|Doctrines|| ||Guru Nanak taught and practised a devotional and loving attitude (bhakti) towards the Supreme Being, a belief and practice current in the Saints (sants) of his time and area, like Kabir, Ravidas and Namdev - whose hymns are also included in the Sikh's sacred scripture the (Adi Granth also referred to as the Guru Granth Sahib). However there is a uniqueness about Guru Nanak's beliefs, since at the start of his revelation he proclaimed, "There is no Hindu or Muslim. So whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God's path." God is termed Akal Purakh, the Timeless Being. But this is an abridged version of the full doctrinal definition, which Nanak gives on the opening page of the Adi Granth: |
For Nanak liberation (that is, freedom from the compulsive, ignorant and deluding activity of worldly life - samsara) was and is only achieved through the divine Name (nam). Transmigration (the endless round of birth and death) occurred in accordance with one's deeds (karma), and liberation is seen as the ending of this process. This does not necessarily mean that birth and death disappear, but that one will live in the world truly i.e. creatively and subserviently according to Akal Purakh's Will (hukam) and not habitually and destructively according to one's selfish will (haumain). For there is an divinely sanctioned order to things that should be adhered to : "He who created the world watches over it, appointing all to their various tasks." (A.G., p.765).
|History|| ||Guru Nanak (1469-1538) led a simple pious life. As a young man he received a mystical call from Akal Purakh to preach the means of liberation by the divine Name. Nanak travelled around India (traditionally to east India, Sri Lanka, Mount Sumeru and Mecca) singing the praises of the Lord. He critically challenged the hypocrisy of those claiming to be religious people, and the empty ritualistic behaviour of many Indians. He married Sulakhani and had two sons Lakhmi Das and Sri Chand (see Udasis entry) to show that the one can still be a devout person as well as a family man (grihasti); that those who had taken the vow of celibacy and had renounced the world (yogis, sadhus, siddhas), were no different to 'worldly' people. Finally he settled in a village he founded as Kartarpur on the right bank of the river Ravi, north-east of Lahore. During his life he attracted a sizeable following (the Early Panth) and appointed Angad as the successor True Guru (satiguru) before he died.|
|Symbols|| ||During the time of the first four Gurus the Sikh Panth had no distinctive dress, or external symbols to denote the uniqueness of their faith. This is understandable since the main thrust of the early Gurus, and especially of Nanak, was a shift away from external symbols, rituals and practices of Hinduism and Islam, to a focus on the interiority of religious devotion within the heart. Guru Nanak is said to have cross-dressed the Muslim and Hindu attire.|
|Adherents|| ||Most of the activity of the Sikh Panth was in the Panjab, North India. There are no official numbers. In the 1891 census 542,631 Hindus returned themselves as Nanak-panthi and 432,937 Sikhs returned themselves as Nanak-panthi. (Census of India, 1891, Vol.XX, and vol.XXI. The Punjab and its Feudatories, by E.D. Maclagan, Part II and III, Calcutta, 1892, pp.826-9 and pp.572-3.) (See also the note at the end of the Explanatory Introduction).|
| ||The first centre established by Guru Nanak was and still is at Kartarpur.|