Guru Nanak Ji (1469 -1539) was considered the founder of a new religion, i.e., Sikhism, and was the first Guru of Sikhs. He was a great Indian spiritual leader who believed in harmony and meditation in the name of the divine soul. His teachings and his way of devotion to the almighty were different from others, and people of all religions respected him and his teachings.
He was the one who spread the message of humanity and mankind at a time when everyone was focusing on spreading their religion. He talked about women and their rights and equality. He was a great scholar but still used local languages to spread his message among the people while he journeyed in all four directions.
His teachings did not die with him but passed to further generations through his successor, and his teachings are now included in Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji which is a holy book of Sikhs that contains all the teachings of Sikh Gurus and other spiritual leaders as well.
Guru Nanak Ji 553rd Birth Anniversary
The birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji (Gurupurab) is celebrated on the Puranmashi of Khattak month of the desi calendar. According to this, Gurpurab 2022 falls on Tuesday, 8 November, 2022. This day marks the 553rd birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.
Guru Nanak Ji Early Life (Birth Place)
Guru Nanak Ji was born in 1469 in "Rai Bhoe Ki Talwandi" on 15th April. This place was part of India by then, but now it is known as Nankana Sahib, which is located in the territories of today's Pakistan. Guru Nanak Dev Ji's birthplace is near Lahore. Every year the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji is celebrated on full moon day in the month of Katak, i.e., October - November. It falls on different dates yearly and is celebrated by all Sikhs worldwide.
Parents and Childhood
His father's name was Mehta Kalu, who worked as a village accountant and belonged to the Khatri caste, and the name of his mother was Tripta, a very simple and religious woman. He had an elder sister, Nanki, who greatly loved his younger brother.
He was an extraordinary child from his childhood, and his teachers and elders used to be astounded by his level of knowledge, understanding, and rational thinking on all matters, especially spiritual ones.
In his growing age only, he used to question the prevailing rituals of the society and even refused to participate in such rituals and religious activities. He also questioned casteism and the practice of idolatry. Even he refused to put the sacred thread on the "Upanayana ritual".
Besides this, he was very intelligent, and by the age of 16 only, he had learned many languages such as Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi, etc.
Two Important Incidents
When his father realised that Guru Nanak was not interested in farming or related activities, he thought of giving him some money for the business transaction so that he could do something profitable.
Thus, he gave twenty rupees to him and sent Mardana with him to do some profitable transactions. As per the records, Guru Nanak saw some hungry and needy people on the way and spent the entire amount on his food and said what could be more profitable and called a genuine bargain than helping the needy. This incident is known as "Sacha Sauda" or "True Bargain".
Another incident was in Sultanpur Lodhi. His beloved sister got married to Jai Ram. She moved to Sultanpur. Guru Nanak also went with her sister and brother-in-law for some days and started working there under his brother-in-law.
In 1487, he married Mata Sulakhni and had two sons, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das. In Sultanpur, he used to visit a nearby river to bathe and meditate. One day, he went there and did not return for three days. When he returned, he looked like a man possessed, and when he spoke, he said, "There is no Hindu or Muslim". These words were considered the beginning of his teachings.
Spiritual Journeys (Udasiyan)
He took majorly four spiritual journeys in the sub-continent to spread the message of God. First, he visited his parents and told them about the importance of these journeys, and then he started travelling. In the first journey, he covered most of the parts of Pakistan and India, and this journey took almost 7 years, i.e., from 1500 AD to 1507 AD.
He covered most parts of present-day Sri Lanka in his second journey, which also took 7 years. He covered mountain regions in his third journey, such as the Himalayas, Kashmir, Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet, and Tashkent. It took place from 1514 AD to 1519 AD and took almost 5 years to complete.
He visited Mecca and other places in the Middle East on his fourth journey, and it took 3 years. In his final journey, he spread the message in Punjab for two years.
It is believed that he spent almost 24 years of his life on these journeys and travelled on foot to almost 28,000 km. Many languages were known to him, but he usually used the local languages to spread his message to the people, which became more effective during these journeys.
He taught people that we do not require any rituals and priests to reach God. He believed every human being could have that level of spiritual perfection that could lead him to God. To attain God, he asked people to repeat the name of God.
He taught people to live a life of spirituality by helping and serving others. He asked them to remain away from fraud or exploitation and live real lives. Basically, through his teachings, he founded three pillars of the new religion, i.e., Sikhism that are mentioned below:
Naam Japna: This means repeating the name of God and practising the name of God through meditation in different modes, such as singing, chanting, and reciting, along with studying God's Name and his virtues. For Sikhs, there is only one eternal creator and God, i.e., Waheguru, and we should practise his name.
