Guru Nanak Dev


Guru Nanak Dev (Punjabi: ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇਵ, Gurū Nānak Dēv) (Born in Nankana Sahib, Punjab, (now Pakistan) on 20th October 1469 – 7 May 1539, Kartarpur, Punjab, India), was the founder of Sikhism, and the first of the eleven Sikh Gurus.

Beside followers of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev is revered by Hindus and Muslim Sufis across the Indian subcontinent. His primary message to society was recorded to be "devotion of thought and excellence of conduct as the first of duties". It goes without saying that Guru Nanak occupies a place of pride not only in the history of Punjab or India but also of the whole world.He was one of the Prophets of the world and gave to the world the gospel of love,goodwill and reconciliation.

Birth And Early Life

Guru Nanak was born on 20 October 1469 in a Hindu family of the Bedi Khatri clan, in the village of Rāi Bhōi dī Talvaṇḍī, now called Nankana Sahib (after the Guru), near Lahore, Pakistan. Today, his birth place is marked by Gurdwara Janam Asthan. His father, Mehta Kalyan Das Bedi, also known as Mehta Kalu, was the patwari (accountant) of crop revenue for the village of Talwandi under the Muslim landlord of the village, Rai Bular, who was responsible for collecting taxes. Guru Nanak's mother was Tripta Devi and he had one older sister, Nanaki.

There are also stories of Guru Nanak's life collected in writings known as the 'Janamsākhīs'. The most popular Janamsākhī purports to have been written by Bhai Bala a close companion, before Nanak died. However, the writing style and language employed have left scholars such as Max Arthur Macauliffe certain that they were composed after his death.

Bhai Gurdas, the scribe of the Gurū Granth Sāhib, also wrote about Nanak's life in his vārs. However, these too were compiled after Guru Nanak's demise, and are less detailed than the Janamsākhīs. Sikhs tend to hold Gurdas's accounts in higher esteem because of the author's generally perceived trustworthiness.

The Janamsākhīs recount in minute detail all the circumstances of the birth of the guru. They claim that at his birth, an astrologer who came to write his horoscope insisted on seeing the child. On seeing the infant, he is said to have worshipped him with clasped hands. The astrologer then remarked that he regretted that he should never live to see young Guru Nanak's eminence, worshipped as he should be, not only by Sikhs, but Hindus and Muslims as well.

At the age of five years Nanak is said to have begun to discuss spiritual and divine subjects. At age seven, his father Mehta Kalu enrolled him at the village school. In his youth he became familiar with the popular creeds of muslims and hindus and gained knowledge of the koran and hindu shasters. That left him displeased with the corruptions and indifference of the learned. A manuscript in Persian mentions that his first teacher was a Muslim and Nanak astonished his teacher by asking the hidden meaning of the first letter of the alphabet , which is almost straight stroke in Persian or Arabic, resembling the mathamatical version of one and denotes unity or oneness of God.. Nanak left school early after he had shown his scholastic proficiency. He then took to private study and meditation.

All the Janamsākhīs are unanimous in stating that Nanak courted the retirement of the local forest and the society of the religious men who frequented it. Several of them were profoundly versed in the Indian religious literature of the age. They had also travelled far and wide within the limits of ancient India, and met its renowned religious teachers. Nanak thus became acquainted with the latest teachings of Indian philosophers and reformers.


Nanak appeares to have been naturally of a pious dispostion and a reflecting mind. Sikh tradition states that at the age of thirty, Nanak went missing, and was presumed to have drowned after going for one of his morning baths to a local stream called the Kali Bein or the Humber Bain. Three days later he reappeared and would give the same answer to any question posed to him: "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim" (in Punjabi, "nā kōi hindū nā kōi musalmān"). It was from this moment that Nanak would begin to spread the teachings of what was then the beginning of Sikhism. Although the exact account of his itinerary is disputed, he is widely acknowledged to have made four major journeys, spanning thousands of kilometers. The first tour was east towards Bengal and Assam, the second south towards Ceylon via Tamil Nadu, the third north towards Kashmir, Ladakh and Tibet, and the final tour west towards Baghdad and Mecca.

He questioned with equal anxiety the learned priest and the simple devotee about the will of God and the path to hapiness.A story is narrated that while at Mecca , Nanak was found sleeping with his feet towards the Temple , that when angrily asked how dare he dishonour the house of lord, he replied that could he turn his feet where the house of the lord was not?

The pious heart of Nanak sought hopelessly a resting place amid the conflicting creeds and practises of men. All was error, he said; he had read the Korans and the Purans, but God he found nowhere.He returned to his native land, he threw aside the habit of an ascetic, he became again the householder and spent his life calling upon men to live their life virtuously, to worship one invisible God and to be tolerant of the failings of others.The mild demeanor, the earnest piety and persuasive eloquence of Nanak, are ever the themes of praise.

