on his travels abroad and met him in Bhat Lalo's home at Saidpur. After Guru Nanak's passing away, Guru Angad, Nanak invited Bala from his native Talvandi to come to Khadur and narrate to him events from the First Guru's life. Very graphic, if somewhat miraculous, is the version contained in an old text, the Mahima Prakash. To quote: "Guru Angad one day spoke to Bhai Buddha, 'Seek the disciple who accompanied the Master, Guru Nanak, on his journeys far and wide, who heard his preaching and reflected on it, and who witnessed the many strange events that occurred; secure from him all the circumstances and have transcribed a volume which may please the hearts of those who should apply themselves to it.' Bala Sandhu made his appearance."
The anecdotes narrated by Bala were recorded in Gurmukhi characters in Guru Angad's presence by another Sikh, Paira Mokha. The result was what is known as Bhai Bale Vali Janam Sakhi, a biographical account of Guru Nanak's life. Bhai Bala died in 1544 at Khadur Sahib. A memorial platform, within the precincts of Gurdwara Tapiana Sahib, marks the site where his mortal remains were cremated.
Bhai Bala's Existence
There has been considerable discussion as regards to Bhai Bala's existence, particularly within the Sikh academic field. The reasons for this are:
Bhai Gurdas, who has listed all Guru Nanak's prominent disciples (in his 11th Var), does not mention the name of Bhai Bala (this may be an oversight, for he does not mention Rai Bular either). However Bhai Mani Singh's Bhagat Ratanwali, which contains essentially the same list as that by Bhai Gurdas, but with more detail, also does not mention Bhai Bala. There are a number of other anomalies, which Dr. Kirpal Singh has explicated in his Punjabi work `Janamsakhi Tradition.'
Professor Surjit Hans also notes that the only role of Bhai Bala was to denigrate the name of Nanak and that Guru Nanak prophesizes about a greater bhagat (Hundal) to come:
The first clue to grasping the true character of the Bala Janamsakhi is the fact that the persons related most closely to Guru Nanak are presented in uncomplimentary light. His father, Kalu, for instance, is a cruel man; he is greedy and ill spoken; he blames Mardana for spoiling his son; and Guru Nanak is rather chary of meeting him. Guru Nanak's wife regrets marrying him, she is hot-tempered and full of anger. His mother-in-law is quarrelsome and hardhearted. His father-in-law curses his fate to have a son-in-law like Guru Nanak. The Guru's constant companion, Mardana, is pleased with counterfeit coins and cast off clothes; he is all the time hungry.
Also in the Bhai Bala Janamsakhi are several language inconsistences. For example, the Sikh salutation 'Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh' is used in the Bala Janamsakhi, however this term only gained currency during the reign of Guru Gobind Singh.