Guga Pir was reputedly the chief disciple of Goraknath. He is said to have later become a Muslim. He has a strong association with snakes and is sometimes worshipped as a coiled cobra with an upraised hood. Clay images depicting him can be found all over Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Gujurat.
(NB: Pir is a persian term commonly used to denote a Sufi master.)
Guga Pir is sometimes depicted on horeseback, surrounded by snakes. Freed & Freed cite the following legend:
Queen Bachchal, the wife of Raja Jewar, desirous of a son, approaches guru Goraknath to help her. Her sister Kachchal (also a wife of the Raja) disguises herself as Bachchal and visits Goraknath in order to petition him for sons. Goraknath does not realise that Kachchal is not Bachchal and promises that she will bear two sons. Kachchal and a sister of the Raja then spread gossip amongst the court that Bachchal was in the royal garden at midnight with a yogin – the implication being that she has been unfaithful to her husband. The Raja hears this gossip and banishes Queen Bachchal.
The Queen, who is now pregnant with Guga Pir, sets off to visit her natal parents in a vehicle drawn by bullocks. When they stop to water the bullocks, a snake bites them and they die. Guga speaks from his mother’s womb, and tells her how the bullocks may be restored to life by calling on the power of Goraknath and reciting an eight-fold snake charm. As a result of this miracle, Raja Jewar and Queen Bachchal are reconciled.
A later episode also illustrates Guga Pir’s power over snakes. Guga was betrothed, but the engagement is broken off due to the death of his father. Guga then goes to the forest, and petitions Goraknath to put him in touch with Basak Nag (a King of the Nagas). Basak Nag sends his servant, Tatig Nag to Guga, telling him to whatever Guga orders because of Guru Goraknath’s power over snakes. Tatig Nag disguises himself as a Brahmin and visits the home of Guga’s former fiancee. Tatig Nag reassumes his snake form and the woman faints at this sight. So Tatig Nag waits until she has gone to a lake to bathe, then enters the lake in his snake form, and bites her on the toe. The woman dies, and Guga, known for his power over snakes and snake bites, is called. Guga – using the same formula that he gave to his mother to revive the dead bullocks – revives his fiancee and the engagement is renewed.
After the wedding, the twin sons of Kachchal (Surjan & Urjan) ask for a share of Guga’s property. He refuses, so they plot to murder him whilst hunting. Guga defends himself and beheads the two, and takes the two heads back to his mother. Bachchal curses him – saying that he is no longer a Hindu – and tells him to go into the Earth to die. He petitions the Earth goddess to take him, but she tells him that to be buried, he must become a Muslim, which is what he does.
- Ghosts: Life and Death in North India, Freed & Freed, American Museum of Natural History, Anthropological Papers No.72, 1993
- The Earth Mother Pupul Jayakar, Penguin Books, 1989