A glimpse into the life of Saint of highest order
Gurupurab, Sikh Gurus’ Birth Anniversary, is celebrated each year with great fervor. This year the celebrations are very significant ones as it marks 550th birth anniversary of first Guru of Sikhism, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. During the year of India’s independence in 1947, Punjab was divided into India and Pakistan, with many prominent places such as Guru Nanak’s birthplace and resting place left on the other side. Since the independence, Sikh Community in Indian Punjab prayed, during Ardaas, every day for open pilgrimages to religious and historical sites in Pakistani Punjab. The prayers, the Ardaas, have finally been answered as the 550th birth anniversary of Shri Guru Nanak Dev witnesses opening of a corridor, named Kartapur Corridor, providing visa-free movement for Indian Punjabis to pay homage at Shri Kartarpur Sahib, Guru Nanak’s resting place. As Chandigarh University and Guru Nanak’s disciples across the world celebrate his 550th birth anniversary, let us have a glimpse into his life.
Guru Nanak was an extraordinary child born to a village accountant Kalyan Das Mehta (Mehta Kalu) and Mata Tripta at village Talwandi, now known as Nankana Sahib, near the city of Lahore. Guru Nanak had an elder sister, Bebe Nanki, who had already recognized his enlightened soul. Since his early childhood, Nanak was blessed with a deeply contemplative mind and rational thinking. In a society full of superstitions, young Nanak would often astound his elders and teachers with the sublimity of his knowledge, particularly on divine matters. Also, Nanak denied partaking in traditional religious rituals, and raised his voice against many prevailing societal practices such as the Caste System, idolatry, and the worship of demi-Gods. Guru Nanak had mastered multiple religious texts and languages including Sanskrit, Persian, and Hindi by the age of 16.
According to the Sikh tradition, the birth and early years of Nanak’s life were marked with many events which demonstrated that Guru Nanak was blessed with divine grace. At a young age, he had begun writing what many believed was divinely inspired compositions. Guru Nanak was married to Mata Sulakhni with whom he had two sons, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das, and moved to Sultanpur Lodhi where he would work as an accountant. During that time period, Guru Nanak worked during the days, but meditated and sang hymns during the early mornings and late nights being accompanied by Bhai Mardana (Nanak’s childhood Muslim friend) on the rabab (a stringed instrument).
Further, it is believed that during one of those early mornings while bathing in “Vain Nadi” (a small river), Guru Nanak heard the almighty’s call to dedicate himself completely to the service of humanity. Guru Nanak then began the next stage of his life, being on a divine mission to preach his unique doctrine of Sikhi to the entire world. Thus, Guru Nanak’s journey began as he undertook 4 major spiritual journeys, Udaasi, covering India, Arabia, Tibet, South Asia and journeyed for around 30,000 KMs for 30 years accompanied by Bhai Mardana. Guru Ji came across a lot of hurdles, shackles created by centuries of superstition, however, with the principles of “Nirbhau” meaning without fear and “Nirvair” meaning without hate, Guru Nanak spread his message of recognizing the whole human race as one.
During his journeys, Guru Nanak Dev ji taught people to overcome religious, cultural superstitions and to evict evil from the minds and as well as the society. He regarded God as One and explained how he resides in each of his creations. Setting up a unique spiritual, social and political platform based on equality and fraternal love, Guru Nanak attacked the citadel of the Hindu Caste System, and condemned the theocracy of Mughal rulers. He described the dangers of egotism, falsehood, and hypocrisy, and called upon the people to engage in worship through the “Naam” (the name of God). Guru Nanak promoted the equality of all mankind and upheld the causes of the downtrodden and the poor, laying special emphasis to assert the equality of women.
By the same token, Guru Nanak settled on the banks of river Ravi at Kartarpur Sahib during his final years where he donned the outfits of a peasant, earning his own honest living by cultivating the lands. At Kartarpur Sahib, he introduced the institution of Langar (free community kitchen), establishing the basic equality of all people regardless of their social and economic status. With his writings, incorporated in Holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib, in the form of 974 spiritual hymns comprising the Japji Sahib, Asa di Var, Bara Mah, Sidh Gosht and Dakhni Onkar, Guru Nanak passed away in 1539, after passing on his succession on to Bhai Lehna, naming him as Guru Angad Dev.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji preached humanity to overcome their superstitions, exploitation on the basis of gender, caste or religion. He was a messenger of the almighty, regarded as the saint of highest order. From liberating women to caring for nature, Guru Nanak’s philosophy was what the world needed then and what it needs today. Loved and adored among people of various faiths and traditions, Guru Nanak Dev Ji is variously revered as Satguru Nanak, Jagat Guru Nanak, Baba Nanak, Nanak Shah Faqir, Bhagat Nanak, Nanak Kalandar. At his 550th birth anniversary, Chandigarh University pays homage to Guru Nanak Dev Ji and pray for “Sarbat Da Bhalla”, meaning the welfare of all.