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Bhai Mani Singh

Bhai Mani Singh was a great Sikh personality of 18th century and occupies a very esteemed position in Sikh history as one of the most famous martyrs of the Sikh faith. Bhai Mani Singh was a childhood companion of Guru Gobind Singh. He assumed the control and steered the course of the Sikh destiny at a very critical stage in Sikh history.

In 1726 ca. when the Mughals ruled Punjab and were bent on exterminating the Sikhs, no Sikh was allowed to utter the word "Guru". When there was a price on the head of every Sikh.

A scholar, a devoted Sikh, and a leader, Bhai Mani Singh laid down his life to uphold the dignity of the Sikh religion as well as nation. The nature of his martyrdom in which he was dismembered joint by joint has become a part of the daily Sikh Ardas (prayer).

Early Life

Bhai Mani Singh was born as Mania (Mani Ram) in Alipur village of Multan district(now in Punjab, Pakistan) in a Rajput family. The full record can be found in the 'Vahi of Bhatts', who maintains the family records of Rajputs from Marwar and Mewar.

There is now uncertainty about the exact year of birth of Bhai Mani Singh. The following scholars differ greatly and show how uncertain they were: Giani Thakur Singh writes his year of birth as 1672 AD while some other writers put it at 1670 AD. But according to Sohan Singh Seetal, a well known Sikh historian, Bhai Mani Singh was born in 1664 AD. Principal Satbir Singh wrote the year of birth as 1672 in his 1970 edition but changed it to 1662 AD in the later editions of "Sada Itihaas".

According to Dr Santokh Singh also, Bhai Mani Singh was born in 1662 AD. These earlier dates are indirectly based on Giani Garja Singh's references to ninth Guru's visit to village Akoi/Malwa in year 1665 AD. Based on critical analysis of ancient Sikh writings, it may appear that Bhai Mani Singh was born no later than 1665 AD, hence years given by Giani Sohan Singh Seetal or Principal Satbir Singh/Dr Santokh Singh etc. appear much closer to the truth.

Family background

Bhai Mani Singh was from a distinguished family of Sikh warriors. His brother, Bhai Dayala who attained martyrdom at Dehli with Guru Tegh Bahadur. Eleven brothers of Bhai Mani Singh and 7 out of 10 children attained martyrdom.

Bhai Mani Singh spent a considerable part of his life in service at Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. He was one of the 12 sons of Mai Das. His grandfather was Bhai Bhaloo Rai, a reputable warrior, who was a soldier in Guru Hargobind's army who took part in all the battles fought by Guru Hargobind Sahib against the Mughal attackers.

Bhai Mani Singh, his grandfather, eleven brothers and seven of his ten sons died in battles fought on behalf of the Guru.

The following seven sons of the Mai Das were from his wife Madribai:

1.Bhai Jetha Singh, martyred at Alowal in 1711.
2.Bhai Dial Das, accompanied Guru Teg Bahadur to Delhi where he was martyred in 1675.
3.Bhai Mani Singh, martyred in Lahore in 1734.
4.Bhai Dan Singh, killed in the battle of Chamkaur in 1705.
5.Bhai Man Singh, killed in the battle of Chittorgarh in 1708.
6.Bhai Amar Chand, died in infancy.
7.Bhai Roop Singh, killed with his elder brother Jetha Singh in Alowal in 1711.

The following five sons of Mai Das were from his wife Ladki:

1.Bhai Jagat Singh, martyred together with Bhai Mani Singh in Lahore in 1734.
2.Bhai Sohan Chand, killed in the battle of Nadaun in 1691.
3.Bhai Lehna Ji, killed in the battle of Gular in 1696.
4.Bhai Rai Singh, killed in the battle of Muktsar in 1705.
5.Bhai Hati Chand, killed in the battle of Bhangani in 1688.

Marriage and children

At the age of 15, Mani Singh was married to Bibi Seetobai, the daughter of Lakhi Rai, also known as Lakhi Shah who later, when Guru Teg Bahadur was beheaded in Delhi, recovered the Guru's body, took it home and set fire to his home in Raisina in order to cremate the Guru's body. At that site now stands Gurdwara Rikabganj. After his marriage Mani Singh spent some time with his family in his village Alipur.

List of Bhai Mani Singh's sons:

1.Chitar Singh, martyred with Mani Singh in Lahore in 1734.

2.Bachitar Singh, martyred in the battle of Nihan near Anandpur Sahib in 1704.

3.Udai Singh, martyred in Sahi Tibi near Anandpur Sahib in 1704.

4.Anaik Singh, killed in the battle of Chamkaur in 1704.

