Baba Makhan Shah Labana
(approx 1619 - 1674)

Name: Makhan Shah Labana
Native: 23, Had, 1619, Kathiawad, Gujrat
Parents: Father:Hardev Ji(Desu Ji)
Mother: Bijay Devi
Spouse Bibi Sital Devi(Suljai)
Siblings: Lal Das
Death: 1674, Vill. Raja Harpal, Sialkot

Makhan Shah Labana (Punjabi: ਮੱਖਣ ਸ਼ਾਹ ਲਬਾਣਾ, Makkhaṇa Śāha Labāṇā}, also written as Lobana (b. July 7, 1619 (*see below)) was a devout Sikh and a rich trader from Tanda district Jhelum (now in Pakistan). He is called "The discoverer of the ninth Nanak" for his famous act of finding the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur in Bakala, India in around 1665.

The Sakhi (true story) of that discovery was recorded in "Janamsakhis" and has been told as a folk story among the Sikhs for many generations. Makhan Shah, was a Gursikh who played an important part in Sikh history. He was a person who displayed trust and confidence in the Guru, was patient, intelligent and had a deep belief in the existence God.


Baba Makhan Shah was born to Mata Vijey Devi. His father was named Bhai Dasa; he was the grandson of Bhai Artha, and great grandson of Bhai Banna who was a descendent of Bahorhu. He was a rich trader of pelia gotra of the Lobana tribe. Born on 23 Ashad 1676 Bikrami which translates to 7th July, 1619. Macallife, Teja Singh, Ganda Singh and Colonel Gurcharan Singh support this date.

However, due to lack of proper and reliable sources, the history of Makhan Shah is not complete. There is confusion among historians about the birth date of this important Sikh. In some records, it is said that Baba ji's birth was on 23 Harh 1676 bikrami, which translates to 1619 on the banks of Narmada in village Sarwannagar (Narsinghpur). Labana Itihas (historical records) of Giani Gurnam Singh says the birth was in 1703 bikrami which translates to 1647. But according to their siblings, the former date is said to be correct.

Like his date of birth, there is also much confusion about his place of birth. It was said that he belongs to a place called "Tanda" (which translates to "a large loaded bullocks driven caravan). But there are many separate places in India with the name Tanda for example in Rajasthan, there is Mansoora Tanda, in Madhya Pardesh there is Khed Tanda, Basti Tanda, Sankarpura Tanda and Chikvadi Tanda, in Maharashtra, there is Naka Tanda, in Karnatka, there is Anapur Tanda and in Andhra Yera, Goda Tanda. In Punjab there are many villages with the name Tanda. In Kashmir, there is village Tanda Lubana in Muzafrabad.

Some historians say that he was born at Tanda in Jammu and Kashmir. "Twarikh Guru Khalsa" of Gian Gingh says that Baba ji was born at Tanda in Muzzafrabad. This is linked to the visit by Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh Guru in 1626. But Colonel Gurbachan Singh in his book Makhan Shah Labana proved that wrong and after much searching, discovered that there was no village called Tanda in Muzaffranagar.

Most scholars, like Sukha Singh, Macallife and G.S Chabbra, say that Baba Makhan Shah was a native of Kathiawad, Gujrat, India. Even today, there are many Labanas living in Kathiawad. They call themselves Lohana. The word "Labana" is also derived from "Lohana". Businessmen and trader of the region are of the opinion that Baba ji was born in Kathiawad, Gujrat.

Early Life

He got his basic education from Vijaynagar. He was an intelligent, faithful and good humanitarian. He was a master in Sanskrit language and also learned many foreign languages including Portuguese and English which was picked up during his travels as a trader. He learned all of his techniques of business and trading from his father. He was not good in Punjabi. Lubanki was his mother tongue and that is why when he found Guru Tegh Bahadur he shouted GURU LADHO RAE ("Found the Guru" in Lubanki.)

