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First Guru of Sikhs- Guru Nanak Dev Ji ( ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇਵ)

Guru Nanak Dev[1] (Punjabi: ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇਵ, Gurū Nānak Dēv) (Born in Nankana Sahib, Punjab, (now Pakistan) on 15th April 1469 – 7 May 1539, Kartarpur, Punjab, India), was the founder of Sikhism, and the first of the eleven Sikh Gurus.

Beside followers of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev is revered by other faiths across the Indian subcontinent.

His primary message to society was recorded to be "devotion of thought and excellence of conduct as the first of duties".

Guru Nanak profoundly influenced the history of Punjab. For Sikhs and Hindus, he was a Prophet who gave to the world the gospel of love, goodwill and reconciliation.

Birth and early life

Guru Nanak was born on 20 October 1487 in a Hindu family of the Bedi Khatri clan , in the village of Rāi Bhōi dī Talvaṇḍī, now called Nankana Sahib (after the Guru), near Lahore, Pakistan. Today, his birth place is marked by Gurdwara Janam Asthan. His father, Kalyan Das Bedi, also known as Mehta Kalu, was the patwari (accountant) of crop revenue for the village of Talwandi under the Muslim landlord of the village, Rai Bular, who was responsible for collecting taxes. Guru Nanak's mother was Tripta Devi and he had one older sister, Nanaki.


Gurdwara Nankana SahibThere are also stories of Guru Nanak's life collected in writings known as the Janamsākhīs'. The most popular Janamsākhī purports to have been written by Bhai Bala a close companion, before Nanak died. However, the writing style and language employed have left scholars such as Max Arthur Macauliffe certain that they were composed after his death.

Bhai Gurdas, the scribe of the Gurū Granth Sāhib, also wrote about Nanak's life in his vārs. However, these too were compiled after Guru Nanak's demise, and are less detailed than the Janamsākhīs. Sikhs tend to hold Gurdas's accounts in higher esteem because of the author's generally perceived trustworthiness.

The Janamsākhīs recount in minute detail all the circumstances of the birth of the guru. They claim that at his birth, an astrologer who came to write his horoscope insisted on seeing the child. On seeing the infant, he is said to have worshipped him with clasped hands. The astrologer then remarked that he regretted that he should never live to see young Guru Nanak's eminence, worshipped as he should be, not only by Sikhs, but Hindus and Muslims as well.

At the age of five years Nanak is said to have begun to discuss spiritual and divine subjects. At age seven, his father Mehta Kalu enrolled him at the village school. In his youth he became familiar with the popular creeds of muslims and hindus and gained knowledge of the koran and hindu shasters. And is stated to have been displeased with the corruptions and indifference of the learned. A manuscript in Persian mentions that his first teacher was a Muslim, though general accounts hold the teacher to be a Hindu, and Nanak astonished his teacher by asking the hidden meaning of the first letter of the alphabet, which is almost straight stroke in Persian or Arabic, resembling the mathematical version of one and denotes unity or oneness of God.] Nanak left school early after he had shown his scholastic proficiency. He then took to private study and meditation.

All the Janamsākhīs are unanimous in stating that Nanak courted the retirement of the local forest and the society of the religious men who frequented it. Several of them were profoundly versed in the Indian religious literature of the age. They had also travelled far and wide within the limits of ancient India, and met its renowned religious teachers. Nanak thus became acquainted with the latest teachings of Indian philosophers and reformers.


Marriage and family life
Nanak was married to Sulakhni. His marriage took place with her in the town of Batala. The marriage party had come from the town of Sultanpur Lodhi. He had two sons from this marriage; Sri Chand and Lakhmi Chand. The elder son was a deeply spiritual person and founded a sect known as Udasi. He is known as Baba Sri Chand in Sikhism. The term Baba refers to the respectful title given to an elder. The younger son was immersed in worldly life. Guru Nanak did not nominate either of his sons as his successor. Sri Chand lived a considerably long life.Upon the death of Sri Chand, his pagri (symbol of succession) was sent to the sixth Sikh Guru, Har Gobind. The udasis or follower of Sri Chand continued to remain in the fold of Sikhism.


Teachings of guru Nanak
The main teachings of Nanak included faith in one true God, worship and recital of his name and the necessity of Guru in pursuing the path to God. God, according to him, is immanent and transcendent. Nobody knows the limits of God. God alone knows how great he is. Nanak compares God to the beloved and says God is in the heart of every individual. Nanak had belief in a personal and merciful god. Nanak denounced the worship of idols. He put emphasis on the worship of true name.

