Discussed in this part are Guru Nanak Dev's founding of Sikhism, his teachings and his witnessing of the barbarity of Muslim invader Babur and condemnation of Babur's atrocities.

Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Dev and was guided by ten Gurus as listed in Table 1 below.







Guru Nanak

20 August 1507

22 September 1539


Guru Angad

7 September 1539

29 March 1552


Guru Amar Das

26 March 1552

1 September 1574


Guru Ram Das

1 September 1574

1 September 1581


Guru Arjan

1 September 1581

30 May 1606


Guru Har Gobind

25 May 1606

28 February 1644


Guru Har Rai

3 March 1644

6 October 1661


Guru Har Krishan

6 October 1661

30 March 1664


Guru Tegh Bahadur

20 March 1665

11 November 1675


Guru Gobind Singh

11 November 1675

7 October 1708


Guru Nanak Dev

On Sikhism, Wikipedia writes: “Sikhism  is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev which continued to progress with ten successive Sikh gurus (the last teaching being the holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib). It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world, with approximately 30 million Sikhs. This system of religious philosophy and expression has been traditionally known as the Gurmat (literally ‘wisdom of the Gurū’). Punjab, India is the only region in the world with a majority Sikh population.

Guru Nanak Dev was born on April 15, 1469 at a village called Rāi Bhoi Kī Talvaṇḍī, now called Nankana Sahib near Lahore in present-day Pakistan. His father Kalyan Chand Das Bedi, nick named Mehta Kalu, was serving the Muslim landlord as a patwari (accountant) for crop revenue in the village of Talwandi. His mother’s name was Mata Tripta. At his birth place stands today a grand gurudwara, called Gurdwara Janamasthan.

Guru Nanak Dev had one sister called Bibi Nanaki, older than him by five years and she also became a spiritual figure in her own capacity. In 1475, she was married to Sri Jai Ram, who was a steward (modi) to Daulat Khan Lodi, the then governor of Lahore and Bibi Nanaki went with her husband to Sultanpur. Guru Nanak also went to Sultanpur to live with her and her husband. When Nanak Dev was 16 years old, he could find

Guru Nanak Dev a job under Daulat Khan. On 24 September 1487, Nanak married Mata Sulakkhani, daughter of Mul Chand and Chando Raṇi, in the town of Batala. The couple had two sons, Sri Chand (1494–1629) and Lakhmi Chand (1497–1555).


The Gurudwara Jansmasthan at Nankanasahib

From childhood, Nanak Dev showed keen interest in spiritual matters, and even at the age of five, he was found to have ardent interest in divine subjects. His father enrolled him at the village school when he was seven and there he used to amaze his teachers by expressing his deep understanding of the oneness of God. Many strange and miraculous incidents are reported about Nanak Dev. One such story says that the sleeping child’s head was shaded from the harsh sunlight by the stationary shadow of a tree. A different version of the same story says that a poisonous cobra provided the shadow with its hood. As a boy, Nanak learnt Persian and Arabic besides the regional languages.


Teachings of Guru Nanak Dev

The above mentioned indiscriminate killing and torture of the Hindus, and their forcible conversion en masse to Islam both immensely pained and alarmed the Hindu religious leaders and gurus. The South Indian Guru Ramanuja, born in the twelfth century at Sriperumbudur near modern Chennai, is considered the earliest preacher of the Bhakti movement. According to him the ways of Moksha lies through Karma (deeds), Jnan (wisdom) and Bhakti (devotion). Madhavcharya may be considered the torch bearer of Ramanuja and his view was that the final aim of man is the direct perception of Hari, which leads to Moksha or release from cycles of birth and rebirth.

The fundamental aim of the gurus of the Bhakti Movement was to enhance the bhakti (devotion) and love of the Hindus for their deities, so that they may reject Islam and remain stuck to their ancestral religion. As a result, millions of Hindus preferred to sacrifice their lives in the face of their forcible conversion to Islam. Another important aspect of the Bhakti Movement was to unite the Hindus under a supreme God. Furthermore, caste system, sectarianism, religious factions, and fanaticism etc. stood in the way of unity of the Hindus. Leaders of Bhakti Movement declared war against these divisive forces to unite the Hindus and abolished caste system within the cult. Guru Nanak, as a major leader of the Bhakti Movement, spread a simple message of “Ek Onkar”, i.e. We are all one with the One Creator of all Creations. The Sat Sree Akal is the one God that the Sikhs worship.

