Dr Shankar Chatterjee, Hyderabad
On this date of 20 November 2020, the 551 birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji is being celebrated across the world particularly in India and Pakistan with full enthusiasm, devotion and joviality. Here I have mentioned India and Pakistan as He was born in 1469 at Talwandi, a village in the Sheikhupura district, 65 kilometres away from Lahore which comes under Pakistan. Guru Nanak Gurpurab, also known as Guru Nanak Jayanti and Guru Nanak ji’s Prakash Utsav, is a prominent festival for people who follow Sikhism and is celebrated on Kartik Purnima day. The people of all faiths particularly Sikhs visit on this auspicious occasion to the Golden Temple and offer prayers at the temple and also devotees lit candles in the temple premises.
According to various literatures and beliefs, the birth and initial years of Guru Nanak ji’s life were marked with many amazing incidents that validated that He was born with divine power. As a young man, while herding the family cattle, used to spend long hours in meditation and religious discussions with Muslim and Hindu holy men who lived in the forests surrounding the village. Many spiritual incidents were attached in his life. Once Guru Nanak ji went to the river Bain for his bath and after plunging into the river, He did not surface and it was reported that he must have drowned. The villagers searched everywhere, but there was no trace of him. He was in Holy Communion with Almighty God (Lord). The Lord God revealed himself to Guru Nanak ji and enlightened him. In praise of the Lord, Guru Nanak ji uttered; “There is but One God, His name is Truth, He is the Creator, He fears none, he is without hate, He never dies, He is beyond the cycle of birth and death, He is self-illuminated, He is realized by the kindness of the True Guru. He was True in the beginning, He was True when the ages commenced and has ever been True, He is also True now” (Japji). Another incident may be presented here. When Guru Nanak Dev ji was 12 years old his father gave him twenty rupees and told him to do business, with the objective to teach him business. Guru Nanak ji purchased food with all the money and distributed it among saints, and the poor. When his father asked him what happened to business? He replied he had done a “True business”. It is pertinent to mention that at the place where Guru Nanak ji had fed the poor, a Gurdwara was constructed and named Sacha Sauda.
Guru ji’s sayings and messages are still relevant in present days. I am quoting two which have greatly influenced me, “Even Kings and emperors with heaps of wealth and vast dominion cannot compare with an ant filled with the love of God”. And another one is “Dwell in peace in the home of your own being, and the Messenger of Death will not be able to touch you.”
As mentioned already He was born near Lahore of present Pakistan and later on settled down at Kartarpur (now in Pakistan) which was founded by him in 1522 and spent the rest of his life there (1522-1539). Although Guru Nanak ji was the founder of Sikhism and the first of the Ten Sikh Gurus but all the other Gurus had done excellent work for human beings. In this context, the Golden Temple is a glaring example. The Golden Temple of Amritsar (Sri Harmandir Sahib) is not only a central religious place of the Sikhs, but also a symbol of brotherhood and equality. Everybody irrespective of caste, creed, religion or race can visit the place.
Regarding the Temple it may be mentioned that, as advised by Sri Guru Amar Dass Ji (3rd Sikh Guru), Sri Guru Ram Dass Ji (4th Sikh Guru) started the digging of Amrit Sarovar (Holy Tank) of Sri Harmandir Sahib in 1577 A.D., which was later on brick-lined by Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji (5th Sikh Guru) on 15 December, 1588 and he also started the construction of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Sri Guru Granth Sahib (scripture of the Sikhs) was first installed at Sri Harmandir Sahib on 16 August 1604 A.D.
I had the opportunity to visit Golden Temple (Sri Harmandir Sahib) in August 2017 and observed everywhere selfless service – whether serving of food, water, cleaning of utensils, making of roti etc. were concerned. It is heartening to mention by quoting Hindustan Times, 19th May 2016, epaper, that “The Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) in Amritsar has been ranked number 3 in the country on the travellers’ choice landmarks list of a leading travel planning and booking site TripAdvisor. Surrounded by a holy ‘sarovar’, its construction was completed in 1604 and presently runs one of the largest free kitchens in the world, which serves an average of 1, 00,000 people daily”. Before conclusion, I wish to highlight the Three Pillars of Sikhism which were formalised by Guru Nanak Dev Ji:
a) Naam Japo means meditation and reciting and chanting of God’s Name—Waheguru.
b) Kirat Karo means honestly earn, with hard work, by one’s physical and mental effort.
c) Vaṇḍ Chakkō means share the food, wealth etc. with everyone, irrespective of caste, creed, and sex.”
The following websites have been consulted while writing the article: