Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was one of the greatest religious reformers in India and the founder of the Sikh religion. He was born in 1469 in Talwandi, a village in Sheikhupura district towards the west of Lahore, now in Pakistan and belonged to an upper-caste Hindu family. He was brought up in a Hindu and Muslim religious environment and culture. Guru Nanak’s father was an official in the local village revenue administration. In his childhood, Guru Nanak learnt Persian and Arabic along with other regional languages. He got married to Mata Sulakhni at about 19 years of age and had two sons, one born in 1491 and the other in 1496. In 1485, he started working as a storekeeper and clerk for the Muslim ruler of the area at Sultanpur, Daulat Khan Lodhi.
Here are some facts about Guru Nanak worth to get known to:
- In year 1496, Guru Nanak got enlightenment and he started on his mission. As a prophet, the first statement that he propagated stated “There is neither Hindu nor any Muslim.” This statement emphasized the brotherhood among men and also, the fatherhood of God.
- He had a very strong natural affinity towards religious and spiritual beliefs and he had a vision of God’s presence commanding him to be a prophet to carry forward and spread God’s message about “One God whose Name is True (Sat Nam), the Creator, having no fear or enmity, and who is immortal, unborn, self-existent, great and bountiful.”
- Even in childhood, Guru Nanak proved great ability as a poet and philosopher. His religious ideas were based both on Hindu and Islamic thoughts and he expressed his thoughts in outstanding poetry forming the basis of Sikh scripture: There are many beautiful stories or janam sakhis in Sikh tradition. These stories contain many incidents from Guru Nanak’s life and his important teachings.
- Guru Nanak set out on set of spiritual journeys throughout India, Tibet and Arabia, leaving behind his wife and family. His journeys continued for 30 years. He started teaching a new route to spiritual fulfillment and a good life.
- Guru Nanak was accompanied by Bhai Mardana on all of his missionary tours. He rendered help to the weak, preached against caste discrimination, idol worship and the pseudo-religious beliefs that had no spiritual content. He also fought against the religiously approved notions of untouchability and pollution. He used to dine and live with men of the lowest castes and classes ignoring the, then prevailing, ill cultural practices and traditions.
- The offerings received during the tours were distributed among the poor and the excess of it was given to maintain a common kitchen where it was easy for all to sit and eat together with no distinction of caste and status. This concept is called “Langar”. Langar is a remarkable activity in Sikhism which puts an end to the caste-system and promotes equality.
- When Guru Nanak had completed his tours, he, finally, settled as a peasant farmer at Kartarpur, in Punjab (now in Pakistan). He cultivated his land and also preached his teachings. His followers were called Nanak-Panthies or Sikhs.
- According to one famous story of Guru Nanak, during childhood, he opposed Hindu boys of his age who wore a sacred thread to distinguish themselves. Guru Nanak said people should be distinguished by the things they did or the qualities they possessed and not by a thread.
- Guru Nanak chose his successor establishing him as the future Guru or Enlightener of the new community. This proves his determination to continue, promote and develop his mission and his teachings. He named his successor as Angad (of my own body).
- Guru Nanak died on September 22, 1539 in Kartarpur at the age of seventy, shortly after choosing his successor.