"Me, the bard out of work, the Lord has applied to His service. In the very beginning He gave me the order to sing His praises night and day. The Master summoned the minstrel to His True Court. He clothed me with the robe of His true honour and eulogy. Since then the True Name had become my ambrosial food. They, who under the Guru's instruction, eat this food to their satisfaction, obtain peace. By singing the Guru's hymns, I, the minstrel spread the Lord's glory. Nanak, by praising the True Name I have obtained the perfect Lord."
The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak was born on April 15, 1469 in the Western Punjab village of Talwandi. He was born to a simple Hindu family. His father Mehta Kalian Das was an accountant in the employment of the local Muslim authorities. From an early age Guru Nanak made friends with both Hindu and Muslim children and was very inquisitive about the meaning of life.
At the age of six he was sent to the village school teacher for schooling in reading and writing in Hindi and mathematics. He was then schooled in the study of Muslim literature and learned Persian and Arabic. He was an unusually gifted child who learned quickly and often question his teachers. At age 13 it was time for Guru Nanak to be invested with the sacred thread according to the traditional Hindu custom. At the ceremony which was attended by family and friends and to the disappointment of his family Guru Nanak refused to accept the sacred cotton thread from the Hindu priest. He sang the following poem;
"Let mercy be the cotton, contentment the thread, Continence the knot and truth the twist. O priest! If you have such a thread, Do give it to me. It'll not wear out, nor get soiled, nor burnt, nor lost. Says Nanak, blessed are those who go about wearing such a thread" (Rag Asa)
As a young man herding the family cattle, Guru Nanak would spend long hours absorbed in meditation and in religious discussions with Muslim and Hindu holy men who lived in the forests surrounding the village. Thinking that if bound in marriage Guru Nanak might start taking interest in household affairs a suitable match was found for him. At age 16 he was married to Sulakhani daughter of a pious merchant. Guru Nanak did not object as he felt that married life did not conflict with spiritual pursuits. Guru Nanak was happily married, he loved his wife and eventually had two sons Sri Chand in 1494 and Lakshmi Chand three years later. Now that he had a family of his own Guru Nanak was persuaded by his parents to take a job as an accountant in charge of the stores of the Muslim governor of Sultanpur Daulat Khan Lodi. Guru Nanak agreed and was joined by his family and an old Muslim childhood friend Mardana, a musician by profession. Guru Nanak would work during the days, but early in the mornings and late at nights, he would meditate and sing hymns accompanied by Mardana on the rabab ( a string instrument). These sessions attracted a lot of attention and many people started joining the two.
Early one morning accompanied by Mardana, Guru Nanak went to the river Bain for his bath. After plunging into the river, Guru Nanak did not surface and it was reported that he must have drowned. The villagers searched everywhere, but their was no trace of him. Guru Nanak was in holy communion with God. The Lord God revealed himself to Guru Nanak and enlightened him. In praise of the Lord, Guru Nanak uttered;
"There is but One God, His name is Truth, He is the Creator, He fears none, he is without hate, He never dies, He is beyond the cycle of births and death, He is self illuminated, He is realized by the kindness of the True Guru. He was True in the beginning, He was True when the ages commenced and has ever been True, He is also True now." (Japji)
These words are enshrined at the beginning of the Sikh Holy Scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak did not believe in a Trinity of Gods, or the belief that God can be born into human form.
After three days Guru Nanak appeared at the same spot from where he had disappeared. He was no longer the same person he had been, there was a divine light in his eyes and his face was resplendent. He remained in a trance and said nothing. He gave up his job and distributed all of his belongings to the poor. When he finally broke his silence he uttered "There is no Hindu, no Muslim". Daulat Khan asked what he meant when he said to Guru Nanak, "Perhaps the Hindus were no longer Hindus but the Muslims remain devout to their faith." Guru Nanak replied,
"Let God's grace be the mosque, and devotion the prayer mat. Let the Quran be the good conduct. Let modesty be compassion, good manners fasting, you should be a Muslim the like of this. Let good deeds be your Kaaba and truth be your mentor. Your Kalma be your creed and prayer, God would then vindicate your honour." (Majh)