Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji & His Message for Humanity
The hallow around this face enlightens the whole world of Sikhism
by Nayyar Hashmey
This week the 539th birthday celebrations of the founder of the Sikh religion, Baba Guru Nanak will start with a deep devotion and fervor in different parts of Punjab, Pakistan. Members of the Sikh community from around the globe will attend the five days religious ritual with great enthusiasm and pay homage to the great Sufi poet of Punjab, who changed the lives of millions of people through his message of love, peace, and devotion to God, tranquility and equality for the mankind.
Every year in November, the authorities in Pakistan make special arrangements for the occasion to provide transport and lodgings for thousands of guests from abroad. Pakistan Railways induct special train schedules for Indian Sikhs to attend the celebrations on Pakistani side of the Punjab and then return home safely. PIA, the national airline also scedules special flights from various destinations to Lahore for devotees from all over the world.
The man to whom all this homage being paid, all these celebrations being held; was born in a Hindu farming family at a place which was then a tiny remote village called Talwandi Rai in Sheikhupura district, 160 kilometers from Lahore, the capital of the province. Though originally an unknown spot in the vast expanse of Punjab, Rai Talwandi attained a special status after the birth of the Great Guru, not only for the followers of the Sikh religion but also for Hindus and Muslims. Gradually it turned into a town, became a tehsil of Sheikhupura district and now is a district headquarters itself.
I remember my first journey to Nankana Sahib in early eighties. The road from Sheikhupura to Nankana was a narrow countryside road and after every kilometer there were so many sudden bumps and jumps that one could hardly call it a road. But now a, fully carpeted highway takes you from Sheikhupura to Nankana Sahib turning your journey into a happy comfortable ride, more so to a place blessed as the birthplace of the Great Guru. The place got its name changed from Talwandi Rai to Nankana in recognition of the teaching and services for humanity by Sat Guru, Nanak Dev Ji during his life time.
Gurdwara Janam Asthan, the birthplace of the founder of Sikh faith in Nankana Sahib is the center of spiritual zeal for Sikhs scattered all over the globe. Every year, this month, the faithful converge to pay homage to the spiritual Guru, whose message is still relevant in fast changing times.
While glancing over the life of the Guru, I learnt that he had started to tread on path of his Creator from the time he was just a child. The Maulvi to whom he was sent to learn vernacular knowledge, told his father, Nanak didn’t need any teaching for he knew what others did not. Later, in his boyhood, when his father sent him to make certain purchasing deals for the business, Nanak spent the money to feed the Sadhus. When asked by his father about the deal he was to make out of money given to him, Said Sat Guru, “Bapu, I made a Sacha Sauda”. Now this word Sacha Sauda means a true deal but I never knew its connotations except that it was a small railway station between Faisalabad and Lahore which I had to cross every time I took an express train during my travels from the then Lyallpur to Lahore.
The truemeanings of this “true deal” were revealed to me when I started reading about the life of the Great Guru. I learnt this was the place where the Guru had struck this saccha sauda, the true deal in his boyhood days. It’s now a pretty bustling town near Nankane Sahib and a unique, impressive Gurdawara building under the same name stands here.
Afterhaving struck the real deal of his life, the Guru underwent a process of enlightenment which all men of God experience in their life. Soon Guru’s world-changing movement spread all over Punjab, the target audience was the poor peasants of rural areas.
Nanak Dev used the rhythm of Punjabi poetry and soothing Sufi music to pass on his message of love. He stood against social evils and promoted the equality of every one, without any discrimination of color, creed, race or sex. Baba Nanak was the first one who fought for the rights of the women.
The Sikh code was revolutionary because it guaranteed food and a living place for every human being without any discrimination. Gurdwaras, where Sikhs offer worship remain open 24 hours for everyone with arrangement of free food. “You can’t find any Sikh as a beggar simply because of the teachings of Baba Nanak Ji,” said once Chaudhry Anwar Aziz, a Michigan university law graduate, former politician and a federal minister, who served in successive governments.Interestingly, Baba Guru Nanak Ji never compiled the Sikh code of practice and rituals that came after his death.
The vastly traveled founder of Sikh religion Baba Guru Nanak also performed the Hajj and paid homage to the holy prophet Muhammad (PBUH) at Medina.His close associate and lifetime friend Sufi musician, Bhai Mardana was a Muslim minstrel, who spent his life with him as a follower. The teachings of Guru Nanak Ji had great resemblance and commonalities with Islamic teachings and philosophy. Being a child from a Hindu family, the lifestyle and jargon of Nanak Ji was influenced also by typical Hindu traditions that overlapped the ideological contradictions with Hinduism, yet many in India believe Sikhism to be an offshoot of Hinduism. But, in fact it is a religion which like Islam doesn’t believe in idolatry and has an absolute faith in oneness of Rabb, the Creator and Nourisher of all of us.
Guru Nanak Dev spent his last decade in a village called Kartarpur Sahib, in Narowal district on the lush green banks of the river Ravi. Before he died he announced that Sikhism had been completed. According to mythology, immediately after his announcement of the completion of Sikhism, he passed away. There was a brawl over his last rituals, his Muslim followers wanted to bury him and his Hindu followers insisted that they should cremate his body. While, the scuffle was going on, suddenly the enraged followers came to know that the body of Nanak ji had disappeared mysteriously and a lot of roses had taken its place.
To settle the dispute both groups distributed the roses, the Muslims buried and Hindus cremated these flowers. At Darbar Sahib Kartarpur there is a marble clad grave outside the complex and inside a crematorium, both stand in veneration to the great Sufi poet and founder of new progressive religion of Sikhism.
The Sikh code of teachings was compiled after Baba Nanak Ji, and nine successors of the great Guru shaped the contours of this new religion. Finally the tenth guru Gobind announced the compilation of the Sikh scripture and holy book the Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind Ji, the great warrior of his times, converted pure Sufi movement into the militant group and introduced five K’s. He also declared that Granth Sahib will be considered a living Guru after him, and that no one be appointed his successor. The Granth Sahib contains the work of three great Muslim Sufi poets, Baba Farid Shaker Ganj, Hazrat Mian Meer and Waris Shah.
Their work makes up 33 percent of the book. The Granth Sahib is considered an eternal living guru; hence at every Sikh place of worship, the Gurdawara, a spacious room is earmarked as an abode of the holy Granth Sahib.
The essence of Nanak’s teachings are found relevant in today’s world, when he insists upon all men:-
Realize your unity with all.
Love God. Love God in man.
Sing love of God. Repeat His Name.
Sing His glory.
Love God as the lotus loves water,
the bird Chatak loves rain, as wife loves husband.
Make divine love thy pen and thy heart the writer.
Repeat His Name, you live; if you forget, you die.
Open your heart to Him.
Seek a communion (with Him), sink into His arms;
and you will feel the divine embrace.
To end my wandering thoughts, an humble tribute to the Sufi, the Poet and the Messiah from Punjab, I quote one of his hymns – a beautiful summary of his teachings, a nirvana particularly for today’s anguished world.
Love saints of every faith, put away your pride
Remember Essence of religion, throw away the trite
In meekness and sympathy,
Not the fine clothes, Not the Yogi’s garb and ashes,
Not the blowing of horns, Nor the shaven heads,
Nor prayers and the corns, Nor recitations and tortures,
Not ascetic ways, long departures
But a life of goodness and purification,
Amid the world’s temptations,
Seek eternal glorification.