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Gateway to Sikhism

 

15th April

 

1469 PRAKASH UTSAV, Patshahi First, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji Patshah came to this planet in Talwandi, also known as Nankana Sahib, situated about 48 miles westward from Lahore, Pakistan. He was born in the house of Kalu Chand Bedi and Mata Tripta. Today is the actual date of birth, though Guru Khalsa Panth observes it in Nov. NOTE:- this date is in contention. Some suggest an alternate date as Oct. 21, 1469.

==> GURU NANAK (1469-1539):
In a world rife with falsehood, sunk in superstitions and plagued by all kinds of inequities and inequalities, Guru Nanak rang in the gospel of truth, universal love and brotherhood. The Founder Guru of the Sikhs and one of the greatest and saintliest of saviours, he redeemed the soul of a moribund society that had experienced a total eclipse, if not annihilation, of all abiding human values. The condition of the contemporary society has been vividly described by the First Master in the well-known words.

"This age is a knife, kings are butchers,
justice hath taken wings and fled.
In this completely dark night of falsehood
the moon of truth is never seen to rise."

Guru Nanak was born in a Bedi family at Talwandi (Nankana Sahib), near Lahore, in 1469. At an early age he learnt Sanskrit, Persian and the prevalent form of Gurmukhi. He was a precocious child with a pronounced penchant for religion. His father, Mehta Kalu, made vain efforts to woo him to a mundame mode of life. Accordingly, he was got employed in a Government store of the Nawab of Sultanpur where he served for 13 years.

It was in 1499 that the day of destiny of ecstatic communion with God came. While taking his daily bath in the rivulet Bain that flows near Sultanpur, Nanak had his illumination through a soul-stirring vision of Almighty God. It was here that the Guru delivered his great sermon in the memorable words: "There is no Hindu, there is no Musalman";. The spiritual enlightenment enjoined on him a mission to the propagation of which he consecrated his entire life. He set out on his great Udasi's (Missionary journeys) to deliver God's message to sinning and suffering humanity.

He toured the whole of India and many foreign countries, preaching the gospel of true religion and rooting out ignorance and evil. The great Guru undertook five major missionary journeys in this behalf.

In the course of his first long travel, Guru Nanak visited celebrated Hindu places of pilgrimage like Kurukshetra, Banaras and Jagnnath Puri. He taught people how to distinguish Dharma from Adharma and abandon such pretentious rituals and prayers as constituted the accepted religious practice of the times. During his second journey the Guru went as far as Sangla Deep and having done his ministry returned to the Punjab.

The Master's third missionary journey is known for his discussions with reputed Kashmiri Pandits and savants and for his visits to famous haunts of the Yogis, the Sidhas and the Nathas in the Himalayas. The Guru preached truth and righteousness wherever he went.

The fourth missionary journey comprised the Master's visit to prominent Muslim shrines in Mecca, Medina and Baghdad. After his return to the Punjab, the Guru set out on his fifth and final journey. This time he confined his travel to places nearer home such as Saidpur, Pakpattan, Multan, Achal Batala, etc. Saidpur had been sacked by Babar's forces. Deeply moved by spectacle of infinite human suffering resulting from the inhuman atrocities perpetrated by the Mughal invader, the Guru chanted hymns of Sorrow.

At Achal Batala, a renowned centre of the Yogis and Sidhas, the Guru preached the unity and equality of all religions. For twenty-two years Guru Nanak propagated his faith in India and abroad. During his 18 years' stay at Kartarpur, he incarnated into splendid deeds the lofty ideals that he had been preaching all his life. Thus, by his own inspiring example, the Guru demonstrated how Raj and Yog, the worldly and the spiritual modes of life, could be happily and fruitfully conjoined.

During his extensive missionary journeys, Guru Nanak exhorted the benighted humanity to pursue the path of divine meditation. He stressed the significance of righteous living above all other things. The Guru made men realize that there is only one God Who is peerless. He held that through Nam Simran (Meditation of God's Name) and concentration on Shabad (the word) man could muster up courage enough to uphold truth in his life.

Guru Nanak cried down all cant and blind observance of soulless customs, rites and rituals. The Guru averred that they were a meaningless meandering unconnected with the attainment of man's spiritual destiny, Thus he rightly laid accent on pious practical living which alone constitutes true religiosity.

The quintessence of Guru Nanak's philosophy is enshrined in his mul mantra. He has aptly emphasized the imperative need of truth and beauty, freedom and fraternity. According to Guru Nanak, religion implies a communion between God and man. As a corollary to this, a person who devotes himself to Nam Simran is naturally virtuous and fearless. Unsullied by ill-will or enmity, he works for the amelioration of the weak and the down-trodden. His noble actions give an impulse to his aesthetic ability. A truely religious man of the Guru's conception is opposed alike to serfdom and masterdom. His life is radiant with love and humility, sweetness and light.

