“There is no Muslim, there is no Hindu”, were the first words uttered by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, after attaining enlightenment. 550 years later, these words are as significant as they were back then- a testament to this saint’s wonderful philosophy.
Baba Nanak was born in difficult times, with the Mughals exercising a violent reign over large parts of North India, and Hindus steeped in a centuries old patriarchal and rigid caste system. His simple message of equality, peace and religious harmony was the need of the hour then, as it is today. His deeds matched his words, and he attracted disciples in large numbers during his widespread travels. These were people looking to break free from societal shackles and rampant social evils such as the caste system, the deplorable treatment of women, communal hatred and its resulting atrocities. Later, these disciples formed the basis of the Sikh congregation, which grew under the able guidance of the Sikh gurus, eventually flourishing as a world-wide community. In modern times, the holy book, known as the Guru Granth Sahib, acts as guide for the Sikhs.
Having been a Sikhni since birth, I am fortunate to have been introduced to the tenets of this uncomplicated and straightforward faith from a young age. Now at age 32, I strongly feel that I would have chosen to follow Sikhism, even if I had not been born into a Sikh family. The core strength of my belief is Baba Nanak’s ideology. Before Sikhism became a militaristic/ Khalsa sect, it was a simple religious philosophy of inclusion, which advocated a practical way of life.
Baba Nanak preached equality between men and women, equality between religions, equality of caste as well as economic status. The Sikh practices of unhindered communal gatherings of men and women in the Gurdwaras or Nagar Kirtans, and Langar or seated communal eating, are great examples of these principles. He further preached a message of peace and civility towards all beings– particularly significant in that historic period which was mired in violence and war. A simple way of life, humility about one’s status, and charity towards the less fortunate, were other basic principles that Sikhs strive to follow even today.
On the 550th anniversary of Baba Nanak’s birth, it’s important to bear in mind that his popularity stemmed from being human, not god. It is indeed amazing that his teachings are as relevant today, as they were 5 centuries ago.
This Gurpurab celebration also has particular international significance, as it heralds the easing of tension between India and Pakistan. For the first time since the partition of India in to two countries, a visa-free path, known as the Kartarpur Corridor, has been opened between the two nations, enabling Indians to visit Gurdwara Durbar Sahib in Pakistan, where Baba Nanak established his first ever Sikh commune.
Hence, I feel this is the best time for us to keep his legacy and message alive and attempt to bury the religious hatchet at home as well. Let’s remember Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s most important message- ultimately, we are neither Hindu nor Muslim nor Sikh nor Christian, we are all simply human.
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