Guru Nanak is the founder of Sikhism and the first Sikh Guru. His birthday falls on Kartik Puranmashi, the full-moon day which occurs on different dates each year from October-November in the month of Katak. He set up a spiritual, social, political platform based on good human values. He travelled to several places to preach his message of God, who, according to his teachings, is one and eternal and dwells in everyone.
Guru Nanak was born on April 15, 1469 in the present day Nankana Sahib, Punjab, Pakistan. He was born to Kalyan Chand Das Bedi and Mata Tripta. Both of them were Hindus and belonged to the merchant caste. In 1475, when his elder sister Bebe Nanaki was married and moved to Sultanpur, he followed her to Sultanpur to live with her and her husband. At around 16, he worked for Nanaki’s employer Daulat Khan Lodi. As the Puratan Janam Sakhi suggests, this was the formative time for him.
Nanak began showing interest in spirituality and divine subjects at the tender age of five. At seven, when his father enrolled him to the village school as per the custom, he astonished the teacher by describing the symbolism of the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, which resembles ‘1’. Nanak described this was to denote the oneness of God.
On September 24, 1487, Nanak married Mata Sulakkhani, daughter of Mul Chand and Chando Rani in the town of Batala. He had two children. First was Sri Chand, who later was enlightened by Nanak and went on to lay the foundation of the Udasi sect, and the second was Lakhmi Chand.
Bebe Nanaki and Rai Bular, the local landlord were the first people to recognize Nanak’s divine qualities. It was because of their encouragement and constant support that Nanak began to travel. According to Sikh tradition, at the age of 30, he had a vision. His clothes were found on the bank of the Kali Bein, a local stream, after he failed to return from his ablutions. People assumed he had drowned in the river. Even after Daulat Khan had the river dragged, no body was found. After three days of disappearance, Nanak reappeared and stayed silent. Next day, he pronounced: “There is neither Hindu, nor Mussulman (Muslim), but only man. So whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God’s path. God is neither Hindu nor Mussulman and the path I follow is God’s.” He also said that he had been taken to the court of God where he was offered Amrit to drink.
When Rai Bular learnt that Nanak had divine qualities, he persuaded Nanak’s father to put him in a school where he could get divine teachings and spiritualism.
Sikhism believes in preaching kindness, love, peace instead of hatred, revenge, jealousy. It is one of the most recently formed religions of the world. Followers of Sikhism, the Sikhs, follow teachings of Guru Granth Sahib, which is worshipped as the Supreme Authority of Sikhism and is considered the eleventh and the final guru of Sikhism. Its pages are called angas (organs).
Nanak describes his teachings in the Guru Granth Sahib. Through popular tradition, Nanak’s teaching is understood to be practised in three ways:
Vand Chakko: Sharing with others, helping those with less who are in need
Kirat Karo: Earning a living honestly, without exploitation or fraud
Naam Japna: Meditating on the name of God to control the five weaknesses of the human personality.
Nanak put the greatest emphasis on the worship of the Word of God (Naam Japna). 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 institution and both Godhead and Devotion, are seen as transcending any religious consideration or divide, as God is not separate from any individual.
Nanak’s teachings are followed widely and are read by the people of all the religions alike. Sikhs are seen helping people in need whenever any calamity occurs in any part of the world. This is because of Nanak’s teachings to help everyone without asking anything in return. It is for the same reason that Sikhs are seen sweeping, washing dishes and serving the food at the Golden Temple. That sight itself inspires us and tells that no one is big or small, everyone is equal in the eyes of God.