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SIKHISM AND ITS GURUS

The history of Sikhism is closely associated with the history of Punjab and the socio-political situation in medieval India. Sikhs distinction was further enhanced by the establishment of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. Sikhism was created by Guru Nanak, a religious leader and a social reformer during the fifteenth century in the Punjab region. The religious practice was formalized by Guru Gobind Singh on 30 March 1699. The latter baptised five persons from different social backgrounds to form Khalsa. The first five, Pure Ones, then baptized Gobind Singh into the Khalsa fold. This gives the Khalsa, as an organized grouping, a religious history of around 300 years.
Generally Sikhism has had amicable relations with other religions. However, during the Mughal rule of India (1556–1707), the emerging religion had strained relation with the ruling Mughals. Prominent Sikh Gurus were martyred by Mughals for opposing some Mughal emperors' persecution of Sikhs andHindus. Subsequently, Sikhism militarized to oppose Mughal hegemony. The emergence of the Sikh Confederacy under the misls and Sikh Empire under reign of the Maharajah Ranjit Singh was characterized by religious tolerance and pluralism with Christians, Muslims and Hindus in positions of power. The establishment of the Sikh Empire is commonly considered the zenith of Sikhism at political level, during this time the Sikh Empire came to include Kashmir, Ladakh, and Peshawar. Hari Singh Nalwa, the Commander-in-chief of the Sikh army along the North West Frontier, took the boundary of the Sikh Empire to the very mouth of the Khyber Pass. The Empire's secular administration integrated innovative military, economic and governmental reforms.
The months leading up to the partition of India in 1947, saw heavy conflict in the Punjab between Sikh and Muslims, which saw the effective religious migration of Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus from West Punjab, which mirrored a similar religious migration of Punjabi Muslims in East Punjab.

1. GURU NANAK DEV JI

Guru Nanak (1469–1538), founder of Sikhism, was born to Mehta Kalu and Mata Tripta, in a Hindu family in the village ofTalwandi, now called Nankana Sahib, near Lahore. His father, a Hindu named Mehta Kalu, was a Patwari, an accountant of land revenue in the government. Nanak's mother was Mata Tripta, and he had one older sister, Bibi Nanki ji.
From an early age Guru Nanak dev ji seemed to have acquired a questioning and enquiring mind and refused as a child to wear the ritualistic "sacred" thread called a Janeu and instead said that he would wear the true name of God in his heart as protection, as the thread that could be broken, be soiled, burnt or lost could not offer any security at all. From early childhood, Bibi Nanki saw in her brother the Light of God but she did not reveal this secret to anyone. She is known as the first disciple of Guru Nanak. Even as a boy, Nanak ji was fascinated by Hindu religion, and his desire to explore the mysteries of life eventually led him to leave home. It was during this period that Nanak ji was said to have met Kabir (1440–1518), a saint revered by many. Nanak married Sulakhni, daughter of Moolchand Chona, a trader from Batala, and they had two sons, Sri Chand and Lakshmi Das.
His brother-in-law, Jai Ram, the husband of his sister Nanki ji, obtained a job for him in Sultanpur as the manager of the government granary. One morning, when he was twenty-eight, Guru Nanak Dev ji went as usual down to the river to bathe and meditate. It was said that he was gone for three days. When he reappeared, it is said he was "filled with the spirit of God". His first words after his re-emergence were: "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim." With this secular principle he began his missionary work. He made four distinct major journeys, in the four different directions, which are called Udasis, spanning many thousands of kilometres, preaching the message of God.
Guru Nanak dev ji spent the final years of his life in Kartarpur where Langar free blessed food was available. The food would be partaken of by Hindus, rich, poor, both high and so-called low castes. Guru Nanak worked in the fields and earned his livelihood. After appointing Bhai Lehna as the new Sikh Guru, on 22 September 1539, aged 70, Guru Nanak met with his demise.

