The Origin of the Sikh Faith ( Gurmat ). Why was there a need for Guru Nanak Dev Ji ?
The Origin of the Sikh Faith ( Gurmat )
Why was there a need for Guru Nanak Dev Ji?
‘Sunipukardatarprubh Guru Nanak jug maipada–aia. -- BhaiGurdasJI God heard the cries of the people and he sent Guru Nanak
What situation did Guru Nanak Dev Ji find himself in?
India at the time was not one country but a collection of small and large kingdoms and principalities run on feudal lines. India with it’s huge wealth and culture was the envy of all.
It was divided on many fronts, political, social and religious. These divisions were the primary reasons why India for hundreds of years, was continually invaded by foreigners.
In Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s time , it was the Moslems from the Middle East who, year in year out , invaded India with just a small army of a few hundred ,and after the killing and looting , took off with their booty of gold, silver, precious stones and men , women and children as slaves to be sold in the markets of Bhagdad and other cities.
Political conditions –
For Indians , foreign rule meant suffering, deprivation, humiliation and forced conversion to a foreign faith. There were 4 Moslem Revivalist movements operating in India and the Moslem rulers were very much in the hands of the Moslem Clergy. The extremist Moslem groups were bent on converting the whole of India to Islam by what ever means.
Social Conditions -- The Hindu Caste System
The thousands of years old Hindu Caste system – a rigid four tier social structure– was in operation. It was divisive and unjust.
The Brahmins --- were at the top of this structure
Khushatriea ---- The ruling class ---Rajas and the Army leadership
VEAS --- Second largest group– consisted of Businessmen and craftsmen -- created the wealth of the country.
Sudras --- Lowest and of the most wretched status – Largest group of the four--- 1/6 population
The Hindu masses were thoroughly confused with the belief system in place and became hypocritical and cynical. The leadership, the high and mighty were corrupt and unjust. Lawlessness was rife and no one heard the grievances of the weak and lowly.
and 33 million Demi-Gods and Goddesses. There was a God for every conceivable thing– the Sun, the Moon, fire, air, water, trees, birds, fish, animals, and many more.
Why was there a need for Guru Nanak Dev Ji
The need arose due to prevalent Religious, Social an Political conditions in India :
Guru Nanak Dev Ji came to provide just that
The Mission of Guru Nanak Dev Ji :
Guru Nanak Dev Ji knew that in order to fulfil the primary objective of Man, to become one with God, it was necessary to have a peaceful and harmonious environment, in which Man would have the opportunity to develop within himself the attributes of God –thereby becoming like God.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji realised that India had what seemed to be insurmountable difficulties, for this to happen.
What were those difficulties ?
To overturn the existing religious, social and political conditions, it could not be achieved in one life time. However, the task had to be done. He commenced his great mission and for his succeeding successors to complete the mission.
To breakdown the existing barriers of religious intolerance, social injustice and political subjugation, it was necessary to create an Ideal Man ( a role model ) for people to emulate and thus create an Ideal Society made up of caring and loving people.
To the East he went to Burma, Bhutan, Sikkim, to Benares and Hardwar. To the North he went to Himalayan mountain regions to speak to the Yogis and Sadus. To the South he went to South India and Sri Lanka. He also travelled extensively in India.
Where ever he went he preached his message of peace and harmony and of religious tolerance, of one loving God, the brotherhood of mankind, freedom, justice and equality.
Where ever he went he left behind small pockets of followers and places of worship he called Dharmsalas. At the end of his journeys he settled on his farm at a place called Kartarpur and continued his missionary work whilst working on his farm.
Pangat -- people sitting together and sharing food,Langar, cooked from a common kitchen .
Thus breaking down the barriers of religious intolerance and social injustice and segregation.
( remembering God, honest living and sharing with those less fortunate than one self )
This was to be achieved through the dual paths of :-
Simran --- Remembering God for the Spiritual Uplift of Man. Through Simran, God’s Grace is invoked to imbibe within us the qualities – the attributes of God . Thereby Man strives to develop the Divine within himself, to become like God and to become one with God – the Unification of Man and God .
