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A rare Tanjore style painting from the late 19th century depicting the ten Sikh Gurus. Guru Nanak is in the centre
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Guru Nanak Dev Ji[1] (Punjabi: ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇਵ, Hindi: गुरु नानक देव, Urdu: گرونانک Guru Nānak) (15 April 1469 – 22 September 1539) is the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. Sikhs believe that all subsequent Gurus possessed Guru Nanak's divinity and religious authority.

Contents

Biography

Early life

Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born on 20 October 1469[2][3], now celebrated as Prakash Divas of Guru Nanak, into the Bedi Kshatriya family (a prominent Hindu community of Punjab),[4] in the village of Rāi Bhōi dī Talwandī, now called Nankana Sahib, near Lahore, Pakistan.[5] Today, his birthplace is marked by Gurdwara Janam Asthan. His father, Mehta Kalyan Das Bedi, popularly shortened to Mehta Kalu[6], was the patwari (accountant) of crop revenue for the village of Talwandi in the employment of a Muslim landlord of that area, Rai Bular Bhatti [7]. Guru Nanak's mother was Tripta Devi and he had one elder sister, Bebe Nanaki.

File:Nankana Sahib.JPG
Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, Pakistan

The earliest biographical sources on the life of Guru Nanak recognized today are the Janamsākhīs (life accounts) and the vārs (expounding verses) of the scribe Bhai Gurdas. The most popular Janamsākhī were allegedly written by a close companion of the Guru, Bhai Bala.[8] However, the writing style and language employed have left scholars such as Max Arthur Macauliffe certain that they were composed after his death.[9] .

Bhai Gurdas, a purported scribe of the Gurū Granth, also wrote about Guru Nanak's life in his vārs. Although these too were compiled some time after Guru Nanak's time, they are less detailed than the Janamsākhīs. The Janamsākhīs recount in minute detail the circumstances of the birth of the guru. The Janamsakhis state 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 and remarked that "I regret that I shall never live to see young Guru Nanak as an adult.”

At the age of five years Guru Nanak is said to have voiced interest in divine subjects. At age seven, his father, Mehta Kalu, enrolled him at the village school as was the custom.[10] Notable lore recounts that as a child Guru Nanak astonished his teacher by describing the implicit symbolism of the first letter of the alphabet, which is an almost straight stroke in Persian or Arabic, resembling the mathematical version of one, as denoting the unity or oneness of God[11]. Other childhood accounts refer to strange and miraculous events about Guru Nanak witnessed by Rai Bular such as a poisonous cobra being seen to shield the sleeping child's head from the harsh sunlight.

Marriage and family

Guru Nanak Dev was married to Mata Sulakhni. His marriage to her took place in the town of Batala. The marriage party had come from the town of Sultanpur Lodhi. The couple had two sons; Sri Chand and Lakhmi Chand. Sri Chand founded a renunciate/ascetic sect known as the Udasis. Later Gurus used to visit Sri Chand as a revered ascetic. The Udasis served as guardians of the historical Sikh sites until the British period. The descendants of Lakhmi Chand form a famous lineage of the Bedis.

Foundation of Sikhism and travels

Rai Bular Bhatti, the local landlord and Guru Nanak's sister Bibi Nanaki were the first people who recognised divine qualities in Guru Nanak. They encouraged and supported Guru Nanak to study and travel. Sikh tradition states that around c. 1499, at the age of thirty, Guru Nanak went missing and was presumed to have drowned after going for one of his morning baths to a local stream called the Kali Bein. One day, he declared: "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim" (in Punjabi, "nā kōi hindū nā kōi musalmān").[12][13] It was from this moment that Guru Nanak would begin to spread the teachings of what was then the beginning of Sikhism.

Although the exact account of his itinerary is disputed, he is widely acknowledged to have made four major journeys, spanning thousands of kilometres, the first tour being east towards Bengal and Assam, the second south towards Tamil Nadu, the third north towards Kashmir, Ladakh, and Tibet, and the final tour west towards Baghdad, Mecca and Medina on the Arabian Peninsula.[14].At Mecca, Guru Nanak was found sleeping with his feet towards the Kaaba[15] Kazi Rukan-ud-din, who observed this, angrily objected. Guru Nanak replied with a request to turn his feet in a direction in which God or the House of God is not. The Qadi understood the meaning of what the Guru was saying "God is everywhere".[16] The Qadi was struck with wonder. He then recognised the glory of Guru Nanak[17].

Last years

As the end approached Guru Nanak would frequently test the devotion of his sons and nearest followers and in doing so demonstrate their state of mind to one another. There were numerous such occasions and one particular devotee, Baba Lehna, rose to eminence because he never faltered in his faith in Guru Nanak.

Guru Nanak appointed Baba Lehna as the successor Guru, renaming him as Guru Angad Dev, meaning 'one's very own' or 'part of you'. Shortly after proclaiming Baba Lehna as the next Guru, Nanak died on 22 September 1539 in Kartarpur, Punjab (now Pakistan) at the age of 70[18].

Teachings

Guru Nanak's teachings can be found in the Sikh scripture Guru Granth, a vast collection of revelatory verses recorded in Gurmukhi.

From these some common principles seem discernible. Firstly a supreme Godhead who although incomprehensible, manifests in all major religions, the Singular 'Doer' and formless. It is described as the indestructible (without death) form.

