New York-born Vikramaditya Bedi, a 16th generation descendant of Guru Nanak, has no beard or turban. His great grandfather Baba Shib Dayal Bedi, he told The Week, had relaxed these rules as he believed that the five Ks were only meant for a time of war. Not many people, he laments, realise how advanced Guru Nanak’s thinking was and how he had tried to create a more tolerant world.
An only child and a business consultant, his father Dina Nath Bedi was a professor of computer science in New York in the 1980s, he informed. His father had grown up in the ancestral home in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh but went to the United States for higher studies in 1957.
One of the two sons of Guru Nanak, Sri Chand, was an ascetic and never married. So the descendants of the Guru trace their lineage through the other son, Baba Lakhmi Chand. World over, there are said to be one lakh ‘Bedis’ who trace their roots to Guru Nanak. The descendants prefix ‘Baba’ to their name to indicate their lineage. While every descendant grows up with a family tree and documents to establish the lineage, they keep a low profile and have kept away from politics, even Akali politics.
In Saharanpur, the ancestral home of the Bedis is situated on a lane known as ‘Bedi Gali’. Harcharan Singh Bedi is surprised when this correspondent reached out to him. "How did you know about our lineage? We don’t talk about it," he exclaimed. The family is planning to visit Kartarpur this month, he says, before calling over a brother of his, Charanjit Singh.
His mother Amarjit Kaur recalls that her husband Jagjit Singh Bedi was the 17th descendant of Guru Nanak. While the family has kept it a secret, a small section of the Sikhs, who know of the lineage, continue to bring young children to receive blessings from the elders.
The family moved to Saharanpur after Partition from Noor Miyani village in Pakistan. Charanjit Singh, a trader like Harcharan Singh Bedi, recalls that their great grandfather Baba Vikram Singh Ji was the 14th descendant of the Guru. A section of the family settled in Patiala while another section moved to Una in Himachal Pradesh. One of the three brothers of Narendra Singh Bedi moved to the United States.
Youngsters in the family, they confide, are not as enthused about their lineage. Nor do they care much for pilgrimages. Harcharan Singh’s daughter, he confides, is working in Chennai and the son in Delhi while Charanjit Singh’s son is studying in Canada.
The two brothers point out that Guru Nanak himself would have visited Saharanpur on his way to Hardwar. They recall the legend that when the Guru saw the Pandas at Hardwar offering water to their ancestors while facing the Sun, Guru Nanak faced the opposite direction and began pouring water. The amused Pandas asked what he was up to. The Guru explained that his farm was starved of water and hence he was offering water to his land.
When the Pandas ridiculed him, the Guru is said to have retorted, “If my fields which are just 400 miles away, cannot receive this water, how can your ancestors receive it when they are presumably much farther away?”