Bhai Kanhaiya (1648-1718), was a Sikh of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji and was requested to establish the Sevapanthi or Addanshahi order of the Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Bhai Kanhaiya was born in a Dhamman Khatri family of Sodhara near Wazirabad in Sialkot district, which is now in Pakistan. His father was a wealthy trader, but Bhai Kanhaiya Ji left home when still very young and roamed about with saddhus and ascetics in search of spiritual peace.
As a young man he spent a lot of time in the company of Nanua Bairagi, who was a disciple and comrade of the last three Sikh gurus. Nanua Bairagi was a renonwed poet-mystic of Punjab and he left a deep mark on Bhai Kanhaiya Ji spiritual and humanitarian outlook in his formative years.
His quest for spiritual peace ended when he met Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji(1621-75) and accepted initiation at the hands of the Guru. Bhai Kanhaiya Ji established a dharamsdhal at Kavha village in the present Attock district of Pakistan and turned it into a preaching centre. His amazing mission was selfless service of humanity with no distinction of nationality, caste or creed. In 1704-5, he was on a visit to Anandpur when the city was invaded by a combination of hill troops and the imperial Mughal army.
During the frequent skirmishes between the Sikhs and the enemy, Bhai Kanhaiya Ji was often seen carrying a mashak (a pouch made of goat’s skin in which he carried water from one place to another), to serve water to anyone who was thirsty. He took upon the task of quenching the thirst of the wounded soldiers in the battle of Anandpur Sahib in 1704. He did this sewa with love and affection without any discrimination between the Guru’s Sikh soldiers and the Mughal soldiers. His act of compassion resulted in criticism from his fellow Sikhs, who complained to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, pointing out that Bhai Kanhaiya Ji was serving water to the wounded enemy soldier’s. They were even more annoyed because the Mughals had surrounded the city and stopped all their food supplies, and Bhai Kanhaiya Ji was sharing the little water they had with the Mughals. They had tried to stop him many times, but this did not stop him. Guru Gobind Singh Ji summoned Bhai Kanhaiya Ji and explained that he had received a complaint about his actions on the battlefield.
Guruji said, “These brave Sikhs are saying that you go and feed water to the enemy and they recover to fight them again” – Is this true?”
Bhai Kanhaiya Ji replied “Yes, my Guru, what they say is true. But Maharaj, I saw no Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. And, … Guru Ji, .. they all have the same God’s Spirit? – Guru Ji, have you not taught us to treat all God’s people as the same?”
The Guru was very pleased with the reply. Bhai Kanhaiya Ji had understood the deep message of Gurbani correctly. Guru ji smiled and blessed Bhai Kanhaiya Ji. Guru Ji said, “Bhai Kanhaiya Ji, You are right. You have understood the true message of Gurbani”. He then continued and told the Sikhs that Bhai Kanhaiya had understood the deeper message of the Gurus’ teachings correctly and that they all have to strive to learn lessons from the priceless words of Gurbani.