RELIGION LIBRARY

Sikhism

Origins

Founders

Written by: Rahuldeep Singh Gill

The ten Gurus, whom Sikhs revere as the founders of their community, lived in succession from 1469 until 1708 C.E. For Sikhs, no other humans outside of this lineage of ten hold comparable authority. Guru Nanak's authority is attributed to his experiences with the Shabad (divine word) and his life of piety. He did not claim to be a divine being. Guru Nanak's social position was probably one of some influence. His father and his wife's father were both part of the revenue collection apparatus of the state. One of Guru Nanak's most important associates at Sultanpur, and subsequent disciple, Daulat Khan Lodhi, became an influential figure in setting up Mughal rule in India. Guru Nanak himself spoke out against the status quo, including the power of the Mughals. At his community in Kartarpur, Guru Nanak himself worked the fields, and his successor, Guru Angad was selected in part because of his work ethic and selfless service.

The Ten Gurus Birth year (CE) Guru Period (CE)
Guru Nanak 1469 until 1539
Guru Angad 1504 1539-1552
Guru Amardas 1503 1552-1574
Guru Ramdas 1534 1574-1581
Guru Arjan 1563 1581-1606
Guru Hargobind 1595 1606-1644
Guru Harrai 1630 1644-1661
Guru Harkrishan 1656 1661-1664
Guru Teg Bahadur 1621 1664-1675
Guru Gobind Singh 1661 1675-1708

Guru Angad continued Guru Nanak's tradition of composing poetry containing his teachings for the community, and signed his compositions with the pen name "Nanak," a tradition that would continue until the ninth Guru. The locus of the community shifted to Guru Angad's home village, Khadur, after Guru Nanak's death as the successor ran into a succession dispute with Guru Nanak's biological heirs. Guru Angad's wife, Mata Khivi, is remembered for running a thriving communal kitchen at Khadur, where great sweets and delicacies were served to attendees.

Guru Angad's successor, the third Guru, Guru Amardas (1503-1574), moved the community to the thriving town of Goindval when Guru Angad's sons claimed Khadur. As Guru Angad had received Guru Nanak's book of compositions at his succession ceremony, so did Guru Angad pass on the book with his own composition to Guru Amardas. Guru Amardas also contributed many compositions to the growing corpus. Two of the four volumes of the Gurus' sacred teachings that Guru Amardas prepared are still available today, and are known as the "Goindval Pothis."

Guru Amardas oversaw the beginning of a thriving period for the community. The Mughal emperor Akbar's policies of tolerance contributed to early Sikh success. Trade and agriculture also grew under Akbar, and the Sikhs spread out along North Indian trade routes. Scribes, bards, and other professionals sought and received patronage at Guru Amardas's court. Another of Guru Amardas's lasting accomplishments was the building of a well for a communal water supply that can still be found at the Goindval complex.

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