Guru Nanak(1469-1539):Compared to Buddhism
and Jainism, Sikhism is of recent origin. It was founded
by Guru Nanak who was born at Talwandi in the Punjab in
A.D. 1469. During his life time he visited many sacred places
in India, central Asia and Middle East including Mecca.
He was well versed in the scriptures of all the major religions
including Christianity and Judaism. He preached a liberal
path, which is known today as sikhism, that derived its
inspiration mainly from hinduism, but in many ways was
a synthesis of both Islam and Hinduism. His teachings in
the form of religious hymns are preserved in the Gurugranth
Sahib, which is the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. Guru
Nanak passed away in A.D.1538 and was followed by a succession
of nine gurus whose names are mentioned below:
2. Guru Angad (1504-52). He is credited with the
invention of Gurumukhi.
3. Guru Amardas (1552-74). It is said that he
originally started the tradition of Langar, the social kitchen
to remove caste distinctions and establish social harmony
among his followers.
4. Guru Ramdas (1574-81). He was the son-in-law
of Guru Amardas. He founded the city of Ramdaspur, which
is now known as Amritsar. The construction of Guru Harminder
Sahib (the Golden temple) began here during his time.
5. Guru Arjan (1581-1606). He was the youngest
son of Guru Ramdas. He compiled the Adi Granth which is
the most important segment of the Guru Granth Sahib. He
made Sikhism very popular during his life time and
there by attracted the attention of the Mughal Emperors.
6.Guru Har Gobind (1606-45). Son of Guru
Arjan, he perfected the dress code introduced by his father
and started the tradition of wearing two swords, one signifying
his political (amiri) authority and the other his religious
(fakiri). He tried to organize the Sikhs and the Hindus
against the Mughals for which he had to face the wrath of
the Mughal Emperor, Jehangir.
7. Guru Har Rai(1630-1661): He supported Dara
Shukoh, the elder brother of Aurangazeb in his conflict
with the latter and had to pay dearly for it. His son was
held hostage by Aurangazeb and Har Rai could not secure
8. Guru Har Krishan (1661-64): He was the second
son of Guru Har Rai, who succeed his father at the age of
five under unfortunate circumstances since his brother was
taken away as a hostage by the Mughals. The Mughal Emperor
summed him also to Delhi and he died shortly thereafter
at the age of eight.
9. Guru Teg Bahadur (1675-1708): Though he was
able to spread Sikhism to a greater degree, Sikhism also
suffered from schism during his time. Aurangazeb executed
him for his defiance of the Mughal authority. We are told
that when he was in the prision awairing his execution,
Guru Teg Bahadur predicted the coming of the Western powers
to the Indian subcontinent and the downfall of the Mughals.
10. Guru Gobind Singh (1675-1708):He was the tenth
and the last Guru and also the most famous after Guru Nanak.
He was born at Patna. Because of the execution of his father,
he became the Guru at the age of nine. He organized the
Sikhs into Khalsa to oppose the tyranny of the Mughals.
He began the tradition of adding the suffix 'Singh' to the
names of the Sikhs. He introduced the baptism of the sword,
abolished the succession of the Gurus and made the Guru
Granth Sahib the symbol of the Guru himself. He spent most
of his time opposing the Mughals to whom he lost his two
sons and finally he himself was assassinated by a Pathan
at Nanded in the present day Maharashtra. Swami Vivenkananda
called him rightly "the most glorious hero of our race."
Suggested Further Reading