Guru Nanak (Saturday 15 April 1469 – Monday 22 September, 1539), the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten Gurus of the Sikhs, was born in the village of Talwandi.
Also called Rai Bhoe-ki Talwandi, the village now known as Nankana Sahib, is near Lahore in present-day Pakistan. He was born, according to many ancient Sikh records, in the early morning of the third day of the light half of the month of Baisakh (April – May) in the year 1469, which is believed to be Saturday 15 April 1469; while other chronicles state the date of birth as October 20 1469. The Sikhs now celebrate this auspicious event each year on the Pooranmashi (full moon day) in the lunar month of Kartik (October-November), which falls on different dates every year. In the year 2015, it is 25th November,
Before Guru Nanak departed for his heavenly abode in 1539, his name had travelled not only throughout India’s north, south, east and west, but also far beyond into Arabia, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Afghanistan, Turkey, Burma and Tibet; new records now show even as far as Europe ans in particular Italy!
The name “Nanak” was used by all subsequent Gurus while penning down their own spiritual revelations, registered now in the Sikh holy scripture called theGuru Granth Sahib. So the second Sikh Guru, Guru Angad is also called the “Second Nanak” or “Nanak II”. It is believed by the Sikhs that all subsequent Gurus carried the same message as that of Guru Nanak and so they have used the name “Nanak” in their holy text instead of their own name and hence are all understood to carry the divine “Light of Nanak.”
Guru Nanak is also called Satguru Nanak, Baba Nanak, Nanak Shah Faqir, Bhagat Nanak, Nanak Kalandar etc. by people from different religions and Cults.
It was a dark and moonless night; the clouds were heavy with rain as it was the monsoon season. Suddenly lightning flashed and thunder sounded as a few raindrops started to fall. The village was asleep. Only Nanak was awake and the echo of his song filled the air.
Nanak’s mother was worried because it was pitch dark and day break was far away. The lamp in his room was burning. She could hear his melodious voice as he sang, restraining herself no longer she knocked at his door. “Go to sleep, my son, the sun is a long way ahead.” Nanak became silent. From the darkness sounded the call of the sparrow-hawk. “Piyu, piyu, piyu!” it called.
“Listen, mother!” Nanak called out. “The sparrow-hawk is calling to his beloved; how can I be silent, because I am competing with it? I will call my beloved before he calls his – even for longer because his beloved is nearby, perhaps in the next tree! My beloved is so far away. I will have to sing for lives upon lives before my voice reaches Him.” Nanak resumed his song.
Guru Nanak’s path was, is and will ever remain decorated with endless rows of true flowers; he realised God by singing virtues of God and following a life of true deeds. Guru Nanak did not practise normal Hindu austerities, meditation or yoga; he only sang in the beautiful poetic forms of the time. Singing, often extemporaneously, with all his heart and soul, so much so that his singing became his meditation, his purification and his yugam (yoking ones self to the almighty, to Satguru. This was Nanak’s path; decorated with true flowers of song, songs of glory and praise of the Almighty Lord.
Whatever he has said was said in verse straight from GOD. His blissful and mesmerizing songs are not those of an ordinary singer; they have sprung from within one who has known. There is the ring of truth, the reflection of God within them. It is these songs, songs of love and expressions of truthfulness and worship, along with the songs of Guru Nanak’s nine successors, that form the eternal Guru of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib.
His father was Kalayan Das Mehta, also known as Mehta Kalu, and his mother was Mata Tripta. They belonged to the Vedic Kshatriya caste. His father was the local patwari (accountant) for crop revenue in the village of Talwandi.Guru ji had an older sister calledBebey Nanki, who was the first to recognize Nanak as an enlightened Soul.
Guru Nanak from an early age evidenced a questioning and inquiring mind. He soon mastered the Vedas and Sanskrit and was enrolled into a Madrassa to study Persian and Arabic languages. Picking up both languages quickly, he surprised his teacher by composing an acrostic on the Persian language.
When it was time for Nanak to be invested with the twice born thread the “sacred” thread, called the Janeu, he refused to take part in the ritual. When the priest continued to insist that the young Nanak done the string he went into a trance and sang:
Let mercy be the cotton, contentment the thread,
Continence the knot and truth the twist.
Oh priest! if you have such a thread,
Do give it to me.
It will not wear out, nor get soiled, nor be burnt, nor lost.
Says Nanak, blessed are those who go about wearing such a thread.
Guru Nanak’s Life at Sultanpur
Nanak married Sulkhni of Batala, and they had two sons, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das. Guru ji’s brother-in-law, the husband of his sister Nanki, obtained a job for him in Sultanpur as the manager of the government’s grainary. One morning, when he was twenty-eight, he went as usual down to the river to bathe and meditate. It was said that he was gone for three days. When he reappeared, filled with the spirit of God, it was apparent to all that he was a changed man. He would say nothing, he quit his job and distributed all that he had to the poor. Accompanied by his childhood friend, a Muslim named Mardana who had always played the Rebab while Nanak sang, they left town. When, after a few days, he spoke saying “There is no Hindu, no Musalman.” It was then that Guru Nanak began his missionary work and travels.
As a householder, Guru ji continued to carry out the mission of his life – to lead people on the true path to God, to dispel superstition, to bring people out of ritualistic practises, to lead them directly to follow Gurbani without the need for priests and clergy, and to restrain and guard against the five thieves within – Pride, Anger, Greed, Attachment and Lust.
Guru Nanak founded and formalised the three pillars of Sikhism:
- Naam Japna Guru ji led the Sikhs directly to practiseSimran and Naam Japna – meditation on God through reciting, chanting, singing and constant remembrance followed by deep study & comprehension of God’s Name and virtues. In real life to practice and tread on the path of Dharam (righteousness) – The inner thought of the Sikh thus stays constantly immersed in praises and appreciation of the Creator and the ONE ETERNAL GOD Waheguru.
- Kirat KarniHe expected the Sikhs to live as honourable householders and practise Kirat Karni – To honestly earn by ones physical and mental effort while accepting both pains and pleasures as GOD’s gifts and blessings. One is to stay truthful at all times and, fear none but the Eternal Super Soul. Live a life founded on decency immersed in Dharam – life controlled by high spiritual, moral and social values.
- Vand Chakna. The Sikhs were asked to share their wealth within the community by practisingVand Chakna – “Share and Consume together”. The community or Sadh Sangat is an important part of Sikhism. One must be part of a community that is living the flawless objective values set out by the Sikh Gurus and every Sikh has to contribute in whatever way possible to the common community pool. This spirit of Sharing and Giving is an important message from Guru Nanak.
Contributions to humanity
During his his time on Earth Guru Nanak was revered by both Hindus and Muslims and even today many, outside of the Sikh faith, revere him. It is related that as he lay dying, his followers some formerly Hindu and others formerly Muslims argued whether his body should be cremated as Hindu tradition dictated or buried as in Islamic tradition. It is said that when they removed the sheet which had covered the Guru they found only beautiful flowers. The Hindus burned theirs, the Muslims buried theirs.
Guru Nanak with Mardana (left) and Bala Coloured woodcut, Amritsar or Lahore, about 1875
Following are highlighted contribution of Guru Nanak:
Equality of humans
When in the middle east, the west and the rest of asia slavery, varna/class and race discrimination was rife and respect between the different classes and caste was at a peak, Guru Nanak preached against discrimination and prejudices due to race, caste, status, etc. He said: “See the brotherhood of all mankind as the highest order of Yogis; conquer your own mind, and conquer the world.” (SGGS page 6); also “There is one awareness among all created beings.” (page 24) and finally “One who recognizes the One Lord among all beings does not talk of ego. ||4||” (page 432). He urges all the peoples of the world to “conquer” their minds to these evil practises. All human beings had the light of the Lord and were the same — only by subduing one’s pride and ego could one see this light in all.
Equality of women
In about 1499 when the world offered low to no status or respect to women, Guru Nanak sought to improve the respect of women by spreading this message: “From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all. O Nanak, only the True Lord is without a woman.” (page 473). In so doing, he promoted women’s rights and equality — a first for the 15th century.
At last I can wish you all a very happy gurunanak jayanti.