First Guru - Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539)
Guru Nanak Dev Ji, The founder and first Guru of Sikhism, was born in the year 1469, in the village Talwandi which is located in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent. The village, now known as Nankana Sahib, is situated near the city of Lahore in present day Pakistan. Sikhs around the world celebrate the auspicious occasion of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s birth on the Pooranmashi (full moon) day in the Lunar month of Katak (October-November), which falls on a different date every year.
According to some ancient Sikh records, Guru Sahib was born in the early morning of the third day of the light half of the month of Baisakh (April - May), which is believed to be Saturday 15 April 1469 ; while some other chronicles state the date of birth as October 20, 1469. The Sikhs now celebrate this auspicious event each year on the Pooranmashi (full moon day) in the lunar month of Katak (October-November), which falls on different dates every year. His father was Kalayan Das Mehta, also known as Mehta Kalu, and his mother was Mata Tripta. They belonged to the Vedic Kshatriya caste. His father was the local patwari (accountant) for crop revenue in the village of Talwandi. Guru ji had an elder sister named Bebey Nanki, who was the first to recognize Nanak as an enlightened Soul.
Guru Nanak's Life at Sultanpur
Nanak married Sulkhni of Batala, and they had two sons, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das. Guru ji's brother-in-law, the husband of his sister Nanki, obtained a job for him in Sultanpur as the manager of the government's grainary. One morning, when he was twenty-eight, 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, it was apparent to all that he was a changed man. He would say nothing, he quit his job and distributed all that he had to the poor. Accompanied by his childhood friend, a Muslim named Mardana who had always played the Rebab while Nanak sang, they left town. When, after a few days, he spoke saying "There is no Hindu, no Musalman." It was then that Guru Nanak began his missionary work and travels.
As a householder, Guru ji continued to carry out the mission of his life – to lead people on the true path to God, to dispel superstition, to bring people out of ritualistic practises, to lead them directly to follow Gurbani without the need for priests and clergy, and to restrain and guard against the five thieves within – Pride, Anger, Greed, Attachment and Lust.
Contributions to humanity
During his his time on Earth Guru Nanak was revered by both Hindus and Muslims and even today many, outside of the Sikh faith, revere him. It is related that as he lay dying, his followers some formerly Hindu and others formerly Muslims argued whether his body should be cremated as Hindu tradition dictated or buried as in Islamic tradition. It is said that when they removed the sheet which had covered the Guru they found only beautiful flowers. The Hindus burned theirs, the Muslims buried theirs. Guru Nanak with Mardana (left) and Bala Coloured woodcut, Amritsar or Lahore, about 1875 Following are highlighted contribution of Guru Nanak:
Equality of humans
When in the middle east, the west and the rest of asia slavery, varna/class and race discrimination was rife and respect between the different classes and caste was at a peak, Guru Nanak preached against discrimination and prejudices due to race, caste, status, etc. He said: "See the brotherhood of all mankind as the highest order of Yogis; conquer your own mind, and conquer the world." (SGGS page 6); also "There is one awareness among all created beings." (page 24) and finally "One who recognizes the One Lord among all beings does not talk of ego. ||4||" (page 432). He urges all the peoples of the world to "conquer" their minds to these evil practises. All human beings had the light of the Lord and were the same -- only by subduing one's pride and ego could one see this light in all.
Equality of women
In about 1499 when the world offered low to no status or respect to women, Guru Nanak sought to improve the respect of women by spreading this message: "From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all. O Nanak, only the True Lord is without a woman." (page 473). In so doing, he promoted women's rights and equality — a first for the 15th century!
Universal message for all people
It had been a custom at the time for religious leaders to address only their own congregation and for segregation of the different religions -- but Guru Nanak broke with tradition and spoke to all of humanity. To the Muslim he said: "And when, O Nanak, he is merciful to all beings, only then shall he be called a Muslim. ||1||" (page 141); to the Hindu, he said "O Nanak, without the True Name, of what use is the frontal mark of the Hindus, or their sacred thread? ||1||" (page 467); and to all he preached: "To take what rightfully belongs to another is like a Muslim eating pork, or a Hindu eating beef." (page 141).
Guru Nanak made four great Spiritual journeys, traveling to all parts of India, Sri Lanka, Arabia and Persia. He visited head centers of all religions and had discourses with head priests of various sects of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Parsees, and Muslims. Everywhere he outcome in Spiritual discussions; therefore having followers from all religious backgrounds. He spoke in the temples and mosques, and at various pilgrimage sites. Wherever he went, Guru Nanak spoke out against empty religious rituals, pilgrimages, the caste system, the sacrifice of widows, of depending on books to learn the true religion, and of all the other tenets that were to define his teachings. Never did he ask his listeners to follow him. He asked the Muslims to be true Muslims and the Hindus to be true Hindus.
After the last of his great journeys, Guru Nanak tried a new experiment - he asked a wealthy follower to donate a large tract of land . Here he built a town calling it Kartapur (in Punjab) on the banks of the Ravi where he taught for another fifteen years. Followers from all over came to settle in Kartapur to listen, and sing, and be with him. During this time, although his followers still remained Hindu, Muslim, or of the religion to which they were born, they became known as the Guru's disciples, or sikhs. It was here his followers began to refer to him as teacher, or guru. The Guru told his followers that they were to be householders and could not live apart from the world -- there were to be no priests or hermits. Here is where the Guru instituted the common meal, requiring the rich and poor, Hindu and Muslim, high caste and low caste, to sit together while eating. All worked together, all owned the town. Here is where Lehna, later to be Guru Angad, came to be with Guru Nanak.
A well known legend, when Nanak met Babur (1483-1530) the Emperor of India offered him a shared pipe of [Bhang], Nanak replied that he had a bhang whose wonderful effects never wore off. Inquiring of Nanak where he could find such wonderful bhang - Nanak declined the emperor's offer, saying GOD the [SAT GURU] was his bhang.