Marriage life

When he was young he was married with Bibi Sital Devi (Suljai) who was the daughter of Naik Puroshotam Das. She was from the Sandlas caste of Naik Rajputs. Their marriage was according to the Rajput creed, custom and ways. His wife helped a lot in his business. He had one son by her, i.e Bhai Lal Das (some say Kushal Chand). It is said that his son took khandey batey de pahul and became Naik Jawahar Singh who was martyred in the Battle of Chamkaur (recorded by Baljit Singh Khalsa). Some sources say he had two sons Lal Chand and Chandu Lal. But the name Bhai Lal Das is heard most.


According to some sources, Baba Makhan Shah was a trader. He traded not only in India but with different countries, as well. He traded in spices, Bengali silk, Kashmiri shawls. In India he used camels, oxen and horses, often pulling carts. Outside the country he used ships for the purpose of trading. He was a Mughal trader and much dealings with the Mughal authorities. He used to trade with Arabian countries some say he even crossed the Mediterranean Sea, trading as far as Portugal. Soorat was the main centre or port from which he traded. He was indeed a wealthy trader. Although having a flourishing business, he was a great Sikh of Guru Nanak.

During Guru Har Gobind and Guru Har Rai

Makhan Shah was associated with Sikhism since the sixth Guru. Bhatt Vahis testify this “The cavalcade of Bhai Makhan Shah who was the Sikh of Guru, was going to Kashmir. The Satguru joined him there. After pilgrimage of Mutton Martand along with Bhai Dasa and Bhai Aru Ram, he reached the place of Bhai Makhan Shah at Mota Tanda. Bhai Dasa, father of Bhai Makhan Shah breathed his last there.”

The seventh Guru, Guru Har Rai stayed with him in Kashmir, This is mentioned in ‘Guru Kian Sakhian’ and Bhatt Vahi Guru Har Rai ji, the seventh Guru, son of Baba Gurditta Jee arrived in Srinagar in the year 1717 (Bikrami), Krishan Pakh, Panchami of Jeth month . Makjhan Shah, son of Bhai Dasa, grandson of Binai, maternal grandson of Beheru.’ (Guru Kian Sakhina, P.40) The Guru stayed at the Tanda of Makhan Shah in Kashmir for four months. (Bhatt Vahi Talaunda Pargana Jeend).

Baba Makhan Shah Labana a Masand?

Scholars like Teja Singh, Ganda Singh and Sewa Dass say that he was a Masand of that area(Kathiawaad) which seems to be right because after completion of ardas and work, he started moving towards Delhi with his whole family and followers, to thank the Guru. Kiratpur sahib was the normal residence of Guru Har Krishan ji but because of some urgency he had gone to Delhi. The movement of the Guru from Kiratpur to Delhi was not common knowledge and was not known to everyone. However, as Makhan Shah apparently knew about this confidential movement of the eighth Guru, it is assumed by some scholars that Makhan Shah may have been a Masand as they were the only ones who would have access to such confidential information about the Guru.

Instead of moving towards Kiratpur sahib, Makhan Shah moved to Delhi which shows that he had access to the confidential information about the Guru. So this theory makes him special to Guru's organisation and Masands were local leaders who had authority to such personal information about the movements of the Guru.

But there is no evidence to support this. Also it is thought that a trader could not do two jobs (ie: trading and preaching) at the same time as it is recognised that he had to travel frequently in connection with his work.

Ship in Strom

File:Makhan Shah 1.jpg

Once, while returning home with his ship packed full of valuable goods, over the vast seas, his ship got caught up in a furious storm. His ship was stuck in the whirlwind in the river near Tremu harbour. At first he did not think anything of the storms as these were quite common in that area. But soon, the waves were coming over the deck of the ship. The gale was blowing full force. The ship creaked as it was tossed about. Makhan Shah's return trip was becoming a nightmare. He was sailing northward with his valuable trade goods, up the coast of India towards the Gulf of Khambhat.

It was the worst weather he'd ever encountered. He was on deck at the helm and the situation seemed near to hopeless. The wheel had been tied fast, so the rudder would steer a straight course, something that seemed nearly futile and impossible, yet absolutely necessary if he was not to lose this ship. The fury of the storm mounted when a large wave broke over the deck, making the ship roll dangerously in the choppy sea.