5.Ajab Singh, killed in the battle of Chamkaur in 1704.

6.Ajaib Singh, killed in the battle of Chamkaur in 1704.

7.Gurbaksh Singh, martyred with Mani Singh in Lahore in 1734.

8.Bhagwan Singh

9.Balram Singh

10.Desa Singh - the author of the Rehatnama (Code of conduct) of the Khalsa.

Service of Guru Har Rai

When Mani Singh was 13 years old, his father, Bhai Mai Das, took him to Guru Har Rai at Kiratpur to pay their homage. When Mani Singh, in paying his respects, prostated himself before Guru Har Rai, the Guru prophesied, "This lad, full of good deeds, will be world famous." Mani Singh spent about two years at Kiratpur in the service of Guru Har Rai. He served in the Guru's kitchen everyday, scrubbing cooking pots and utensils. He also attended to other chores and at the same time found time to learn Gurbani. He took part in prayer sessions with great zeal.

When Mani Singh was 15 years old, his father applied to Guru Har Rai for leave to be granted to Mani Singh for a short period. Leaving having been granted, Mani Singh and his father returned to their village Alipur where he was married to Bibi Seetobai.

Subsequently, Mani Singh, accompanied by his elder brothers, Bhai Jetha Singh and Bhai Dial Das, went to Kiratpur and presented themselves before Guru Har Rai for service at his shrine. Mani Singh's great desire was to spend all his life in the service of the Guru.

Service of Guru Harkrishan

After the death of Guru Har Rai, Mani Singh started serving Guru Harkrishan. When Guru Har Krishan proceeded to Delhi, Mani Singh was one of the Sikhs who accompanied him.

Service of Guru Tegh Bahadur

When Guru Harkrishan died on 30 March 1664 in Delhi, Mani Singh escorted the Guru's mother, Mata Sulakhani to Bakala and presented himself before Guru Tegh Bahadur for service. Mani Singh's elder brothers, Bhai Jetha Singh and Bhai Dial Das also arrived at Bakala for service with the Guru. Mani Singh was at that time 20 years of age. After serving some time in the service of Guru Teg Bahahdur, Mani Singh took leave of the Guru and returned to his village in Alipur.

Mani Singh later, accompanied by his family, proceeded to Anandpur Sahib for the Vaisakhi festival. Guru Teg Bahadur had then just arrived at Anandpur Sahib after a preaching tour in the East. This was in 1672. Living in the presence of Guru Teg Bahadur, Mani Singh continued with great zeal making copies and preparing small pothis (books) of Gurbani.

When Guru Teg Bahadur heeded the appeal of the Kashmiri Pandits and their request for help in saving the Hindu religion, Guru Teg Bahadur decided to proceed to Delhi. Bhai Jetha and Mani Singh and some other Sikhs remained at Anandpur with Guru Gohind Singh to look after him. Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dial Das accompanied Guru Teg Bahadur to Delhi. They were arrested together with Guru Teg Bahadur and taken to Delhi where all of them suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Mughals. Bhai Dial Das was, as stated earlier, the elder brother of Bhai Mani Singh while Mati Das and Sati Das were the grandsons of Bhai Parag Das or Bhai Piraga, as he was known popularly, a Brahmin of the Chhibber clan, from Kariala, a village in District Jhelum (Pakistan), who became a Sikh at the time of Guru Arjan, and later distinguished himself as a warrior while serving Guru Hargobind Sahib, especially in the battle of Rohilla and batte of Amritsar.

Service of Guru Gobind Singh

Bhai Mani Singh was a childhood companion of Guru Gobind Singh. He was not of the same age as Guru Gobind Singh (at that time called Gobind Rai) but much younger. Mani Singh remained in his company even after Gobind Rai had ascended the religious seat as Guru. Mani Singh accompanied the Guru to the seclusion of Paonta where Guru Gobind Singh spent some three years exclusively given to literary work.

Mani Singh was not only a great scholar of Sikh sacred scripture and wrote books on Sikhi but was also a warrior who accompanied Guru Gobind Singh as one of his body guards on many occasions. The brave deeds of Mani Singh in so many battles earned him the reputation of a great warrior. In his position of being the Guru's Diwan (Minister) he had to attend to many matters in the Guru's establishment. Nevertheless he had time to study the Sikh scripture under the Guru's guidance and became an accomplished theologian. He acquired so much knowledge and understanding of Gurbani, that he used to do Katha (Exposition) of the Granth Sahib to the Sangat (Congregation) both at Anandpur Sahib and later at the Harmandir Sahib.

