What Are the Basic Teachings Attributed to Guru Nanak Devji?
The most famous teachings attributed to Guru Nanak devji are that there is only one God, and that all human beings can have direct access to God with no need of rituals or priests. His most radical social teachings denounced the caste system and taught that everyone is equal, regardless of caste or gender.
Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was one of the greatest religious innovators of all time and the founder of the Sikh religion. Guru Nanak’s birthday is celebrated by Sikhs on April 14th by the Nanakshahi calendar. (The date according to the lunar calendar changes annually but is usually in November.)
Guru Nanak’s birth is celebrated on the day of Kartik Purnima as per Hindu lunar calendar. Celebrations start at Amrit Vela or between 3 am to 6am, when devotees recite hymns followed by kirtan or recital of scriptures. Akhand Path or a 48-hour non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib at gurudwaras is held two days prior to the festival.
Devotees carry a palanquin of the holy book and sing prayers. Special langars are organised which are open to devotees from all faiths. It features the signature Kada Prasad made using flour, ghee and sugar. Celebrations go on for three days and devotees visit Gurdwaras, seeking the blessings of Guru Nanak, eat langar and decorate their homes with diyas and lights. The festival serves as a reminder to devotees to follow the teachings and serve people.
Nanak’s religious ideas draw on both Hindu and Islamic thought, but are far more than just a synthesis. Nanak was an original spiritual thinker and expressed his thoughts in extraordinary poetry that forms the basis of Sikh scripture. Little is known about the life of Nanak, but Sikh tradition has a much-loved set of stories or janam sakhis which relate various incidents from his life, and include many of his important teachings.
Nanak was born about 40 miles from Lahore (now in Pakistan) in 1469. Sikh traditions teach that his birth and early years were marked with many events that demonstrated that God had marked him out for something special and was keeping an eye on him. His family was Hindu, but Nanak soon showed an advanced interest in religion and studied Islam and Hinduism extensively. As a child he demonstrated great ability as a poet and philosopher.
One famous story about Guru Nanak tells of his rebellion at the age of eleven. At this age Hindu boys of his caste would start to wear the sacred thread to distinguish them. Nanak refused, saying that people should be distinguished by the things that they did, and their individual qualities, rather than by a thread.
Nanak continued to demonstrate a radical spiritual streak – arguing with local holy men and sages, both Hindu and Muslim that external things like pilgrimages, penances, and poverty were of far less spiritual importance than internal changes to the individual’s soul.
He worked for a while as an accountant but while still quite young decided to devote himself to spiritual matters. He was inspired by a powerful spiritual experience that gave him a vision of the true nature of God, and confirmed his idea that the way to spiritual growth was through meditation and through living in a way that reflected the presence of the divine within each human being.
In 1496, although married and having a family, Nanak set out on a set of spiritual journeys through India, Tibet and Arabia that lasted nearly 30 years. He studied and debated with the learned men he met along the way and as his ideas took shape he began to teach a new route to spiritual fulfillment and the good life. The last part of his life was spent at Kartarpur in the Punjab, where he was joined by many disciples attracted by his teachings.
In a significant decision, recently Indian Govt decided to build Kartarpur corridor, urged Pakistan to follow suit. The Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the development of the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the International Border. This will give Indian pilgrims easy access to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of the Ravi River, in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak Dev spent 18 years.
“The Kartarpur corridor will be implemented as an integrated development project with Government of India funding, to provide smooth and easy passage, with all the modern amenities. The government of India will put in place suitable facilities for smooth passage of pilgrims,” a press release said. “The government of Pakistan will be urged to recognise the sentiments of the Sikh community and to develop a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory as well,” it added.
Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu welcomed the move and appealed to the Centre to write to the Pakistan government. “I hope the draft for the letter is ready as promised by Hon’ble EAM Sushma Ji”, he said. He also urged Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to take reciprocal steps in opening the corridor in his country.