Nanak was married to Sulakhni, the daughter of Moolchand Chona, a rice trader from the town of Batala. They had two sons. The elder son, Sri Chand, was an ascetic and he came to have a considerable following of his own, known as the Udasis. The younger son, Lakshmi Das, on the other hand was totally immersed in worldly life. To Nanak, who believed in the ideal of rāj maiṁ jōg (detachment in civic life), both his sons were unfit to carry on the Guruship.

Teachings Of Nanak

The teachings of Nanak included faith in one true God , worship and recitel of his name and the necessity of guru in pursuing the path to God.God, according to him , is immanent and transcendent.Nobody knows the limits of God. God alone knows how great he is. Nanak compares God to the beloved and says God is in the heart of every individual. Nanak had belief in a personal and merciful god. Nanak denounced the worship of idols .He put emphasis on the worship of true name. Nanak endeavored to remove the cloud of ignorance and superstitions from the minds of people.

* Naam Japna: Chanting the Holy Name and thus remembering God at all times (often meditation).
* Kirat Karō: Earning an honest living.
* Vaṇḍ Chakkō: Sharing with others.These were some of basic teachings of Nanak

Nanak put great emphasis on the worship of True Name.Repetition of the True Name Satnam Vāhigurū was to be done with greatest devotion.To quote Nanak " The name is the God, the God of all Gods. Some propitiate durga, some shiv, some ganesh and some other Gods but the Guru's Sikhs worship the True Name and thus remove all obstacles to salvation". Nanak put emphasis on the importance of Guru for the realisation of God.To quote him" Without the Guru, no one can obtain God, however long the matter be debated". With the help of guru, man enjoys divine pleasure, he does not know any sorrow. Guru is the raft or the ladder of the Sikhs. Guru is found through divine grace.

Other beliefs and Contributions

Guru Nanak had many beliefs which were not popular at the time but are now widespread.

* Equality of Humans: When throughout the East and West Slavery and race discrimination was rife, and disrespect amongst the different classes and castes was at its peak, Nanak preached against discrimination and prejudices due to race, caste, status, etc. He said: "See the brotherhood of all mankind as the highest order of Yogis; conquer your own mind, and conquer the world." (SGGS page 6); also "There is one awareness among all created beings." (Page 24) and finally "One who recognizes the One Lord among all beings does not talk of ego. ||4||" (page 432). He urges all the peoples of the world to "conquer" their minds to these evil practises. All human beings had the light of the Lord and were the same – only by subduing one's pride and ego could one see this light in all.

* Equality of Women: In about 1499 when society offered little status or respect to women, Nanak Dev sought to elevate the position of women by spreading this message: "From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all. O Nanak, only the True Lord is without a woman." (Page 473). In so doing he promoted the equality of women in the 15th century. Nanak Dev also condemned the ritual of Sati some 300 years prior to the British doing so.

* Universal message for all People: It had been a custom at the time for religious leaders to address only their own congregation, and for segregation of the different religions – but Nanak Dev broke with tradition, and spoke to all of humanity. To the Muslim he said: "And when, O Nanak, he is merciful to all beings, only then shall he be called a Muslim. ||1||" (page 141"; to the Hindu, he said "O Nanak, without the True Name, of what use is the frontal mark of the Hindus, or their sacred thread? ||1||" (page 467); and to all he preached: "To take what rightfully belongs to another is like a Muslim eating pork, or a Hindu eating beef." (Page 141).

Upon being asked which religion, Hinduism or Islam, was the true path to God, he replied that the true way to attain God was to worship Him who is eternal and contained in the whole Universe.

Last Years Of Nanak

Spending the last fifteen years of his life in Kartarpur, the Guru would wake at dawn and recite his daily prayers. At daybreak, he would address his followers. He worked in the field and earned his livelihood. He started the concept of Langar; or community kitchen, where food would be partaken by Nanak's followers irrespective of their caste or creed.

As his end approached Nanak would frequently make a test of his followers and sons, for nominating a succesor.He was once walking with them on a road and a corpse lay on the side. He ordered all of them to eat that corpse.None,but Lehna ,later Guru Angad , came forward.He removed the sheet which covered the corpse and found Nanak lying there instead.[23] There were numerous other such ocassions and Lehna never faltered in his faith in Nanak.Later Nanak nominated Lehna as the next Guru saying he was himself and his spirit would dwell in him. Nanak called him Guru Angad.

On 22 September 1539, aged 70, Guru Nanak met with his demise, after he had requested his disciples to sing the Sohila (the praise of God).


There are numerous folklores and tales relating to Nanak. One such folklore narrates that when it became clear that the death of Guru Nanak Dev was near, a dispute arose among his followers. His Hindu followers wanted to cremate the remains while the Muslim followers wanted to bury the body following Islamic tradition. Nanak brokered a compromise by suggesting that each group should place a garland of flowers beside his body, and whoever's garland remained unwilted after three days could dispose of his body according to their tradition. However, the next morniing, upon raising the cloth under which the Guru's body lay, only the flowers shared between his followers were found. The Hindus cremated their flowers whereas the Muslims buried theirs.[24][25]

He is also said to have met the first Mughal emperor Babur , when the latter invaded India and greatly impressed the sovereign with his demeanor and conversation. He perplexed Babur by stating that both of them were Kings and were about to lay the foundation of dynasty of Ten.[26]

While working with or aiding his brother-in-law at Sultanpur Lodhi, at the ration stores, Nanak bestowed large quantities of grain in charity to the needy, and when the quantities of grain were balanced by Daolat Khan Lodhi,owner of these stores, they were always found to be correct and exact.


1. ^ Nanak may be referred to by many names and titles such as Baba Nanak or Nanak Shah.
2. ^ Duggal, Kartar Singh (1988). Philosophy and Faith of Sikhism. Himalayan Institute Press, xxii. ISBN 0-89389-109-6.
3. ^ Cunningham, Joseph Davey [1853] (2006). History of the Sikhs. Albemarle Street. London: John Murray, 43. ISBN.
4. ^ Mahajan, Vidya Dhar (1970). Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: S. Chand, 230.
5. ^ Macauliffe, Max Arthur [1909] (2004). The Sikh Religion - Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications, 1. ISBN 81-86142-31-2. “The third day of the light-half of the month of Baisakh (April-May) in the year AD 1469, but, some historians believe that the Guru was born on April 15th, 1469 A.D.” . Generally thought to be the third day of Baisakh (or Vaisakh) of Vikram Samvat 1526.
6. ^ Singh, Khushwant (2006). The Illustrated History of the Sikhs. India: Oxford University Press, 12-13. ISBN 0-19-567747-1. Also, as according to the Purātan Janamsākhī (the birth stories of Nanak).
7. ^ [1]
8. ^ Macauliffe, Max Arthur [1909] (2004). The Sikh Religion - Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications, lxxix. ISBN 81-86142-31-2.
9. ^ Macauliffe, Max Arthur [1909] (2004). The Sikh Religion - Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications, 1. ISBN 81-86142-31-2.
10. ^ Macauliffe, Max Arthur [1909] (2004). The Sikh Religion - Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications, 2. ISBN 81-86142-31-2.
11. ^ Cunnigham, Joseph Davey (1853). A History Of The Sikhs. London: John Murray, 37-38.
12. ^ Macauliffe, Max Arthur [1909] (2004). The Sikh Religion - Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications, 8-9. ISBN 81-86142-31-2.
13. ^ Macauliffe, Max Arthur [1909] (2004). The Sikh Religion - Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications, 10. ISBN 81-86142-31-2.
14. ^ Cunnigham, Joseph Davey (1853). A History Of The Sikhs. London: John Murray, 37.
15. ^ Shackle, Christopher; Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh (2005). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. United Kingdom: Routledge, xiii-xiv. ISBN 0-415-26604-1.
16. ^ Singh, Khushwant (2006). The Illustrated History of the Sikhs. India: Oxford University Press, 14. ISBN 0-19-567747-1.
17. ^ Cunnigham, Joseph Davey (1853). A History of the Sikhs. London: John Murray, 38.
18. ^ Cunnigham, Joseph Davey (1853). A History of the Sikhs. London: John Murray, 39.
19. ^ Mahajan, Vidya Dhar (1970). Muslim rule In India. New delhi: S. Chand, 227.
20. ^ Mahajan, Vidya Dhar (1970). Muslim rule In India. New delhi: S. Chand, 227.
21. ^ Mahajan, Vidya Dhar (1970). Muslim rule In India. New delhi: S. Chand, 227.
22. ^ Mahajan, Vidya Dhar (1970). Muslim rule In India. New delhi: S. Chand, 227.
23. ^ Cunnigham, joseph Davey (1853). A History Of Sikhs. London: john Murray, 44.
24. ^
25. ^ [2]
26. ^ Cunnigham, Joseph Davey (1853). A history Of The Sikhs. London: John Murray.
27. ^ Cunnigham, Joseph Davey (1853). A history Of The Sikhs. London: John Murray


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1947-2014 (Archived)
Re: Guru Nanak Dev Ji

Aman ji,

A great article -- but also a great bibliography. I have been looking for good references like these.

And good medicine for my soul-- on Christmas night here in the US -- after having read some very hateful words. Nanaak is the messenger of love for all mankind -- speaking with the voice of the One who is without hatred, without enmity.
Re: Guru Nanak Dev Ji

I recently came across articles of Gurdwara Pathar Sahib in Leh. Theres a fantastic story behind it and why its built. The Buddhist Lamas first brought it to our attention and a Gurdwara was built. Reading about it literally brought tears to my eyes. They called him the Lamas Guru!! Does anyone else know of obscure locationed Gurdwaras and the links they have to our Gurus. Love to read about them. Its our history and many would want to know.
Re: Guru Nanak Dev Ji

Thanks so much. Wow!! Please keep me posted of other remote gurdwaras if you can, anyone.


ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ (Previously namjap)
Re: Guru Nanak Dev Ji

Bani by Guru Nanak Dev Ji (Mehla 1) (zipped = 1.45MB, pdf = 5.1MB)