Bhai Mani Singh Ji was born on the 10th of March, 1644 CE, at village Alipur, in district Muzaffargarh. At the age of 13 Bhai Ji came as a follower with Guru Har Rai Sahib to Kiratpur with his father Bhai Mai Das Ji and stayed back to serve the Guru-Ghar. At the age of 15 years Bhai Ji got married to Bibi Seeto Ji, daughter of Bhai Lakhi Rai Ji. After the battle of Nadaun in 1690 CE, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib entrusted him the duties of Diwan. At the time of leaving Anandpur, on the night of December 20-21, 1704 CE, the Guru Sahib entrusted him to take the Guru Mahal (Mata Jeeto Ji – also known as Mata Sundari Ji) to a safe place. In May, 1705 CE, at the call of the Guru Sahib he reached Talwandi Sabo where he helped the Guru Sahib in compiling the final recension of Guru Granth Sahib and prepared some copies for distributing among the Sikhs. In 1708 CE, Mata Jito Ji (Mata Sundari Ji) sent him to Amritsar to take charge of Darbar Sahib.
In 1735 CE, Zakria Khan, the Governor of Lahore, ordered village headmen and landlords to finish Sikhs of their areas. He also appointed Diwan Lakhpat Rai, an enemy of the Sikhs, as Administrator of Amritsar and Qazi Abdul Razak as the Police Chief. One day, the Governor asked them, ‘What is the reason that no matter what the number of Sikhs we kill more are created?” The Qazi replied, “Their Guru had put the elixir of life in the pool at Darbar Sahib (Harmandir Sahib – Amritsar). Whosoever bathes in that pool, gains eternal life.” Hearing this, the Governor ordered the filling up of the pool with sand and turned Bhai Mani Singh Ji out from the service of Darbar Sahib.
Having been turned out from Darbar Sahib, Bhai Mani Singh Ji took up residence at the Sultanwind’s well. One evening Qazi Abdul Razak came to Bhai Mani Singh Ji and said, “My children are very ill. Medicines of local physicians and doctors are having no effect. Children wake up with nightmares.” Bhai Mani Singh Ji went with him to his house. He sprinkled water from the pool of Darbar Sahib over the children and said to them, “Be not afraid during the night.” As the Lord would have it, the nightmares stopped. Qazi Abdul Razak stopped silting up the pool.With the help of the Qazi, Bhai Mani Singh Ji got permission from the Governor to allow Sikhs to have free access to Darbar Sahib for ten days on the occasion of Diwali of 1737 CE, on the condition to pay tax of Rupees five thousand and so he wrote letters to invite the Sikhs. The Governor and Diwan Lakhpat Rai secretly planned to kill the Sikhs coming for the pilgrimage. Bhai Ji came to know of their plan in time. He sent messages to Sikhs not to come and so no fair was held.
Originally written in Bhattakshri, script commonly used by the Bhatts, it was transcribed into Gurrnukhi by Chhaiju Singh Bhatt of Bhadson, in 1870. This manuscript in Gurmukhi script, the only one available, was aquired by a researcher, Giani Garja Singh (1904-77), from the house of Bhatt Mohlu Ram with the help of Bhatt Man Singh of Karsindhu village, in Jind district of Haryana. It was edited by him and published by Pahjabi Sahitya Academy, Ludhiana, in 1961. According to Seva Singh, wild uses Seva Hari as his nom de plume (Singh and ban both meaning a lion), Mani Singh was the third of the twelve sons of Mai Das of `Alipur, near Multan, now in Pakistan.
Ballu Rao had borne arms and served Guru Hargobind (1595-1644). Mani Singh was born to Madhari, the first wife of Mai Das, on Sunday, Chet sudi 12,1701 Bk/7 April 1644. Mani Singh was 13 when he was taken by his father to Guru Har Rai at Kiratpur where he stayed for two years serving in the Guru ka Langar and studying gurbam, i.e. the Scriptural texts. He was married at the age of 15 to Sito, daughter of Lakkhi Rai of Khairpur. He kept company with Guru Har Rai and Guru Har Krishan and, except a short intermission, with Tegh Bahadur whom he rejoined in 1672 and was assigned to preparing copies of the Scripture and to studying as well as instructing other Sikhs in the sacred text.
