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Ten Enlightened Masters

Guru Nanak (20 October 1469 – 7 May 1539) is the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. He was born in the village of Talwandi, now called Nankana Sahib, near Lahore in present-day Pakistan. His parents, Mehta Kalu and Matta Tripat, were Hindus and belonged to the merchant caste. Even as a boy, Nanak was fascinated by religion, and his desire to explore the mysteries of life eventually led him to leave home.

Nanak married a woman named Sulkhni, of Batala; together, they had two sons, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das. His brother-in-law, the husband of his sister Nanki, got a job for him in Sultanpur as the manager of the government granary, but his employment there wouldn’t last long.

One morning, when he was 28 years old, Nanak went (as usual) down to the river to bathe and meditate. It was said that he was gone for three days. When he reappeared, filled with the spirit of God, he said, “There is no Hindu and no Muslim.” It was then that he began his missionary work and the religion of Sikhism was born into the world.

Nanak’s Journeys, Successors

Tradition states that Nanak made four great journeys, traveling to all parts of India, and into Arabia and Persia; visiting Mecca and Baghdad. He spoke before Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Parsees, and Muslims. He spoke in the temples and mosques, and at various pilgrimage sites. It was during this period that Nanak met Kabir (1441-1518), a saint revered by both Hindus and Muslims.

Wherever he went, Guru Nanak spoke out against empty religious rituals, pilgrimages, the caste system, the sacrifice of widows, of depending on books to learn the true religion, and of all the other tenets that were to define his teachings. Never did he ask his listeners to follow him. He asked the Muslims to be true Muslims and the Hindus to be true Hindus.

Nanak in Punjab

After the last of his great journeys, Guru Nanak settled in the town of Kartapur (in Punjab) on the banks of the Ravi where he taught for another fifteen years. Followers from all over came to settle in Kartapur to listen, and sing, and be with him. During this time, although his followers still remained Hindu, Muslim, or of the religion to which they were born, they became known as the Guru’s disciples, or sikhs. It was here his followers began to refer to him as teacher, or guru.

It was here that the Guru told his followers that they were to be householders and could not live apart from the world—there were to be no priests or hermits. Here is where the Guru instituted the common meal; requiring the rich and poor, Hindu and Muslim, high caste and low cast, to sit together while eating. Here is where Lehna, later to be Guru Angad, came to be with Guru Nanak.

Just before Guru Nanak died, he called his disciples together and requested them to sing Sohila, the evening hymn. To satisfy both his Hindu and Muslim follower as to the funeral arrangements it is said he did not allow his body to remain behind.


The word “Guru” is a Sanskrit word meaning teacher, honored person, religious person or saint. Sikhism though has a very specific definition of the word Guru. It means the descent of divine guidance to mankind provided through ten Enlightened Masters. This honor of being called a Sikh Guru applies only to the ten Gurus who founded the religion starting with Guru Nanak in 1469 and ending with Guru Gobind Singh in 1708; thereafter it refers to the Sikh Holy Scriptures in the Guru Granth Sahib. The divine spirit was passed from one Guru to the next as “The light of a lamp which lights another does not abate. Similarly a spiritual leader and his disciple become equal, Nanak says the truth.”

The ten Sikh Gurus were the first ten leaders of Sikhism, founded in India.
They include
1-  Guru Nanak
2- Guru Angad
3- Guru Amar
4- Guru Ram Das
5- Guru Arjan
6- Guru Hargobind
7- Guru Har Rai
8- Guru Har Krishan
9- Guru Teg Bahadur
10- Guru Gobind Singh
11- Sikh scripture, called the Guru Granth Sahib, is referred to as the Final Guru.
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