It has been mentioned earlier that among the various cults sprung up from the Bhakti Movement, Sikhism had an element of militancy to protect the Hindus from oppression of the Muslim rulers. Guru Govind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru, went ton to found the Khalsa-Panth, and turned the entire Sikh community into an army regiment to protect the oppressed Hindus. In this regard, historian R C Majumdar writes, “…the Sikhism was, to a large extent, a reaction against the oppression of the Muslims to which Nanak, the founder of the sect, was an eye-witness. Another contributing factor was the Bhakti cult which was then at its height in India. Nanak, like other medieval saints, such as Ramananda (14th century), Kabir and Namdev (15th century) and Chaitanya (16th century), was child of this movement. These two factors and forces – Muslim oppression and Bhakti cult – shaped the growth and development of both Sikhism and the Sikh nation.[i] Due to the militant element of Sikhism, Sikhs earned the wrath and bitter enmity of the Muslim rulers and they had to fight many battles with the Muslim rulers.

The rise of Sikhism as a political-cum-military movement may be regarded as a result of the intolerance and bigotry of the Muslim rulers toward the Hindus. “The Muslims of Central Asia had been invading and ruling over the Punjab, the homeland of the Sikhs, for nearly five hundred years before the foundation of Sikhism. The Punjab suffered most… Nearly seventy Muslim invasions had taken place during five hundred years preceding Nanak. The lot of the Hindus during this long period was one of great misery and suffering. Forcible conversion, destruction of Hindu temples, imposition of taxes like jizya and pilgrimage tax upon the Hindus, and restrictions upon the building of new temples and repairing old ones were only some of the disabilities under which the Hindus were groaning.[ii]

Regarding the philosophical aspect of Guru Nanak’s teachings, historian R C Majumdar writes,[iii]Nanak laid stress on spiritual discipline which implied devotion, service and culture of emotions. He asserted that salvation could be attained only through upright character and good deeds. In Japaji, Nanak says,

Words do not the saint of sinner make

Action alone is written in the book of fate,

What we sow that alone we take,

O Nanak, be saved or forever transmigrate

Regarding Guru Nanak and his teachings, Alexander Cunningham, the first director of the Archaeological Survey of India, said, “He left them erect and free, unbiased in mind and unfettered by rules, to become an increasing body of truthful worshippers.” He was loved and respected both by Hindus and Muslims alike. That is why he was called:[iv]

Guru Nanak Shah Faqir

Hindu ka Guri aur

Mussalman ka Pir

(Guru Nanak Shah Fakir – Guru of Hindus and Pir[v] of Muslims)


Four Great Journeys of Guru Nanak

Historian R C Majumdar writes, “Nanak wished to examine the actual working of religions at their great centres and also to give his own message of love and peace. For this purpose he undertook four great journeys. First, he went to the east (1496 to 1509) mainly to visit holy places of Hinduism up to Bengal, Assam and Sikkim. Perhaps Tibet also. Next he travelled to the south as far as Ceylon (1510 to 1515) for seeing Buddhist and Jain places of note. His third journey was to the north (1515 to 1517) to examine the Sidh maths or places of famous saints in Kashmir and the Himalayas. Lastly, he went to the west (1517 to 1521) in Muslim countries of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Arabia to study Islam. He travelled on foot.[vi]


Guru Nanak Dev’s Encounter with Babur

Guru Nanak Dev was an eye-witness to the treatment meted out to the Hindus by Babur when he invaded India in 1521. Guru Nanak was then staying at Sayyidpur (now called Eminabad) in the Gujranwala District, 80 kilometres from Lahore. Babur ordered general massacre of the adult Hindu males and took several thousands of women and children as captives. The barbarous treatment of these prisoners like flogging them with lashes of raw hide and mass raping of the women broke the tender heart of Nanak. In this agony he even took God to task in saying:[vii]

“Thou, O creator of all things,

Takest to thyself no blame;

Thou hast sent Yama disguised as the great Moghal Babur.

Terrible was the slaughter,

Loud was the cries of the lamenters,

Did this not awaken pity in Thee, O Lord?

Thou art part and parcel of all things equally, O Creator;

Thou must feel for all men and all nations,

If a strong man attacketh who is equally strong,

Where is the grief in this, or whose is the grievances?

But when a fierce tiger preys on the helpless cattle,

The Herdsman must answer for it.

Babur’s army also demolished many Hindu temples and built mosques in their places at Sambhal, Chanderi and Ayodhya (Ram Janmasthan Temple). Later on, Guru Nanak Dev summoned Babur and warned him for all his misdeeds.

>> to be continue

[i] R C Majumdar, History and Culture of the Indian People, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, VII:655

[ii] Ibid, VII:305

[iii] Ibid, VII:658

[iv] Ibid, VII:662

[v] Pir = Sufi Saint

[vi] R C Majumdar, VII:656

[vii] Ibid, VII:306-307


Part 1


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