Circumstances at the time of Guru Nanak
Respected Khalsa Ji, we are very fortunate that by the grace of the Almighty, we celebrate Gurpurab of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji every year, with great devotion and enthusiasm. Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji was the founder of Sikhism who founded the Sikhism, developed it and popularized it among the people of different castes, regions and religions. Guruji embraced the poor, downtrodden and afflicted people of that time who were the victims of atrocities and oppressions by the rulers of that period. Guruji turned their gloomy lives into bright ones. Guruji had great and impressive personality.
Dear Khalsa Ji, there is special aim or objective of celebrating Gurpurab of Guruji. On this pious and holy day we have to learn and adopt so many things from the life and teachings of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. On that auspicious day we have to pledge to follow the path of truthfulness and reality which was shown to all of us by Guruji. All of you know well that the first Guru Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji had spent whole of His life in serving the afflicted and oppressed people. He had made all the efforts to serve them properly and justly and to reduce their afflictions and atrocities. He had made them to feel comfortable and relaxed by reciting the name of the Almighty, who were the victims of atrocities and oppressions.
During the battle of Mahabharata, Lord Krishna preached Arjuna that when the sins dominate the world, innocent people are tyrannized in the name of religion, when the religion is humiliated, atrocities and oppressions increase abundantly then at that critical time, I come to this world as incarnate of God in order to remove all the evils, sins and atrocities.
In the same way by hearing the prayers of people who were tyrannized innocently, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji was sent to this world by the Almighty. As Bhai Gurdas Ji mentions in Vaar 1 Pauri 23:
|੨੩ : ਗਰ ਅਵਤਾਰ|
ਸਣੀ ਪਕਾਰਿ ਦਾਤਾਰ ਪਰਭ ਗਰ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਗ ਮਾਹਿੰ ਪਠਾਯਾ॥ ਚਰਨ ਧੋਇ ਰਹਿਰਾਸਿ ਕਰਿ ਚਰਨਾਮਰਿਤ ਸਿੱਖਾਂ ਪੀਲਾਯਾ॥
|Sounee Poukaari Daataar Prabhu Guru Naanak Jag Maahi Patdaaiaa. Charan Dhoi Raharaasi Kari Charanaamritu Sikhaan Peelaaiaa. |
Paarabrahamu Pooran Brahamu Kalijougi Andari Iku Dikhaaiaa. Chaaray Pair Dharam Day Chaari Varani Iku Varanu Karaaiaa.
|The benefactor Almighty after hearing to the cries of innumerable people sent Sahib Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji to this world. |
He washed His feet eulogized the God and got His disciples to drink the ambrosia of His feet.
In this way we come to know that at that time the circumstances in India were such that there was need of a great religious personality or some incarnate of the God who could remove all of their evils and miseries. When Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji came to this world, at that time the condition of the people of India, was very pitiable. There was ignorance and gloominess in all religious, social, economic and political spheres of life. At that time, the hollow and meaningless rituals had been increased a lot and the gap between the people and the God was much widened. The people had gone astray from the real path of the religion. The priestly class had created chaos and disorder in the religious sphere. They had entrapped the innocent people into confused and expensive useless and meaningless rituals. The priestly class was dominating the religious sphere and that’s why they acted arbitrarily.
Socially, the people were also degraded a lot. Their social condition had become very pitiable. The society of that time had been divided into so many high or low castes. The minds of the people were full of jealousy and hatred for one another. The sudras were maltreated who realized inferiority complex in every sphere of life. Their condition was worse than the animals. They were discriminated in the society. They were forced to lead a life which was full of humiliation and insult. They were deprived of their rights. Even they were not permitted to fetch water from the wells. They were forbidden to go to religious places to offer prayers and to perform religious rites. They were not allowed to worship the God. They had to endure so many atrocities and oppressions but still they had no right to raise their voices against these atrocities and oppressions. Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji explains the religious condition and other conditions of the society in Maajh Ki Vaar in the following words:-
|ਸਲੋਕ ਮਃ ੧ ॥ |
ਕਲਿ ਕਾਤੀ ਰਾਜੇ ਕਾਸਾਈ ਧਰਮ ਪੰਖ ਕਰਿ ਉਡਰਿਆ ॥
|Salok mėhlĝ 1. |
Kal kĝṯī rĝje kĝsĝ▫ī ḝẖaram pankẖ kar udri▫ĝ.
|Shalok, First Mehl: |
The Dark Age of Kali Yuga is the knife, and the kings are butchers; righteousness has sprouted wings and flown away.
