Guru Nanak’s Birth Anniversary is observed every year on the Full Moon Day of Karthika Month, which occurs in the months of October – November. This festival sacred to Sikhs, is variously known as Guru Nanak Prakash Utsav, Guru Nanak Gurpurab and Guru Nanak Jayanthi. Sikhs from all over the world remember their founder, Guru Nanak on this day and oragnize various religious events in His honour.
Guru Nanak was born in the year 1469 CE at the village Rai Bhoi Di Talwandi, near Lahore in present day Pakistan. The place is now known as Nankana Sahib and is one of the holiest shrines for Sikhs.
The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak, belongs to the Vedi clan, i.e., descendants of Kusha, son of Rama.
More on Guru Nanak’s lineage and his visit to Ayodhya in our book, “Ayodhya – War and Peace”, a part of the Bharath Gyan Series.
Spiritually inclined as a Child
As a child, Guru Nanak was spiritually inclined and showed interest in spirituality at the tender age of six.
He joined school at the age of seven. Young Nanak displayed great knowledge even at that age. He dumbfounded his teacher when he explained the inner meaning of the first alphabet of Arabic, similar to the Mathematical 1, as symbolizing the Oneness of Divinity. Sikhs considered this event as a sign of divinity of Nanak at a young age.
Meditating as a Cowherd
When Nanak reached his teens, he had to look after the cattle, a job given by his father. In the middle of watching over the cattle, Nanak would dive deep into meditation and become unaware of his surroundings. The cattle would wander to other lands and feed on other’s crops. Nanak was reprimanded by his father many times for what he thought was a laxity on the part of his son.
Feeding the Poor
Nanak was married to a girl called Sulakhani, and gave birth to two sons. Nanak’s father gave him some money to be a merchant and support His family. But Nanak further annoyed his father when he spent all the money in feeding the poor. Nanak explained to his father that a noble act of helping others was the profit that he would seek through his life.
Nanak was found a new job in granary by his sister’s husband at Sultanpur where his sister lived. Nanak moved to Sultanpur leaving his wife and children in the care of his parents. He settled down well into his new job as he was soon able to support his family. His wife and sons came to live with him. Nanak moved to a house of his own in Sultanpur along with his family.
Friendship with a Muslim
Nanak made friendship with a Muslim called Mardana. They both would meditate together everyday. In those days of great religious divide, this was an act that surprised many. Nanak had thereby sent his first message that there was only one God and people from all religions are brothers and sisters. Mardana became His disciple.
Disappearing into a River – The Transformation
Around the age of 30, Nanak went to bathe in the Kali River along with Mardana. Nanak immersed himself in water and disappeared. Everyone thought he had drowned. After 3 days, Nanak emerged from water saying, “Nao Koe Hindu, Na Koe Musalman” – There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim.” Nanak was now enlightened. People started referring to Him as ‘Guru’ Nanak.
From then on, Nanak spent His time travelling, meditating and teaching people that there is only One God. The main principles of His teachings were Truth, Contentment, Compassion, Dharma and Fortitude. His teachings and life influenced lakhs of people. His teachings which were taken from all major religions were recorded in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Book of Sikhs. Those who followed his teachings formed a separate religion called Sikhism.