History of Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, was born about five hundred forty years ago on 15 April 1469 in a village named Talwandi, also called Rai Bhoeki Talwandi, now known as Nankana Sahib, near Lahore in the present-day Pakistan. His father Kalyan Singh Mahto, popularly known as Kalu Mahto and his mother Tripta, both were Hindus. The child Nanak did not weep as is usual with the newly born children, but he smiled, which surprised the midwife Daulatan. People also were surprised and were talking about it when the village-priest Pundit Hardayal arrived there. He desired to see the newly born child. When he saw the child Nanak, he saluted him seeing an aura around the face of the child. He told the people that their village was fortunate that such a divine child has taken birth in their village.

When he grew a little older, Nanak was sent to a school but his mind was absorbed some where else. He used to enjoy company of Sadhus and saints. When the time of sacred thread ceremony came, all the relatives were invited but Nanak refused to put on the sacred thread saying that this thread would become dirty in a few days whereas he wanted such a thread which would never become dirty. He asked for a Janeu (sacred thread) made from the cotton of compassion, spun with contentment and with knots of restrain. His father, the priest and all the relatives were astonished on his demand.

His father thought of engaging him in some business. He got him a small shop and gave him twenty rupees to buy things for his shop. He asked Nanak to enter in to a deal which was beneficial. On the way he met a group of Sadhus, who asked for food. Nanak spent all the money in their service, as in his eyes there was nothing more beneficial than serving them. When his father came to know of it, he was very annoyed and rebuked him severely. Nanak’s mother felt very sad. She tried to explain him that he should become worldly-wise but Nanak told him that the worldly people were caught in the fire of selfishness, desires and ego and that he wanted to do something for them. The elders of the family thought that Nanak was suffering from some disease. They consulted a Vaidya (an Ayurvedic doctor). When he started examining Nanak, Nanak told him that he had no suffering in his body but his soul was at pain, the pain of separation from the God. The Vaidya had no answer. His relatives thought of marrying Nanak as that in their opinion could bring a change in him. By now Nanak was fourteen. He was married to Sulbauni, daughter of Moolraj of Batala. They were blessed with two sons-Srichand and Laxmiichand. But even the family life could not change Nanak, who still spent lot of his time in the company of Sadhus or in contemplating alone. Nanak’s elder sister was Nanaki.

She was very affectionate towards Nanak and was wiser than others. She was married to Jayram,an employee of Nawab Daulatkhan in the city named Sultanpur Lodhi. She invited Nanak to live with her for some time. In Sultanpur, Jayram took Nanak to the Nawab. The Nawab was very impressed looking at the searching eyes and innocent face of Nanak, which was shining with glory. He asked Nanak whether he would like to work for him. Nanak replied, ‘Yes, if it interests me’. Nawab asked him what would interest him. Nanak replied, ‘Which would benefit many’. Nawab thought for a while and then said to Nanak to take charge of the ‘Modikhana’ i.e. the store of food-grains for charitable distribution. Nanak accepted this job and started doing it well. The food, which he got for himself, was also distributed by him to the Sadhus and saints. Once Nanak was giving food-grains to someone after weighing the same. He had already weighed and given him twelve such lots and proceeded to give him the thirteenth lot. Counting the lots, he uttered ‘Tera’ for the thirteenth lot (the Hindi equivalent of thirteen and also meaning “Yours, i.e. belonging to the God”) and got stuck at ‘Tera’. He kept on weighing and giving him more and more food-grains. People complained against Nanak to the Nawab that Nanak is mindlessly giving away the food-grains, but when the food-grains were weighed, there was no shortage at all.

Once Nanak went to take bath in the nearby river and did not return for three days. People thought that he was drowned in the river but his sister Nanaki insisted that her brother is alive and would return, as he has to do a lot for the benefit of the people. After three days Nanak appeared suddenly with a changed outlook. During these three days he was in Samadhi and had an experience of the Divine. People were surprised to spot a brilliant aura around his face and sparkling eyes. He was saying ‘None is Hindu or Muslim’. This, however, annoyed both the staunch Hindus and Muslims and the matter reached the court of Nawab. In the court Qazi asked him whether he was aware that a Muslim reaches the God simply because he is a Muslim. Nanak replied that he did not endorse it. According to him a true Muslim follows the path of saints, has compassion for the poor and needy and feels happy at the will of the God. Nanak further said that for such a Muslim mercy is his mosque, patience is his prayer-mat, honest earning is his Qur’an, feeling ashamed for the wrong-doings is ‘Sunnat’, decency is his ‘Roja’ (fasting),his good-deeds are the Qaba and truth is his guide. The Qazi had no answer to this but then he asked what Nanak thought about Namaz (offering the prayers five times). Nanak replied that truth, honest earnings, faith, purity of mind and wishing well for the whole world are the five Namaz for a true Muslim. By the time they were talking, it was the time for the Namaz. All of them went to the mosque. While the Qazi and the Nawab offered prayers, Nanak did not. After the Namaz when they asked him why did not he offer prayers, Nanak smiled and told them that the mind of Qazi leading the Namaz was somewhere else. On asking Nanak replied that the Qazi was thinking about his newly born calf that it may not fall into the well in his compound and then he told that Nawab Sahab you also were thinking about buying horses in Kabul. Both of them were astonished how Nanak could know what was going on in their minds. Nanak then left the job assigned to him by the Nawab, who requested him to continue but Nanak refused saying that now he would serve the Master of the entire universe. In Sultanpur a Muslim named Mardana had become Nanak’s friend. He used to play Rawab (a musical instrument) very well and used to give company to Nanak when he used to sing Bhajans. This was the time when people were being harassed by the foreign attackers. Nanak, therefore, started roaming amongst them together with Mardana. He started the journey with the visit of South-west Punjab. In Saidpur village Nanak accepted hospitality of one Lalo, who was carpenter. In the same village there was a rich man Malik Bhago, who belonged to an upper caste and had invited a lot of Sadhus and Nanak as well. Nanak, however, did not accept his invitation.