Anything that wasn't fastened down was tossed about. Then another larger wave broke, washing fully over him all but washing him overboard. The force of the wave tore at his dastaar, flinging it loose. Drenched with seawater, it hung heavily flapping wildly about. He unwound it, with hands clumsy from the cold, removing it he used it to lash himself to the helm just as another wave broke over him. It knocked him off his feet, and would surely have carried him overboard, but for his dastaar holding him fast to the helm. Now on his knees he groped about finding the wheel again. He clung to the wheel, gripping it tightly, his knuckles scraped and bleeding from his fall.


His joora had come down completely. His long wet Kesh was blowing about like heavy ropes in the gale force winds, blinding him. Raindrops were pelting his face like tiny needles, and salt spray was stinging his eyes. The sky was black with clouds. No guiding star, nor any point of light, was visible at all. Wave after wave washed over the craft, beating and hammering it relentlessly. It rolled wildly, creaking and groaning as though it would split at the seams. A box broke loose, from where it had been secured on deck, and was washed over board. The crew's frightened voices, calling to each other, could be heard above the howling winds, as they struggled to lower the sails.

Lightening struck, lighting up the dark sky with flash, and crash of thunder, when suddenly the mainsail split with an unearthly rant. The force of it nearly snapped the mast. The ship dropped sharply from the impact, then shot up again, bobbing crazily. The bonds, holding fast the wheel at the helm, broke loose from the stress of the violent motion. The wheel began turning freely with the rudder, as the craft was dashed wildly about in the churning sea. Makhan Shah was taking a beating tied to it, he surely couldn't take much more. His chest and shoulders were bruised and aching, yet without being bound there, he would already have been washed over, and drowned in the black, raging sea. Fearful, the tiny ship was buffeted about mercilessly in the vast, huge, angry, ocean.

Large, dark, menacing rocks loomed perilously close, along the jagged coastline. Threateningly, like teeth in the cavernous jaw, of the horrible witch maya, which eats up the world, they waited hungrily, to break and smash the ship to bits. Wave after wave broke, washing over the boat. Each enormous swell seemed like a giant mouth about to swallow the sinking ship into its dark unforgiving depths forever. Another wave broke over the deck, tearing his clothing away, leaving him clad only in tatters. The sails were hanging in shreds. The crippled ship was taking on water. The end seemed inevitable. Salty tears sprang to his eyes, spilling, mingling, with the salty water of the sea, pouring over his face, filling his nose and mouth.

File:Stormy Sea.jpg

His options were now limited. Finally, he decided his time had come to remember his Guru and ask for his help. Completely powerless now, he knelt down, and said his Ardas (prayer) to God and Guru Nanak for safety. "Baba jee", he prayed desperately, "Please save my ship and my men... I pledge the 500 gold mohars tied to the belt at my waist, which without your help will soon be at the bottom of the sea. Please accept this as my humble offering. He then recited this Shabad of Guru Arjan Dev:

ਆਸਾ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥ aasaa mehlaa 5. Aasaa, Fifth Mehl: SGGS Page 403
ਅਪੁਨੇ ਸੇਵਕ ਕੀ ਆਪੇ ਰਾਖੈ ਆਪੇ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਾਵੈ ॥ ਜਹ ਜਹ ਕਾਜ ਕਿਰਤਿ ਸੇਵਕ ਕੀ ਤਹਾ ਤਹਾ ਉਠਿ ਧਾਵੈ ॥੧॥ ਸੇਵਕ ਕਉ ਨਿਕਟੀ ਹੋਇ ਦਿਖਾਵੈ ॥ ਜੋ ਜੋ ਕਹੈ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਪਹਿ ਸੇਵਕੁ ਤਤਕਾਲ ਹੋਇ ਆਵੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
apunay sayvak kee aapay raakhai aapay naam japaavai. jah jah kaaj kirat sayvak kee tahaa tahaa uth Dhaavai. ((1)) sayvak kao niktee hoay dikhaavai. jo jo kahai thaakur peh sayvak tatkaal ho-ay aavai. ((1)) Rahaao.
He Himself preserves His servants; He causes them to chant His Name. Wherever the business and affairs of His servants are, there the Lord hurries to be. ((1)) The Lord appears near at hand to His servant. Whatever the servant asks of his Lord and Master, immediately comes to pass. ((1)(Pause))

Miraculously the winds started to die down, and the wild seas calmed. Safely secure, in the very centre of the storm, the ship was carried past the dangerous rocks, and guided without further harm, through the treacherous waters, into the nearest harbour, the Port of Surat. The men collapsed in relief. After recovering his strength and attending to his family and work duties, he made his way to Punjab. His only mission now was to fulfil his vow and present himself to his Guru and present the 500 Mohars to the Guru's charity.

