Guru Nanak Dev (the First Nanak, the founder of Sikhism) was born on 15th April, 1469 at Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi in the present district of Shekhupura (Pakistan). This place is now called Nanakana Sahib. According to NanakShahi Calendar, which was introduced in 2003 with the approval of SGPC, the birth date of Guru Nanak was April 1, 1469. Some other chronicles however state that Guru Nanak was born in October or in November of 1469 where this change in date is due to the Lunar System of Calendar used in India.
Guru Nanak's father was Mehta Kalyan Das. He was more popularly known as Mehta Kalu. He was the Chief Accountant of Rai Bular and looked after the land registry of Rai Bular. Guru Nanak's mother was Mata Tripta. She was a very simple, pious and extremely religious woman. Nanak had an elder sister, Nanki who was also very religious. She was also called Bebe Nanki. She was the first one in the family to recognize that Nanak is a very special person who is gifted spiritually and intellectually. She always loved the company of her younger brother. She was married to Jai Ram of Sultan Pur Lodhi.
Nanak was an extra-ordinary and a unique child in many ways. God provided him with a brilliant and contemplative mind and rational thinking. Father Mehta Kalyan Das made special arrangements for good education of Nanak. As a result of this arrangement, at the age of seven, Nanak learnt Hindi, Sanskrit and Punjabi. He surprised his teachers with the sublimity of his extra-ordinary knowledge about divine things. At the age of thirteen, he learned Persian and had good command on Sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi and Persian languages. He studied Scriptures and other literatrature of many faiths that existed in India at that time, such as Hindus, Muslims, Yogis, Sidhas, Sraverhaas, etc. By the age of 16, he was the most learned young man in the region.
At the age of 16, he was engaged to Bibi Sulakhni ji, on April 5, 1485. This was arranged by Jai Ram, husband of Bebe Nanki. He was then married to Bibi Sulakhni ji on May 21, 1487. Though his marriage was arranged, Guru Nanak did not agree to be married according to Hindu traditions. His in-laws were not pleased by breaking away from the Hindu traditions of marriage and were under great pressure of the social group around them.
Bibi Sulakhni ji and Guru Nanak had two sons: Sri Chand born in August, 1494 and Lakhmi Chand, born in March, 1497. Both his sons did not follow the divine path of life of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
In November 1504, Guru Nanak's elder sister Bebe Nanaki took him to Sultanpur Lodhi. In those days, Muslims from Afghanistan were ruling in India. Their official language was Persian. People who had the working knowledge of Persian language could get jobs in administrative and management areas of their organizations. Since Nanak had a very good knowledge of Persian language, Bebe Nanaki's husband Jai Ram, got him the job of a storekeeper in the Modikhana, a Food Storage and distribution centre, of the local Nawab, Daulat Khan Lodhi. Here, he worked very Conscientiously. Considering everyone equal, he respected everyone and helped the poor out of his wages. Guru Nanak also learned all aspects of the administration of the ruling government. He was always in tune with God. In his spare time, he would always be in communion with God.
Bebe Nanaki did not have any child of her own and loved the sons of Guru Nanak Dev very much. She looked after them along with their parents, Mata Sulakhni Ji and Guru Nanak Dev Ji. When Guru Nanak was of age 38, his sons were of age 13 and 10.
At the age of 38, Guru Nanak Dev Ji gave some serious thought about his purpose in life. He realized that his major obligations towards his wife and children are mostly complete. Thereafter, one day in August 1507, Guru Nanak decided to dedicate himself to the service of humanity.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji appeared on the stage at a time when ordinary people of India were under tremendous pressure from the priestly class of both, the Hindus as well the Muslims, when the Hindus Priestly class was mistreating the people and was robbing people of everything they owned and when the tyranical rule of the Muslims was coercing the non-muslims for converting them to Islam, when the Beaucracy was ……
Guru Nanak Dev Ji:
was sent to this world of woe by the Almighty when the Bounteous Lord heard the anguished cry (Bhai Gurdas) "ਸੁਣੀ ਪੁਕਾਰ ਦਾਤਾਰ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਗੁਰ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਗ ਮਾਹਿੰ ਪਠਾਯਾ॥ (1-23-1)."
ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ 1 ॥ ਕਲਿ ਕਾਤੀ ਰਾਜੇ ਕਾਸਾਈ ਧਰਮੁ ਪੰਖ ਕਰਿ ਉਡਰਿਆ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਅਮਾਵਸ ਸਚੁ ਚੰਦ੍ਰਮਾ ਦੀਸੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਹ ਚੜਿਆ ॥ ਹਉ ਭਾਲਿ ਵਿਕੁੰਨੀ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਆਧੇਰੈ ਰਾਹੁ ਨ ਕੋਈ ॥ ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਰਿ ਦੁਖੁ ਰੋਈ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਿਨਿ ਬਿਧਿ ਗਤਿ ਹੋਈ ॥1॥ (ਪੰਨਾ 145)
At this time, he made a declaration that " There is no Hindu, no Musalman". What we conclude or understand from this declaration was that there is no such distinction or division as Hindu or Musalman in the house of the Almighty. God recognizes all humans as equal. By this utterance, Guru Nanak declared brotherhood of mankind and oneness of God.
He decided to undertake travels for awakening the people to realize the truth about God.
Guru Nanak and Mardana were good friends from childhood. Guru Nanak, out of respect for Mardana, always addressed him as Bhai Mardana, where Bhai means brother. Bhai Mardana was a few years older than Guru Nanak Dev Ji. On all his tours, Guru Nanak took Bhai Mardana along with him. Mardana always loved to play on his Rebab, a musical instrument. Guru Nanak Dev Ji asked Mardana to bring along with him his Rebab.
After visiting different places in Punjab, he decided to proceed on four long tours covering different religious places in India and abroad. These tours are called four Yaatras or Chaar Udasis of Guru Nanak Sahib.
His real aim was to introduce and preach his unique and divine doctrines of love, equality of all humans and brotherhood of mankind, truthfulness in life, honesty and hard work to earn livelihood, sharing one's earnings with others as part of social responsibility, remembering on the attributes of God while living a house-holder's life, etc. Later on, these preachings began to be recognized as Sikhism.
During the four journeys, Guru Nanak visited different religious places and met the high priests for preaching his doctrines. He went to Kurukshetra, Haridwar, Joshi Math, Retha Sahib, Gorakh Matta ( now known as Nanak Matta), Ayudhya, Prayag, Varanasi, Gaya, Patna, Dhubri and Gauhati in Assam, Dacca, Puri, Cuttock, Rameshwaram, Ceylon, Bidar, Baroach, Somnath, Dwarka, Janagarh, Ujjain, Ajmer, Mathura, Pakpattan, Talwandi, Lahore, Sultanpur, Bilaspur, Rawalsar, Jawalaji, Spiti Valley,Tibet, Ladakh, Kargil, Amarnath, Srinagar and Baramula. It is also said that Guru Nanak also visited certain areas of China, Burma, Thailand, etc.
Guru Nanak also paid visit to Muslim holy places. In this regard, he went to Mecca, Medina, Baghdad via Multan, Peshawar Sakhar, Sone Miani, Hinglaj etc. Some accounts say that Guru Sahib reached Mecca by sea-route. Guru also visited Syria, Turkey and Tehran, present capital of Iran. From Tehran, Guru Sahib set out on the caravan route and covered Kabul, Kandhar and Jalalabad. Guru Nanak had many followers from Kabul, Kandhar and Jalalabad.
During his travels, he was observing and noticing the ills of the society. Where ever he settled down for rest, he would write down what he observed in poetry form. He would then ask Bhai Mardana to start playing on his Rebab and he would tune in with the Almighty and would start singing. People would join in to sing along. Afterwards, Guru Nanak would distribute his writings among his followers who gathered up there. He also had set up "Preaching Centres", called "Dharmshals" for practicing what he preached. He always kept a copy of all such writings in his note book, which was known as Pothi. His followers were called Sikhs, Learners and his mission began to be known as Sikhism. This way, Guru Nanak established a network of "Preaching Centres" of Sikhism, which were called "Sangats or Dharamshals".
People from all walks of life willfully conceived the basic tenets of Sikhism. The seeds of Sikhism were thus sown all over India and abroad in a well-planned manner.
During these tours, Guru Nanak also collected the divine writings of many God Conscious people, such as Namdev, Kabir, RamaNand, Trilochan, Ravidas, Jai Dev, Dhanna, Farid, Sain, Sadhna, etc. They belonged to different castes, different faiths while some belonged even to the so-called low caste and some to the high Hindu caste.