Kirat Karni: This simply means to earn honestly. He expected people to live an everyday life of householders and earn honestly for living through their own physical or mental efforts, and always accept both pleasure and sufferings as gifts and blessings of God.
Vand Chakna: This simply means to share and consume together. In this, he asked people to share some of his wealth with the community. Practising Vand Chakna is an essential pillar of Sikhism where every Sikh contributes as per whatever possible in his hands with the community. Sharing and Giving are essential virtues of Sikhism founded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Contribution to Humanity
He was a respectful and beloved leader at that time among people of all faiths. Even today, people of other faiths also respect and believe in his teachings. During the period of Guru Nanak, the caste system was at its peak, and he spoke against it. He reached people against all these discriminations such as caste, creed, race, status, etc. He taught people to see mankind above all and everything.
He asked people to conquer their minds because if they can conquer their minds, they can conquer the world. Mankind is above all the ego and evil practices. All human beings are equal and have equal light of God. It was the time then when no respect and status were used to give to women.
He also spread messages related to women. He said without a woman, there is nothing and no one. Every person takes birth from a woman, is conceived in a woman, marries a woman, and several relations start and end with a woman. He said a woman should be respected in all ways because she is above all and should not be ill-treated.
He spread this message everywhere and spoke about women's rights and equality. Besides this, when everyone used to talk about his religion and wanted to spread that only, Guru Nanak was the one who focused on humanity and mankind. According to Guru Nanak Dev's history, many stories and incidents related to his contribution to society exist.
Contribution Towards Upliftment of Women in India
Guru Nanak’s teachings came to the limelight when there were conflicts between different religions. People were fighting with each other in the name of God and religion. Guru Nanak, in his preaching, said there is no Hindu or Muslim.
He said that God is one. He emphasised the equality of mankind. He was against slavery and racial distinction and said that all people are equal.
Guru Nanak dev Ji also contributed to the upliftment of women in India. He asked his followers to give respect to women and treat them equally. He preached that a man is bound to women without whom this world would not exist.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji said that one should live a life of an average householder. He taught that one can live everyday life and still achieve salvation. After the death of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, nine other gurus followed his lessons and tried to spread his teachings as far as possible.
Death (Joti Jot)
In his last days, he was living in Kartarpur, the city of Guru Nanak, established in 1522 AD. By that time, he became a very beloved and respectful spiritual leader for his contribution to humanity and his teachings to society.
Arguments were happening at that time during the funeral rites of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Who would own the body of Guru Nanak because, be it Sikhs, Hindus, or Muslims, everyone wanted to perform the funeral rituals according to them?
Then, Guru Nanak introduced the concept of "Joti Jot'' and explained it. He mentioned that only his mortal body would die, but the light within the body was not perishable and would continue to enlighten. He said this light would pass to his new successor, Guru Angad Dev Ji. Guru Nanak Dev Ji took his last breath in Kartarpur on September 22, 1539 AD.
Before that, he asked Sikhs and Hindus to place some flowers on his right side and Muslims to place flowers on his left side and asked them whichever flowers would remain fresh throughout the whole night would have permission for funeral rites.
When everyone came another morning to check Guru's body and flowers, they were astonished to find no traces of Guru Nanak's body, but all the flowers were fresh as it is. Therefore, everyone performed funeral rites according to them through those flowers. In this way, he was buried by the Muslims and cremated by the Sikhs and Hindus. A grave and a monument of remembrance were both made.
Now, a Gurdwara is there at the death place of Guru Nanak on the banks of the Ravi river in Pakistan. This site is considered a sacred place for all, especially Sikhs.
Thus, here, we have covered the whole of Guru Nanak Dev Ji's history and learned about various life stages. We get a lot of Guru Nanak's information through his life story. We get to know the place known as Guru Nanak's birthplace and date of birth. We get to know about his family and early childhood. Guru Nanak Dev Ji is the first Guru of the Sikh community. He has contributed a lot to society.
We learned about his nature of humanity and equality. How he spoke about equality since childhood and also the importance of women in society. He was a famous and respectful leader because he used to spread his message by living within the society and using the local language.
We have seen how the first-ever concept of "Langar" came with the incident of "A true bargain". All this Guru Nanak information will increase your knowledge about how a new form of religion that believes in mankind and serves the community came into existence.