Naam Japna: Chanting the Holy Name and thus remembering God at all times (often meditation).
Kirat Karō: Earning an honest living.
Vaṇḍ Chakkō: Sharing with others. These were some of basic teachings of Nanak
Nanak put great emphasis on the worship of True Name. Repetition of the True Name Satnam Vāhigurū was to be done with greatest devotion. To quote Nanak "The name is the God, the God of all Gods. Some propitiate durga, some shiv, some ganesh and some other Gods but the Guru's Sikhs worship the True Name and thus remove all obstacles to salvation".[15]Nanak put emphasis on the importance of Guru for the realisation of God. To quote him "Without the Guru, no one can obtain God, however long the matter be debated".[16].With the help of guru, man enjoys divine pleasure, he does not know any sorrow. Guru is the raft or the ladder of the Sikhs. Guru is found through divine grace.


Some Illustrated Teachings of Nanak
Religion consisteth not in mere words;
He who looketh on all men as equal is religious,
Religion consisteth not in wandering to tombs or places of cremation, or sitting in attitudes
of contemplation.
Religion consisteth not in wandering in foreign countries, or in being in places of
pilgrimage.
Abide pure amidst the impurities of the world;
Thus shall thou find the way to religion.
Hadst thou the eighteen Puranas with thee,
Couldst thou recite the four Vedas.
Didst thou bathe on holy days and give alms according to man's castes
Didst thou fast and perform religious ceremonies day and night,
Was thou a Qazi, a Mulla, or a Sheikh,
A jogi, a Jangam didst thou wear an ochre-coloured dress,
Or did thou perform the duties of a household--
Without knowing God, Death would bind and take all away.
Words do not the saint or sinner make,
Action alone is written in the book of fate,
What we sow that alone we take;
O Nanak, be saved or forever transmigrate.
A man may load carts of books.
He may lead men with books to take with him.
Books may be put in boats; pits may be filled with them.
A man may read books for months; he may read them for years.
He may read them for life; he may read them while he hath breath.
Nanak: only one word, God's name, would be of account.
All else would be senseless discussion of the proud.

Other beliefs and contributions

Equality of Humans:
During the time of Nanak caste based discrimination was deep rooted in Indian society. 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." (Page 6);[18] also "There is one awareness among all created beings."(Page 24)[19] and finally "One who recognizes the One Lord among all beings does not talk of ego. ||4||" (page 432).[20]He urges his followers to "conquer" their minds to these evil practices. 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 Indian society offered little status or respect to women, Nanak Dev sought to elevate the position 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).[21] In so doing he promoted the equality of women in the 15th century. Nanak Dev also condemned the ritual of Sati.
Universal message for all People The followers of Nanak were from all faiths and he addressed all without discrimination. To the Muslim he said: "And when, O Nanak, he is merciful to all beings, only then shall he be called a Muslim.||1||" (page 141";[22] to the Hindu, he said "O Nanak, without the True Name, of what use is the frontal mark of the Hindus or their sacred thread? ||1||" (page 467);[23] and to all he preached: "To take what rightfully belongs to another is like a Muslim eating pork or a Hindu eating beef." (Page 141).[24]
Upon being asked which religion, Hinduism or Islam, was the true path to God, he replied that the true way to attain God was to worship Him who is eternal and contained in the whole Universe.


Baburvani
Baburvani pronounced BaaburVaani is the name given to the hymn composed by Guru Nanak at the time of Invasion of India by the Mughal emperor Babur. The name is derived from a word in the hymn composed by Guru Nanak.

In this hymn Guru Nanak uses the metaphor of the marriage party, describing the march of Babur from his native place Khurasan to conquer the bride Hindustan (India), and calling it a party of sin and plunder.[26] There are four hymns which comprehend the issue of war and peace, of the inclination of God, and unavoidable downfall of Indian people.

Following is an illustrated portion from the hymns, addressed to Lalo a follower and devotee of Guru Nanak

" As descendeth the Lord's word to me, so do I deliver it unto you, O Lalo: (Babar) leading a wedding-array of sin hath descended from Kabul and demandeth by force the bride, O Lalo. decency and righteousness have vanished, and falsehood struts abroad, O Lalo. Gone are the days of Qazis and Brahmans, satan now conducts the nuptials, O Lalo. The Muslim women recite the Qur'an and in distress remember their God, O Lalo. Similar is the fate of Hindu women of castes high and low, O Lalo. They sing paeans of blood, O Nanak, and by blood, not saffron, ointment is made, O Lalo. In this city of corpses, Nanak proclaimeth God's praises, and uttereth this true saying: The Lord who created men and put them to their tasks watcheth them from His seclusion. True is that Lord, true His verdict, and true is the justice He dealeth. As her body's vesture is torn to shreds, India shall remember my words. In seventy-eight they come, in ninety seven shall depart; another man of destiny shall arise. Nanak pronounceth words of truth, Truth he uttereth; truth the time calls for."