In the year 1520, Babar brought along with him a huge army and attacked India. This was his third time attack on India. His troops slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children from all walks of life.
When Babar attacked Aimnabad , Guru Nanak Dev Ji was there at that time and witnessed the slaughter and the plunder by the barbarous forces of Babar. All their property at Aimnabad was looted. Women and children were made captives. Guru Nanak challenged this act of barbarity in strong words. He was arrested and released, shortly after making Babar realize his blunder. All the prisoners were also released.
In later years of his life, Guru Nanak Dev Ji settled down at a town named Kartarpur, now in Pakistan, which was founded by him in 1522. He spent the rest of his life (1522-1539) at Kartarpur. Daily Keertan (hymn singing) was recited and doctrines of Sikhism were talked about at this place. The institution of Langar, " free kitchen" was introduced By Guru Nanak. Doctrines of Sikhism, introduced by Guru Nanak were preached and further promoted by all the following nine Gurus.
Knowing that the end was drawing near, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, after testing his two sons and some of his followers, installed Bhai Lehna ji as the Second Nanak in 1539 and named him Guru Angad Dev Ji. In the presence of congregation, Guru Nanak bowed before Bhai Lehna and gave him the book, which was usually called "Pothi", which included all his revelations and the Gurbani that he had written and also that he had collected from Saints and Sages called Bhagats. He asked Guru Angad Dev ji to move to Khadur and start preaching Sikhism from there. A few days after, Guru Nanak passed away on 22nd September, 1539.
Thus ended the wordly journey of this God-gifted Master (Guru) of mankind.
He rejected the path of renunciation, "Tyaga" or Yoga, the authority of the Vedas and also the Hindu caste system. Guru Nanak Dev Ji emphasized the life of a householder (Grihsta) while remaining unattached to gross materialism. He asked everyone to be honest, truthful and loving. He preached and practiced honest labour for living, sharing with others in service to humanity and remembering and living by the attributes of God and in the services of mankind, such as, Seva (Service), Keertan ( singing praises of God), Satsang ( congregation of true followers of God) and faith in 'One' Omnipotent God as the basic concepts of Sikhism established by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. This way, Guru Nanak laid the foundation of Sikhism and a structure for new society and civilization.
He preached new idea of God as One and Supreme, the Eternal and Absolute Truth, Sole Creator of the Universe, prevalent among all (Purkh) His Creation, Transcendant and Immanenet, with Eternal Image, without fear (NirBhau), without enmity (Nirvair), Ever-lasting, who does not take birth (Ajuni), who is the self-existent and who can be realized only with God's Grace ( i.e through the revealed Word).
As a social reformer, Guru Nanak Dev Ji upheld the cause of women, downtrodden, the poor and the so-called low cast. He attacked the citadel of caste system of Hindus and theocracy of Muslim rulers, the indifference of Yogis and Sidhas towards society. He was a born poet. He wrote 947 hymns in 19 classical Indian Raagaas. Comprising among them were Japji Sahib, Aasa-Ki-Vaar, Baaran-Maah, Sidh-Gosht, Onkar (Dakhani), etc. Guru Arjan Dev Ji included these hymns in Aad Guru Granth Sahib in 1604.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji was also a perfect musician. He with the company of Bhai Mardana, composed such tunes in 19 Indian classical Raagaas that charmed and tamed the wild and barbarian people, like Babar, subdued savaging kings, raved bigots and tyrants and turned thugs and robbers into saints. He was a revolutionary as well as a reformer. God had endowed him with a contemplative mind and pious disposition. Guru Arjan Dev Ji called him "the image of God, nay, God Himself".
What do we learn about Guru Nanak from this brief narrative?
How many languages he learned?
At what age he completed his schooling?
At what age he started his tours?
Who was his companion during such tours?
How did he travel and for what?
What were his primary messages and doctrines?
Name any four places that Guru Nanak visited during his tours?
Did he travel outside India?
Name any four countries that Guru Nanak visited during his tours?
What were the names of his sons?
Did they follow their father's path of spiritual life?
What did he collect during his tours?
Why did he ask Guru Angad Dev ji to move to Khadur?
Who collected the hymns of Bhagats of India?
Did other Gurus introduce any new doctrines of Sikhism of their own, which were different or contradictory to that of Guru Nanak? Read to know about other Gurus before answering this question.