Finding Guru Tegh Bahadur


Baba Makhan Shah at Baba Bakala

When Baba Makhan Shah moved to Baba Bakala from Delhi with voyage, His voyage including soldiers loaded with arms and horse riders were with him. More then 500 people was with baba makhan shah labana. In Suraj Parkash it is said, "Jodha Hutey Panch Sai Sang, Jinhey Uthaye kharagh utang". Baba Makhan shah was happy that he will meet his guru at bakala. The agents of fake gurus which were in baba bakala were seated in the way, who were telling that his fake guru is the real one. The people and the agents were watching Baba Makhan shah and were thinking that he is one who want to sit on 9th guru's gaddi he is 23rd Fake guru arrived at bakala, Some were thinking that he is a masand who had came to submit the dasvandh, Some people were thinking that some shahi trader is going to lahore and in way he arrived here for darshan of guru. After confirming people get to know that he is baba makhan shah the disciple of guru nanak's house. But baba makhan shah inquired that there are 22 Imposters present over there. He was confused and was thinking how to find the true guru. Here the situation was that Guru was taking a test of his bhagat, and now bhagat have to test his guru.

Makhan Shah & Imposters

When Baba Makhan Shah reached baba bakala he was in dubidha so he made a yojnaa. At first he was led to the house of Dheer Mal by the attendants of this fake. Makhan shah gifted five coins. The Beer of Guru Granth Sahib wrote by guru arjun dev was with dhir mall. Dheer Mal saw him off after bestowing siropa on him. Makhan Shah also gifted 5 coins to all imposters but they became happy and giving blessings to makhan shah. Makhan shah was sad as no buddy demanded 500 Mohars. Baba Makhan Shah With bhai Gurditta asked about the sodhi vanshaj in the city then he got the news of Baba Tegha.

Makhan Shah with Guru Tegh Bahadur

Hearing of Guru Harkrishan's prophecy that the next Guru would be found in Bakala, that is where he went. But on reaching Bakala he found several imposters, each posing as Guru 'Baba Bakala'. He decided to offer only two Dinars to every one posing to be Guru Harkrishan's successor. The true Guru would himself demand the exact amount he had vowed to give. According to him it would not be possible for the false and imposters to define the exact purpose of his visit. Thereby their ignorance, lack of spiritual insight and character would be exposed.

As expected, none of the imposters could recognise him. But he was left with a problem; if none of these men were the Guru then were is the rightful Guru? Then he heard of a solitarian in the area. His name was Tegh Bahadur and he was the son of Guru Hargobind. So Makhan Shah went to see this man, and when he placed two Dinars before Tegh Bahadur, the great sage at once remarked "God bless you, my man, why only two Dinars after pledging five hundred? The Guru is never in need of any thing, but a Sikh is expected to keep his pledge to the Guru." Thus the issue was clinched and the real Guru was discovered by Makhan Shah.

In amazement Makhan Shah proclaimed that he would inform everyone upon discovering the True Guru. Guru Teg Bahadur was still desiring to meditate in solitude and told Makhan Shah not to tell anyone. The Guru tried to discourage him by saying his face would be blackened if he did so. (this is a statement meaning you will be dishonored). Makhan Shah took this as a challenge instead of a curse and put ash on his face and climbed to the roof top to announce to all that he had found the Guru shouting GURU LADHO RAE to one and all.

