Happy Gurpurb! Today we celebrate the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji!
Guru Nanak Dev Ji is the founder of Sikhism and was born to Hindu parents Mehta Kalu and Mata Tripta in 1469 in Talwandi (now Nankana Sahib in Pakistan). Although he was born April 15, the birth date is celebrated on the full moon in November. He had an older sister named Bibi Nanaki. His unique path became apparent at a young age when he learned at an unprecedented rate and impressed his teachers. I thought I would write a little bit about the life of Guru Ji.
One morning in 1499, Guru Nanak Dev Ji bathed in the river and disappeared for three days. No one could find him, and people feared he had died. He resurfaced three days later, having spent those days with God Himself. His first words after he emerged were “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim”, meaning that everyone is the same according to God. Guru Ji was respected by all religions and travelled extensively spreading messages of honesty, equality between men and women, and speaking out against the caste system. It is thought he travelled over 28,000 km including to present-day Afghanistan, Turkey, Burma, Tibet, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Persia, and Arabia. Bhai Mardana, a muslim, accompanied him on his travels and played the rabab while Guru Nanak sang the hymns.
Rabab (a musical instrument)
Guru Nanak introduced the concepts of Naam Japo (remember God), Vand Shako (share what you earn), Kirat Karo (earn an honest living) everywhere he went. He made sure to communicate in simple language so everyone could understand, not just those who had a formal education. He was married to Mata Sulakhani and had two children, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Daas. He emphasized that you can still live a spiritual life at the same time as a family life. The following are some stories from his travels.
In the town of Saidpur on his travels Guru Ji stayed with Bhai Laalo, a low-caste man, rather than with the weathly Malik Bhago. Malik Bhago questioned Guru Ji on his choice and Guru Ji showed, by holding Lalo’s food in one hand and Bhago’s food in the other by squeezing them that blood poured from the food of Malik Bhago and milk from Lalo’s. This was to demonstrate that Malik Bhago did not earn his food honestly and rather exploited others, but Lalo worked hard.
One famous story about Guru Nanak is when he was in Hasan Abdal. The villagers would come to visit Guru Ji instead of the Muslim Pir Baba Wali Kandhaari. He had a tank of water from which the villagers drank and without it, they had no water. He stopped providing it because he was angered they had been visintg the Guru Ji instead of him. After several requests, he still refused. Guru Ji asked a villager to lift a small stone and under it water rushed out and a new spring was created. Baba Wali’s reservoir dried up and he rolled a rock towards the guru to kill him, which the Guru Ji stopped with his palm. The rock stopped and that rock still exists at Grudwara Panja Sahib. Baba Wali became a follower of the Guru Ji,
Guru Nanak Dev Ji emphasized that we should not be stuck in rituals but rather be true to their religion. For example, he observed people throwing the water from the Ganges towards the sun to reach their ancestors and he started throwing it in the opposite direction, claiming that if their water reached the ancestors then his should reach his fields in Punjab.
Guru Ji started the tradition of Langar, a free community kitchen where everyone was welcome to sit and eat next to each other as equals. This was extremely important given the emphasis on caste status at the time. This continues on in Gurdwaras (sikh temples) everywhere today. After his travels he built the village Kartarpur.
When Guru Ji passed on from this world in 1539 it is said there was arguments between the Hindus and Muslims about whether the body should be cremated or buried but under the sheet, instead of a body there were only flowers, half of which were burned and half buried. He was succeeded by Guru Angad Dev Ji.
Book: Illustrated Life Stories of Guru Sahibs’