The Ten Gurus of the Sikhs
The “Guru” in Sikhism is an enlightener and messenger. The word ‘Guru’ does not always refer to a human being. The Guru’s word of hymn is also Guru
“The universe is the temple of God but without the Guru darkness reigns supreme.”
The Gurus have raised the conscience of the Sikhs to such a level where they can be one with God. They are the light bearers for humanity. They are messengers of the Timeless (God) and renew the eternal wisdom. They are universal men who free our minds from bigotry and superstitions, dogmas and rituals, and emphasize the simplicity of the religion. They appear outside in human form to those who crave for visible and physical guides. The enlighteners are the inner selves.
The 1st Guru – Guru Nanak Dev Ji
The first of the Gurus and the founder of the Sikh religion was Guru Nanak Dev Ji. He was born in Talwandi, now known as Nankana Sahib (near Lahore in current Pakistan) in 1469 AD. Guru Nanak married and had two sons. The time Guru Nanak Dev Ji came into this world, it was one of the darkest periods in India’s history, when the people were absolutely divided and demoralized. Guru Nanak himself describes the scene in the following words: “The age is a knife. Kings are butchers. They dispense justice when their palms are filled. Decency and laws have vanished, falsehood stalks abroad. Then came Babar to Hindustan (India). Death disguised as a Mogul made was on us. There was slaughter and lamentation. Did not Thou, O Lord, feel the pain?”
In addition, the priests had reduced religion to a mockery. The public was blind to its faith, and governed by superstitions. Seeing all this, Guru Nanak started builiding a nation of self-respecting men and women, devoted to God and their leaders filled with a sense of equality and brotherhood for all. He pronounced, for the benefit of all: “To worship an image, to make pilgrimage to a shrine, to remain in a desert, and yet have an impure mind, is all in vain; to be saved, worship only the TRUTH.” “Keeping no feeling of enmity for anyone God is contained in every bosom.” “FORGIVENESS is love at its highest power.” “Where there is forgiveness there is God Himself.” “Do not wish evil for anyone.” “Do not speak harsh for anyone.” “Do not obstruct anyone’s work.” “If a man speaks ill of you, forgive him.” “Practice physical, mental and spiritual endurance.” “Help the suffereing even at the cost of your own life.”
Against social inequality Guru Nanak Dev Ji preached: “There is only one Father of us all, and we are all His children. Recognize all human race as one.”
Giving women their proper place in society, He said: “Born of women, nourished by women, wedded to women, why then do they revile women? How can woman be called inferior when they give birth to kings and prophets?”
Guru Nanak was a friend of the down trodden. “There are low castes, lowliest of the low. I, Nanak have my place with them; what have I to do with the high born? God’s grace is there where the down-trodden are taken care of.”
He also preached the concept of “Honest-Productive-Labour” (Kirat Karni). “Only such a person can realize the spiritual path who earns by the sweat of his brow and shares his earnings with the needy.” Guru Nanak Dev Ji passed away on September 7th, 1539.
The 2nd Guru – Guru Angad Dev Ji
The Second Guru, Guru Angad Dev Ji, was born in 1504 and first met Guru Nanak in 1532. Guru Angad Dev Ji invented and introduced the Gurmukhi (written script of Punjabi) script and made it known to all Sikhs. THe scripture of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji is written in Gurmukhi. The scripture is also the basis of the Punjabi language. Guru Angad Dev Ji was a model of self-less service to the Sikhs and showed them the way to devotional prayers.
The 3rd Guru – Guru Amardas Ji
The third Guru, Guru Amardas Ji, was born in 1479. He met Guru Angad Dev Ji in 1541 who transmitted the same Light to Guru Amardas Ji in 1552. Guru Amardas Ji took up cudgels of spirituality to fight against caste restricions, caste prejudices and curse of ‘untouchables’. His mission like his predecessors was to irradicate sociey of the caste system, (which was attempted to be put in place by forces that wanted to segregate and weaken the Sikh Nation later in history, and the battel to keep the system out of Sikhism is still in effect. As more and more Sikhs become educated in their faith and history the more they are swaying away from such sysems of societal segratative classification systems.)
Guru Amardas Ji strengthened the tradition of the free kitchen, Guru Ka Langar (which was started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji), and made his disiples, wheather rich or poor, born of high or low caste (according to the Hindu Caste System), sit together in one place to share a meal. He thus established social equality amongst the people.
Guru Amardas Ji introduced Anand Karaj, the marriage ceremony for the Sikhs, thus replacing the Hindu ceremony. He also abolished amongst the Sikhs, the custom of Sati, in which married women wer forced to burn on the funeral fire of her husband. The custom of Paradah, in which a woman covered her face with a veil, was also done away with by this Guru.
The 4th Guru – Guru Ramdas Ji
The Fourth Guru, Guru Ramdas ji, was born in 1534. He became the Guru in 1574. He started the construction of the famous Golden Temple at Amritsar, the holy city of the Sikhs. The Temple remains open on all sides and at all times to everyone. This indicates that the Sikhs believe in One God who has no partiality for any particular place, direction, or time.
The 5th Guru – Guru Arjan Dev Ji
Guru Ramdas Ji bestowed upon the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, with the “Divine Light” in 1581. He was born in 1563. Guru Arjan was a saint and a scholar of the highest quality and repute. He complied the hymns and compositions of Guru Nanak and his other predecessors, selected the sacred scriptures of some Hindu and Muslim saints, composed his own hymns and thus complied the Adi Granth. He proved that holy being irrespective of caste or creed are equally worthy of respect and reverence. The achievements and the works of Guru Arjan upset the reigning Emperor, Jahagir who implicated him and tortured him in most inhumane ways. The Guru suffered quietly and bravely and set to the whole world an unequlled example of self-sacrifice and peaceful suffering. Despite being made to sit in boiling water, and on a red hot iron plate while burning sand was poured over his body, he chanted cheerfully and softly “Sweet is Thy Will, My Lord; They grace alone I beseech”. He breathed his last in 1606.
The 6th Guru – Guru Hargobind Ji
The Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, was born in 1595. He became Guru in 1606. He built many religious shrines and felt the necessity of imparting the spirit of soldiership to the Sikhs and urged them to be well versed in the art of using sword and other arms of self-defense and self-preservation. He himself wore two swords, Miri, representing political sovereignty and, Piri, signifying spiritual sovereignty, a balance of material and spiritual life in the world.
The 7th Guru – Guru Har Rai Ji
The Seventh Guru, Guru Har Rai Ji, born in 1630, spent most of his life in devotional meditation and preaching the Gospel of Guru Nanak. He also continued the grand task of nation building initiated by Guru Hargobind.
The 8th Guru – Guru Har Krishan Ji
The Eighth Guru, Guru Har Krishan Ji, was born in 1656. The “Devine Light” was bestowed upon him in 1661. To the Sikhs he proved to be the symbols of service, purity and truth. The Guru gave his life while serving and healing the epidemic-stricken people in Delhi. Anyone who invokes Him with a pure heart has no difficulties whatsoever in their life. He was the youngest Guru at the age of 5 years old.
The 9th Guru – Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji
The Ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, was born in 1621 in Amritsar. He became Guru in 1664. He established the town of Anandpur. The Guru laid down his life for the protection of Hindus, their Tilak (devotional mark painted on the forehead) and their sacred thread. He was a firm believer in the right of freedom of worship. It was for this cause that he faced martyrdom for the defense of the downtrodden Hindus. So pathetic was the torture of Guru Tegh Bahadur that his body had to be cremated clandestinely at Delhi while his head was taken four hundred kilometers away to Anandpur Sahib for cremation.
The 10th Guru – Guru Gobind Singh Ji
The Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, was born in 1666 and Guru Tegh Bahadur’s only child. He became the Guru after the martyrdom of his father Guru Tegh Bahadur, at the age of nine. In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa Panth on Vaisakhi Day, changing the Sikhs in to saint-soldiers and stamping the social revolution started by Guru Nanak. He fought many wars against oppression. His four sons also gave their lives in defense of their faith. He died in 1708. Thus the tree, whose seed was planted by Guru Nanak, came to fruition when Guru Gobind Singh created the Khlasa and on 3 October 1708, appointed Guru Granth Sahib as the Guru. He commanded: “Let all bow before my successor,Guru Granth. The Word is the Guru now.