Indeed, Guru Nanak wanted to unite and organize his disciples in order to give religion true solidarity. To this end, he established sangat (congregations) at numerous places and appointed their chiefs. Besides, he compiled his writings in book form which he handed over to his successor, Guru Angad Dev.

The Guru established a sangat at Kartarpur and prescribed a set of values to be cherished and practised. He also founded the great institution of langar (free community-kitchen) and spent his earnings from land on running it. Thus, he gave a living form to his doctrine of work, Nam Simran and the Temple of Bread. The Guru nominated Bhai Lehna, his most beloved and trusted disciple, for the exalted office of the Guru after him. In the Adi Granth are enshrined 974 hymns by the First Master.

-Ref. "Guru Granth Ratnavali," (pp. 38) by Dr. D.S. Mani, Sardar Bakhshish Singh, and Dr. Gurdit Singh
Mahan Kosh (pp. 111)

1501 Guru Nanak started preaching the new religion, Sikhism.
1563 PRAKASH UTSAV, Patshahi Fifth, Guru Arjun Dev Ji.

Fifth Patshah, Guru Arjun Dev Ji came to this planet. He was born at Goindwal. He was the youngest son of his parents was the first Guru born as Sikh. Today is the actual date of birth, though Guru Khalsa Panth celebrates it on a different date.

==> GURU ARJAN DEV (1563-1606) Guru Arjan, the 'Prince of Martyrs' and the 'Prophet of Peace', proffered his precious life to nurture the glory that was to be the Sikh Panth. The Fifth Master's life was marked by divine bliss and sublime sacrifices, born of a sweet acceptance of God's Will. Gifted with a quintessential poetic afflatus, and immeasurable imaginative sympathies, the Guru gave the movement of Sikhism a definite direction, perspective and program. He made the new faith coeval or coextensive with the whole gamut of existence and raised its exquisite edifice on values for which there is neither death nor change.

Guru Arjan Dev adorned the sacred throne of Guru Nanak from Sept. 1, 1581 to May 30, 1606. Born at Goindwal on April 15, 1563, he was the youngest and noblest son of Guru Ram Das and Mata Bibi Bhani. On 23 Hadh sunmat 1636, he married Ganga Devi, daughter of Krishan Chand of Mau village. He had an innate poetic sensibility which was exquisitely displayed in the epistles that he sent to his father from Lahore. They are deeply expressive of the pangs of separation and the exuberance of Love. The Fourth Master's decision to make Guru Arjan his spiritual heir was bitterly opposed by Prithvi Chand who contended that being the eldest son, he alone was entitled to the Guruship. Thus, he could never reconcile himself to his younger brother's installation as Guru.

Under Guru Arjan Dev the Sikh movement registered great progress. In sunmat 1645, he cemented the Santokhsar sarovar. Further, the Guru not only completed the construction of the Sarovars started at 'Guru Ka Chak' by his predecessor but also constructed two more Sarovars. He had the Harmandar built in the middle of Amritsar Sarovar and invited a celebrated Muslim divine, Mian Mir, to lay its foundation stone in sunmat 1645. Remarkable for its architectural and aesthetic beauty and unique in its conception, the temple with its four doors symbolizes the inborn equality of all mankind.

Indeed, it is open to all the four castes without any discrimination. Thus, the Guru sought a dissolution of all castes and creed distinctions. Unlike the Hindu shrines that are built on a high plinth, the Harmandar (the Temple of God) was built on a level lower than that of the surrounding areas, thereby making it imperative for the devotees to go down the steps in a spirit of true humility. In addition, the towns of Tarn Taran and Kartarpur flourished under the Guru's tutelage. He had a magnificent tank built at Tarn Taran (pool of salvation) in sunmat 1647 and a Bavalli constructed at Lahore. in sunmat 1651, he established the town of Kartarpur Nagar (Dist. Jullander) and Ramsar in sunmat 1659-60.

Guru Arjan undertook a tour of the Punjab to preach Sikhism. He rationalized the institution of the masands and ordained that every Sikh should voluntarily donate a tenth of his income raised by the sweat of his brow for religious purposes. The masands collected the offerings thus made and deposited them in the Guru's treasury. Again, when the Punjab was in the grip of drought and famine, Guru Arjan persuaded the Emperor Akbar to remit the land revenue for that year.