At that time, there were so many political evils prevailing in the society of India. The kings and rulers of that period were very tyrants and oppressors, who tyrannized and oppressed excessively faultless and innocent people. The rulers had become sinners. A farmer does fencing around the crops of his fields but if the fencing may start destroying the crops then what will happen to crops? In the same way, it was the duty of the rulers to protect their people from atrocities, from internal and external invasions; it was their duty to provide justice to their people, it was their duty to hear grievances and complaints of their people and to remove or solve these. It was their duty to solve (4)their problems, to eradicate their sorrows and miseries. But they had forgotten their duties. They themselves had started to tyrannize their people. The people were victims of ignorance and they followed falsehood. They had given up the path of truthfulness and honesty. The disciples did not respect their guides. The ignorance and atrocities were dominating the whole Indian society. In the society of that time, the task of providing justice was done by Qazis. The Qazis had been degraded a lot. They had become corrupt. Due to that they accepted bribes and after taking money they used to change their decisions. In such type of atmosphere, the people could not get justice. The rich people got the cases to be decided in their favour by offering wealth and the poor people had to become the victims of injustice done by Qazis because they had not enough wealth to offer to the Qazis.
The moral life of men and women of that period had been degraded a lot. Morally they had been declined too much. They loved only wealth and therefore they did not bother about moral and social values. The sins were being committed everywhere in India. Bhai Gurdas Ji describes the circumstances of that period in Vaar 1 Pauri 30 in the following words:
|ਕਲਿ ਆਈ ਕੱਤੇ ਮਹੀ ਖਾਜ ਹੋਆ ਮਰਦਾਰ ਗਸਾਈ॥ ਰਾਜੇ ਪਾਪ ਕਮਾਂਵਦੇ ਉਲਟੀ ਵਾੜ ਖੇਤ ਕਉ ਖਾਈ॥ |
ਪਰਜਾ ਅੰਧੀ ਗਿਆਨ ਬਿਨ ਕੂੜ ਕਸਤ ਮਖਹ ਆਲਾਈ॥ ਚੇਲੇ ਸਾਜ ਵਜਾਇੰਦੇ ਨਚਨਿ ਗਰੂ ਬਹਤ ਬਿਧਿ ਭਾਈ॥
|kal aaee kuthae muhee khaaj hoeiaa muradhaar gusaaee. raajae paap kamaavadhae oulattee vaarr khaeth ko khaaee.|
parajaa a(n)dhhee giaan bin koorr kusath mukhahu alaaee. chaelae saaj vajaaeidhae nachan guroo bahuth bidhh bhaaee.
|Oh Lord! In Kaliyuga (The Dark Age) the nature and mentality of the creature has become like the mouth of a dog which always seek the dead to eat. |
The kings are sinning and the fence which is supposed to protect the crop of the field is devouring the crop of the field.
There were chaos and disorder in every sphere of life at that time. Everything was occurring adversely. Every sphere of the society had been degraded and declined. In Ramkali Ki Vaar, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji describes the condition of the Indian society of that time, in the following words:-
|ਸਲੋਕ ਮਹਲਾ 1 ॥ |
ਸਤੀ ਪਾਪ ਕਰਿ ਸਤ ਕਮਾਹਿ॥ ਗਰ ਦੀਖਿਆ ਘਰਿ ਦੇਵਣ ਜਾਹਿ॥ ਇਸਤਰੀ ਪਰਖੈ ਖਟਿਝ ਭਾਉ॥ ਭਾਵੈ ਆਵਉ ਭਾਵੈ ਜਾਉ॥
|salok ma 1. |
sathee paap kar sath kamaahi. gur dheekhiaa ghar dhaevan jaahi. eisatharee purakhai khattiai bhaao. bhaavai aavo bhaavai jaao.
|Men of charity gather wealth by committing sins, and then give it away in donations to charity. |
Their spiritual teachers go to their homes to instruct them. The woman loves the man only for his wealth;
Numerous whims and illusions were prevalent among the people of that period. The people believed mostly in useless, hollow and meaningless rituals. Especially they used to give much significance to visit holy places and to take holy bath there. They thought and believed that the sins are removed by visiting holy places and by taking bath there. They were of the opinion that by doing so they might get rid from the cycle of deaths and births, they might be free from transmigration of the soul. They believed that by doing so they might get salvation easily. They thought that by taking bath at the holy places, their lives might become pious but they did not know that it was only a showy and ceremonious deed. Religiously, it had no significance because if someone’s heart and mind were not pious then the bath taken at the holy places could do nothing. If a person had evil mind, evil thoughts and evil desires, then even after taking bath at religious places, he or she would remain an evil-doer, a sinner.
