Introduction to Sikhism: The Sikh Gurus
SIKHISM & THE SIKH GURUS
A few details regarding the Sikh Gurus are given below:
to Sikh religion
|Guru Nanak||70||38||2||Kartarpur||The founder|
|Guru Angad||48||35||3||Khadur||Panjabi Grammar, health|
|Guru Ramdas||47||40||3||Amritsar||Kirtan & katha|
|Guru Arjan||43||18||1||Taran Taran||Adi Granth, Harimandir Sahib|
|Guru Hargobind||49||11||6||Kiratpur||Miri & Piri|
|Guru Harrai||31||14||2||xxxxx||Zoos & Hospitals|
|Guru Harkrishen||8||5||x||xxxxx||Schools, education|
|Guru Tegh Bahadur||54||43||1||Anandpur||Jiwanmukt, living for others|
|Guru Gobind Singh||42||9||4||Paonta Sahib||Amrit, Sacrifice|
The Founder Guru Nanak Dev Ji(1469-1539)
The Sikhs had ten prophets called the Gurus. The time-period of the history of the Gurus ranged from 1469 A.D , when Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikhism was born, to 1708 A.D, when the last prophet, Guru Gobind Singh left this mortal world for his heavenly abode (239 years).
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion was born in a Hindu family of Kshatriya caste. He revolted against that order when he was only 13 years old. God spoke to him when he was 38. He was taken to God’s abode where God gave him Two Commandments known as `Moolmantar’ and `Sloak’. They read:
There is only one God
He is the Truth (permanent being)
He is the Creator,
He is devoid of fear
He is devoid of enmity
He is beyond death
He is not born
He is self-illuminated
He is the master of all the gifts.
God existed before the start of the time
God existed when the time started.
God exists now and,
God will always exist.
Guru Nanak was appointed as God’s latest prophet and was asked to spread the name of God and the rules of both divinity and morality.
Guru Nanak travelled as far as Tibet in the north, Sri Lanka in the south, Mecca in the west and Dhaka in the east to deliver God’s message. He was welcomed wherever he went. He met both kings and robbers, gave them the message of God and reformed them. He is the only prophet in the world who did not meet any violent opposition and was not harmed by the enemies. In fact he had no enemies. (compare him with: Moses and the Pharaos; Jesus and the Jewish clergy and the Romans; Ram and Ravan; Krishen and Kans; Mohammed and the Meccan pagans).
Guru Nanak was revered by both the Hindus and the Muslims. He was received with respect and folded hands by Babar, the Muslim Emperor of India and Shivnabh, the Hindu King of Sri Lanka; he was honoured by the clergy of both the Hindus and the Muslims.
Guru Nanak was a family man, was married and had two sons. While living with his father he looked after the family fields and the cattle; staying with his sister, Babe Nanki, he worked as a store keeper with the local ruler; and for the last 17 years of his life, he tilled his own fields at Kartarpur, a town founded by him. There are 41 Sikh shrines founded in his memory.
For 14 years, from 1507-1510 he travelled around the then known world and spread the message of God. In history, he is the most travelled of all the known prophets. (Jesus travelled in the central plains of Palestine; Mohammed travlled from Mecca to Medina and back to Mecca; Moses travelled from Egypt to outskirts of Palestine; Ram travelled from Ayodhaya to Sri Lanka; Krishna travelled from Mathura to Dwarka).
Guru Nanak died at the age of 70. His 974 hymns are recorded in the Sikh holy book.
THE PROPHETS 2nd Guru – 10th Guru
Guru Angad (1504-1552) was the second Guru of the Sikhs. He was a disciple of Guru Nanak and was chosen as his successor after being put to a great many tests. He became Guru at the age of 35 and his pontificate lasted for 13 years. He rationalised the Panjabi language and gave to it a new grammar. He also encouraged his followers to look after their health. He gave them instructions to have a balanced diet and regular exercises. He built many wrestling arenas and encouraged his followers to participate in wrestling competitions Like Guru Nanak, he founded a new town and named it Khadur. There are 2 Gudwaras built in his memory, and there are in Guru Granth Sahib, 65 hymns composed by him. He died at the age of 48.
Guru Amardas (1479 – 1574) became the third Guru at the age of 73. For twelve years he personally served Guru Angad. He walked daily for 5 miles to fetch water for the Guru’s bath. He was chosen from amongst many by Guru Angad as his successor. His pontificate lasted for 17 years. He inculcated amongst his followers, the spirit of Service to humankind and to God Like both Guru Nanak and Guru Angad he was a very simple man. There are 4 Gurdwaras related to his memory and there are, in Guru Granth Sahib, 907 hymns composed by him. He died at the age of 90.
