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The Evolution of Sikhism

Sikhism is the youngest of the world religions, being only a little over 500 years old. But, it has some unique features. When is founder, GURU NANAK DEV JI SAHIB (1469-1539), proclaimed his prophethood, the first decleration he made was: There is no Hindu no Muslim". God adjudges man according to his deeds, not by the coat he wears".

Sikism is a strictly monotheistic religion.but Guru Nanak sahib ji also preached that there is one God, the creator and sustainer of us all. Then mankind is also one irrespective of caste or creed color or nationality. And he gave to women, both in the secular and spiritual domains, a status equal to man which to this day is the envy of all the faiths.

Guru Nanak denounced ritualism and superstitions of all kinds; idol-worship or belief in gods and goddesses; astrology and fortune telling; tantra, mantra and yantra; hattha yoga and meceration of body; pilgrimages and the notions of good and bad days, places and omens; special languages; dress or deit. he also decried; special languages; dress or deit. He also decried dishonesty, slander, false-hood alchoholism and drug-addictions, breach of faith and voilence. He disapproved of renunciation of the world and sanctified the life of the householder.

He said "Ego is greatest malady of men and people, and foregiveness, compassion, contentment and self-surrender the greatest virtues."

Every activity of man was sacred, he said, if it was dedicated to god and wellbeing of his fellowmen. He enjoined upon his followers to share what they earned upon his followers to share what they earned with the less fortunate and started in his life-time a community-kitchen (Guru Ka Langar), a tradition being continued the world over by the sikh community even today where men and women of any creed, caste, nationality or color are welcome to satify their hunger.

Above all, He inculcated a firm belief in god and directed that any activity man engages in must be dedicated to god and man must constantly not only remmember and love god, but also live in his fear. He said : "The world is neither maya or illusion nor the house of pain. God sends us into the world not to punish us for the past sins, but as a rewad of our peity and good deeds. HE called the earth "Dharamsala" or the abode of truth and righteousness which god has created in order to express his beauty, holiness and power. From here, there is no fall of man into hell, or lower form of life. There is for him only the great leap forward intro the life of an angel. That is why God, the compassionate, gives us many human births till we attain our ultimate goal to become like him, and to merge, finally in our our primal source.

Though born in a highest hindu household, Guru Nanak Sahib ji kept company in most of his travels, with a low-caste muslim drummer, Mardana ji, by name. and he accepted the hospitality and took care of only the poor, the lowly and the lowest.

He travveled not only in punjab and other parts of the indian sub-continent on foot for over twenty years, but crossed the forbidden high seas to visit the muslim lands of arabia, includeing mecca, madina and baghdad to preach his gospel. Places, sacred to his memory are thus scattered all over India and the middle east. Such was the reverence he envoked from diverse faiths that, when he breathed his last, a fight ensued between the hindus and muslims for his body, for both claimed him up as their very own !

Guru Nanak sahib ji did not pass on his spiritual throne either to any of his two sons or his wife. After a severe test, he found a disciple of his, Lehna Ji by name, a lone worthy of being his successor. He is known in the history as Guru Angad dev ji sahib (1504-1552), who like the third Guru, Amar das ji sahib (1479-1574), after him, became a superb example of selfless service, humility and extreme peity in word and in deed. Guru Nanak gave exquisite literary expression to highest philosophical thoughts in his mother tongue, Punjabi. He also gave currency to an indigenous script which, after his appellation, Guru, is now called GURMUKHI: He built a new township, called Kartarpur. Guru Angad dev ji sahib gave further impetus to the spread of the mother tongue punjabi, and its script. He also turned a ruin at khadoor sahib into a flourishing town. Guru Amar das ji sahib followed suit. He built the township of Beas, crusaded against purdah, Sati and meaningless customs at the time of birth, marraige and death. Even emperor Akbar called him to pay tribute to his magnificent contribution to the people's spiritual and social uplift.

Guru Ram Das ji Sahib (1534-81), the fourth Guru, and the son-in-law of the third master, was also a master poet and a builder par excellence. He founded the city of Ramdaspur, now called Amritsar. His youngest son, Guru Arjan Dev ji Sahib (1563-1606), not only extended this city but also built the central temple, now called The Golden Temple (it was maharaja Ranjit singh who covered the temple with gold leaf in 1821). He invited a muslim sufi Saint Mian Mir. to lay the foundation stone of the sikh temple and gave it four doors to signify that any man or woman, from any direction was welcome into its portals. He built two new cities Tarantaran and Kartarpur, He provided for the sikhs with Holy book, by compiling the sikh scripture in 1604, in which he included the spiritual hymns of the first five sikh Gurus along with those of the hindu Bhaktas like Kabir, Ravidas, and Namdev and muslimsufis, like baba farid. Such catholicity of outlook was unheard of before. He incurred the wrath of the emperor of the time, Jahangir, who got him executed with torture, for founding not sectarian but a universal church! He was succeeded by his only son, Guru Hargobind ji sahib (1595-1638), who took the sword to fight battle against a bigoted regime. His grandson, Guru Har Rai ji sahib(1630-1661), who succeeded him, kept a small cavalry, but never used it. His youngest son, Guru Har Krishan ji sahib, the eighth guru (1656-1664), merged in the infinite at the age of about eight and he was succeded by Guru Tegh Bahadur ji sahib(1622-1675), the son of Guru Hargobind. He was a poet of great sensitivity and promoted public welfare but was martyred for upholding the right of the hindus to exist as a seperate religion !

Guru Gobind Singh ji Sahib(1666-1708), his son came to the throne at the age of nine. He infused a new dynamism in his demoralised people. It was he who also initiated the khalsa in 1699 and administered the "baptism of steel" to those who were willing to stake their all for good cause. To them he called THE SINGHS or lions. an appellation earlier employed for the warrior Rajputs clans only. He gave the sings a distinctive appearance with their five symbols: (unshorn hair to give man his manly looks and the woman her womanly grace; a comb to keep it clean: a sword to use in defence of righteousness: a steel bracelet to denote the universality of god and an underwear to signify chastity). But the great guru was catholic enough to permit the Sahjdharis (or the civilian sikhs) not to adopt his discipline and yet be members of the sikh brotherhood. His Hukumnamas or edicts, (now published) amply illustrate this point.

He fought many battles and won, but did not either carve a state for himself, nor tried to overpower any other. Fighting both Hindu hill cheiftains and the Mughal force, he inculcated in his sikhs nothing but respect for other man's faiths. "The temple and the mosque are the same to me." he said, He chose his first five beloveds, called PANJ PYARAS, from five different states of India and established five Takhats, or seats of Sikh Spiritual Authority. He abolished succession and invested the Holy Book with the Guruship. It was he who, after initiating the five beloveds into his fold , asked then to initiate him, their Guru into, the fraternity of the khalsa, thus establishing this faith as a perfect democracy.

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