More on Teachings of Guru Nanak: It has been mentioned earlier that one of the principal aims of the leaders of the Bhakti Movement was to unite the Hindus under one God. In northern India, they projected either Lord Krishna or Lord Rama as the Supreme God. In the Sikh Panth, the Sikh gurus admitted a formless Supreme God called Sat Shri Akal, Who manifests Himself in the messages of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Scripture. Thus, Sikhism abolished idol worship. Like all other leaders of the Bhakti Movement, Guru Nanak discarded existing institutions that stood in the way of unity of the Hindus, for example the caste system. Apart from doing away with the caste system among his followers, he advised his followers to train their mind and all the senses to recognize the Divine Light of Sat Shri Akal within oneself and within the entire creation in order to replace idol-worship as a means of attaining the grace of God. He used to tell his disciples, “Be aware of the Divine in our hearts and the whole creation with every breath we take.”
Scholars agree that Guru Nanak obtained his enlightenment in 1496 when he started on his mission. His first statement, after his prophetic communion with God was, "There is no Hindu, nor any Mussalman." The subsequent divine revelation he received was: “Not only the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God, but also his clear and primary interest not in any metaphysical doctrine but only in man and his fate.” So, it becomes evident that the fundamental basis of his message was “Love your neighbour as yourself.” While he discarded the Hindu practice of idol worship, worshipping many gods and the caste system, he also criticized many Muslim practices. For example, Guru Nanak denounced the Muslim practice of polygamy, i.e. keeping up to four wives at a time, and adopted strict monogamy within his community. He also deplored the Muslim practice of animal sacrifice, and said: “Killing of God’s creations in the name of God is totally ironic.” He also denounced the inferior status of women in the Muslim community and instructed his disciples to treat women as equal to men.
Furthermore, he criticized fasting, practised by both the Hindus and Muslims, and emphasized that making your body suffer will not help you to meet God. Instead, meditation of God is above all. He prohibited the cutting of hair and beards as the practice was against the will of God and taught that men should try to live the way God made them.
Another exemplary practice Guru Nanak Dev introduced is langar, a communal feast. Higher caste Hindus generally refused to dine with the lower caste ones. To end this prejudice and effectively abolish the caste system, Guru Nanak introduced langar, where both lower and upper caste people dined together with food prepared in a common kitchen. Through the implementation of all these reforms, the Sikhs emerged as community united like a rock, extremely devoted to the teachings of their Gurus and fully conscious about their aims.
Guru Angad (or Bhai Lehna), the second of the ten Sikh gurus, was nominated by Guru Nanak in 1538 to be his successor, because of his loyalty and deep devotion to God. Guru Nanak had to ignore the aspiration of his two sons to take over the post and Guru Angad formally took over the Guruship on 7 September 1539. He had married Mata Khivi in January 1520 and had two sons (Dasu and Datu) and two daughters (Amro and Anokhi).
Like Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Angad also travelled widely and visited all important religious places and centres established by Guru Nanak to preach Sikhism. He also established hundreds of new centres of Sikhism and thus inducted considerable people into the faith. Thus, the community was greatly strengthened to face the dangers and hostility that were around. During this phase, Sikhism was established as a separate religious sect.
Guru Amar Das
Guru Amar Das, the 3rd Sikh Guru, took over the guruship on 26 March 1552. He was born to orthodox Hindu parents in Amritsar. As a Hindu, he once heard some hyms of Guru Nanak, which greatly impressed him. This led him to become a devoted disciple of Guru Angad Sahib. He married Mata Mansa Devi and had four children: two daughters and two sons.
Guru Amar Das established his headquarters in the newly-built town of Goindwal. He highly organized the propagation of the Sikh faith, dividing the Sikh Sangat area into 22 preaching centres (Manjis), each under the charge of a devout Sikh, and himself visited and sent Sikh missionaries to different parts of India to promote Sikhism.
He considerably strengthened the tradition of 'Guru ka Langer' and denounced the practice of Sati and advocated widow-remarriage. He also asked the women to discard 'Purdah' (veil). He introduced new birth, marriage and death ceremonies. Thus he created a fence around the infant like Sikhism and there upon earned stiff resistance from the Orthodox Hindus and Muslim fundamentalists. He fixed three Gurpurbs for Sikh celebrations: Dewali, Vaisakhi and Maghi. He prohibited visiting Hindu pilgrimage centres and paying tributes to the Muslim places for the Sikhs.
He constructed Baoli at Goindwal Sahib having eighty-four steps and made it a Sikh pilgrimage centre. He reproduced more copies of the hymns of Guru Nanak Sahib and Guru Angad Sahib. He also composed 869 (according to some chronicles these were 709) verses (stanzas) including Anand Sahib, and Guru Arjan Sahib made all the Shabads part of Guru Granth Sahib. [http://sgpc.net/gurus/guruamardas.asp]
Guru Ram Das
Guru Ram Das
The fourth Sikh guru was Guru Ram Das, son-in-law of Guru Amar Das, who took over the guruship after Guru Amar Das died at the age of 95. He was born in Chuna Mandi near Lahore on 24 September 1534. He had three sons: Prithi Chand, Mahadev and Guru Arjan. He remained Guru for 7 years.
Guru Ram Das organized the structure of the Sikh society. He was the author of Laava, the four hymns of the Sikh Marriage Rites. He planned the township of Ramdaspur, which became the Sikh holy city of Amritsar. In Amritsar, he designed the gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, which translates as "The Abode of God", also known as the Golden Temple.
Guru Ram Das composed as many as 688 hymns containing various teachings for the Sikhs which were included in the Guru Granth Sahib and promoted early-morning meditation in the Lord's Name.
Relation with the Muslim Rulers
Until the time of Guru Ram Das, the fourth guru, there was no confrontation between the Sikhs and the Muslim rulers. Trouble began during the tenure of the fifth guru, Guru Arjan Dev, which became most bitter during the times of 9th guru, Teg Bahadur Singh, and the tenth guru, Gobind Singh. Guru Amardas maintained cordial relations with Emperor Akbar and persuaded him to waive off toll-tax (pilgrim's tax) for non-Muslims while crossing Yamuna and Ganga. Akbar did so. Emperor Akbar once came to see Guru Amar Das and had to eat the coarse rice in the Langar before he could have an interview with the Guru. Emperor Akbar was highly impressed by this system and expressed his desire to grant some royal property for 'Guru ka Langar', but the Gguru politely declined the offer. Many also believe that the deposed Mughal Emperor Humayun (Babar's son), while being pursued by his Pathan opponent Sher Shah Suri, came to Guru Angad and obtain his blessings for re-conquering the throne of Delhi.
(To be continued)