Sikhism: Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak (1469 - 1539) is the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. He was born in the village of Talwandi, now called Nankana Sahib, near Lahore in present-day Pakistan.   His parents Mehta Kalu and Matta Tripat were Hindu and belonged to the merchant caste. Even as a boy Nanak was fascinated by religion and his desire to explore the mysteries of life eventually led him to leave home.  His brother-in-law obtained a job for him in Sultanpur as the manager of the government granary.

One morning when he was 28 he went as usual down to the river to bathe and meditate. It was said that he was gone for three days. When he reappeared, filled with the spirit of God, he said: "There is no Hindu and no Muslim." It was then he began his missionary work.

Tradition states that he made four great journeys, travelling to all parts of India, and into Arabia and Persia, visiting Mecca and Baghdad. He spoke before Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Parsees, and Muslims. He spoke in the temples and mosques and at various pilgrimage sites. It was during this period that Nanak met Kabir (1441-1518), a saint revered by both Hindus and Muslims.

Wherever he went, Guru Nanak spoke out against empty religious rituals, pilgrimages, the caste system and the sacrifice of widows.  He was against depending on books to learn the true religion.  He never asked his listeners to follow him but asked the Muslims to be true Muslims and the Hindus to be true Hindus.

After his great journeys he settled at Kartapur (in the Punjab) on the banks of the Ravi where he taught for another fifteen years.  His followers kept their own religion but were known as the Guru's disciples, or Sikhs.  He said they should live in the world and not be priests or hermits.  He required the rich and poor of all religions to eat together.

Just before Guru Nanak died he called his disciples together and requested them to sing Sohila, the evening hymn. To satisfy both his Hindu and Muslim follower as to the funeral arrangements it is said he did not allow his body to remain behind.

Partly taken from

KC 0I/07

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