Attack by Dhir Mall

After finding the Guru there was a pandemonium and all 22 fake manjis start running like bulls running during a stampede and all of them ran away. Only Dhir Mall stayed there and he said who is Makhan Shah to put himself in charge of case involving us sodhis? He also said bad things about Guru Tegh Bahadur ji, and his assistants were refusing to relinquish their right to the Guruship. Dhir Mall felt so jealous that he was ready to fight to the death if required.

As soon as Baba Makhan Shah left the darbar for meals and Sri Guru Tegh bahadur was left only with few personal attendents and members of household with about hundred fully armed men Shihan rushed out of the house commanding all other men of his gang to follow him. Dhir mal followed him from the rear to watch and direct the operations, if possible. The raiders powered upon everyone they met to join them.

Kirpal Chand, Bhai Jetha, Bhai Dayala put up a stout defence with whatever stick or staff they could get hold of. In next movement Shihan aimed bullet at Guru Tegh Bahadur and fired point blank. The Guru has a minor bullet injury on his shoulder. Kirpal Chand and Bhai Jetha asked all the men to hold there arms and be prepared to punish the bandits and redeem the stolen goods. A messenger was immediately sent to Makhan Shah. Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur urged everyone not to upset by material loses. Soon, Makhan Shah arrived with his men armed to their teeth. Makhan Shah was shocked at damage done to darbar and injuries sustained to by the Guru.

Baba Makhan Shah and Dhir Mall

Makhan Shah marched with his men to Dhir Mall's house. Dhir Mall bolted the door from inside and Shihan took the responsibility to defend the house. The next moment Makhan Shah was at door loudly asking Dhir Mall to surrender all stolen property immediately or prepared for dire consequences. Shihan and Dhirmall hurled abuses at Makhan Shah and Kirpal Chand and their men. The next moment Makhan Shah and Kirpal Chand ordered their men to storm Dhir Mall's house and punish everyone who resisted but avoid killing anyone.

After a tough fight, everyone of Dhir Mall's masands and hired bandits were arrested and dragged to the presence of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Addressing Dhir Mal, Makhan Shah said, "I have spared your life just because you are the Guru's nephew, otherwise I would not have hesitated to destroy a cowardly killer like you." Dhir Mall and his masands were down on there knees begging the Guru to pardon their offences. Deeply moved by their tears of repentance, Guru Tegh Bahadur not only ordered their immediate release, but even resented harsh treatment accord to them. Explaining his action, Makhan Shah said, "Gurudeva, if we allowed ourselves to be robbed and plundered the way Dhir Mall and his masands have done, we might be compeletly annihilated. How could we tolerate their attempt to murder thee, Master?" All the items brought from Dhir Mall's camp were returned as per the Guru's directive. Dhir Mall then reprimanded Shihan for all these happenings and next day left for kartarpur......

Accompanied Guru Tegh Bahadur to Amritsar

On Nov. 22 1664 AD Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur left for Amritsar in response to invitation of Dwarka Dass and Bhai Garhia. Makhan Shah's convoy carried provisions. There are two different versions what happened to Guru Tegh Bahadur ji at Amritsar.

  • According to evidence of Bhatt Vahi in "Tumar Bijlautan ki" and "Guru Kian Sakhian" by Sarup Singh Kaushish, no untoward event came to pass on this occasion and Hariji, son and succesor of Baba Meharban and then custidion of Harimandir Sahib, Amritsar, along with his son Kanwal Nainand, local sangat came round and made obeisance before Guru Tegh Bahadur and pesonally took him inside the premisis of temple.
  • According to Dr. Trilochan Singh, as soon as Guru ji and others reached Harimandir sahib to pay homage to sacred place, they found that the door to the entrance were closed to them. The whole of Amritsar was now under the control of Hariji Mina (son of Meharbaan). The Mina's had full control of Harimandir sahib and they were afraid that they could be thrown out of the panth in same manner as Dhir Mall had been thrown out of Bakala.

Makhan Shah said to the Guru, "I will not let them treat you like that. Permit me master, to compel them to open the doors". Guru Sahib said, "No Makhan Shah, we will never use force." Just then, a peasent women named Hariyan of nearby village Walla stepped forward and begged and pleaded to the Guru to spend the night in her humble dwelling. The Guru at once agreed to spend the night at Walla as guest.