Guru Ramdas (1534-1581) became Guru when he was 40. His pontificate lasted for only 7 years. He was a son-in-law of Guru Amardas. He re-organised the Sikh Church and founded the city of Amritsar.
He died at the age of 47. There are 3 Gurdwaras built in his memory and there are 679 of his hymns recorded in Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Arjan (1563-1606) became Guru at the young age of 18. He was the youngest son of Guru Ramdas, He built the Golden Temple and compiled the Sikh holy book. He also founded the city of Taran Taran. He is the first martyr of the Sikh history. He died at the age of 43, There are 12 Gurdwaras built in his memory and there are 2,218 of his hymns recorded in Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) became Guru at the age of 11. He was the only son of Guru Arjan. His pontificate was longest amongst all the Gurus, it lasted for 38 years. He was the first Guru to fight with the Mughals against their injustice and tyranny. . He wore two swords, symbolising Miri and Piri, royalty and saintliness. He organised early morning Sikh choirs. He founded the city of Kiratpur3. There are 16 Gudwaras built in his memory. He travelled upto Kashmir in the north to spread the message of the house of Nanak. He died at the age of 49. He did not write any hymns.
Guru Harrai (1630-1661) was a grandson of Guru Hargobind. He became Guru at the age of 14 and remained Guru for 17 years. He built many clinics for both sick human beings and animals/birds. He was expert in Aryuvedic medicine. Most of the time he lived in Nahan and preached the divine message over there. There are 3 Gurdwaras dedicated to his memory. He died at the age of 31. He did not write any hymns.
Guru Harkrishen (1656 – 1664) was the youngest son of Guru Harrai. He became Guru at the tender age of 5 and died at the age of 8. Thus his pontificate lasted for only 3 years. He took over the sufferings of the people of Delhi over himself and saved them from effects of smallpox epidemic (compare this sacrifice with the Christian saying, “Jesus died for our sins”). He instructed his followers to build schools for religious education. There are 4 Gurdwaras related to him. He did not write any hymns. Most of the modern Sikh Schools are named after him.
Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675) was a grand uncle of Guru Harkrishan. He became Guru at the age of 43 and remained Guru until the age of 54. He travelled towards east of India up to Dhaka to spread the message of the house of Nanak. He offered himself for martyrdom for saving the Hindu religion. He gave his life but saved the annihilation of Hindu religion by the then Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. He was beheaded in Delhi at a place known as `Chandni Chowk’ He founded the city of Anandpur. There are 16 Gurdwaras built in his memory and there are 115 hymns recorded under his name in Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Gobind Singh (1666 – 1708) became Guru at the age of 9. He was the only son of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Like his grand-father Guru Hargobind, he also had to resort to sword to protect the young Sikh nation from an onslaught of the Mughals. He initiated a new baptism and called it `Amrit’ . He created the order of Khalsa (Saint-soldiers) and prescribed the compulsion of wearing the 5 Ks. He wrote hymns which were later collected by one of his followers, Bhai Mani Singh, at the orders of his widow Mata Sundri. He declared the mission of Guru Nanak completed. He passed on the spiritual authority of the Sikhs to the Sikh holy book, and called it Guru Granth Sahib. He passed on the temporal authority of the Sikh to the Khalsa. He died at the age of 42. His hymns are preserved in the Granth called Dasam Granth. He was the last prophet (Guru) of the Sikhs.
THE THEORY OF ONE SPIRIT
The Sikhs believe that all the ten Gurus had the same spirit. This is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh had recorded in one of his hymns that though after Nanak came Angad and then Amardas and then Ramdas, Arjan, Hargobind, Harrai, Harkrishen and Tegh Bahadur, but they all had the same spirit. They looked different for they had different bodies but their spirit, the inner self, was the same. (Compare it with Christian belief of Holy Spirit).
1 Guru Granth Sahib – Guru Arjan Dev: “Tu mera pita tu hai mera mata, tu mera bandhu tu mera bharata”.
2 Dasam Granth – Bachitar Natak: “Tu nae apna sut mujae niwaja”.
3 It is at this place that the Sikhs immerse the ashes of their dead. The Gurdwara is called `Patal Puri’.
Excerpts taken from:
‘Sikhism – An Introduction’
Dr Sukhbir Singh Kapoor
Vice Chancellor World Sikh University, London