In 1685, when Guru Gobind Singh went to Nahan, on the invitation of Raja Medni Prakash, Bhai Mani Singh was one of the Sikhs who accompanied the Guru.

In 1687, when the Guru received a request for help from the widow of Baba Ram Rai, because the Masands were ill treating her, Guru Gobind Singh accompanied by Mani Singh went to Derah Doon, taught the Masands a good lesson and put them in their proper place.

In 1688, at the Barsi (Death anniversary) of Baba Ram Rai, Guru Gobind Singh sent Mani Singh at the head of a Jatha of 50 Sikhs to represent him at the Barsi.

Bhai Mani Singh accompanied Guru Gobind Singh when he went across the banks of the Yamuna River to Paonta, Himachal. Bhai Mani Singh fought in the Battle of Bhangani in 1688 ca. to defend Paonta from the joint attack of all the hill rajas. Mani Singh showed his prowess with the sword. In this battle his younger brother Hati Chand was killed.

In 1690, in the Battle of Nadaun, Mani Singh showed great bravery and prowess with the sword; so much so that after the victory of the Guru's forces,[16] Guru Gobind Singh bestowed on Mani Singh the title of Diwan (Minister).

Creation of the Khalsa

In 1699, on Vaisakhi day when Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa Panth and Bhai Mani Singh took Amrit at the hands of Guru Gobind Singh and from Mani Ram he became Mani Singh. On this day Bhai Mani Singh's brothers, Rai Singh, Roop Singh and Man Singh were initiated and five of Mani Singh's sons were also initiated as Khalsas. They were:

1.Bachitar Singh
2.Udai Singh
3.Anaik Singh
4.Ajab Singh
5.Ajaib Singh

In 1699, after the Khalsa Panth was created with the famous Amrit ceremony and Rahit Maryada (Code of conduct of the Khalsa) was ordained, Guru Gobind Singh sent Bhai Mani Singh and five other Khalsas to Amritsar with instructions to take possession of the Harmandir Sahib. Bhai Mani Singh was appointed Granthi of the Harmandir Sahib and Jathedar of the Akal Takhat. Mani Singh thus became the third Granthi of the Harmandir Sahib, after Baba Buddha and Bhai Gurdas.

Mani Singh did away with all the Hindu practices that had crept into the Harmandir and restored all the traditional ceremonies of the Khalsa which became a regular daily feature. Apart from Kirtan Singing of hymns from the Granth Sahib, Bhai Mani Singh used to do Katha (Exposition of Gurbani) which became a very popular daily feature. Rehat Maryada was propagated and arrangements were made for administering Pahul (initiation) to new converts to the Khalsa fold.

As a result of Bhai Mani Singh's efforts, a large number of Jats (farmers) from northern Punjab were initiated as Khalsas, whose numbers increased day by day. Many of them, when they went back to their villages, persuaded others to take the pahul and become Khalsas. Periodically, Bhai Mani Singh used to go to Anandpur Sahib to pay homage to Guru Gobind Singh and keep him informed of the affairs and happenings at Amritsar.

In the first battle fought by Guru Gobind Singh after the creation of the Khalsa Panth in 1699, against Raja Ajmer Chand and his Mughal supporters, Bhai Mani Singh and his sons were in the first line of the Guru's forces. The Guru was so pleased with the bravery and the performance of Mani Singh's sons that after the Khalsa victory, the Guru issued a special Hukumnama (Edict) in praise of them. Mani Singh's sons mentioned in the Hukumnama were : Bachitar Singh, Udai Singh, Anaik Singh, Ajab Singh, and Ajaib Singh.

Bhai Mani Singh took an active role in the battle of Naduan in 1704. When Guru Gobind Singh Ji left Anandpur on the night of December 20, 1704, his family got separated at river Sirsa in the confusion created by the Mughal attack. Bhai Mani Singh took Mata Sunder Kaur and Mata Sahib Kaur to Delhi via Ambala.

In 1704, Bhai Mani Singh escorted Guru Sahib's wife and Mata Sahib Devan to Talwandi Sabo where the Guru was staying after defeating the Mughal army at Muktsar. Here Guru Gobind Singh from memory recited the current version of the Guru Granth Sahib while Bhai Mani Singh transcribed it.

When Guru Sahib left Agra with Emperor Bahadur Shah for Nanded in 1707, Mata Sahib Devan and Bhai Mani Singh accompanied him. Afterwards Bhai Mani Singh escorted Mata Sahib Devan Ji back to Delhi where she lived with Mata Sundri Ji for the rest of her life.

