The Origin of the Sikh Faith

The Origin of the Sikh Faith ( Gurmat )
Why was there a need for Guru Nanak Dev Ji?
‘Suni pukar datar prubh Guru Nanak jug mai pada–aia. -- Bhai Gurdas JI
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.
What was the overview of the conditions of the people at the time
Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born ?
Guru Nanak Dev Ji found that the people were suffering under the burden of religious intolerance, social
injustice and political subjugation.
Religious leaders were corrupt and manipulated religion to create a culture of fear and domination.
Religion and Education were forbidden to the masses. The rulers , the rich and the powerful were in the
hands of the clergy. There was no one the masses could turn to or plead there causes.
Fanaticism and intolerance was prevalent . State repression denied the common people freedom of
speech, freedom of worship, equality and justice. The rich and powerful were oppressive and demeaning.
The lot of the women was particularly lamentable.
As always rigid ideological differences and prejudices, the thirst for power and accumulation of wealth was
the root of all evil.
What was the overview of the conditions of the people at the time
Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born ? Cont’d
The religions in place in India at the time of Guru Nanak Dev Ji mislead the masses in many
different ways.
The Hindu religious fold was the largest, worshipping 3 primal Gods, 33 million Gods and
Goddesses including 12 sects of Sanyasis ( recluses ) and 12 sects of Yogis.
There were other well established main religious groups such as the Buddhists, Jains and a
host of other associated groups each having their own eating and dressing habits, symbols,
rituals and ceremonies which confused and frightened the common people.
On top of all these the imported Islamic Faith of the invading Moslems with their two main
Shia and Sunni groups and a further 72 factions which included the well-known Sufis, had a
major devastating impact on the Indian scene.
Prevalent Religious, social and political conditions
Political conditions –
The Indian political map was responsible for the continual foreign invasions of India.
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.
These tyrannical Moslem clergy easily manipulated the Moslem Emperors. Hindu temples were looted,
desecrated and destroyed. Mosques were built in their places. High taxes were extracted from the Hindus.
Traditional civil and cultural rights were taken away from them. Those Hindus of the ruling classes who
converted were given positions of authority and power. Other Hindus who succumbed to pressure were
rewarded as well.
The Hindu rulers vied with each other to gain favour with the Moslem rulers by offering their daughters
in marriage to Moslems.
Prevalent Religious, social and political conditions – Cont’d
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
they controlled religion and education. Both of these were denied to the masses.
The Brahmins created a culture of meaningless rituals and ceremonies and obedience to
their mandates. The purpose of these was to enable Brahmins to extract lavish charitable
gifts from the people --- to provide for their livelihood. They had no other occupation.
Through superstition, lies and fear they manipulated and controlled the people.
The Brahmins were submissive to the Moslems --- the invading rulers.
Brahmins were tyrannical against the lower castes – Sudras – held them in contempt and
hatred and practiced total exclusion towards them and called them – Chandals.
The lower castes were terrified of the Brahmins because of the power they wielded over the
Hindus. They even held the power of life and death in their hands over them.
Prevalent Religious, social and political conditions – Cont’d
Social Conditions--cont’d—
Khushatriea ---- The ruling class ---Rajas and the Army leadership
These people controlled the wealth and the military
They operated the feudal system in the country --- always warring amongst themselves and
forming alliances against their enemies --- married off their daughters to Moslems rulers to
stay in power and position.
They were corrupt and unjust and openly treacherous.
VEAS --- Second largest group– consisted of Businessmen and craftsmen -- created the wealth of the
Their situation was little better than the Sudras
They were corrupt and cynical
Sudras --- Lowest and of the most wretched status – Largest group of the four--- 1/6 population
They had no social, religious or political rights.
They were treated like animals and lepers and were completely segregated
They carried out the dirtiest of menial tasks and paid in food and clothing
They were expected to keep a very low profile and if perchance the crossed the path of a Brahmin they
were severely punished. The Brahmins would feel polluted and would have to bathe in holy water to
cleanse themselves again.
Prevalent Religious, social and political conditions – Cont’d
Religious conditions --- These were the most difficult and in the sorriest state of all.
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.
The Hindu belief system – the Hindus believed in 3 Primal Gods --- Brahma, Vishnu ,Mahadev.
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.
Within the Hindu belief system there were hundreds of other religious groups including 12
sects of Sanyasis, 12 sects of Sadus and Yogis – these were recluses who lived in mountains,
hills and forests and only ventured into towns and villages begging for food. Their unkempt
appearances and manners mostly frightened people when they appeared before them.
Included with these were Buddhists, Jains and a host of other groups --- each having their
own eating and dressing habits and symbols and ritual markings and ceremonies.
Summary --- so far
Why was there a need for Guru Nanak Dev Ji
The need arose due to prevalent Religious, Social an Political conditions in India :
The country was under foreign rule
The Hindu caste system – a 4 tier social structure – was cruel, inhumane and unjust
Existing religious belief systems were confusing, unjust and demeaning
The common people were suffering at the hands of the rich and powerful.
Lawlessness was rife and no one heard the grievances of the weak and lowly
The common people needed Freedom, Equality and Justice and a new direction in life
Guru Nanak Dev Ji came to provide just that
What was Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Answer to these Problems ?
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
What were those difficulties ?