Guru Nanak describes the dangers of the Egotism (haumai- 'I am') and calls upon devotees to engage in worship through the word of God (Naam — It implies God, the Reality, mystical word or formula to recite or meditate upon (shabad in Gurbani), divine order (hukam) and at places divine teacher (guru) and guru's instructions)[19] and singing of God's qualities, discarding doubt in the process. However such worship must be selfless (sewa). The word of God, cleanses the individual to make such worship possible. This is related to the revelation that God is the Doer and without God there is no other. Guru Nanak warned against hypocrisy and falsehood saying that these are pervasive in humanity and that religious actions can also be in vain. It may also be said that ascetic practices are disfavoured by Guru Nanak who suggests remaining inwardly detached whilst living as a householder.

Through popular tradition, Guru Nanak's teaching is understood to be practiced in three ways:

  • Naam Japna: Chanting the Holy Name and thus remembering God at all times (ceaseless devotion to God)
  • Kirat Karō: Earning/making a living honestly, without exploitation or fraud
  • Vaṇḍ Chakkō: Sharing with others, helping those with less who are in need

Guru Nanak put the greatest emphasis on the worship of the Word of God (Naam Japna) [20]. One should follow the direction of awakened individuals (Gurmukh or God willed) rather than the mind (state of Manmukh- being led by Self will)- the latter being perilous and leading only to frustration.

Reforms that occurred in the wake of Guru Nanak's teachings included: devotion being open to all castes; women not to be marginalized from its institutions; and both Godhead and Devotion transcending any religious consideration or divide; as God is not separate from any individual.

Baburbani

Baburbani (Hymns about Babar) - pronounced BaaburBaani — are verses in a hymn composed by Guru Nanak (which are part of the Guru Granth Sahib) that refer to Babar's invasion of India, an event that occurred during Guru Nanak's lifetime.[21] The notable aspect of these verses is that we do not usually find such elaborate descriptions to outside events in bhakti verses of many bhagats, despite this being such a tumultuous time in Indian history.In this hymn Guru Nanak uses the metaphor of a marriage party in describing the invasion of Babur. The ironic use of terms associated with marriage customs seems to be a subversion of the populist and widespread archetype of 'the beloved' that preoccupied Northern Indian religious and artistic thought at the time.

" 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 (India), 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, kumkum 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." [22]

Guru Nanak puts the event up to the prospect of a merciful yet all-powerful God, describing powerfully yet with muted economy the state of events and how this related to questions of suffering and oppression, and the transcience of life.

See also

Sikhism portal

References

  1. Guru Nanak may be referred to by many other names and titles such as Baba Nanak or Nanak Shah.
  2. "The Sikhism Home Page: Guru Nanak Dev". Sikhs.org. http://sikhs.org/guru1.htm. 
  3. There are contradicting opinions on whether he was born on 16 April or 20 October, 1469. Some are of the opinion that 20 October is his enlightenment day rather than his birthday
  4. Macauliffe, Max Arthur (2004) [1909]. The Sikh Religion — Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications. pp. 1. ISBN 81-86142-31-2. "The third day of the light-half of the month of Baisakh (April-May) in the year AD 1469, but, some historians believe that the Guru was born on 15 April 1469 A.D." . Generally thought to be the third day of Baisakh (or Vaisakh) of Vikram Samvat 1526.
  5. Singh, Khushwant (2006). The Illustrated History of the Sikhs. India: Oxford University Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-19-567747-1.  Also, according to the Purātan Janamsākhī (the birth stories of Guru Nanak).
  6. "Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, First Sikh Guru, First Guru Of Sikhs, Sahib Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, India". Sgpc.net. http://www.sgpc.net/gurus/gurunanak.asp. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  7. "The Bhatti's of Guru Nanak's Order". Nankana.com. http://nankana.com/AboutRaiBular1.html. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  8. Early Gursikhs: Bhai Bala Ji | Gateway to Sikhism-Gateway to Sikhism
  9. Macauliffe, Max Arthur (2004) [1909]. The Sikh Religion — Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications. lxxix. ISBN 81-86142-31-2. 
  10. Macauliffe, Max Arthur (2004) [1909]. The Sikh Religion — Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications. pp. 2. ISBN 81-86142-31-2. 
  11. Cunningham, Joseph Davey (1853). A History Of The Sikhs. London: John Murray. pp. 37–38. 
  12. srigranth.org
  13. Shackle, Christopher; Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh (2005). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. United Kingdom: Routledge. xiii–xiv. ISBN 0-415-26604-1. 
  14. Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer (2008). Sikh Twareekh. Belgium & India: The Sikh University Press. 
  15. Guru Nanak: A Global Vision — Dr Inderpal Singh and Madan jit Kaur
  16. Guru Nanak: A Global Vision — Dr Inderpal Singh and Madan jit Kaur
  17. Guru Nanak: A Global Vision — Dr Inderpal Singh and Madan jit Kaur
  18. "The Sikhism Home Page: Guru Nanak Dev". Sikhs.org. http://www.sikhs.org/guru1.htm. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  19. http://www.sikhs.org/art2.htm
  20. http://www.sikhs.org/art2.htm
  21. [1] Baburvani on Gurudwara.net
  22. www.srigranth.org

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