Whenever there is a big catastrophe in the land, whenever there is decline of righteousness, whenever there are oppression and chaos in the land, whenever the faith of the people in God wanes, great men or saints appear, from time to time, to enrich sacred literature, to protect Dharma, to destroy unrighteousness and reawaken the love of God in the minds of the people. India was in a bad plight. Babar invaded India. His armies assaulted and sacked several cities. The ascetic captives were forced to do rigorous work. There was wholesale massacre everywhere. The kings were bloodthirsty, cruel and tyrannical. There was no real religion. There was religious persecution. The real spirit of religion was crushed by ritualism. The hearts of the people were filled with falsehood, cunningness, selfishness and greed. At such a time Guru Nanak came to the world with a message of peace, unity, love and devotion to God. He came at a time when there was fight between the Hindus and the Mohammedans—when real religion was replaced by mere rituals and forms. He came to preach the gospel of peace, brotherhood or the unity of humanity, love and sacrifice.
Nanak, the Khatri mystic and poet and founder of the Sikh religion, was born in 1469 A.D. in the village of Talwandi on the Ravi, in the Lahore district of Punjab. On one side of the house in which Guru Nanak was born, there stands now the famous shrine called ‘Nankana Sahib’. Nanak has been called the ‘Prophet of the Punjab and Sind’. Nanak’s father was Mehta Kalu Chand, known popularly as Kalu. He was the accountant of the village. He was an agriculturist also. Nanak’s mother was Tripta. Even in his childhood, Nanak had a mystic disposition and he used to talk about God with Sadhus. He had a contemplative mind and a pious nature. He began to spend his time in meditation and spiritual practices. He was, by habit, reserved in nature. He would eat but little.
When Nanak was a boy of seven, he was sent to Gopal Pandha to learn Hindi. The teacher told Nanak to read a book. Nanak replied, "What will it avail to know all and not have a knowledge of God?" Then the teacher wrote the Hindi alphabets for him on a wooden slate. Nanak said to the teacher, "Please tell me, sir, what books have you studied? What is the extent of your knowledge?" Gopal Pandha replied, "I know mathematics and the accounts necessary for shopkeeping". Nanak replied, "This knowledge will not in any way help you in obtaining freedom". The teacher was very much astonished at the words of the boy. He told him, "Nanak, tell me something which could help me in the attainment of salvation". Nanak said, "O teacher! Burn worldly love, make its ashes into ink and make the intellect into a fine paper. Now make the love of God your pen, and your heart the writer, and under the instructions of your Guru, write and meditate. Write the Name of the Lord and His praises and write, ‘He has no limit this side or the other’. O teacher! Learn to write this account". The teacher was struck with wonder.
Then Kalu sent his son to Pundit Brij Nath to learn Sanskrit. The Pundit wrote for him ‘Om’. Nanak asked the teacher the meaning of ‘Om’. The teacher replied, "You have no business to know the meaning of ‘Om’ now. I cannot explain to you the meaning". Nanak said, "O teacher! What is the use of reading without knowing the meaning? I shall explain to you the meaning of ‘Om’". Then Nanak gave an elaborate explanation of the significance of ‘Om’. The Sanskrit Pundit was struck with amazement.
Then Kalu tried his level best to turn Nanak’s mind towards worldly matters. He put Nanak in the work of looking after the cultivation of the land. Nanak did not pay any attention to his work. He meditated even in the fields. He went out to tend the cattle, but centred his mind on the worship of God. The cattle trespassed into a neighbour’s field. Kalu rebuked Nanak for his idleness. Nanak replied, "I am not idle, but am busy in guarding my own fields". Kalu asked him, "Where are your fields?" Nanak replied, "My body is a field. The mind is the ploughman. Righteousness is the cultivation. Modesty is water for irrigation. I have sown the field with the seed of the sacred Name of the Lord. Contentment is my field’s harrow. Humility is its hedge. The seeds will germinate into a good crop with love and devotion. Fortunate is the house in which such a crop is brought! O sir, mammon will not accompany us to the next world. It has infatuated the whole world, but there are few who understand its delusive nature".
Then Kalu put him in charge of a small shop. Nanak distributed the things to Sadhus and poor people. He would give away in charity whatever he could lay hands on in his father’s house and in the shop. Nanak said, "My shop is made of time and space. Its store consists of the commodities of truth and self-control. I am always dealing with my customers, the Sadhus and Mahatmas, contact with whom is very profitable indeed".
When Nanak was fifteen years of age, his father gave him twenty rupees and said, "Nanak, go to the market and purchase some profitable commodity". Kalu sent his servant Bala also to accompany Nanak. Nanak and Bala reached Chuhar Kana, a village about twenty miles from Talwandi. Nanak met a party of Fakirs. He thought within himself: "Let me feed these Fakirs now. This is the most profitable bargain I can make". He purchased provisions immediately and fed them sumptuously. Then he came back to his house. The servant informed his master of his son’s bargain. Kalu was very much annoyed. He gave a slap on Nanak’s face.
The father thought that Nanak did not like sedentary work. Therefore he said to Nanak, "O dear son! Ride on a horse and do travelling business. This will suit you nicely". Nanak replied, "Revered father! My trade is divine knowledge. The profits are the purseful of good deeds with which I can certainly reach the domain of the Lord".
Then Kalu Chand told Nanak: "If you do not like trade or business, you may serve in some office". Nanak replied, "I am already a servant of God. I am endeavouring to do my duty honestly and whole-heartedly in the service of my Lord. I carry out His behests implicitly. I desire fervently to get the reward of divine grace from the Lord by serving Him untiringly and incessantly". On hearing this, the father became silent and retired from there.
Guru Nanak had only one sister named Nanaki. She was married to Jai Ram, a Dewan in the service of Nawab Daulat Khan Lodi, who was a relative of Sultan Bahlol, the then Emperor of Delhi. The Nawab had an extensive Jagir in Sultanpur near Kapurthala. Nanak also married soon after his sister’s marriage. His wife was Sulakhani, daughter of Mula, a resident of Batala, in the district of Gurdaspur. Marriage and the birth of two children did not, in any way, stop Nanak’s spiritual pursuits. He went even then to forests and lonely places for meditation.
Nanaki and Jai Ram loved an