Bebe Nanaki was the elder sister of Guru Nanak and has a special place in Sikh history where she is revered as one of the most important figures of Sikhism. Not only was she the elder sister of Guru Nanak dev ji (the founder and first Guru of Sikhism) but she was also his first disciple. It was Bebe Nanaki, who first noticed that her younger brother was no ordinary man and had a philosophical and spiritual inclination. Bebe Nanki was born in 1464 to Mata Tripta and Mehta Kalu who lived at Talwandi (now called Nankana Sahib in Pakistan). She was bought up in a lovely atmosphere in the house of her father who was a well to do revenue officer in the village. Her sharp features, round mouth, cheerful face and most importantly her sweet tongue made her popular with everybody she came in contact with.
At the age of eleven in 1475, Bebe Nanki was married to Bhai Jai Ram, a revenue officer at Sultanpur under Nawab Dault Khan Lodhi. Early marriage was the custom then. Five years after her marriage, when she started living with her husband, Nanak felt her separation. He did not take interest in worldly affairs and remained busy in meditation. Bebe Nanki was also longing for the company of her brother, Nanak. She asked her husband to find some job for Nanak at Sultanpur so that she could enjoy his company again. Consequently, Bhai Jai Ram got Nanak employed as storekeeper under the Nawab of Sultanpur in 1485. She took her role as an older sister very seriously and helped Nanak whenever possible.
It is important to remember Bebe Nanaki’s role in spreading Sikhi. She removed many obstacles which hindered Guru Nanak from preaching his message. When Guru Nanak planned to start his missionary work to spread his teachings around the world, Bebe Nanaki assured him that she would look after his family in his absence. Nanak was going to spread his devotion to God in musical notes which was inspired by Bebe Nanaki. She recognised Nanak’s musical talent and persuaded Bhai Mardana to accompany him. She also bought him a Rubab (musical instrument with strings). This tradition of recitation of hymns with the help of musical instruments played a substantial role in preaching the faith through time and is still prevalent today.
Bebe Nanaki was selfless and concerned for all around her. She was a good daughter, a good sister and wife she was also a good neighbour and helped her fellow villagers however she could. On her instruction a well was constructed in Sultanpur and trees were planted which to this day provide shade to the people there. Bebe Nanaki lived in Sultanpur for about forty years and breathed her last in presence of her brother while Guru’s sacred hymn, Japji Sahib, was being recited to her. Bebe Nanaki had unconditional love for Nanak. For her, Nanak was not only her brother (Veer) but also her Guru (Peer).