Commodore D S Sodhi
The world is celebrating 550th Prakash Purab of the founder of the Sikh Religion Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Nanak was a great unifier of the world and worked for interfaith peace and harmony.
He came in an era when people worshipped many gods, believed in superstitions and rituals that actually were in total defiance of the dictates of the Supreme Lord. He was born in the year 1469 at Rai Bhoi Ki Talvandi, Lahore (Present day Nankana Sahib) in the house of Mata Tripta and Kalyan Chand Das Bedi popularly known Mehta Kalu. Many events indicated that here was someone different and blessed by the Lord with extraordinary powers. Midwife (Dhaultan) and Pandit Hardayal, the family priest agreed that the child had an exceptional aura. The horoscope prepared by Pandit Hardayal predicted that Hindus and Muslims alike would acknowledge Nanak as philosopher, teacher and guide. Nanak’s childhood was filled with many happenings that left people perplexed. While some called him a magician others acknowledged his spiritual connect and Divine power. They believed that here was someone to spread a message for the benefit of mankind.
550th Prakash Purab Special
Nanak was instrumental in setting up spiritual and social platforms with foundations based on equality, goodness and virtue. He broke all barriers, social as well as geographical, to disseminate the spirit of universal brotherhood. In an era when the people of diverse faiths live in mortal fear of clash of cultures, and the so-called civilized nations compete in the clandestine manufacture of destructive weaponry, the rousing message of Nanak for peaceful co-existence and mutual trust acquires a special urgency. Our Prime Minister in one of his aired” Maan Ki Baat” programmes said Guru Nanak’s teachings are the guiding principles not only for Indians but for the entire humanity.
Nanak’s is believed to have voiced interest in Divine matters at the age of five and when he was seven years old. He astonished his teacher by describing the implicit symbolism of the first letter of the alphabet resembling the mathematical version of one, as denoting the unity or oneness of God. Nanak married Sulakhani on 24 September 1487 in the town of Batala. The couple were blessed with two sons Sri Chand and Lakhmi Chand.
Nanak was attached to his sister Bebe Nanki so much so that he followed her to Sultanpur Lodhi where she lived. The most critical event of his life happened here in Sutanpur Lodhi when he returned after three days with enlightenment whilst taking bath in the seasonal rivulet Kali Bein. During one of the early morning ablutions by the river Nanak had his first mystic experience (communication with the Lord). He was taken in a vision to God’s presence. The legend has that he was offered a cup of nectar and the Lord charged him with a mission in the following words: “Nanak I am with thee. Through thee will my name be magnified, whoever follows thee, him I will save? Go into the world to pray and teach mankind how to pray, be not sullied by the ways of the world let your life be one of praise of the Word (Naam), Charity (Daan), Ablution (Ishnaan), Service (Sewa) and Prayer (Simran). Nanak I give thee my pledge. Let this be thy life’s mission”. As per Guru Nanak, the definition of the divine could be achieved by reciting the Mool Mantar. On hearing the Mool Mantar, Voice was heard saying Nanak he whom you bless will be blessed by Me: he to whom you are benevolent shall receive my Benevolence. I am the Great God, the Supreme creator, thou are the Guru.
This incident changed the life of Nanak and he thus started his travels to spread the message of God. Nanak travelled extensively with his companion Mardana. He undertook four major Udassis (travels). Nanak’s first Udassi has been recorded to the east (Mathura, Banaris, Gaya, Bengal, Assam, Arunachal to name a few) and on return he stopped at Jaggannath Puri. His second travel was to South (Tamil land and Ceylon). The third travel was to North as far as Tibet, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. The last travel was to the west up to Baghdad (Mecca and Medina). On his return he passed through Saidpur when the town was ransacked by Babur. Other accounts mention Nanak’s travel to many other countries. It was during the third Udassi whilst being on the peaks near Hemkunt Sahib that Nanak entered Sach Khand second time and paid obeisance to the Lord. When being asked by the Lord about his experiences, Nanak recited the Shabad “So Dhar Tera Keha…. ” Sacha sach sohee awar na koi….” and “Kot Kotee meri Arja ….”. On hearing these Hymns, the Lord blessed Nanak saying that whoever would recite/listen your bani would not go through the process of rebirths and would live in Sach Khand.
Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir the land of Rishis, Munis and Sufi Saints too have been visited and blessed by Nanak during his third Udassi. As per the account of Giani Gian Singh, Nanak is supposed to have entered Ladakh after visiting Kailash Parbat and Mansarovar. Historically Tibet and Ladakh were connected through a trade route from Damchok area. Bhai Santokh Singh and many others like Bhai Vir Singh, Professor SS Kohli (travels of Guru Nanak), Macauliffe have also written about the visit of Guru Nanak to Kashmir. A probable route that Nanak could have taken has been covered in the work “Historical Sikh Shrines of Jammu and Kashmir”. Leh has the distinction of having two Gurdwaras (Gurdwara Pather Sahib & Gurdwara Datun Sahib) commemorating the visit of Nanak to Ladakh. Another Historical Gurdwara stands tall in Kargil. After giving discourses to people in Ladakh, Nanak travelled to Skardu and Gilgit and finally came down to Srinagar through Harmukh Range. A place by the name Nanak peer was revered in Skardu. Here Kalandar Ghonse Bhukari had imprisoned the Hakim of that place and used to ill treat the people. After listening to the discourses of Nanak, both bhukari and hakim became his followers. Nanak is supposed to have visited Harmukh Ganga also. At Srinagar Nanak is supposed to have held discourses with Sufi saints at Hari Parbat as also at Shankracharya temple. A Gurdwara commemorating the visit of Nanak to Hari Parbat was built during Sikh rule. Presently the Gurdwara at Hari Parbat is being managed by the security forces manning the fort. In Kashmir Valley Nanak also visited places like Awantipora, BijBehara, Anantnag and Mattan. Nanak is supposed to have held discussion with a learned Pandit Braham Das at Mattan who was a disciple of Shiva. Full of arrogance, he asked a number of questions to Nanak and was surprised with the answers he got. He finally fell at the feet of Nanak and accepted him as his Guru. One could say that Sikhism in Kashmir started with the visit of Nanak and Braham Das was the first one to adopt the way of life shown by Nanak.
After giving discourses at Mattan, Nanak travelled to Amarnath cave and crossing Kishtwar ridge entered Kishtawar visiting Kali temple at Machail. He then travelled to Pangi, Mani Mahesh and Badarwah (were a place Sidh Di Bageeche existed). Nanak is supposed to have crossed over to Ramnagar and chenani area. At Ser Manjla Ramnagar he was addressed as Ogan Devta. Shri Gopi Chand of Ser Manjla claims that he has the Rabab of Mardana and it is understood that authenticity of his claim is being verified. Nanak has also visited places like Garb Joni (Vaishno Devi), Peer Kho, Bahu Fort, Purmandal, Mansar, Jasrota to name a few and thereafter entered Punjab.
After completing his Udassis Nanak settled in Kartarpur (meaning city of creator), the place established by him in 1522 and it was here that he started the tradition of Langer. When Nanak left for his heavenly abode both the Hindus and Muslims carried out the last rites of the flowers they found on the bed instead of the body. Today access to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan which was difficult due to the strained relations between the two countries is becoming a reality through the proposed Kartarpur Corridor and the signing of the MOU. The Gurdwara will be open to pilgrims and visitors from India on the Prakash Purab of Nanak.
The message of Nanak for universal brotherhood assumes importance because of the environment of hatred for humanity that exists all around. Let us all pray to the Almighty to forgive our sins and put us on the right track of peace and harmony. May we live up to the expectations of Nanak in following three basic principles advocated by him.
Vaand ke Chako