Seva--- To serve Mankind and accept all men and women as equals and co-exist in peace and harmony. To serve the community and perform good deeds, charitable acts, looking after the needy, weak, the old and infirm. This develops within us good human qualities.
The mission of Guru Nanak Dev Ji was further enhanced by the succeeding Gurus thus :
Education and Religion were forbidden to the masses. He set up the Centre of Learning at Khadur Sahib and encouraged men, women and children to learn Gurmukhi – the script in which Gurbani was written – an old Punjabi language which had fallen out of use and which he resurrected and popularised.
Through this script everyone was able to read Gurbani and understand the Sikh Faith. He also organised physical training and sports such as wrestling and body building to encourage people to become fit and healthy. This was a fore sight for days to come when Sikhs would have to physically fight enemies. He continued with the propagation and practices of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, e.g. Langar.
---- He created preaching centres and installed 72 preachers of which one third were women. He raised the women’s profile by appointing them as preachers of the faith. To further enhance the status of women he – carried out social reforms --- he abolished the practice of Sati which was live widow burnings with their dead husbands ---- he abolished Purdah – women covered from head to toe in clothing and kept indoors ---- he advocated widow remarriage --- he forbade infanticide, the killing of baby girls.
He purchased the land to build the township of Amritsar which became and important commercial centre, giving Sikhs opportunity to trade with each other and increase their prosperity.
A Moslem Pir named Mia Mir was asked to lay the foundation stone. This was to emphasise the cosmopolitan nature and the use of the shrine.
--- He also built he Sikh Centre at Tarn Tarn and KartarPur. He established dispensaries caring for the sick and infirm and homes for the old and the orphoned.
---- the popularity of the Sikh community was growing at an increasing rate and new Hindu and Moslem converts were flocking to be part of it. This incensed the Moslem and Hindu clergy and ruling classes. They complained to the Emperor and plotted to bring the Sikh movement down.
--- Guru Arjan Dev Ji was falsly accused and arrested. He was tortured most barbarically and put to death.
This most cruel act became a corner stone of change for the up til now a peaceful Sikh community.
--- The Guru was falsely chargedand imprisoned in Gwalior Fort. On his release he secured the freedom of 52 Rajas who were also imprisoned there, thereby standing up for the suppressed and weak.
The Guru built the city of Kiratpur Sahib --- centre for Learning and Propagation. At Amritsar he built the Akal Sahib, Throne of God – Supreme seat of Sikh religious, social and political authhority.
--- He also refused to insert words into the Holy AdhiGranth Sahib to glorify Islam.
--- He maintained an army of 22,000
--- During a Smallpoxepidemic in Delhi, he provided Holy Water for the sick and cured hundreds of people. Without thinking of his own safety, whilst caring for the sick he became infected himself and died and thus gave us a lesson in voluntary service and self- sacrifice for others.
The Emperor Aurangzeb, being a fanatic himself and under the influence of the fanatical Moslem clergy was forcefully converting Hindus to Moslems. The Hindu leadership, the Brahmins of Kashmir, came to the Guru for help to save their religion and culture.
The Hindus were helpless to stop the Moslems. Force was no option. Guru TegBahadur Sahib Ji was their only remaining hope. After much pleading and at the behest of his 9 years old son , GobindRai, the Guru Ji offered to become the Champion of the Hindus and challenged the Moslem Rulers.
The Guru Ji and the 3 Sikh disciples who accompanied him to Delhi, were arrested and put through extreme tortures and when they refused to convert to Islam, were publicly executed. Of the 3 Sikhs, one was boiled alive, the second was wrapped in cotton wool and set on fire alive and third was sawn in two alive. The Guru Ji himself was made to witness these executions so that he could be frightened to convert but he refused and was publicly beheaded in ChandniChowk, Delhi.
By this martyrdom of Guru TegBahadur Sahib Ji , the Moslems were forced to stop their campaign to convert the whole India to Islam. The Guru Sahib Ji became the saviour of the Hindu faith and people.
Guru TegBahadur Sahib Ji performed a most unique act of self-sacrifice, not merely dying for his own religion but did so for another’s religion, culture, very identity and existence.