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The Ten Gurus  

Sikhism is based on the teaching of its Ten Gurus during the period from 1469 to 1708. Sikhs have a high regard for their Gurus, and they regard them as enlightened masters who showed the path to the Supreme God and through whom God revealed his will. None of the Sikh Gurus ever claimed to be God. They professed themselves to be sinners, in need of forgiveness from Almighty. 

Guru Nanak Ji was the first Sikh Guru and Guru Gobind Singh Ji the last one. A succession of nine Gurus led the Sikh movement during the period from Guru Nanak's death until 1708. Each Guru appointed his successor. But the tenth Guru Gobind Singh Ji declared that there would be no more Gurus after him, and that henceforth, the Sikhs were to honour the Granth Sahib as the eternal Living Guru.

The ten Sikh Gurus are:

  1. Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539).
  2. Guru Angad Dev (1504-52).
  3. Guru Amar Das (1479-1574).
  4. Guru Ram Das (1534-1581).
  5. Guru Arjan Dev (1563-1606).
  6. Guru Hargobind (1595-1644).
  7. Guru Har Rai (1630-1661).
  8. Guru Har Krishan (1656-1664).
  9. Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675). 
  10. Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). 

The Sikh Gurus

1) Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539)

  • Guru Nanak founded Sikhism based on equality and justice for all and that all human beings regardless of skin color, wealth, caste, and gender are created equal.

  • He was born in 1469, during a time when the rich exploited the poor and caste system prevailed, and women had no role in society.

  • "Truth is high; still higher is truthful living" - Guru Nanak.

  • Regarded Hindus and Muslims as equals. Said the famous words " There is no Hindu, There is no Muslim"

  • Offered selfless service and showed the path to devotional prayers.

  • Started langar (community meals).

2) Guru Angad Dev Ji (1504-52)

  • Carried forward the thoughts of Guru Nanak, in letter and spirit.

  • Introduced Gurmukhi script (modified the old Punjabi script).

  • Compiled Guru Nanak's biography (Janam Sakhi) and hymns.

  • Encouraged people to learn Gurmukhi and opened schools to educate the masses.

  • Popularized and expanded the concept of langar.    

  • Established new Sangats (Sikh religious institutions).

3) Guru Amar Das Ji (1479-1574)

  • Sent Sikh missionaries all over India, to spread Sikhism.

  • Opposed strongly the practice of Sati (wife burning with the husband's funeral pyre)

  • Encouraged women to discard Purdah (practice of wearing a veil).

  • Strengthened the practice of langar.

  • Introduced new birth, marriage and death ceremonies.

  • Made Goindwal Sahib a Sikh pilgrimage by constructing eighty four steps baoli.

  • Composed Anand Sahib.

4) Guru Ram Das Ji (1534-1581)

  • Founded the holy city of Amritsar in 1574.

  • Composed the four Laawan (hymns) used to solemnize Sikh marriages, and thus introduced a new system for Sikh matrimony, which differed from Hindu traditions.

  • Taught the importance of singing hymns (kirtan).

  • Spread Sikhism in North India and established a structure for the Sikh society.

  • Strongly opposed superstitions, caste system and pilgrimages.

5) Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1563-1606)

  • Third son of Guru Ramdas Ji.

  • Saint and soldier of high repute, did monumental work to establish and spread Sikhism.

  • First Sikh Guru to be martyred by the Mughal emperor Jahangir in 1606.

  • Compiled the Adi Granth (initial version of Sikh scriptures), and consecrated it for the first time at Harmandir Sahib.                                     

  • Constructed the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) in Amritsar.

  • Wrote Sukhmani Sahib (prayer for peace).

  • Started the practice of Daswandh (Tithe) for community purpose.

6) Guru Hargobind Ji (1595-1644)

  • Became Guru at the age of eleven years.

  • Resisted repeated conversion attempts by the Mughals.

  • Introduced martial arts and weapons for Sikhs, to counter the tyranny and injustice of the Mughal Empire. Advised Sikhs to take part in military training and martial arts.

  • Erected Akal Takht (in front of the Golden Temple) adorned by the two swords of Miri (secular power) and Piri (spiritual power). Now the Sikh became Saint-Soldier.

  • Introduced the Sikh holy symbol Khanda, a double-edged sword that represents God's power.

  • Sikhs celebrate BandiChhod Diwas (Diwali) to commemorate the release of Guru Ji and his fellow prisoners' (Hindu Rajput Kings) from imprisonment at Gwalior fort.