Post Guru Gobind Singh

After Banda Singh Bahadurs execution in 1716 The Khalsa abandoned their homes and escaped to the jungles of the Punjab, mountains of Sivalik Hills and deserts of Rajputana.

In 1720 ca. there was some relaxation from the government of Zakariya Khan.

Role in Sikh History

Bhai Mani Singh acted as scribe when Guru Gobind Singh Ji dictated Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Bhai Sahib collected the Gurbani (Literally "Word of the Guru") of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and compiled it in the form of Dasam Granth (Book of the Tenth Guru). The writings included in the Dasam Granth were composed at different times by the Guru himself and his band of 52 poets.

Bhai Sahib also authored Japji Sahib Da Garb Ganjni Teeka (teeka means translation and explanation of a work). He expanded the first of Bhai Gurdas's Vaars into a life of Guru Nanak which is called Gyan Ratnavali. Mani Singh wrote another work, the Bhagat Ratnawali (sometimes called Sikhan di Baghat Mala), an expansion of Bhai Gurdas's eleventh Vaar, which contains a list of famous Sikhs up to the time of Guru Hargobind.

In his capacity as a Granthi of Darbar Sahib at the Golden Temple, Bhai Singh is also stated to have composed the Ardas (Supplication) in its current format; he also started the tradition of mentioning deeds of various Gursikhs with the supplication.

He also transcribed many copies of the sacred Sikh scriptures which were sent to different preaching centers in India. He also taught the reading of Gurbani and its philosophy to the Sikhs.

Leadership at Harmandir Sahib

Bhai Mani Singh who was under the presence of Guru Gobind Singh in 1690s had taken over the Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar in mid-1699 from Minas.[32] After initiating the people of Majha to the Khalsa Panth Bhai Mani Singh came back to Anandpur Sahib. Bhai Mani Singh actively taught the reading of Gurbani and its philosophy to the Sikhs.

According to some Hukamnamas, Bhai Mani Singh was heading the shrine in 1716. He spent the period of worst persecution in post 1716 at the village of Baganwala in Jhang district.

In 1720, Mata Sunder Kaur came to know of the trouble that was brewing between the Tat Khalsa (A sect of Khalsa who were strict followers of Guru Gobind Singh) and Bandai Khalsa (A sect of Khalsa who regarded Banda Singh Bahadur as the Guru) military factions of the Sikhs. She appointed Bhai Mani Singh as the Granthi of Harmandir Sahib and sent him to Amritsar with Mama Kirpal Singh (Chand), the maternal uncle of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. On his arrival at Amritsar in 1721, Bhai Mani Singh restored peace among the Khalsa, by casting lots and the Tat Khalsa was declared to have won, and put the affairs of Harmandir Sahib in order.

After Bhai Mani Singh's execution the next prominent Sikh leader was Nawab Kapur Singh (1697–1753).


Bhai Kanhaiya

Bhai Mani Singh being Tortured and Executed

In 1737 ca., Bhai Mani Singh asked to Governor of Lahore, Zakariya Khan, for permission to hold the Diwali festival to celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas at the Harmandir Sahib. The permission was granted for a tribute of Rs.5,000. He hoped that he would be able to pay the sum out of the offerings to be made by the Sikhs who were invited to come. He issued initiations to the Sikhs of all places. The Governor alongside Diwan Lakhpat Rai had different intentions and he sent secret orders to his forces to make a surprise attack on the Sikhs during the festival. Bhai Mani Singh came to know of this plan and sent messages to tell the Sikhs not to come. The Sikhs that did come had to leave because of the presence of an unnecessary big military force and suspicious movement of the officers. Thus no money could be collected or paid to the government and Bhai Mani Singh was ordered to be executed.

Bhai Mani Singh was taken to Lahore in chains. When Bhai Mani Singh could not pay the fine the dues he had agreed to pay the Mughals (to legally hold the event) he was ordered to convert to Islam. Refusing to give up his beliefs he was ordered death by dismemberment. When the executioner started to begin with his wrists, Bhai Mani Singh sincerely reminded the executioner of the sentence, reminding the executioner of his punishment and to start at the joints in his hands.

Bhai Mani Singh was executed at Nakhaas Chowk, Lahore in December, 1738 ca. The Nakhaas Chowk has since been known as Shaheed Ganj - the place of martyrdom. Another commemorative shrine built in the late 1900s at a Gurdwara near Laungoval in the ruins of village Kamboval marks Bhai Mani Singh's hometown and place of birth. By 1737, the Mughal government of Lahore had strictly prohibited the Sikhs to visit Amritsar and bathe in the holy tank. Zakariya Khan died in 1745

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