I grew up in a time when the internet was a luxury and smartphones were fiction. Unlike the kids of today, my nights were devoid of any social media or sites like YouTube. It was a golden time when parents used to narrate stories to their children at bedtime. Those were the days when families would sit together and talk, nothing like today when each member is busy with their phone, even I find myself guilty of this felony.
While growing up, my father used to narrate stories drawing from various themes. Now, when I take a trip down the memory lane, I realise that his stories had a motive–to instill in me virtuous traits. Having being brought up in a religious household where trips to mandirs (temples) and gurudwaras (Sikh temples) were a part of routine life, my father did not fall short of any spiritual tales, reciting the accounts of our great Lords and Gurus.
Guru Nanak Devji used to be the protagonist in many of his stories. Today, I can very confidently express that sakhis of Guru Nanakji are certainly something with which kids must be made acquainted with.
Guru Nanak Devji is known all around the world as the founder of Sikhism. Guru Nanakji was born to a Hindu couple in the village of Talwandi in 1469 in the present-day Punjab of Pakistan. Nanakji, who was named after his elder sister Nanki, as the sakhis tell us, was an extraordinary kid.
He was extremely intelligent, a master debater, a quick learner, and an astute observer. As a child, he would often give answers that were unfathomable for someone of his age. After witnessing his exceptional knowledge and sense of spirituality, teachers and saints would bow down to him and sing his praises.
At the time when communal tensions were increasing, Nanakji traveled far and wide to spread the message of love and unity. From Nanded in the south to Patna in the east, he sermonised all over south Asia. He even went as far as the Holy site of Mecca in Arabia. He was an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. He spread the word of peace. Nanakji preached and taught people to follow the righteous path. He intended to bring about social reforms.
After Nanakji left for his heavenly abode, nine more preachers were designated as the Guru. The 10th and the last living Guru, Guru Gobind Singhji ended the system of nominating mortal beings as Gurus. He prepared the second rendition of the holy scripture of Adi Granth and designated it as the final eternal living Guru. This holy work came to be known as the Guru Granth Sahib.
Starting with Guru Nanak Devji through Guru Gobind Singhji, people were mesmerised by the teachings of the Sikh Gurus. Because of their unambiguous and simpler philosophy towards life, the Gurus amassed numberless followers all over the subcontinent. This mass movement soon made people keep enormous faith in it.
Sikhism was formed on the principles of fraternal love, virtuousness, and monotheism. Guru Nanak Devji, who, in essence, desired to bring an end to the multiple religions gave the world another one, which was again further divided into different sects at different points in time. From what I have been told and read, Sikhism was never meant to be another religion but merely a way of life.
Sikhs keep a long beard (they have to keep the hair uncut), wear a turban, wear a kada (a bracelet made of iron or steel) in their forearm, and also sometimes keep a small dagger. These features were incorporated after the events that followed the beheading of the ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur, by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1675.
His martyrdom was a turning point in Sikh history, as it led to the formation of the Khalsa. The concept of the 5 Ks, among other things, that most Sikhs follow today, which basically characterises them as a separate community, was started in 1699 by the last living Guru, Guru Gobind Singhji, as part of this new tradition–the Khalsa.
With Khalsa, the intentions of the Guru were to form an army of warriors who would fight against the then-Islamic fundamentalists to safeguard the people from religious prosecution. It was precisely this Khalsa tradition that brought the nomenclature of the ‘Singh’ and the ‘Kaur’. Note that except for the last Guru, Guru Gobind Singhji, none of the earlier nine Gurus had Singh in their name.
With time the followers of the teachings of the Gurus started to acknowledge themselves as someone belonging to separate faith and hence rose from the flare of enlightenment, Sikhism, the religion.