Malik Bhago was very annoyed and took it as his insult. He asked his servants to bring Nanak forcibly if he did not agree to come. Nanak, however, came to his residence and when Malik Bhago asked Nanak as to why he refused to accept his invitation, Nanak took a Roti (pan-cake) of Malik Bhago in his hand and in another hand he took a Roti of Lalo. On squeezing them Malik Bhago’s Roti oozed out blood whereas Lalo’s Roti oozed out milk. After some time Nanak reached Multan, where they met a thug, who had erected a temple and a mosque and used to invite people to take rest at his place and then used to kill them in order to loot their belongings. When he saw Guru Nanak and Mardana he was impressed by the glow on the face of Guru Nanak and invited them to stay with him that night. In the Night Guru Nanak sang a Bhajan, the essence of which was that the outwardly appearance is of no use, the real thing is intention. The words of Guru Nanak had deep impact on the thug, who fell at the feet of Guru Nanak and asked him what he should do for his salvation. Nanak asked him to distribute the wealth earned through wrong means to the poor and needy and to live a simple and honest life. In Panipat Guru Nanak met Shah Sharaf, a famous Sufi saint. Nanak then reached Haridwar, where people were offering water towards the east. People replied that our forefathers are resting in the heavens and we are offering water to them. Guru Nanak then started offering water towards the west. People asked him why he was doing so. He replied that he was offering water for his farm in his village. When people told him that it was funny, he asked people that if the water could not reach his farm, which was only a few miles away, how the water offered by them to their forefathers could reach them, who were in heavens. Guru Nanak then reached Kamroop (Assam), where Mardana was lured by the queen. Guru Nanak went to the queen and preached her about the reality of life asking her to devote her attention towards the Lord of all Lords. The queen was deeply impressed by Guru Nanak. Nanak then reached Jaggannath-Puri, where priests were doing Arati holding lamps in a dish. Guru Nanak felt that this Arati for the Lord was too small a thing. He started singing an Arati the essence of which was that in the dish in the form of sky, the sun and moon are lit as lamps; the stars are like the pearls strewn in the dish; the wind flowing from the Malay mountain is like the fragrance and the air is like the flywhisk; the entire flora is the flowers and the Anahat-Nad is acting as the bugle. O Lord! Such a divine is your Arati. Quite some time had passed after they had left home and Mardana was getting desperate to return back home. They spent some time with family and then again started for the next journey. During this journey Guru Nanak met famous Sufi saint Sheikh Ibrahim. In Lahore Guru Nanak was received by a rich man Doonichand, who had lot of money and had hosted number of flags at his main door, each flag indicating a lakh of rupees. When Guru Nanak learnt this, he gave a small needle to Doonichand and asked him to hand it over to him (Guru Nanak) after his death in the heavens. Doonichand was surprised and asked Guru Nanak how could he carry the needle to the heavens. Guru Nanak querried that when you can not carry even this small needle to heavens, why you are showing off your wealth, which would not accompany you to the heavens.

Guru Nanak then traveled to Uttrakhand, Punjab, Kashmir and the Himalayas.While returning at a place named Hasan Abdal, Mardana felt thirsty. On a hillock there lived a fakir Wali-Kandhari. Guru Nanak told Mardana that on the hillock there is a spring of water, go and ask Wali-Kandhari for water. Wali-Kandhari, however, refused. Guru Nanak then asked Mardana to move a stone lying near a rock. Mardana was surprised to find a spring of water flowing under the stone. On the other hand the waterspring on the hillock started drying. When Wali-Kandhari saw this happening, he caused a big stone t o roll towards Guru Nanak from the hillock. Mardana shouted and alerted Guru Nanak, who told Mardana not to worry and held the rolling stone with his hand. In the memory of this incidence Gurudwara Panja-Sahab has been erected at that place, which is now in Pakistan. By now Guru Nanak had visited most of the important pilgrimage places of Hindus, Shaivites, Jains and Buddhists. He now thought of visiting Mecca. Both of them, therefore, put on suitable dress and joined a group of Hajis. After covering a long distance when they reached Mecca boils had erupted on their feet and night had fallen. Guru Nanak, therefore, lay down and it so happened that his feet were in the direction of the Holy Qaba. No one does so. A mullah saw this and rebuked Guru Nanak that he does not know even this much that he should not direct his feet towards the house of God.