2. GURU ANGAD

In 1538, Guru Nanak chose Lehna, his disciple, as a successor to the Guruship rather than one of his sons. Bhai Lehna was named Guru Angad and became the successor of Guru Nanak. Bhai Lehna was born in the village of Harike inFerozepur district in Punjab, on 31 March 1504. He was the son of a small trader named Pheru. His mother's name was Mata Ramo (also known as Mata Sabhirai, Mansa Devi, Daya Kaur). Baba Narayan Das Trehan was his grand father, whose ancestral house was at Matte-di-Sarai near Mukatsar.
Under the influence of his mother, Bhai Lehna began to worship Durga (A Hindu Goddess). He used to lead a group ofHindu worshippers to Jawalamukhi Temple every year. He married Mata Khivi in January 1520 and had two sons, (Dasu and Datu), and two daughters (Amro and Anokhi). The whole Pheru family had to leave their ancestral village because of the ransacking by the Mughal and Baloch military who had come with Emperor Babur. After this the family settled at the village ofKhadur Sahib by the River Beas, near Tarn Taran Sahib, a small town about 25 km. from Amritsar city. One day, Bhai Lehna heard the recitation of a hymn of Guru Nanak from Bhai Jodha (a Sikh of Guru Nanak Sahib) who was in Khadur Sahib. He was thrilled and decided to proceed to Kartarpur to have an audience (darshan) with Guru Nanak. So while on the annual pilgrimage to Jwalamukhi Temple, Bhai Lehna left his journey to visit Kartarpur and see Baba Nanak. His very first meeting with Guru Nanak completely transformed him. He renounced the worship of the Hindu Goddess, dedicated himself to the service of Guru Nanak and so became his disciple, (his Sikh), and began to live in Kartarpur.
His devotion and service (Sewa) to Guru Nanak and his holy mission was so great that he was instated as the Second Nanak on 7 September 1539 by Guru Nanak. Earlier Guru Nanak tested him in various ways and found an embodiment of obedience and service in him. He spent six or seven years in the service of Guru Nanak at Kartarpur.
After the death of Guru Nanak on 22 September 1539, Guru Angad left Kartarpur for the village of Khadur Sahib (near Goindwal Sahib). He carried forward the principles of Guru Nanak both in letter and spirit. Yogis and Saints of different sects visited him and held detailed discussions about Sikhism with him.
Guru Angad introduced a new alphabet known as Gurmukhi Script, modifying the old Punjabi script's characters. Soon, this script became very popular and started to be used by the people in general. He took great interest in the education of children by opening many schools for their instruction and thus increased the number of literate people. For the youth he started the tradition of Mall Akhara, where physical as well as spiritual exercises were held. He collected the facts about Guru Nanak's life from Bhai Bala and wrote the first biography of Guru Nanak. He also wrote 63 Saloks (stanzas), which are included in the Guru Granth Sahib. He popularised and expanded the institution of Guru ka Langar that had been started by Guru Nanak.
Guru Angad travelled widely and visited all important religious places and centres established by Guru Nanak for the preaching of Sikhism. He also established hundreds of new Centres of Sikhism (Sikh religious Institutions) and thus strengthened the base of Sikhism. The period of his Guruship was the most crucial one. The Sikh community had moved from having a founder to a succession of Gurus and the infrastructure of Sikh society was strengthened and crystallized – from being an infant, Sikhism had moved to being a young child and ready to face the dangers that were around. During this phase, Sikhism established its own separate spiritual path. Guru Angad, following the example set by Guru Nanak, nominated Sri Amar Das as his successor (the Third Nanak) before his death. He presented all the holy scripts, including those he received from Guru Nanak, to Guru Amar Das. He breathed his last breath on 29 March 1552 at the age of forty-eight. It is said that he started to build a new town, at Goindwal near Khadur Sahib and Guru Amar Das Sahib was appointed to supervise its construction. It is also said that Humayun, when defeated by Sher Shah Suri, came to obtain the blessings of Guru Angad in regaining the throne of Delhi.

