Bhai Mardana (1459-1534) was a friend and lifetime companion of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. He is credited of being the first disciple of the guru. He accompanied the guru to various places as a part of the latter’s missionary life.
Bhai Mardana was born in a family of minstrels. He used to sing in his childhood days for alms. Guru Nanak, who was 10 years younger, was fascinated by the songs. He gifted Mardana with an improvised version of reed. Together they used to sing various songs in praise of the lord. Since Guru Nanak was a Hindu and Mardana a Muslim, the songs included both their lords. Later on when Guru Nanak set out on a mission to preach his new religion, Mardana followed him. Sticking to his friendship with the guru, he accepted whatever hardship that came on the way and never parted ways. Together they composed and sang many songs.
Mardana provided music for the guru’s songs using his favorite instrument, the Rabab. He improved the previous version of the instrument by fixing 4 to 6 strings to the hollow gourd, which helped in producing a deep and soft resonance. Apart from singing songs composed by various saints, he also composed his own verses. Three of his compositions have been included in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs. These compositions discouraged the use of liquor, which was believed to bring about misery, lust, pride and a host of other sufferings.
Bhai Mardana’s legacy was carried forward by his son named Bhai Sagged, who performed in the ‘durbar’ (court) of
Guru Angad Dev.