Makhan Shah now found the oppurtunity to enter the temple and pay his homage to sacred shrine. He then denounced and admonished the preists in presence of women who had come there to question them. When the priests came to know that the man addressing then was Makhan Shah, who severly punished Dhir Mall, they became cautious not to annoy or contradict him. They start making the lame excuses to defend their action. Makhan Shah explained to them how he had tested all the imposters and Guru Tegh Bahadur had been acknowledged as rightful successor to Guru Har Krishan. Makhan Shah told them, "I would handle you all, teach you a lesson here and now, but Gurdeva has ordered me to be tolerant towards even notorious people like you."

The next day Guru Sahib thanked Mata Harian and came to the temple where priests tendered their formal apology to the Guru. After paying homage at the sacred shrine, Guru Tegh Bahadur went to Goindwal. From Goindwal, Guru ji, Makhan Shah, Mati Das and Dyal Das rode on horse backs ahead of everybody and under supervision of Kirpal Chand followed a large convoy.

At Kiratpur

Now Guru Tegh Bahadur and his followers reached at Kiratpur in March 1665; a number of distinguished visitors came to pay homage to the master. Rani Jalal Devi, wife of Raja Dip Chand of Bilaspur offered substantial amount of money and land to build a new city for Guru's residence. Guru ji refused to accept the land as gift but agrees to buy it on reasonable payment in vicinity of Kiratpur. Makhan Shah had made considerable contribution in the payment. An old village Makhowal 8 km. away from Kiratpur was selected as the site for new city, which was first called Nanki Chak and after its extension with villages Mathaur and Lodhipur it is named as Anandpur.

Makhan Shah & Kirpal Chand contribution in processing the present site of Anandpur sahib is worth mentioning. Kirpal chand and Makhan shah had the active participation during the course of land.

Separation from Guru

As soon as rainy season was over and it was high time to attend to his trade commitments, with a heavy heart, he asked his man to get ready to depart. He saw first holy Mother nanki for blessings, the holy mother said,"Makhan , My dear child the services you had rendered will be remembered for all time to come. To me you shall be as dear as my son whereever you are my blessings shall always be with you, he then board in devout reverence to the divine. Mother Gujri affectionately said,"Would you leave us so soon brother makhan. What will be the guru darbar without you? Makhan shah then went to guru's darbar to bid farewell to the master with folded hands makhan shah stood before guru tegh bahadur who bestowed him on very costly robes and honour and blessed him godly grace and said you are the most sincere and loyal devotee of shri guru nanak all your bonds of birth and deathcs are broken, Makhan shah bowed low and placed his head on the lotus feet of shri guru tegh bahadur. The masters hand blessed him with tender affection and urged him not to make the parting of painful. Without turning his back to the guru he came out of darbar he left for his destination along with his caravan of men material and machinery. (By Gurcharan Singh Palia. Labana Sewak Oct 2007)


Baba Makhan Shah was said by gurus that aside of trade work he have to preach sikhi too. in the noorth west area of Punjab he preached sikhi, in end time he just roam around Delhi Kashmir and Sialkot. In sialkot he made a dera in harpal nagar in district sialkot. Baba Makhan Shah died in 1674(1731 Bikrami) at Vill. Raja Harpal, Sialkot. It is said by giani harnam singh of laban itihaas that he died in 1718 in Bijey Nagar but it does not seems true. He left behind his wife and son Lal Chand

Baba Makhan Shah Labana Dominated the stage of eventful sikh history as, Defender of Faith, Champion Of Truth and Revealter of Guru Tegh Bahadur. he was a Terror to Imposters and relentless fighter against falsehood in all spheres of life. Makhan Shah was a practical soul, powerful & Imposing in action, capable of handling labourious tasks, organization and always impatiently patient in upholding and revealing the glory and greatness of his beloved master. He was decisive and uncompromising in his conviction, inspired and creative in vision. He was submissiove & Humble before his guru. He spent all his time, money and energy under guidance and inspiration of guru, sought to remove the physical, mental and spiritual hungers of tolling and suffering humanity.

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