3. GURU AMAR DAS

Guru Amar Das became the third Sikh guru in 1552 at the age of 73. Goindwal became an important centre for Sikhism during the Guruship of Guru Amar Das. He continued to preach the principle of equality for women, the prohibition of Sati and the practise of Langar. In 1567, Emperor Akbar sat with the ordinary and poor people of Punjab to have Langar. Guru Amar Das also trained 140 apostles, of which 52 were women, to manage the rapid expansion of the religion. Before he died in 1574 aged 95, he appointed his son-in-law Jetha as the fourth Sikh Guru.
It is recorded that before becoming a Sikh, Bhai Amar Das, as he was known at the time, was a very religious Vaishanavite Hindu who spent most of his life performing all of the ritual pilgrimages and fasts of a devout Hindu. One day, Bhai Amar Das heard some hymns of Guru Nanak being sung by Bibi Amro Ji, the daughter of Guru Angad, the second Sikh Guru. Bibi Amro was married to Bhai Sahib's brother, Bhai Manak Chand's son who was called Bhai Jasso. Bhai Sahib was so impressed and moved by these Shabads that he immediately decided to go to see Guru Angad at Khadur Sahib. It is recorded that this event took place when Bhai Sahib was 61 years old.
In 1635, upon meeting Guru Angad, Bhai Sahib was so touched by the Guru's message that he became a devout Sikh. Soon he became involved in Sewa (Service) to the Guru and the Community. Under the impact of Guru Angad and the teachings of the Gurus, Bhai Amar Das became a devout Sikh. He adopted Guru as his spiritual guide (Guru). Bhai Sahib began to live at Khadur Sahib, where he used to rise early in the morning and bring water from the Beas River for the Guru's bath; he would wash the Guru's clothes and fetch wood from the jungle for 'Guru ka Langar'. He was so dedicated to Sewa and the Guru and had completely extinguished pride and was totally lost in this commitment that he was considered an old man who had no interest in life; he was dubbed Amru, and generally forsaken.
However, as a result of Bhai Sahib's commitment to Sikhi principles, dedicated service and devotion to the Sikh cause, Guru Angad Sahib appointed Guru Amar Das Sahib as third Nanak in March 1552 at the age of 73. He established his headquarters at the newly built town of Goindwal, which Guru Angad had established.
Soon large numbers of Sikhs started flocking to Goindwal to see the new Guru. Here, Guru Amar Das propagated the Sikh faith in a vigorous, systematic and planned manner. He divided the Sikh Sangat area into 22 preaching centres or Manjis, each under the charge of a devout Sikh. He himself visited and sent Sikh missionaries to different parts of India to spread Sikhism.
Guru Amar Das was impressed with Bhai Gurdas' thorough knowledge of Hindi and Sanskrit and the Hindu scriptures. Following the tradition of sending out Masands across the country, Guru Amar Das deputed Bhai Gurdas to Agra to spread the gospel of Sikhism. Guru Ji strengthened the tradition of 'Guru ka Langar' and made it compulsory for the visitor to the Guru to eat first, saying that 'Pehle Pangat Phir Sangat' (first visit the Langar then go to the Guru). Once the emperor Akbar came to see Guru Sahib and he had to eat the coarse rice in the Langar before he could have an interview with Guru Sahib. He was so much impressed with this system that he expressed his desire to grant some royal property for 'Guru ka Langar', but Guru Sahib declined it with respect. He introduced new birth, marriage and death ceremonies. Thus he raised the status of women and protected the rights of female infants who were killed without question as they were deemed to have no status. These teachings met with stiff resistance from the Orthodox Hindus. He fixed three Gurpurbs for Sikh celebrations: Diwali, Vaisakhi and Maghi.
Guru Amar Das not only preached the equality of people irrespective of their caste but he also fostered the idea of women's equality. He preaching strongly against the practice of Sati (a Hindu wife burning on her husband's funeral pyre). Guru Amar Das also disapproved of a young widow remaining unmarried for the rest of her life.
Guru Amar Das constructed "Baoli" at Goindwal Sahib having eighty-four steps and made it a Sikh pilgrimage centre for the first time in the history of Sikhism. He reproduced more copies of the hymns of Guru Nanak and Guru Angad. He also composed 869 (according to some chronicles these were 709) verses (stanzas) including Anand Sahib, and then later onGuru Arjan (fifth Guru) made all the Shabads part of Guru Granth Sahib.
When it came time for the Guru's younger daughter Bibi Bhani to marry, he selected a pious and diligent young follower of his called Jetha from Lahore. Jetha had come to visit the Guru with a party of pilgrims from Lahore and had become so enchanted by the Guru's teachings that he had decided to settle in Goindwal. Here he earned a living selling wheat and would regularly attend the services of Guru Amar Das in his spare time.
Guru Amar Das did not consider anyone of his sons fit for Guruship and chose instead his son-in law (Guru) Ram Das to succeed him. Guru Amar Das Sahib at the age of 95 died on 1 September 1574 at Goindwal in District Amritsar, after giving responsibility of Guruship to the Fourth Nanak, Guru Ram Das.