A sinner person does not reduce his or her evils and sins after taking bath at holy places instead he or she increases these. As if a gourd which is bitter by nature, is washed with water externally, then its bitterness from inside can’t be removed through any way. In the same way, an evil person can’t become pious by taking bath at the holy places; instead he or she becomes egoist. He or she misunderstands himself or herself to be a noble and religious person. He or she becomes arrogant having been to the pilgrimage. He or she falls the prey of ego. In that way, his or her pilgrimage remains only a showy and worthless deed. On the other way, good and noble persons don’t need to go to the religious places and to have holy bath there. A person, who performs good and noble deeds, does not require performing hollow and showy rituals. Regarding that Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji writes in Suhi Ki Vaar:-
|ਮਃ ੧ ॥ |
ਨਾਵਣ ਚਲੇ ਤੀਰਥੀ ਮਨਿ ਖੋਟੈ ਤਨਿ ਚੋਰ॥ ਇਕ ਭਾਉ ਲਥੀ ਨਾਤਿਆ ਦਇ ਭਾ ਚੜੀਅਸ ਹੋਰ॥
naavan chalae theerathhee man khottai than chor. eik bhaao lathhee naathiaa dhue bhaa charreeas hor. baahar dhhothee thoomarree a(n)dhar vis nikor. saadhh bhalae ananaathiaa chor s choraa chor. (2)
|They go and bathe at sacred shrines of pilgrimage, but their minds are still evil, and their bodies are thieves.
Some of their filth is washed off by these baths, but they only accumulate twice as much. Like a gourd, they may be washed off on the outside, but on the inside, they are still filled with poison. The holy man is blessed, even without such bathing, while a thief is a thief, no matter how much he bathes.
The status of women had been degraded too much in the society of that time. In the whole society, the women were not respected. The women were considered very inferior as compared to men. The women were considered as the shoes of the men. The women had got only very few and limited rights as compared to men. The women were leading their lives just as slaves. The women were taken only as the medium for amusement and entertainment. The women had to remain within the four walls of the houses. They could get neither the education nor the jobs. There were so many restrictions and restraints imposed upon the women. They had got no freedom. The women were forced to lead a life which was full of insult and humiliation. The women of that period had to live their lives according to the wills of their husbands.
The women of that time were tyrannized through different ways. The condition of the women in the society of that era was very miserable. Perhaps the men of that time had forgotten that it were the women who gave births to them, who had brought them up. These were the women with whom they were engaged and with whom they were married. The families flourished only due to the women. The women bred the coming generations. Without the women, the mankind would disappear from the world. If a wife of a man died, then he sought for another wife or woman. He was bound to the woman. A man could not live without a woman. Though a man considered woman inferior but still he could not live without her. These were the women who gave birth even to the rulers and the kings. Then why was she considered inferior?
The people worshipped the kings and the rulers as gods but they did not respect the women who gave births to those kings and rulers. A woman gave birth to a woman. Except the God, everyone took birth from the women. Therefore the men should provide equal status and rights to the women in the society. The men and women were equal and both had equal significance in the life. The life of a man was incomplete without a woman and the life of a woman was incomplete without the man. Therefore both would be taken equal. Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji writes in Asa Di Vaar:
|ਮਃ ੧ ॥ |
ਭੰਡਿ ਜੰਮੀਝ ਭੰਡਿ ਨਿੰਮੀਝ ਭੰਡਿ ਮੰਗਣ ਵੀਆਹ॥ਭੰਡਹ ਹੋਵੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਭੰਡਹ ਚਲੈ ਰਾਹ॥
|Mėhlĝ 1. |
Bẖand jammī▫ai bẖand nimmī▫ai bẖand mangaṇ vī▫ĝhu. Bẖandahu hovai ḝosṯī bẖandahu cẖalai rĝhu.
|First Mehl: |
From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married.
Apart from these, so many other evils were prevalent in the society of that time. The people of that period had forgotten one universal God and they had started to trust in worshipping so many gods and goddesses. They made the idols of different gods and goddesses and worshipped these. The people were indulged in performing useless and meaningless rites and rituals instead of performing noble and virtuous deeds. Due to less means of education, the people were not much educated. Therefore they lacked knowledge and logic. The people were wasting their lives by indulging into false and showy rites and rituals.
The rigid caste-system and untouchability were dominating the society. The people of the Indian society were divided into so many different castes and sub-castes, that’s why there was lack of unity among the Indians. All the human beings were not considered as equal. The people of that period also believed that a married person could never attain the God. The priestly class of that time was also taking the advantage of the ignorance of the people, unjustly. That priestly class was collecting wealth from the innocent people by indulging them into oblations, immolation and other useless and worthless rituals. The ignorance and innocence of the people were being exploited excessively.
Eventually we may conclude that there were so many evils and shortcomings in the society at the time of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Every sphere of the society was declining. There was need of such a great personality who could guide the society properly and justly, who could check the decline of the society. Therefore Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji had to come to this world. Guruji provided just and proper guidance to the people of Indian society belonging to different regions, castes and religions. Guruji made utmost efforts throughout whole of His life to remove so many evils, shortcomings and ignorance which were prevalent among the people of Indian society. Guruji had contributed a lot for the development and progress of the Indian society. During His life time, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji uplifted innumerable people through His sermons. Guruji had guided the people through right, logical and proper way. Guruji had motivated the people to lead a simple, pious, honest, truthful life and to remember the God always, to concentrate on the Almighty with true love and devotion.
(Article by Sardar Paramjit Singh received by email 01-01-2012)