The word Sikh is derived from the Sanskrit ‘shishya’ meaning disciple. Sikhs are the disciples of their ten Gurus beginning with Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469 – 1539) and ending with Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666 -1708). There are over 20 million Sikhs in the world today, the vast majority live in the north Indian state of Punjab.
Then the search for truth became too overpowering; bathing in a river Guru Ji had a divine revelation in which Guru Ji entered the court of Akal Purkh(God) who sent him on a mission to spread his word. For three days Guru Nanak Dev Ji was missing presumed drowned. On the third day Guru ji appeared and started his mission with a simple message ‘There is no Hindu, there is no Mussulman’. By this statement he was not decrying Hinduism or Islam, but stating that in Gods eyes all are equal. He took with him as his companions a Muslim musician Mardana Ji and a Hindu peasant Bhai Bala and the three went preaching from village to village. Guru ji composed his sermons in ragas (musical modes) which were sung to the accompaniment of the Rabab (lute style instrument of Mardana Ji).
Guru Ji’s teachings inspired the people and within a few years these disciples became a homogeneous group whose faith was exclusively the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Guru Ji traveled all over India. He went as far as Assam ,far south as Sri Lanka, far north as Tibet. Guru Ji then went westwards beyond India to Mecca and Madina in Arabia. Wherever he went , he sang his hymns which told the people that if they wanted to love God they should learn first to love each other.
There are countless stories of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s travels. Once Guru Ji came to a river and in it he saw many Hindus who were taking water in their clasped hands and offering it towards the Sun. Guru Ji enquired about what was going on. One person replied ” we are offering water to our ancestors who are in the next world “. Guru Ji replied ” This sounds like a good idea, let me try”. With this Guru Nanak Dev Ji started offering water to the opposite side to the crowd. The throng looked on and were very puzzled. “What are you doing Fakir Ji?” they asked. “Why, I am offering water to my fields in the Punjab” he said “if your water can reach the next world surely mine can reach the Punjab which is a few hundred miles away”. With this the people realised their folly.
On his travels Guru Ji met a very rich and successful man. The man invited Guru Sahib to his large a luxurious house. The man had accumulated a vast fortune with deceit and foul means and he boasted about his wealth. He asked Guru ji if there was anything he could do for a man of God. Guru Ji saw a needle on the floor picked it up and handed it to him , “Please give me this needle in the next world”. The man was puzzled “How can i do this” he said “One comes into this world with nothing and leaves it with nothing”. The penny dropped and he realised that he had wasted away his whole life. He fell at Guru Sahibs feet “Forgive me ” he cried. Guru Nanak Dev Ji blessed him and told him the three rules all should live by : Naam Japo – Recite the name of the Lord at all times, Kirat Karo – Do an honest days work , Wand Shako – Share your food with those around you.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s crusade was against intolerance which had become the practice of the Muslims, and the meaningless rituals and discriminations of caste and gender which had become a integral part of Hindu life.
Guru ji spent the last years of his life with his family in the village of Kartarpur. Here people flocked to him and heard him sing his hymns. Even today Guru ji is regarded as the symbol of harmony between the two communities.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji had a following of people dissenting both from Hinduism and Islam, it was left to his nine successors to mold that following into a distinct community with its own language, literature, its own religious beliefs and institutions, and its own traditions and conventions.
Although Guru Ji had two sons he chose a faithful disciple and named him Guru Angad Dev Ji (1504 -1542). Bhai Lehna Ji (as he was known then) spent many many years in selfless service to Guru Nanak Dev Ji. He did as he was asked by Guru Ji without question and total devotion and was rewarded with the Guruship. Guru Angad Dev Ji created the Gurmukhi language which he used to compile the hymns of his master. Guru ji also set up centers of teaching and organised the Sikhs into a close knit community.
Guru Ji again chose a disciple Amar Das Ji (1479- 1574)to be the third Guru. Guru Amar Das Ji appointed his son-in-law Ram Das Ji (1534-1581) to become the forth Guru. Guru Ram Das ji started the construction of the Harminder Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar by asking a Sufi Muslim Saint to lay the foundation stone. His son Guru Arjun Dev Ji (1563-1606) invested it with the special sanctity it has for the Sikhs today. Guru Ji also took many steps to make Sikhism a faith distinct from Hinduism and Islam . Guru Arjan Dev Ji took on the momentus task of compiling the Aad Granth by collecting the writings of the preceding Gurus and those of Hindu and Muslim saints and adding to them his own hymns. The Aad Granth became the sacred scriptures of the Sikhs.
Guru Arjun Dev Ji’s greatest contribution to the Sikh faith was to give his life to it. The Moghal Emperor Jahangir was perturbed by the Guru’s growing influence amongst the people. Under royal instruction the Guru ji was arrested on a frivolous charge and subjected to severe torture which resulted in Guru Ji’s death. Guru Arjun Dev Ji became the first of a long list of Sikh Martyrs.
Content taken from www.sikhtemple.com.
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