Nanak And Bhakti Movement
The Bhakti movement started during the period of Delhi Sultanate The earliest known exponent of Bhakti movement was Ramanuja who flourished in the early years of 12th century. He was persecuted by the Chola King. People had become jealous of his learning and even an attempt was made on his life.[28]. There were numerous saints in the Bhakti movement such as Nimbarka, Chaitanya and Kabir. It is stated that the Bhakti movement had two objects in view. One object was the reformation of Hinduism and the other was to bring about a reconciliation between Hinduism and Islam. The advocates of the Bhakti movement succeeded to a considerable extent in uplifting the moral tone of the community and bridging the gap between Hindus and Muslims. However, the conservatism and orthodoxy of the people created barriers which could not be demolished with complete success. Old ways of thought and old superstitions and practices never died and reared up again and again with greater vitality.[29].It has been rightly pointed out that the movement represented the mood of the Hindu mind which can be described as "escapism" . Most of the Hindus during the period did not find any opening for rise in worldly life and they tried to forget themselves by putting all their faith in devotion itself.

Nanak is considered to be a part of the Bhakti movement. At the time when he was born, the concept of Sufism and Bhakti Movement was in full swing, especially in Northern India. Through Guru Nanak, the Bhakti movement in Punjab became a vehicle of social change and it was the intensity and depth of his message, fortified and consolidated by successor Gurus that served as an edifice on which the super-structure of Sikhism was built. Guru Nanak's genius lay specifically in integrating the contemporary Bhakti-Sufi tradition of spiritual quest with the socio milieu in the totality of the medieval Indian life. The essence of Nanak's religion consists in its being a force and emancipating his followers from all religious and social shackles. Guru Nanak consciously projected new goals, envisaging a socio-religious order based on the concept of universal brotherhood, social justice, and humanitarian cultural vision that would engender peaceful co-existence and mutual understanding through explicit acceptance of cultural pluralism. And herein lies the relevance of Nanak's message in the context and significance of his approach which aims at linking all aspects of human activity, including that in social and political arenas, with the concept of 'Dharma'.

Guru Nanak differed from other saints of the Bhakti movement on the concept of God and World. The policy of renunciation of the world or detachment with worldly responsibilities did not find place in his teachings. He denounced the leading of life as an ascetic and put great emphasis on hard work and earning livelihood. For him taking care of one's family and providing food and shelter for them was one of the prime duties of man before God. According to him, to find God one does not have to renounce the world, and God could be found while leading an ordinary life as a householder. Nanak saw the world as creation of one supreme power, and since the creator was in the world he created, it could not be treated as unreal.


Last years of Nanak
Spending the last fifteen years of his life in Kartarpur, the Guru would wake at dawn and recite his daily prayers. At daybreak, he would address his followers. He worked in the field and earned his livelihood. He worked in Langar; or community kitchen, where food would be partaken by Nanak's followers irrespective of their caste or creed.

As his end approached Nanak would frequently make a test, for judging the merits of his followers and sons, for nominating a successor. He was once walking with them on a road and a corpse lay on the side. He ordered all of them to eat that corpse. None, but Lehna, later Guru Angad, came forward. He removed the sheet which covered the corpse and found Nanak lying there instead.[34]There were numerous other such occasions and Lehna never faltered in his faith in Nanak. Later Nanak nominated Lehna as the next Guru saying he was himself and his spirit would dwell in him. Nanak called him Guru Angad.

On 22 September 1600, aged 69, Guru Nanak met with his demise, after he had requested his disciples to sing the Sohila (hymn in the praise of God).


Gur Nanak said

"If you are fond of playing with love of God, then come to me with your head on your palm; And once you set your foot on this path, do not hesitate if it is taken ".

The basic foundation of Sikhism is laid on the teachings of Guru Nanak. He is considered by the Sikhs to have extricated them from the accumulated errors of ages and left them erect and free, unbiased in mind and unfettered by rules, to become an increasing body of truthful worshippers. The religious movement started by Nanak continued to gather momentum under his successors. Its stern ethical tone and singularity of object were elements which distinguished it from similar movements in India. Its spirit of non-compromise carried within it possibilities of martyrdoms and the seeds of an organised community. The unsettled political conditions of the later period of the Mughal empire created situations which inevitably transformed the Sikhs into an armed military order. But although the Sikhs changed their organisation, their religion retained almost unaltered the impress of the teachings of Guru Nanak.


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