4. GURU RAM DAS

Guru Ram Das (Born in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan on 24 September 1534 – 1 September 1581, Amritsar, Punjab, India) was the fourth of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism, and he became Guru on 30 August 1574, following in the footsteps of Guru Amar Das. He was born in Lahore to a Sodhi family of the Khatri clan. His father was Hari Das and mother Anup Devi, and his name was Jetha, meaning 'first born'. His wife was Bibi Bhani, the younger daughter of Guru Amar Das, the third guru of the Sikhs. They had three sons: Prithi Chand, Mahadev and Arjan Dev. As a Guru one of his main contributions to Sikhism was organizing the structure of Sikh society.
Additionally, he was the author of Laava, the hymns of the Marriage Rites, the designer of the Harmandir Sahib, and the planner and creator of the township of Ramdaspur (later Amritsar). A hymn by Guru Ram Das from page 305 of the Guru Granth Sahib: "One who calls himself a Sikh of the True Guru shall get up early morning and meditate on the Lord's Name. Make effort regularly to cleanse, bathe and dip in the ambrosial pool. Upon Guru's instructions, chant Har, Har singing which, all misdeeds, sins and pains shall go away." Guru Ram Das nominated Guru Arjan, his youngest son, as the next Guru of the Sikhs.

5. GURU ARJAN

In 1581, Guru Arjan — the youngest son of the fourth guru — became the Fifth Guru of the Sikhs. In addition to being responsible for building the Golden Temple, he prepared the Sikh Sacred text and his personal addition of some 2,000 plus hymns in the Guru Granth Sahib.
In 1604 he installed the Adi Granth for the first time as the Holy Book of the Sikhs. In 1606, for refusing to make changes to the Guru Granth Sahib, he was tortured and killed by a Hindu courtier Diawan Chandu Mal in the reign of Mughal ruler Jahangir.

6. GURU HAR GOBIND

Guru Har Gobind became the sixth guru of the Sikhs. He carried two swords — one for Spiritual reasons and one for temporal (worldly) reasons. From this point onward, the Sikhs became a military force and always had a trained fighting force to defend their independence.
Guru Hargobind fixed two Nishan Sahib's at Akal Bunga in front of the Akal Takht. One flag is towards the Harmandir Sahib and the other shorter flag is towards Akal Takht. The first represents the reins of the spiritual authority while the later represents temporal power stating temporal power should be under the reins of the spiritual authority.

7. GURU HAR RAI

Guru Har Rai (26 February 1630 – 6 October 1661) was the seventh of the ten Gurus of Sikhism, becoming Guru on 8 March 1644, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Guru Har Gobind, who was the sixth guru. Before he died, he nominated Guru Har Krishan, his youngest son, as the next Guru of the Sikhs. As a very young child he was disturbed by the suffering of a flower damaged by his robe in passing. Though such feelings are common with children, Guru Har Rai would throughout his life be noted for his compassion for life and living things. His grandfather, who was famed as an avid hunter, is said to have saved the Moghul Emperor Jahangir's life during a tiger's attack. Guru Har Rai continued the hunting tradition of his grandfather, but he would allow no animals to be killed on his grand Shikars. The Guru instead captured the animal and added it to his zoo. He made several tours to the Malwa and Doaba regions of the Punjab.
His son, Ram Rai, seeking to assuage concerns of Aurangzeb over one line in Guru Nanak's verse (Mitti Mussalman ki pede pai kumhar) suggested that the word Mussalman was a mistake on the copyist's part, therefore distorting Bani. The Guru refused to meet with him again. The Guru is believed to have said, "Ram Rai, you have disobeyed my order and sinned. I will never see you again on account of your infidelity." It was also reported to the Guru that Ram Rai had also worked miracles in the Mughal's court against his father's direct instructions. Sikhs are constrained by their Gurus to not believe in magic and myth or miracles. Just before his death at age, 31, Guru Har Rai passed the Gaddi of Nanak on to his younger son, the five year old — Guru Har Krishan.
Guru Har Rai was the son of Baba Gurdita and Mata Nihal Kaur (also known as Mata Ananti Ji). Baba Gurdita was the son of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind. Guru Har Rai married Mata Kishan Kaur (sometimes also referred to as Sulakhni), daughter of Sri Daya Ram of Anoopshahr (Bulandshahr) in Uttar Pradesh on Har Sudi 3, Samvat 1697. Guru Har Rai had two sons: Baba Ram Rai and Sri Har Krishan.
Although, Guru Har Rai was a man of peace, he never disbanded the armed Sikh Warriors (Saint Soldiers), who earlier were maintained by his grandfather, Guru Hargobind. He always boosted the military spirit of the Sikhs, but he never himself indulged in any direct political and armed controversy with the contemporary Mughal Empire. Once, Dara Shikoh (the eldest son of emperor Shah Jahan), came to Guru Har Rai asking for help in the war of succession with his brother, the murderous Aurangzeb. The Guru had promised his grandfather to use the Sikh Cavalry only in defence. Nevertheless, he helped him to escape safely from the bloody hands of Aurangzeb's armed forces by having his Sikh warriors hide all the ferry boats at the river crossing used by Dara Shikoh in his escape.

8. GURU HAR KRISHAN

Guru Har Krishan born in Kirat Pur, Ropar (7 July 1656 – 30 March 1664) was the eighth of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism, becoming the Guru on 7 October 1661, following in the footsteps of his father, Guru Har Rai. Before Har Krishan died of complications of Smallpox, he nominated his granduncle, Guru Teg Bahadur, as the next Guru of the Sikhs. When Har Krishan stayed in Delhi there was a smallpox epidemic and many people were dying. According to Sikh history at Har Krishan's blessing, the lake at Bangla Sahib provided cure for thousands. Gurdwara Bangla Sahib was constructed in the Guru's memory. This is where he stayed during his visit to Delhi. Gurdwara Bala Sahib was built in Central Delhi besides the bank of the river Yamuna, where Har Krishan was cremated at the age of about 7 years and 8 months. Guru Har Krishan was the youngest Guru at only 7 years of age. He did not make any contributions to Gurbani.

9. GURU TEGH BAHADUR

Guru Tegh Bahadur is the ninth of the Sikh Gurus. Guru Tegh Bahadur sacrificed himself to protect Hindus. He was asked by Aurungzeb, the Mughal emperor, under coercion by Naqshbandi Islamists, to convert to Islam or to sacrifice himself. The exact place where he attained martyrdom is in front of the Red Fort in Delhi (Lal Qila) and the gurdwara is called Sisganj.This marked a turning point for Sikhism. His successor, Guru Gobind Singh further militarised his followers.

10. GURU GOBIND SINGH

Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth guru of Sikhs. He was born in 1666 at Patna (Capital of Bihar, India). In 1675 Pundits from Kashmir in India came to Anandpur Sahib pleading to Guru Teg Bhadur (Father of Guru Gobind Singh ) about Aurangzebforcing them to convert to Islam. Guru Teg Bahadur told them that martyrdom of a great man was needed. His son, Guru Gobind Singh said "Who could be greater than you", to his father. Guru Teg Bahadur told pundits to tell Aurangzeb's men that if Guru Teg Bahadur will become Muslim, they all will. Guru Teg Bahadur was then martyred in Delhi, but before that he assigned Guru Gobind Singh as 10th Guru at age of 9. After becoming Guru he commanded Sikhs to be armed. He fought many battles with Aurangzeb and some other Kings of that time, but always won.


CREATION OF THE KHALSA

In 1699 GuruGobind Singh created the Khalsa Panth, by giving amrit to sikhs. In 1704 he fought the great battle with collective forces of Aurangzeb, Wazir Khan (Chief of Sarhind), and other kings. He left Anandpur and went to Chamkaur with only 40 sikhs. There he fought the Battle of Chamkaur with 40 sikhs, vastly outnumbered by the Mughal soldiers. His two elder sons (at ages 17, 15) were martyred there. Wazir Khan killed other two (ages 9, 6). Guru Ji sent Aurangzeb the Zafarnamah(Notification of Victory). Then he went to Nanded (Maharashtra, India). From there he made Baba Gurbakhash Singh, also aliased as Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, as his general and sent him to Punjab.
On the evening of the day when Baba Gurbakhash Singh left for Punjab, Guru Gobind Singh was visited by two Muslim soldiers. One of them was commissioned by Wazir Khan, Subedar of Sirhind, to assassinate Guru Gobind Singh. One of the assailants, Bashal Beg, kept a vigil outside the Guru's tent while Jamshed Khan, a hired assassin, stabbed the Guru twice. Khan was killed in one stroke by the Guru, while those outside, alerted by the tumult, killed Beg. Although the wound was sewn up the following day, the Guru died in Nanded, Maharashtra, India in 1708.
Shortly before passing away Guru Gobind Singh ordered that the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Holy Scripture), would be the ultimate spiritual authority for the Sikhs and temporal authority would be vested in the Khalsa Panth – the Sikh Nation. The first Sikh Holy Scripture was compiled and edited by the Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan in AD 1604, although some of the earlier gurus are also known to have documented their revelations. This is one of the few scriptures in the world that has been compiled by the founders of a faith during their own lifetime. The Guru Granth Sahib is particularly unique among sacred texts in that it is written in Gurmukhi script but contains many languages including Punjabi, Hindustani, Sanskrit, Bhojpuri,Assamese and Persian. Sikhs consider the Guru Granth Sahib the last, perpetual living guru.