The most epochal achievement, however, of Guru Arjan was the compilation of the Adi Granth. The Guru devoted three years from 1601 to 1604 to the completion of the sublime project. He studied thoroughly the entire treasure of Gurbani, collected the hymns and psalms of the previous Gurus, and screened the utterances of the bhakts collected by the previous Gurus. He not only put the entire Bani together but also compiled it systematically under different ragas. Guru Arjan's genius for compilation is eminently projected by the vars included in the Adi Granth. He has added shlokas to the Bani of all the earlier Gurus in order to elucidate the deeper meanings. To compile the outpourings of his predecessors and the, Bhakts under various ragas (musical measures) obviously demanded an unflattering grasp of the musical measures. sides being a notable compiler, Guru Arjan was also a gifted poet. More than half of the holy Granth consists of his own utterances. They comprise 2218 verses. Thus his work exceeds that of the other 35 inspired poets whose compositions are enshrined in the Guru Granth.

The essential message of Guru Arjan's hymns is meditation on Nam. The Guru has lucidly expatiated on the concept of brahmgiani (the enlightened soul). According to him, this enlightenment can be attained only through meditation on the Lord and the Guru's grace. In depicting the attributes of the brahmgiani, he has compared him to a lotus flower which immersed in mud and water is yet pure and beautiful. Without ill-will or enmity he is forever courageous and calm.

Guru Arjan set a fine personal example by living up to his own concept of a brahmgiani. All his holy compositions are characterized by humility and tenderness. He seeks the grace of God for the fulfillment of all kinds of human needs. With the compilation of the first volume of the Adi Granth, the Sikh religion registered greater unity and identity. The Sikhs now owned a unique Book or Granth of their own, and thus acquired a distinct and separate entity. Guru Arjan installed the holy Granth at the Harmandar and appointed Baba Budha Ji as the first Granthi of Harmandar Sahib. Thus, Amritsar became the most significant centre of the Sikh faith and the Sikhs emerged as a new and powerful community.

During the period between Guru Nanak and Guru Arjan, there was no conflict between the Sikhs and the Mughal Kings. Emperor Akbar was in particular a man of liberal views and he respected the ideals of the Sikh movement. But, with his death and the following enthronement of Jehangir, there was a total reversal of policy and change of attitude.

Jehangir's own writings reveal that he considered the spread of Sikhism as a positive threat to Islam. In a moment of fanatic frenzy, he characterized Sikhism as a 'shop of falsehood' and declared that he would extirpate it at the earliest opportunity. Thus he set about with a fanatical zeal to carry out his threat: and he trumped up the charge of treason against the Guru. With the complicity of the officials, Jehangir had the Guru soon imprisoned and tortured to death at Lahore in 1606. The martyrdom of Guru Arjan engendered a wave of shock and indignation among the Sikhs. No single event till then had so profoundly brought home to them the necessity of the sword. It is therefore not surprising that under the Sixth Master, Guru Hargobind they were militarized and prepared to face the Mugal might squarely. Thus emerged a new epoch in the history of Sikhism which led to a synthesis between Bhakti and Shakti (wordly power). Guru Arjan was the first Sikh Guru, who by his martyrdom lent to Sikhism a strength and solidarity that it had never known before. As desired by the Fifth Master, Guru Hargobind was ordained Guru in 1606, and, he guided and shaped the destiny of the Sikh community until 1645.

-Ref. Mahan Kosh (pp. 80)
Dr. D.S. Mani, Sardar Bakhshish Singh, and Dr. Gurdit Singh - Guru Granth Ratnavali, page 90

1579 Arjan dev married Mata Ganga.

Arjan Dev married Mata Ganga, daughter of Bhai Kishen Chand of village Meo, district Jallundar. The only child from this marriage was Guru Hargobind born in 1595 (Please NOTE that the exact date of this event is in question).

1634 Bhai Ballu Ji accepted Shahadat while fighting the Turks in Amritsar.
1790 Ranjit Singh became head of Sukharchakiya Misl.
1940 Master Tara Singh declares his opposition to the establishment of Sikh rule.

Master tara Singh, presiding over U.P. Conference at Lucknow, said "While opposing the Pakistan Scheme some Sikhs have lost their heads and they are preaching the establishment of Sikh rule. This will be adding to the confusion created by the Muslim League. Swaraj is the only solution of our country's misfortunes."

-Ref. "The Sikhs in History," by Sangat Singh, 1995.

1980 Sikh Bank, the Punjab and Sind Bank, Nationalised.

The only Sikh Bank, Punjab and Sind Bank Ltd. was nationalised by Indira Gandhi simply because it had on its staff a large number of Sikhs.

-Ref. THE SIKHS' STRUGGLE FOR SOVEREIGNTY, An Historical Perspective By Dr. Harjinder Singh Dilgeer and Dr. Awatar Singh Sekhon. Edited By: A.T. Kerr Page 110-119.

 

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