7) Guru HarRai Ji (1630-1661)

  • Grandson of Guru Hargobind Ji.

  • Encouraged and boosted the military spirit of the Sikhs, but did not get involved in any direct armed confrontation with the Mughal Empire.

  • Popularized Sikhism and forbade alterations to the Adi Granth.

  • Devoted his life to missionary work.

  • Established herbal medicine hospital and research centre at Kiratpur Sahib.

8) Guru Harkrishan Ji (1656-1664)

  • Youngest Sikh Guru. Became Guru at the age of five years.

  • The famous Sikh Gurdwara 'Bangla Sahib' (in Delhi) constructed in his memory.

  • Cured the sick during smallpox and cholera epidemic in Delhi.

  • Nicknamed Bala Pir (Child Prophet) by Muslims owing to his humanitarian deeds.

  • Gave his life serving the epidemic struck people (he became seriously ill).

  • Known for his spiritual powers.

9) Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji (1621-1675)

  • Youngest son of Guru Hargobind Ji.

  • Travelled to different parts of India to preach the teachings of Guru Nanak.

  • Gave his life for humanity and freedom of religion.

  • Saved Kashmiri Hindu Pandits from forceful conversion to Islam by the Mughals.

  • Meditated at Bakala for twenty years, famous Gurdwara 'Baka Bakala Sahib' built at that place.

  • Beheaded at Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib (in Delhi) by Emperor Aurangzeb for his refusal to accept Islam.

  • The Guru's head was secretly whisked away and cremated with full honour at Anandpur Sahib.

  • In order to cremate the Guru's body secretly, a loyal disciple set his house on fire. Historic Gurdwara 'Rakab Ganj Sahib' is built on the cremation site.

10) Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666-1708)

  • Succeeded his father (Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji) as Guru at the tender age of nine. 

  • Known for his military and literary skills. Compiled Dasam Granth.

  • Authored Jaap Sahib and Chaupai Sahib - daily Sikh devotionals.

  • Composed Chandi di Var, a poem depicting battle between gods and demons.

  • Infused martial spirit among his followers, and glorified the use of sword to fight the Mughal tyranny.

  • Fought many battles against Aurangzeb and his allies.

  • His four sons were martyred by the Mughals.

  • Established the institution of Khalsa (The Pure) on 30 March 1699, when Sikhs had gathered at Anandpur in large numbers for the 'annual harvest festival' of Baisakhi. (Today all practising Sikhs are called Khalsa).

  • Initiated the Sikh baptism ceremony. At Anandpur, Guru Ji baptised 'The Five Sikhs’ who were willing to lay their lives for him, and named them 'Panj Piare’ (Five beloved ones). Later, he asked the 'Panj Piare'  to baptise him in similar manner, and afterwards uttered the famous words "WahoWahoGobind Singh AapeGur Chela" (Hail, Hail Guru Gobind Singh; Himself the Master, and Himself the disciple).

  • Guru Ji said“they who drink the Amrit (at Baptism) with the divine word and my spirit dissolved in it, they should shed weakness of body, mind and heart and become brave as lions."

    "I shall change Jackals into Lions- Sparrows into Hawks."

  • Instructed all Sikhs to strictly follow the discipline of 5K's, as visible symbols of their faith - Kesh (keep uncut hair), Kanga (wooden comb to keep uncut hair clean and neat), Kara (steel bracelet as a reminder of noble actions), Kachera (long undershorts to represent modesty and fidelty) and Kirpaan (ceremonial knife symbolizing freedom and liberty, but not to be used as a weapon of offense).

  • Gave the surname of 'Singh' (Lion) to all Sikh males and 'Kaur' (Princess) to all Sikh females. To date this practice is followed by the Sikh community worldwide.

  • Forbade trimming and shaving of hair, adultery, use of tobacco or intoxicants, and eating meat slaughtered the Muslim way (slow slaughter).  

  • Before his death, Guru Gobind Singh Ji ended the line of physical Gurus and sanctioned the Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib as his successor and the final eternal Guru of the Sikhs.

  • Guru Gobind said," Sab Sikhan Ko Hukam Hai, Guru Manyo Granth", meaning "All Sikhs are commanded (henceforth) to treat and accept Guru Granth Sahib as their Guru."

    "The Guru's spirit," he said, "will henceforth be in the Granth and the Khalsa. Where the Granth is, with any five Sikhs representing the Khalsa, there will the Guru be."


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