He practised the martial arts under Guru Gobind Singh and took part in the battles of Bhangani and Nadaun. At the time of the initiation of the Khalsa, Mani Singh along with five of his sons received khande ki pahul or initiation by the double edged sword. Soon after this he was sent by Guru Gobind Singh to take charge of the shrines at Amritsar. He rejoined Guru Gobind Singh at Talvandi Sabo and accompanied him to the South up to Baghaur from where the Guru sent him back to Amritsar. During the time of fierce persecution which followed, the venerable Bhai Mani Singh remained unharmed. In 1733 he even obtained government`s permission to hold in Harimandar at Amritsar a fair on the occasion of`Divali festival for which a cess had to be paid.
Owing to apprehension of an attack by imperial troops, the attendance was meagre, and the stipulated amount could not be raised. Bhai Mani Singh was arrested, charged with nonpayment of the tax, and was executed in Lahore on Har sudi 5,1791 Bk/24June 1734. Giani Garja Singh, in his introduction as well as in footnotes to the text, has tried to support the poet`s account as authentic history with ample quotations from various published and unpublished works, especially from a new source, the Bhatt Vahis, or scrolls of the traditional family bards; but the account given in the Shahid Bilas has not yet received firm acceptance. Neither the original manuscript in Bhattakshri nor the original of its Gurmukhi transcript is available for verification.
In the service of the Guru
Bhai Mani Singh is said to have been brought in the early years of his childhood to the presence of Guru Tegh Bahadur at Anandpur. He was not the same age as the Guru’s own son, Gobind Rai. Mani Singh remained in his company even after he 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 in large part given to literary work.
Bhai Mani Singh took Amrit at the hands of Guru Gobind Singh Ji on the day of the creation of Khalsa. When Guru Gobind Singh Ji left Anandpur on the night of December 20, 1704, his family got separated at river Sirsa during the confusion created by the Mughal attack. Bhai Mani Singh took Mata Sundri Ji and Mata Sahib Devan to Delhi via Ambala.
In 1706, Bhai Mani Singh escorted Mata Sundri Ji the wife of Guru Gobind Singh to Talwandi Sabo where the Guru was staying. It was there that she learned of the Martyrdom of her four sons and their Grandmother. 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.
Mata Sundri Ji came to know of the trouble that was brewing between the Tat Khalsa and Bandai Khalsa military factions of the Sikhs. She appointed Bhai Mani Singh as the Granthi of Harimandir 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 and put the affairs of Harimandir Sahib in order.
The Mughal Empire
By 1737, the Mughal government of Lahore had strictly prohibited the Sikhs to visit Amritsar and bathe in the holy tank. To overcome this restriction, Bhai Mani Singh applied to Governor Zakariya Khan for permission to hold the Diwali festival at the Golden Temple. The permission was granted for a promised payment of Rs.5,000 to the Governor. Bhai Mani Singh was certain that he would be able to pay the sum out of the offerings that would be made by the Sikhs who were invited to come.
The Sikhs came in large numbers, but Zakariya Khan, under the pretext of keeping order, sent a force under Diwan Lakhpat Rae to Amritsar. It marched towards the city on the day of the festival in order to intimidate and disperse the Sikhs and the festival broke up at the approach of the Mughal army.
The Governor called Bhai Mani Singh Ji to Lahore and demanded the tax money. Bhai Mani Singh Ji said, “What for should I pay the money when the fair was not held ?” Bhai Mani Singh Ji was given two options – either to pay the tax (which they knew Bhai Mani singh Ji would not be able to) OR to convert to Islam. Bhai Mani Singh Ji refused to accept the offer. Qazi Abdul Razak ordered that Bhai Mani Singh Ji be cut joint by joint. On the 14th June, 1738 CE , he was martyred at Nakhaas Chowk by cutting joint by joint.