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A Glimpse into the Life of the First Sikh Guru: Guru Nanak Dev

Nov 07, 2022

A Glimpse into the Life of the First Sikh Guru: Guru Nanak Dev

Today’s edition of our Current Affairs will comprise a discussion on A Glimpse into the Life of the First Sikh Guru: Guru Nanak Dev. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus.

For Prelims: Guru Nanak Dev, Sikhism, Kali Bein, Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak Jayanti or Gurpurab.

For Mains: About Guru Nanak Dev Ji, About Guru Nanak Jayanti 2022 (Gurpurab), Guru Nanak Dev’s Teachings, Significance of Guru Nanak.


The year 2022 marks the 553rd birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji which is popularly known as Guru Nanak Jayanti or Gurpurab.

Probable Question

Write about Guru Nanak and his significant contribution to religious transformation, through his teaching.

About Guru Nanak Dev Ji

  • Other Name: He is also known as Nanaka Sahib.
  • Birth: He was born in Rai Bhoi Ki Talwandi, near Lahore (in Pakistan) in 1469. This year marks the 553rd birth anniversary celebration.
  • Sikhism: 
    • He is the founder of Sikhism.
    • He is the first of the ten Sikh Gurus (Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan, Guru Hargobind, Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Krishan, Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh).
  • Enlightenment: 
    • It was believed that in 1485, 16-year-old Nanak was plunged into the Kali Bein, a seasonal rivulet.
    • He suddenly appeared from the river on the fourth day, as a completely changed man, an enlighted one. 
    • He then recited the “Mool Mantra” of the Sikh religion.
  • Message: 
    • He saw God as ‘One Reality’, Ek Onkar.
    • In 1499 Guru Nanak set out on his journeys on foot for 21 years, to spread the message of God, which was recorded as udasis (Odysseys) by eminent Sikh saints.
    • He visited the equivalent of nine modern countries comprising India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. 
  • Guru Granth Sahib: 
    • His written compositions were included in the Adi Granth compiled by Guru Arjan (1563-1606), the fifth Sikh guru. 
    • This came to be known as Guru Granth Sahib after the additions made by the 10th guru Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708).
    • It is the central holy religious scripture of Sikhism, the final and perpetual guru of Sikhism. 
    • It has teachings and writings of all five Sikh gurus, the contributions made by the 12th - 16th centuries Hindu bhakts and Sufi saints such as Baba Farid, Sant Kabir, Guru Ravi Das, and Sant Namdev.
    • Guru Nanak contributed to 974 hymns out of almost 6000 total hymns in the holy book.
  • Death: Nanaka Sahib passed away at the age of 70 years, on 22nd September 1539, in Kartarpur (Currently in Punjab, Pakistan). 


Kali Bein:

  • Kali Bein is a rivulet in Punjab, India.
  • It flows into the confluence of the rivers Beas and Satluj at Harike.
  • Waste water from the nearby banks as well as industrial waste used to flow into the rivulet via a drain, turning its waters black, hence the name Kali Bein (black rivulet).
  • The cleaning project of Kali Bein was first started by environmentalist Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, a former Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) member, with a handful of followers, without government help. 
  • They removed weeds, treated the water, and spread awareness among residents. 
  • Later, the Punjab government took up the project by identifying 73 villages releasing sewage water into the rivulet.
  • The project required every village to build a large pond to collect the sewer water, which is then processed and used for irrigation. 

About Guru Nanak Jayanti 2022 (Gurpurab)

  • It is one of the most important festivals of the Sikh community, which is celebrated every year across the world.
  • It is celebrated on a full moon day in the month of Kartik (usually during October-November) as per the Hindu lunar calendar.
  • The Sikh community, on this occasion, pay their tributes to the Guru, honoring his life, achievements, and legacy.

Related: Bhakti-Sufi Traditions Devotional Texts

Guru Nanak Dev’s Teachings

  • Bhakti or worship is emphasized in the teachings of Guru Nanak, and other Sikh Gurus. 
  • The teachings taught that both the spiritual life and secular householder life are interconnected and are part of an infinite reality. 
  • The metaphysical truth is not as important as living an active, creative, and practical life of truthfulness, fidelity, self-control, and purity.
  • Three ways to practice Guru Nanak's teaching is understood to be practiced in three ways:
    • Vand Shhako (share & consume): Sharing with the needy, and then consuming together;
    • Kirat Karo (work honestly): Living honestly; 
    • Naam Japo (recite His name): Chanting and Meditating on God's name.
  • Guru Nanak used the Punjabi language to communicate his egalitarian teachings. 

Significance of Guru Nanak

  • His teachings attracted all caste groups from Punjabi society, many lower castes Hindus (peasant and artisanal classes), and also some converts to Islam, who came to be known as Sikhs, which means learners or disciples. 
  • He transcended the limitations of geographical space and historical time in delivering a message that had universal relevance. 
  • The ecological message of his teachings has strong relevance for our times, and is perhaps, the best illustration of the universalism of his teachings.
  • Guru Nanak provided a practical demonstration of building a community based on the following: 
    • Strong egalitarian values of cooperative agricultural work.
    • Innovative social institutions:
      • Langar (collective cooking and sharing of food),
      • Pangat (partaking food without distinctions of high and low), 
      • Sangat (collective decision making).

News Source: The Indian Express




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