Harking back: Enduring mystery of Chujju Bhagat’s disappearance

By Majid Sheikh

Dawn Dec 11, 2016

One of the enduring mysteries of Lahore is the one that surrounds a ‘bhagat’ who lived in the times of Mian Mir and Guru Arjan Dev. Legend has it that once he went into a long period of meditation and just simply disappeared … never to be seen again.

In these columns almost five years ago I dwelt on the man, though sparingly. But then I heard the rumour that his famous ‘chobara’ had been knocked down. Thankfully it was a confusion caused by a building next door, a former ‘heritage’ building originally meant for disciples that had met a sad end. In this piece we will add to what we already know and try to find out who this man was. Where did he come from? What did he do in his lifetime? What happened to him in the end? These and many other questions come to mind.

Chujju Bhagat was a mystic of sorts, a ‘bhagat’ much respected by both Hazrat Mian Mir and Guru Arjan Dev who spent most of his time meditating alone in his room which continues to be called ‘Chujju da Chobara’. A famous saying in Lahore is attributed to him, which goes: ‘Jo sukh Chujju day chobaray, oh na Balkh na Bokharay’ (the peace of mind found in the ‘chobara’ of Chujju, is not even found in Balkh or Bokhara). Who was this man?

But first it seems sensible to visit the place where he dwelt, and where as legend goes this mystic meditated and when a disciple dared to knock on the door on the third day there was no reply. People finally broke open the locked door to find it empty. Chujju Bhagat was never seen again. This has added to the mystery of the man who was loved by Mian Mir and Guru Arjan, for both recognised him as a mystic with special powers and a holy man of immense stature.


First the location of the ‘mandir’ of Chujju Bhagat. I had heard stories of the place being knocked down. But then it was best to investigate deeply, for this is a very serious breach of the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1907, which was amended three times, the last in 1975 and still further amended in 1990. In short any monument built before 1975 comes under its preview, not that anyone cares for such legal, let alone heritage, niceties.

If you walk from Nila Gumbad Chowk towards the back gate (now locked) of Mayo Hospital on the right is the wall of King Edward Medical College (now a ‘university’) and on the left are shops of Anarkali Bazaar. At the locked gate you turn left along Dhani Ram Road. On the right as the hospital wall ends is a narrow lane taking you to the Shams Shahabuddin Convalescent Home of Mayo Hospital. In the middle of this ‘home’ is a single-domed structure.

This is the one-room ‘chobara’ of Chujju Bhagat, from where he disappeared in 1640 AD, as local legend goes, to meet his maker. The true answer will never be known, for that is the beauty of the legend. The ‘chobara’ from where Chujju Bhagat disappeared into thin air is now set in the Shams Shahabuddin Convalescent Home which has corridors of wards on three sides.

The real name of Chujju Bhagat was Chujju Bhatia, a Rajput who dwelled in the Lohari Gate area. His exact house is not known, but what is known is that he was a jewel and gold trader of Suha Bazaar who lent and kept money. His honesty was legendary and people used to keep their gold and savings with him. Once, as Sikh heritage texts tell us, a Pathan who had kept his savings with him came to reclaim it. Chujju did not recall keeping his money. He checked his books and searched his office and store but could not find any reference of the money claimed. The Pathan moved the court of the ‘subedar’ of Lahore, the famous Wazir Khan, who dismissed the claim for having no evidence.

After some time Chujju found the money in his store. He immediately rushed to the Pathan after adding another one hundred gold ‘mohars’ as compensation. The Pathan refused to accept it as he had lost his case. Chujju sought the arbitration of Guru Arjan to return the money. The Pathan said: “I have forsaken the lost money to Allah”. On this the guru suggested that it be used to dig a well for the poor. The Pathan and Chujju both agreed. So it was that the well was dug by Guru Arjan himself and was located in a ‘haveli’ just south of Dabbi Bazaar and north of Kasaira Bazaar, though the entrance is from the Suha Bazaar side.

In Lahore’s local legend this well was known as possessing water with magical properties, with the ‘hakeems’ of the city using it for treating serious ailments. Maharajah Ranjit Singh always drank water from this well, and also visited the ‘chobara’ of Chujju Bhagat every Monday. It is said that Guru Arjan said to Chujju that he had the heart of a ‘bhagat’, and so we see that Chujju abandoned his wealth and restricted himself to his single-storey room in self-meditation.

This room came to be known as ‘Chujju da chobara’. He believed in opposing all forms of ‘varna’, which in Sanskrit means ‘colour’ and ‘caste’. He would walk the streets of Lahore telling people that the original Veda did not have any castes, and that castes were the result of there being rich and poor people. In a way he was a Mughal-era opponent of ‘income disparity’.

It was in the reign of Aurangzeb that the single-room ‘chobara’ was converted into a ‘mandir’ thanks to Bawa Pritam Das, a Hindu ‘Udasi Panth’ of Pakpattan who worked in Lahore as a ‘mahant’. In the reign of Maharajah Ranjit Singh (1799-1839) the ‘chobara’ received a lot of official attention and every Monday and Thursday huge crowds would gather to pray. Soon a complex developed to look after devotees. According to S.M. Latif, a water well was dug at this place. No trace of that well can be seen now, as neither can any of the old buildings. It is a miracle that because of the convalescent home this single-room structure has been saved. Mention must also be made of a well-known Lahore entrepreneur who financed restoration of the room.

Of the hundreds of miracles attributed to Chujju Bhagat the one that S.M. Latif, as well as other accounts mention, is when a very poor old Hindu woman came to him and started crying about her inability to go to bathe in the Ganges. Chujju allegedly picked up a small pitcher and soon water from the Ganga flowed endlessly on her. One bizarre account says water flooded the street outside his ‘chobara’. Another miracle tells us of a middle-aged Muslim couple who could not have children. He, allegedly, told them to stop lying and cheating and you will have a child. Within a month the woman was pregnant. Legend has it that they had a girl, and Chujju Bhagat told them that only the lucky have daughters. And so the stories go on and on.

When the British took over Lahore this place was “in a state of decay”. Rudyard Kipling mentions “Chujju Bhagat’s chobara” as a spotless place surrounded by decaying structures. “This is a place where one goes to seek solace and peace.” Today the surrounding area is a picture of chaos, while the ‘chobara’ presents a picture of harmony.


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