11 Sikh Gurus Along With Their Life, History, And Teachings
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11 Sikh Gurus Along With Their Life, History, And Teachings

To kindle devotion and gratitude!

November 5, 2020

Article By- FT Crew

Home/Culture/11 Sikh Gurus Along With Their Life, History, And Teachings

Sikhism as a religion and as philosophy was founded in Punjab by the ten Sikh Gurus over the period ranging from 1469 to 1708, i.e nearly  239 years. Its founder was Guru Nanak, who was then followed by nine successors. 

Later on, the spirit of eternal Guru was transferred to the sacred scripture of Sikhism, Guru Granth Sahib also known as Adi Granth (The First Guru) by the Tenth Guru henceforth. The Sikh Gurus and their philosophies aimed at enlightening the souls in order to attain the moral or spiritual well-being of the masses. 

They promoted life in constant remembrance of the Supreme Creator as well as a simple life of truth, decency, and virtuous principles. In this article, we will discuss who is a Sikh, the Sikh guru names, and vision of the Sikh gurus.

Who is a Sikh, Why is He Called So?

The term Sikh in Punjabi stands for a “learner”, who sought to seek for spiritual guidance and places his spirit in his Guru to lead or enlighten his way.

What is the Concept of Guru in Sikhism?

“Guru” is the teacher and is held in Sikhism as a “remover of darkness.” He therefore is held in the greatest belief. They are regarded as enlighteners and divine messengers, who brought forth eternal wisdom. Hence, the Sikh Guru names begin to be addressed by the prefix of ‘Guru’, whereas, initially Guru Nanak was called ‘Baba Nanak’. ‘Baba’ is an affectionate term used in Punjabi to address the elders.  

Historical Background to the Age of Late Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century 

During the period of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, the social condition of Punjab was highly deplorable. Being the frontier region it has to face the advent of invaders. Which led to unrest in the region. The two dominant religions were Hinduism and Islam but the religious constraints between the duo highly prevailed. Such a situation became the bone of contention for the women, who became the soft targets and the subjects to all kinds of atrocities. The caste system was at its peak. Moreover, no significant progress was being undertaken in the field of education and hence the society was engulfed in the darkness of superstition and ignorance. A new spiritual awakening became the need of the hour and then to light up the lamp came, and took birth the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak.

Here is the Sikh Gurus List Along with the Sikh Gurus Name To Provide You With an Insight Into Their Life, History, and Teachings:

1. Guru Nanak (Guru From 1469 to 1539)

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“Satguru Nanak pargateya mitti dhund jag chanan hoya”

(With the emergence of the true Guru, Guru Nanak, the darkness of worldly mist was cleared and the whole world was illuminated)

Guru Nanak, the first guru in our Sikh Gurus list was the founder of Sikhism, born in a Hindu Khatri family on 15 April 1469 at Rai Bhoi Ki Talwandi, a place now renamed as Nankana Sahib, situated in present-day Pakistan. He was bestowed with spiritual knowledge from his very childhood. Due to his loss of interest in worldly matters his father got him married to Sulakhni, who bore him two sons namely Sri Chand, who later became the founder of Udasi sect and Lakhmi Das.  

One day at Sultanpur Lodhi when he was about thirty, he got enlightenment while bathing in the river called Kali Bein. It resulted in him renouncing his possessions and devoting his life in communicating his spiritual insights. He then undertook ‘four udasis’ (travels) to preach the worship of one God. 

This he did by composing poetic compositions which he sang to the accompaniment of a rabab, the stringed instrument that his Muslim travelling companion, Mardana, played. After travelling extensively Guru Nanak settled down, gathering a community of disciples (Sikhs) around him, in a place known as Kartarpur (‘Creator Town’).

Guru Nanak revolted against empty religious rituals, caste, prejudices, widow sacrificing, hypocrisy and idolatry.

He regarded Hindus and Muslims as equals and referred to himself as neither Hindu nor Muslim but as a brother to all those who believed in one God and truth. And never did he ask his listeners to follow him. He asked the Muslims to be true Muslims and the Hindus to be true Hindus.

On 22 September 1539 Guru Nanak became immersed with Immortal. Before departing, he nominated Bhai Lehna Ji (Guru Angad) as his successor, based on his devotional service.

2. Guru Angad (Guru From 1539 to 1552)

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Guru Angad was born as Lehna on 31 March 1504 at Mata Di Sara. He was a selfless devotee of Guru Nanak and was passed on the Gur Gaddi on 7 September 1539 by Guru Nanak, who also renamed him as “Angad” (my own limb).

After Guru Nanak’s departure Guru Angad was so disheartened that he writes:

“Jis Pyare Seo Neho Tis Aage Mar Chaliye”

(Die before the one whom you love; to live after he dies is to live a worthless life in this world.)

Guru Angad introduced and popularized the Gurmukhi script (the written form of Punjabi). He compiled the sacred verses of Guru Nanak and wrote 63 Saloks (stanzas), that are included in Guru Granth Sahib. He collected the facts about Guru Nanak Sahib and compiled his first biography. 

He expanded the institution of ‘Guru Ka Langar’, which was initiated by Guru Nanak earlier. He also opened many schools for the education of children. For the youth, he started a tradition involving the physical and spiritual exercise called ‘Mall Akhara’. He even built a new town named Goindwal Sahib. 

Guru Angad left for his heavenly abode on 29 March 1552, after nominating his successor, Amar Das.

3. Guru Amar Das (Guru From 1552 to 1574)

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Guru Amar Das was born on 5 March 1479 at Basarke in Amritsar. He was nominated as the third Guru of the Sikhs at the age of 63 in 1552. He strengthened the tradition of Guru Ka Langar (the free communal kitchen), through the mode of which he fought against the caste prejudices and untouchability, by making the people of all faith have their meals together by sitting in one place. 

Guru Amar Das thus advocated for social equality among all. Guru Amardas introduced the Anand Karaj marriage ceremony for the Sikhs that marked their difference from the Hindu form. He completely abolished the custom of Sati (wife burning on her husband’s funeral pyre) amongst the Sikhs and denounced the custom of Purdah (wearing of veil). 

There are a total 869 hymns from Guru Amar Das included in Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Amar Das became immersed with Immortal on 1 September 1574, after nominating his successor, Bhai Jetha.

4. Guru Ram Das (Guru From 1574 to 1581)

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Guru Ram Das was born as Jetha on 24 September 1534 at Chuna Mandi in Lahore. Guru ji founded the city of Ramdaspur or now known as, Amritsar and began the construction of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the holy city of the Sikhs. He requested the, Muslim Sufi Saint, Main Mir to lay the cornerstone of the Harmandir Sahib. 

By doing so he shunned the barriers of religion and religious divides. The Golden temple remains open on all sides and at all times to everyone. Indicates that the Sikhs believe in One God who has no partiality for any particular place, direction, or time. He composed the Lawan, a four stanza hymn that is read during the Sikh marriage ceremony known as Anand Karaj. 

Guru Ram Das stressed upon the importance of kirtan (hymn singing), which remains an important part of Sikh worship even today. There are a total of 638 hymns from Guru Ram Das included in Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Ram Das left for his heavenly abode on 1 September 1581, after nominating Arjan Dev as his successor.

5. Guru Arjan Dev (Guru From 1581 to 1606)

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Guru Arjan Dev was born on 15 April 1563 at Goindwal Sahib. He was the third and the youngest son of Guru Ram Das. He compiled the Adi Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs in 1604 and wrote the Sukhmani Sahib bani (the Prayer for Peace).

 To mark the universal teachings in Adi Granth Sahib, he included in it the hymns of Muslim saints as well as of the low-caste Hindu Pariah (outcast) saints. He completed the construction of the Golden Temple. He even founded the cities of Taran Taran, Kartarpur, and Hargobindpur. 

He started the practice of daswandh, i.e contribution of one-tenth of one’s earning for community purposes. Guru Arjan Dev was the first Sikh Guru to be martyred by Emperor Jahangir in 1606 at Lahore for not amending the Adi Granth Sahib, to reflect his views. 

Guru Sahib was made to sit on a scorching iron plate and had boiling sand poured over his body. Guru Ji tolerated this pain and sat there chanting hymns. There are a total of 2312 hymns from Guru Arjan Dev included in Guru Granth Sahib.

6. Guru Hargobind (Guru From 1606 to 1644)

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Guru Hargobind, known as the “soldier saint” was born on 14 June 1595 at Wadali in Amritsar. He was the son of Guru Arjan Dev. Guru Hargobind was the first of the Sikh Gurus to take up the arm to defend the faith and to protect the weak and oppressed. He put on two swords, one was Miri, that symbolized temporal power and the other was Piri, that symbolized spiritual power. 

He built the Akal Takht in 1608 at Amritsar in Punjab. Guruji was imprisoned by Jahangir in 1606 in the fort of Gwalior for one year. When he was released, on his insistence 52 of his fellow prisoners, who were Rajput kings, were also set free. 

To mark this occasion the Sikhs celebrate Diwali (bandi chhor divas). Guru Ji built Kiratpur Sahib in 1635, where he spent the last ten years of his life. He was immersed with Immortal on 3 March 1645 after nominating Har Rai as his successor.

7. Guru Har Rai (Guru From 1644 to 1661)

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Guru Har Rai was born on 30 January 1630 at Kiratpur sahib. He was the grandson of Guru Hargobind. He spent most of his life in devotional meditation and preaching the teachings of Guru Nanak. Despite being a man of peace he continued the military tradition started by his grandfather. 

He established three centres for the propagation of Sikhism, which are known as ‘Bakhshishes’ and made Sikhism extremely strong and popular. He defended the integrity of the Guru Granth Sahib by refusing to modify it’s words. Guru Ji left for his heavenly abode on 6 October 1661 after nominating Harkrishan as his successor.

8. Guru Harkrishan (Guru From 1661 to 1664)

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“Sri Harkrishan Dhiyaiye Jis Dithe Sab Dukh Jaye”

(Let Us Think Of The Holy Harkrishan, Whose Sight Dispels All Sorrows)

Guru Harkrishan, the son of Guru Har Rai was born on 7 July 1656 at Kiratpur Sahib. He was the youngest of the Sikh Gurus in the Sikh Gurus list, as he attained Guruship at the age of five, hence he is remembered as ‘Bal Guru’. The Sikhs remember him as a symbol of service, purity and truth. 

The Guru gave his life while serving and healing the people struck by a smallpox epidemic in Delhi. The young Guru attended to the sufferers irrespective of their cast and creed. Particularly, the local Muslim population was so much impressed with the pure humanitarian deeds of the Guru Sahib that they nicknamed him as ‘Bala Pir’ (child prophet). 

Before he became immersed with Immortal on 30 March 1664 at Delhi, he uttered his last words “Baba Bakala, which implied the next Guru of the Sikhs is at Baba Bakala (historical town in Amritsar, Punjab).

9. Guru Tegh Bahadur (Guru From 1665 to 1675)

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Guru Tegh Bahadur was born on 1 April 1621 at Amritsar. He was the son of Guru Hargobind and granduncle of Guru Harkrishan. He established the town of Anandpur. Guru Sahib laid down his life to uphold the “right to freedom of religion”. 

Guru Tegh Bahadur was responsible for saving the lives of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, who were being persecuted by the Mughals. To do so he had to lay down his own life to protect their religion. Guru Tegh Bahadur was martyred by Emperor Aurangzeb on 11 November 1675, because he refused to become a Muslim. 

Gurudwara Sis Ganj in Chandni Chowk, New Delhi is located where he was martyred. Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib in New Delhi is located where Guru Sahib’s body was cremated.

10. Guru Gobind Singh (Guru From 1675 to 1708)

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Guru Gobind Singh was born on 22 December 1666 at Patna. He became the Guru in 1675 after the martyrdom of his father Guru Tegh Bahadur. Guru Gobind Singh in 1699, baptized the Sikhs and created the Khalsa (the ‘Pure’). Thus, converted the Sikhs into Saint Soldiers. He himself got baptized by his disciples and hence he is admired through this couplet:

“Waho Waho Gobind Singh Aape Gur Chela”

(Praise to Gobind Singh, Himself the Guru and the Disciple)

He advised the Sikh males to use the last name of Singh (lion) and the Sikh female to use the last name of Kaur (princess). he also instructed the Sikhs to keep the five K’s, i.e Kesh, Kara, Kanga, Kachera, and Kirpan. Guru Sahib was the author of several banis (hymns) like Jaap Sahib and Chaupai. He even wrote his autobiography called the Bichitra Natak. 

He compiled the Dasam Granth Sahib and instructed the Sikhs to follow Guru Granth Sahib as the Guru after him.He fought many battles against the armies of Aurangzeb and his allies. Guru Sahib lost his father, his mother and all his four sons to the Mughal tyranny. 

Guru Sahib was fatally stabbed by one of the two Pathan assassins sent by Wazir Khan. Guru Ji succumbed to his wound and was immersed with Immortal on 7 October 1708.

11. Guru Granth Sahib (Guru From 1708 to the Eternity)

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The last guru in our Sikh Gurus list is Guru Granth Sahib or the Adi Granth is the holy scripture of the Sikhs that contains a total of 5867 hymns in 1430 pages. The Granth was written in Gurmukhi script and it contains the actual words and verses as uttered by the Sikh Gurus. It was compiled by Guru Arjan Dev and later additions were also made by Guru Gobind Singh. 

It is considered the Supreme Spiritual Authority by the Sikhs. Moreover it is the only scripture of its kind that not only contains the works of its own religious founders but also the writings of people of other faiths. Guru Granth Sahib is a book of Revelation.

It is universal in its scope and approach.  It conveys the Words of the Master through His messengers on earth. Sikhs highly revere it and it is kept in all Sikh Gurdwaras and in many Sikh houses. Moreover, no Sikh ceremony is observed as complete unless it is performed in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib.

Knowing about the Sikh Gurus names and their philosophies is the first step towards a better understanding of the religion of Sikhism. However, the lives of the Sikh Gurus and their teachings are extensive and extremely vast and hence, they cannot be compiled in a single article yet an insight into their lives is enough to kindle the spiritual awakening among the readers any day.

The article is contributed by Anmol Dhaliwal, who is a budding writer.

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