Guru Nanak politely asked him to turn his legs in the direction without the house of God. The mullah angrily turned Guru Nanak’s feet in a different direction but he was surprised when after a while Qaba appeared to him in that direction. It is said that Qaba appeared to him in the direction in which he turned Guru Nanak’s feet. After spending a few days in Mecca, Guru Nanak proceeded towards Medina and then to Baghdad and Afghanistan before returning to India. When they reached Multan, the fakirs of Multan sent him a bowl filled with milk to the brim. The message behind it was that the place is already saturated with fakirs and that there is no further place for anyone else. Guru Nanak placed a jasmine flower in the bowl and sent it back. The message behind it was that I shall live here without any burden on any one like the fragrance of the jasmine flower. From there Guru Nanak reached Saidpur. Babar had attacked India and his soldiers had reached Saidpur. The entire town had been looted and people were massacred. Those, who were left, had been taken in custody. Guru Nanak and Mardana were also arrested and were asked to attend to work along with other prisoners. Guru Nanak was put on the job of grinding and Mardana was to look after horses. While the other prisoners used to cry, Guru Nanak used to sing Bhajans while attending to his work. This behavior of Guru Nanak reached the ears of Babar through Mirkhan. Babar summoned him and was deeply impressed on seeing Guru Nanak. He sought his forgiveness and said that he was free. Guru Nanak, however, said that he did not want to be sat free unless all the prisoners were sat free. Babar, therefore, sat free all the prisoners. Guru Nanak by now had spent about twenty-five years away from his family traveling to distant places. He was now about sixty and wanted to propagate his views by staying at one place. For this purpose he chose Kartarpur, where his family also joined him. Thousands of people used to visit him and gradually this place turned into an important pilgrimage.

Guru Nanak now had turned about seventy and Mardana had left for his heavenly abode. Guru Nanak wanted to appoint his successor. His sons thought that they may be appointed as his successors and some of his disciples also thought that Guru Nanak would appoint them. Guru Nanak had a disciple by name Lahinaji, who always remained in the service of Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak thought of appointing him as his successor but only after a difficult test. He once threw a bowl in mud and asked his sons to pick it up. One of them started looking for a servant and the other started looking for a long bamboo with the help of which he could pull out the bowl without spoiling clothes. In the meanwhile Lahinaji reached over there and Guru Nanak asked him whether he could pick up the bowl from the mud. Lahinaji without waiting for a moment entered the mud and picked up the bowl. On another occasion Guru Nanak adopted a fearsome appearance that of a hunter. He took some weapons with him and a few hunting dogs and took the direction of jungle. Many disciples also accompanied him. In the jungle Guru Nanak said that I have come here for hunting and those who wish to accompany would also have to participate in hunting. Many of the disciples got perturbed and returned. Some of them who still were with Guru Nanak found some gold coins lying scattered on the way and they got busy collecting them. Guru Nanak, however, kept on moving deeper in the jungle. Now only a handful of disciples, his sons and Lahinaji were left with Guru Nanak. On moving a little ahead they spotted a dead body covered with white sheet and surrounded with four lamps. Guru Nanak stopped near the dead body. People around him were looking curiously as to what Guru Nanak was about to do. Suddenly Guru Nanak asked them who all wanted to accompany him. All of them said that they wanted to live with him. Guru Nanak then asked them in a penetrating voice to eat the dead body. They were stunned and a few of them quietly turned away and the remaining started looking with their heads down. Guru Nanak asked the remaining ones as to who wanted to eat that dead body. No one answered but Lahinaji with folded hands said-‘I shall do it, my Master. Please tell me whether I should start form the head or the feet of the dead body’. From the middle, asked Guru Nanak. Bhai Lahinaji saluted Guru Nanak and moved towards the dead body. Others were looking aghast at him. Lahinaji pulled away the sheet from the dead body and found that instead of dead body it was ‘Prasad’ that was lying underneath.

Lahinaji picked up the Prasad and offered it to Guru Nanak, who was very pleased with the devotion of Lahinaji. Guru Nanak then said-‘You have been blessed with this Prasad because you desire to share it with others. One, who desires to use everything for himself, for him those things are like the rotten dead body. You have known my secret. You are my reflection, born from my body (Anga) and, therefore, from today you would be known as ‘Angad’. Knowing that his end was nearing Guru Nanak appointed Angad as his successor and he came to be known as Guru Angad. Guru Nanak left this world after some time when the Sangat (his disciples and followers) was reciting ‘Kirtan Sohila’. The Sangat was doing Kirtan when Guru Nanak took Samadhi. It is said that the Hindu followers of Guru Nanak wanted to cremate his body whereas his Muslim followers wanted to bury it. It was, therefore, decided that flowers would be kept by both Hindus and Muslim followers besides the dead body for three days and whose flowers wilt first would give up their claim. But the next day they found that in place of the dead body there were flowers, which both the parties divided between them for cremation or burial, according to their tradition.

Japuji Sahib is the most famous and popular prayer of Guru Nanak: