Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak

Thought One – The Japji Sahib

The ‘Japji’ is the first message that sprung out like nectar from Guru Nanak’s lips as he emerged from the river after 3 days. Guru Nanak remained immersed in the River for 3 days. It is said that it takes 3 days for the ego to totally disappear. It is then that one experiences the Ultimate. That is the reason why maybe the ‘Marka’ and/or ‘baithak’ and/or ‘Chautha’ is done on or after 3 days after a person’s death.

Ek OmkaarOnly One Omkaar –Only One primordial sound (which continues when everything ceases to be). Only One God. (One Ocean with many waves).
Sat NaamThe True Name. That which is True.
Karta PurukhHe who Creates.
Nir-bhavWithout fear. One who is fearless
Nir-vairOne who has no enemies
Akaal-MooratHe whose form is beyond Time and description. (‘Kaal’ means ‘Time’. Akaal means ‘Beyond Time’ Time is subject to Change. God is not. God has no beginning and no end).
Ayooni-SaibhanHe who is Self-Effulgent and is not born from a mother’s womb.
Gur-Parsaad(The dissolution of the ego, This Blissful experience and the taking of the Lord’s name is due to the) Mercy of the Guru.
Jap(Therefore) Chant the Lord’s Name
Aadi-Sach–Jugaadi-sachTrue since the beginning of Time
Hai- bhi-sachIs True in the present
Nanak hosee bhee sachNanak claims that He will remain true for evermore.

Thought Two

Guru Nanak was born of humble parentage. His parents owned a store, and were ambitious for their son. They urged young Nanak to sit in the store and do some business.   The young man started to count, Ek do teen (One, two ,three) ……Gyaara, Baarah, terah….(Eleven, twelve, thirteen)….The minute young Nanak said ‘terah’ meaning thirteen, he thought of ‘terah’ as ‘Tera’ which means ‘Yours’. Guru Nanak went into deep meditation, thinking that all that is, belongs to the Lord. Needless to say, Guru Nanak never became a merchant, rather he turned out to be a ‘Baadshah’ (King).

Thought Three

Dhan Guru Nanak, Jag Taariya – Blessed be Guru Nanak’  (whose teachings) saved the world.

The Sindhis were greatly influenced by Guru Nanak’s teachings as he did pass through Sindh and expound his beautifully simple philosophy to the Sindhis of that area. The Sindhis were so deeply influenced by the Master’s teachings that it was not uncommon for the Sindhis to make their first son a Sikh. Even today the Sindhis worship Guru Nanak with the same fervor that they accord to, Shri Krishna, Shri Ram, Shivji or/ and Ma Durga, Laxmi and Saraswati. The Geeta and The Guru Granth Sahib both enjoy an exalted status in Sindhi homes. Come let us pay homage to this Giant personality.

Guru Nanak was born in 1469 in the Western Punjab village of Talwandi. The Birthplace of Guru Nanak is in Pakistan, driving distance from Lahore and is today called Nanakana Saheb During the time Guru Nanak was born, India was being ruled by Muslim kings. Disrespect was openly accorded to non Muslim places of worship. Both Hinduism and Islam were being corrupted by their religious authorities. At this juncture, Guru Nanak’s simple philosophy of the oneness of God (Ek Omkaar Satnaam) felt very welcome. The teachings of the Sikh Gurus are compiled in the Holy Book of the Sikhs: The Guru Granth Sahib.

The Sikhs believe that the Light of the first Guru’s Soul (Guru Nanak) was transmitted to each of His successors. These in turn  became embodied in their Holy Book, the Guru Granth Sahib. The word ‘Sikh’ comes from the word Seekhna (to learn) or Shishya meaning disciple. The role of the Guru in Sikhism is very important. The Guru is considered the Bridge that connects the Disciple with God. The Sikhs were enraged when Guru Arjan Dev Ji was cruelly killed by a Moghul Emperor. It was then, that  the Sikh Religion acquired a militant hue.

Guru Nanak’s father’s name was Mehta Kalian Das. At the age of 6, young Nanak was sent to school. Guru Nanak was well versed in Hindi, Mathematics, Muslim Literature, Persian and Arabic. Young Nanak learned quickly. One day Guru Nanak wrote a hymn for the Village school teacher which admonished man for having forgotten the Lord who was the true Giver and the One who had created the world. Guru Nanak told his Muslim teacher to be  good, honest and truthful. He urged him to love everyone and to live together like one family. Both Guru Nanak’s Muslim as well as Hindu teacher were awe-struck at the Divine child’s knowledge and proclaimed him their Guru. When Guru Nanak was 13 years old, his parents wanted to invest him with the sacred thread according to the traditional Hindu custom. At the ceremony, Guru Nanak refused to accept the sacred cotton thread from the Hindu priest. He sang the following poem:

“Let mercy be the cotton, contentment the thread, Continence the knot and truth the twist. O priest! If you have such a thread, Do give it to me. It’ll not wear out, nor get soiled, nor burnt, nor lost. Says Nanak, blessed are those who go about wearing such a thread”.

Guru Nanak did not object to getting married as he believed that married life did not conflict with spiritual yearnings. At age 16 he was married to Sulakhani and  was happy. He loved his wife and eventually had two sons Sri Chand in 1494 and Lakshmi Chand three years later.

For Guru Nanak, meditation became his way of life. Once a cobra shielded him from the scorching heat as he was absorbed in the name of the Lord. Another time, the cattle that he was tending crossed over and destroyed a farmer’s field. The farmer complained to young Nanak’s father but when they went to inspect the field, they were astonished to note that the crops were intact. The farmer insisted that it was a miracle. 

Young Nanak’s father wanted him to lead a normal life and to earn a decent living. So he gave him some money to strike a profitable bargain. Guru Nanak spent that money feeding sages and mendicants. He claimed that that was a ‘Sacha Sauda’  (A good bargain).

Guru Nanakji became a shop-keeper, in the service of Nawab Daulat Khan, the Governor of Sultanpur. The young apprentice would go into a trance as he weighed and counted his provisions and reached the number ‘tera’ (13) Tera means ‘yours or thine’ Everything and Everyone belongs to Thee O Lord! He would repeat prayerfully!

At Sultanpur where Guru Nanak worked as a shop-keeper, he met Mardana, who was to become his constant companion. Mardana was a musician. Guru Nanak started to sing hymns accompanied by Mardana on the rabab ( a string instrument). These sessions attracted a lot of people. Guru Nanak went to the river  one morning accompanied by Mardana. After plunging into the river, Guru Nanak did not surface and people believed that he must have drowned. He emerged from the water, after 3 days Enlightened.

Nanak uttered the famous words of the Japji Sahib (read Thought One for the words and translation)  These immortal words are enshrined at the beginning of the Sikh Holy Scripture: The Guru Granth Sahib.

When Guru Nanak emerged from his trance, he proclaimed that there was no Hindu and no Mussalmaan. He explained that since both were the children of God, they were brothers and sisters.

Shakun at Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, during her trip to Lahore in Pakistan.  Photo taken on 6th Sep, 1986.

At the age of 30, Guru Nanak, started his extensive travels to spread the word of God. He conveyed his message in the form of musical hymns. Wherever he went, his followers could gather to recite hymns and meditate.

Guru Nanak deplored hypocrisy. He recognised that ‘Sajjan’ a man he met in Talamba, in Multan district, now in Pakistan, did not really act as a good person like his name suggested. Even though Sajjan had built a rest house for weary travelers, he would steal from them, kill them and throw them into a nearby well. Guru Nanak told him that he may be able to deceive man but he would not be able to deceive God. He further explained that grace may be obtained by open confession and reparation of wrong. Repentant Sajjan mended his ways inspired by the great Master. He gave away all his wealth to the poor and reformed his life.

To become a good Mussalmaan, Guru Nanak urged that: God’s grace become the mosque, and devotion the prayer mat. The Quran should become the good conduct, modesty become compassion, good manners fasting,  Good deeds become their Kaaba and Truth their mentor. Their Kalma should become their creed and prayer.

Guru Nanak did not believe in the rigidity and hypocrisy of Hindu Prayers. Once at Hardwar, he saw Hindus offering water to their dead ancestors. Guru Nanak  mocked the futile ritual by  offering water to the thirsty crops miles away!

Guru Nanak gave no preference to his High Caste devotees much to their chagrin. He would prefer to dine with  a carpenter called Bhai Lalo, instead of with Malik Bhago who was the manager of  a  Muslim Sardar. Once Malik confronted Guru Nanak on his choice of  host. Malik thundered: “You refuse my invitation, and prefer to dine with a low-caste man?” Guru Nanak asked Malik Bhago to get some food from his kitchen. Guru Nanak had with him, Bhai Lalo’s coarse bread. He held Bhago’s seasoned bread in his left hand and squeezed it. Drops of blood oozed out from it while milk trickled from Bhai Lalo’s bread. Guru Nanak explained that bread earned by hard honest work is sweet, whereas food earned deceitfully is tainted with poor people’s blood!

Guru Nanak taught that material wealth  is mostly gathered sinfully, but sadly it does not accompany us at the time of death!

Guru Nanak once went up boldly and unafraid in front of a dreaded cannibal chief named Kauda. Kauda was thrilled as he saw his ‘meal’ coming to him. He started to heat the oil in anticipation. When Guru Nanak came close to him, Kauda tested the oil. He found it cold! Not to give up so easily, Kauda caught Guru Nanak in his muscular arms and flung him into the fire! As Kauda watched Guru Nanak step out of the fire unharmed, Kauda trembled, repented and stood reverently with folded hands. Kauda took a vow not to harm anyone. Thus from a killer Kauda was transformed into a servant and teacher of men.

Babar, the moghul Emperor had looted houses of  many people in Eminabad, who were then made to carry their own looted property to Babar’s camp. Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana, who were visiting Eminabad at that time were taken prisoners. Guru Nanak did not lose his equipoise, he continued to sing for the Lord in prison much to the solace of the other victims. Babar decided to visit the prison to witness this uncommon occurrence. Looking at the peaceful countenance of  Guru Nanak, Babar seemed to come under a magic spell. Since the Emperor did not comprehend the words of the holy song, he asked Guru Nanak for a translation. The Guru boldly told him that he was singing about the cruelty of the Emperor and the sad state of the victims. Impressed by Guru Nanak’s frankness, fearlessness and courage, Babar freed the prisoners and returned to them their homes and possessions.

Guru Nanak traveled for 21 long years imparting his wisdom wherever he set foot. He arrived in Mecca after an exhausting journey. To rest his weary feet he lay down. The Muslims who saw him took great offence when they noticed that the Guru’s feet were pointing towards the ‘Kaaba’ or ‘the House of God’. One of the hajis kicked the Guru in anger and demanded an explanation. The Guru benevolently smiled and said that he respected the House of God as much as they did. However if his ‘misconduct’ offended them, he requested that they turn his feet. As the haji moved the Guru’s feet in various directions, he would ‘see’ the kaaba in the same line as the feet of  Guru Nanak. The Guru had once again imparted an immortal lesson. That the Lord resides in every place and in every heart.

The last part of his worldly life, Guru Nanak spent in Kartarpur. The Great  Guru would wake at dawn and recite his daily prayers. At daybreak, he would address his followers. He worked in his free kitchen, which even today is popularly known as ‘langar’. This food would be partaken by Hindus, Muslims, rich, poor, high or/and so called low castes. Guru Nanak worked in the field and earned his livelihood. On 22 September of the year 1539 , at the age of 70 years, Guru Nanak gave up his body after he had requested his disciples to sing the ‘Sohila’ (the praise of God). 

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

When Guru Nanak merged into the eternal light, the Hindus wanted to cremate him while the Muslims wanted to bury the body. However on raising the sheet under which the Great Guru’s body lay, both found nothing but fresh flowers which were divided between themselves. The Hindus cremated the flowers whereas the Muslims buried theirs. Like Guru Nanak claims in one of his hymns;

‘Nanak leen bhayo Govind syon
Jyon pani sang pani’

Which means that Nanak has so merged with the Lord
Like water does with water.


God is formless, omnipresent, compassionate, and can be reached  through prayer, humility, service, meditation, and virtuous living.  

He did not propagate ritual worship, discrimination against women and against those of lower socio-economic status.  

Guru Nanak urged his followers to:

  Naam Japo – Constantly meditate on God’s name

 Kirat Karo –to earn ones livelihood through honest means

Wand Chakko- To share   

 Guru Nanak  practices  

Sangat  People should meditate and pray together

Pangat people should sit and eat together to create a sense of equality

Langar a free distribution of food to rich and poor 

 Sadh-Sangat keep the company of spiritually-inclined people


(Follows an excerpt from a  translation by Narain Kimatrai  from the original book ‘A History of Hindus in Sind‘ by Diwan Bherumal Advani published in 1946)

Diwan Manecksingh was a minister with Mir Shehdad Khan and the son of Diwan Kishinchand. He wanted to expound the philosophy of  Sikhism to his cousins and other Hindus.

Before doing so he gained the knowledge after being granted audience with Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Punjab. Diwan Manecksingh brought the Guru Granth Saheb, with due respect laden on elephant back to Hyderabad.

The temporary Gurdwara structure in the year 1855 was reconstructed into a permanent one after British takeover. Every follower did manual labour to help construct the Gurdwara. Everyone contributed 4 annas (25 paise) everyday. The structure was completed in 1858. Till 1946 the cost towards the construction exceeded  Rs25000. The area on which the structure sits is around 10000 sq. ft. and is/was operated by the trust.

Thought Four


Guru Nanak was born on the full moon night of the month of November. Guru Nanak was a Bedi: A Knower of the Vedas.

I have read that the Incarnation of The Great Guru is mentioned in the Hindu Scriptures.

There are 947 hymns of Guru Nanak in the Guru Granth Sahib. The Guru Granth Sahib is considered to be the Living Guru in Book form. It has been called ‘Mona’, the Silent Guru. Through the pages of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Gurus speak, loud and clear and straight from their hearts. Let us feel Guru Nanak, through some of His words:

  1. Come my sister, my beloved friend! let us embrace and speak of love! Let us sit together and talk of our perfect powerful Lord…God is One, yet has innumerable forms…Everyone says the Lord is great…yet no one had discovered His real worth…Let your heart sing of God with every breath you draw…He has no fear, No enemies and is beyond death…To make His will ones own, is to achieve Him…One cannot comprehend Him through reason…The one who receives may tire, but He continues to bestow…The Lord is Word personified…
  2. Burn your attachment to worldly things. Crush its soot and make ink. Make your understanding, a sheet of paper. Use the pen of love. Make your mind the scribe, make your guru guide you to write down your thoughts…if you write (the Name and Praise of the Lord) You will be acclaimed with honor…This is the Gift of Grace…(One will then) not only save oneself but lead ones kith and kin to salvation…It is by listening, reading, developing an attitude of humility and devotion, that one qualifies to bathe in ones ‘True Within’…Bathe in the waters of virtue and apply the Perfume of Truth…
  3. If I were to live in a palace built of walls studded with pearls and rubies…Were I endowed with powers to perform miracles…let not my eyes be deceived, that I forget Thy Name…All are judged according to their deeds, for True is the Lord and immaculate His Law…Everything happens according to His Will… If one conquers ones mind, one conquers the world…
  4. O brother! Become the dust under the feet of saints. In their company, you will find your guru and the gift of salvation…with the sacred water given by the guru, quench the 4 fires (of cruelty, anger, greed and love of worldly things)…Whosoever wishes to meet with the king, must first seek one who is dear to the king, so it is if one is desiring to see the Lord…All else shall forsake thee in life, but a saint…They will still the mind and ward off attachment…To see such a saint provides one with the merit of 68 places of pilgrimage…
  5. If I offer my body as it were a bride. God will take it as if He were the groom… We are His wives, we adorn ourselves for Him…but one does not get love by bargaining, a counterfeit coin gilded with gold will bring about ruin…A woman not taken by her husband wastes her youth. Her husband (The Lord) lies on the same couch…yet she knows not, and she sleeps, while her loved one is awake…A polluted dress does not please my Love…
  6. There are five kinds of prayers: 
    a) Truth
    b) What is right 
    c) Charity in God’s Name
    d) Good intentions 
    e) Praise of the Almighty.
  7. Lord, Thou art the Grand River, how can I, a poor fish know of Thy depth and Thy Greatness? Prayer, austerity, controlling the senses, giving of alms, charity and other good acts, what good will they achieve, unless the Lord who is Truth acknowledges it? They alone are in peace and blissful who take the refuge of the True Name…When the hands, feet and body are soiled, water washes them, when the mind is polluted, it is cleansed by the love of the Lord’s Name.