Foreign rule and imposed foreign faith – Islam
Lack of resources – army / weapons – to drive the foreigners out
No political desire for freedom / disunity amongst the ruling classes / no common cause to unite under
The rigid Hindu caste system --- divisive and unjust
The Hindu religious diversity --- divisive / corrupt / misleading / manipulative
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.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Mission Cont’d
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 break down the existing barriers of religious intolerance he introduced a new definition, a new
concept of God. A one God who was the Creator and who sustained all. A loving and just God that all
people could subscribe to. A God accessible to all. A religion offering Salvation, freedom, equality and
justice and open to all regardless of colour, race and gender .
To bring about social justice he condemned the caste system operated by the Hindus and empowered the
masses with rights of religious practice, education, social rights and social integration. He showed how to
achieve this.
To end foreign rule and political subjugation he envisaged the creation of an ideal Man - a role model. An
Ideal Man who was kind , benevolent, saintly and very brave. Unafraid to stand up for right causes against
any odds. Guru Nanak Dev Ji saw a combination of such virtues in one man – a Saint / Soldier--- he called
– Sant / Sepahi .
How did Guru Nanak Dev Ji fulfil his Mission?
On the religious front Guru Nanak Dev Ji introduced a new concept of God and to propagate this message
Guru Nanak Dev Ji went on 4 missionary journeys --- He went to the centres of learning and spoke to their
religious leaders. He went West to Saudi Arabia -- Mecca and Madina and the Middle East Iran , Iraq to
Bagdad , Russian and the Eastern European countries, to Tashkent in Uzbekistan.
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.
On the Social front Guru Nanak Dev Ji whilst condemning the Hindu caste system, started the Institutions
of Sangat --- a congregation of holy men. People sitting down together and worshipping God and
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.
How did Guru Nanak Dev Ji fulfil his Mission? Cont’d
On the political front – to create an Ideal Man and an Ideal Society, Guru Nanak Dev Ji advocated the path
of ‘ Nam Japna, Kirt Karna, Wand Shakna’ --- also known as ‘Nam, Dan , Ishan’ –
( 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 Continued by the Succeeding
The mission of Guru Nanak Dev Ji was further enhanced by the succeeding Gurus thus :
Guru Angad Dev Ji-- carried out the following works :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.
Guru Amar Das Ji -- Established a Sikh Centre at Goindwal Sahib – constructed the first Baoli, a water well
and invited both Hindus and Moslems including the untouchable castes to take water from it so that the
artificial barriers of sect and caste among people could be broken down.
--- the Guru made a Pangat a precondition for the Sangat. This removed the inferiority complex of the poor
and the superiority complex of the high, rich and the powerful. This was necessary if mutual bonds of
human feelings were to be developed among all sections of the society. Even the Emperor Akbar on his
visit to the Guru had to sit in the Pangat to eat before he was given an audience with the Guru.
The Mission of Guru Nanak Dev Ji Continued by the Succeeding
Gurus --- cont’d
Guru Amar Das Ji – cont’d ------ 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.
Guru Ram Das Ji --- gave Sikhs the religious Code of Conduct. The Guru wrote the Scriptures for the Sikh
marriage ceremony and gave the Sikhs an institution of marriage , thus breaking the ties with the
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.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji --- completed the construction of the holiest of holy Sikh shrines – the Golden Temple.
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.
The Mission of Guru Nanak Dev Ji Continued by the Succeeding
Gurus --- cont’d –2.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji --- collected the Gurbani of the previous 4 Gurus, Hindu Bhagats and Moslem Pirs and
that of the Bhats and well known Sikhs. Adding to this his own considerable amount of Gurbani, he
compiled the Adhi Granth --- also known as the Pothi Sahib. He installed this in the Golden Temple and
appointed Baba Budha Ji as the first Granthi.
--- He also built he Sikh Centre at Tarn Tarn and Kartar Pur. 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.
Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji --- After the martyrdom of his father, Guru Arjun Dev Ji, he took up a new
position to defend the faith, the weak and the poor. He took up the swords of Miri and Piri--- the Spiritual
and Temporal power. He trained and armed the Sikhs and kept an army in which there were Moslem and
Hindu commanders as well as Sikhs.
--- The Guru was falsely charged and 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.
The Mission of Guru Nanak Dev Ji Continued by the Succeeding Gurus
--- cont’d –3.
Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji – continued with the preaching if Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message but was under huge
pressure from the ruling Moslem Emperor, Aurangzeb but he maintained the sanctity of the Gurbani by ---- refusing to change the Gurbani wording.
--- He also refused to insert words into the Holy Adhi Granth Sahib to glorify Islam.
--- He maintained an army of 22,000
Guru Harkrishan Ji --- became the Guru at the age of 5. Due to his tender years his ability as a Guru was
questioned by Brahmins. The Guru dispelled all their doubts. He continued with the mission of Guru
Nanak Dev Ji. He refused to see the Emperor Aurangzeb defying his authority and maintained his
individual freedom.
--- During a Smallpox epidemic 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.
Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib Ji --- bought land and established the township of Anand Pur Sahib which became
the centre of Learning and headquarters of the Guru Sahib Ji.
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 Mission of Guru Nanak Dev Ji Continued by the Succeeding
Gurus --- cont’d –4.
Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib Ji –- cont’d. --The Hindus were helpless to stop the Moslems. Force was no option. Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib Ji was their
only remaining hope. After much pleading and at the behest of his 9 years old son , Gobind Rai, 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 Chandni Chowk, Delhi.
By this martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur 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 Teg Bahadur 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.

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