Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (15 April 1469 – 22 September 1539)
Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji was the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. His birth is celebrated worldwide as Guru Nanak Gurpurab on Kartik Pooranmashi, the full-moon day in the month of Katak, October-November.
Guru Nanak traveled far and wide teaching people the message of one God who dwells in every one of his creations and constitutes the eternal truth. He set up a unique spiritual, social, and political platform based on equality, fraternal love, goodness and virtue.
Guru Nanak words are registered in the form of 974 poetic hymns in the holy text of Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib, with some of the major prayers being the Japji Sahib, the Asa Di Var and the Sidh Ghost. It is part of Sikh religious belief that the spirit of Guru Nanak’s sancity, divinity and religious authority descended upon each of the nine subsequent Gurus when the Guruship was devolved on to them.
Birth Place and Family
Nanak was born on 15 April 1469 at Rai Bhoi Ki Talwandi. Nowadays, this place is known as Nankana Sahib, Punjab near lahore, Paksitan. His parents were known as Mehta Kalu and Matra Tripta. His father was the local patwari (accountant) for crop revenue in the village of Talwandi. His parents were both Hindus and belonged to the merchant caste.
He had one sister, Bebe Nanaki, who was the five years older than he was. In 1475 she married and moved to Sultanpur. Nanak was attached to his sister and followed her to Sultanpur to live with her and her husband, jai Ram. At the age of around 16 years, Nanak started working under Daulat Khan Lodi, employer of Nanaki’s husband. This was a formative time for Nanak, as the Puratan Janam Sakhi suggests, and in his numerous allusions to governmental structure in his hymns, most likely gained at this time.
Early Life of Guru ji
According to Sikh traditions, the birth and early years of Guru Nanak’s life were marked with many events that demonstrated that Nanak had been marked by divine grace. Commentaries on his life give details of his blossoming awareness from a young age. At the age of five, Nanak is said to have voiced interest in divine subjects. At age seven, his father enrolled him at the village school as was the custom. Notable lore recounts that as a child Nanak astonished his teacher by describing the implicit symbolism of the first letter of the alphabet, resembling the mathematical version of one, as denoting the unity or oneness of God. Other childhood accounts refer to strange and miraculous events about Nanak, such as one witnessed by Rai Bular, in which the sleeping child’s head was shaded from the harsh sunlight, in one account, by the stationary shadow of a tree or in another, by a venomous cobra.
On 24 September 1487 Nanak married Mata Sulakkhani, daughter of Mul Chand and Chando Rani, in the town of Batala. The couple had two sons, Sri Chand (8 September 1494 – 13 January 1629) and Lakhmi Chand (12 Feburary 1497 – 9 April 1555). Sri Chand received enlightenment from Guru Nanak’s teachings and went on to become the founder of the Udasi sect.
The abandoned Gurudwara Chowa Sahib, located near the Rohtas Fort in Pakistan, commemorates the site where Guru Nanak is popularly believed to have created a water-spring during one of his udasis Guru Nanak traveled extensively during his lifetime. Some modern accounts state that he visited Tibet, most of South Asia and Arabia starting in 1496, at age 27, when he left his family for a thirty-year period. These claims include Guru Nanak visiting the Mount Sumeru of Indian mythology, as well as Mecca, Baghdad, Achal Batala and Multan, in these places he debated religious ideas with competing groups. These stories became widely popular in the 19th and 20th century, and exist in many versions.
Novel claims about his travels, as well as claims such as Guru Nanak’s body vanishing after his death, are also found in later versions and these are similar to the miracle stories in Sufi literature about their pirs. Other direct and indirect borrowings in the Sikh janam-sakhis relating to legends around Guru Nanak’s journeys are from Hindu epics and Puranas and buddhist Jataka stories.
Guru Nanak appointed Bhai Lehna as the successor Guru, renaming him as Guru Angad, meaning “one’s very own” or “part of you”. Shortly after proclaiming Bhai Lehna as his successor, Guru Nanak died on 22 September 1539 in Kartarpur, at the age of 70.