The birthday of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, is celebrated on Kartik Purnima. The popular day is also celebrated as Gurupurab.
India witnessed the emergence of Indian Saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in 1486-1569. At the same time, to protect religion, Saint Nanak emerged in the west during 1469- 1539. Hence, both Vaishnav Guru Chaitanya Dev and Sikh Guru Nanak were alike.
However, Guru Nanak brought Hindus and Muslims together. His preaching has had a great impact on people of both religions. Nanak's philosophy says that God is one. Even Hindus and Muslims are worshipers of a single God. Idol worship and worshipping multiple Gods are not required.
The teachings of Guru Nanak are preserved in ‘Granth Sahib’. Granth Sahib is worshipped and recited daily at Sikh Mutts or Gurudwara Sahib. Mr Macauliffe, a prominent scholar of Sikhism, defined the prime focus of Sikhism as: “The prime focus of Sikh religion was on worshipping idols, cheating, caste or religion-based distinctive, Sati pratha (burning widow), widows remaining a widow forever, consumption of alcohol, banning Hindu pilgrimage, philanthropy, lawful judgement, truthfulness, moral values, and domestic behaviour.”
During his lifetime, Saint Nanak travelled to several places. He travelled to Kurukshetra, Haridwar, and Assam’s Kamrup. He even travelled to Puri and Cuttack in Odisha on a ship. He also travelled to Lahore, Mecca, Madras, Kashmir, Brindaban, Peshwar, Kabul and Baghdad.
Nanak met Chaitanya in Puri
In 1508, Nanak travelled to Puri on a ship from Assam. During that time, Saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was also present in Puri. The information about Nanak’s meeting with Chaitanya and their religious discussions are scripted in Odia Chaitanya Bhagavata.
Upon the request of the servitors at Shri Jagannath temple during the aarati, Nanak watched the aarati of Lord Jagannath and his siblings. After watching the aarati, he described it in his own words: “Oh Lord! The sky is your aarati plate. While the sun and moon are the lamps on this plate, the stars are the pearls fitted to it. The ‘Malay Paban’ is your incense, the breeze is your ‘chamara’ fan, flowers in bloom in forests are yours and the infinite chant of Ajapa Gayatri emerging from the seven chakras inside the body is your trumpet. Such a type of aarati is always in practice. And this is the real aarati of Lord.”
Nanak in Cuttack
From Puri, he went to Cuttack and before crossing the Mahanadi river, he rested at ‘Kaliaboda’. The Hindu rulers at that time in Cuttack came to take a glance at Nanak after listening to his unmatched personality. Getting annoyed over such behaviour of the Hindu rulers, religious leader Chaitanya Bharathi came to punish Nanak. He came to Kaliaboda with a branch of the Streblus asper tree (sahada). After learning about his miraculous powers, he felt ashamed and left the place. However, he left the branch of 'Sahada' at the same place.
After Bharathi left the place, Nanak picked up the branch and said the saint had brought the branch for him to use it as a toothbrush. Later, he broke apart the branch and used a stick from it as a toothbrush. After cleaning his teeth, he planted the stick. The stick grew to become a huge tree. Sikhs call the tree 'Datan Sahib' or respectable tooth stick. The associated mutt is popular as Gurudwara Guru Nanak Datan Sahib. This Gurudwara is located at Kaliaboda in Cuttack.
During his visit to Puri, one of the four religious pilgrimage sites or Holy sites of Hindus, and Mecca, the religious pilgrimage of Muslims, he preached the teachings of ‘One Supreme God’.
Nanak’s teaching and its relevance with Hindu and Muslim religion
If Vishnu Sahasranama “Yatah sarani bhutani bhavantyadi yugagame, Yasminscha pralayam yanti punareva yugakshaye” is compared with Muslim prayers in Namaz, “Allahu Akbar” which means, “Allah is the only God of the universe, Nanak’s religious rules are equal to Hindu and Muslim which is 'Ekeshvaravad' or Monotheism or the belief that there is only one supreme God and is nothing else.
On today’s auspicious occasion of Nanak’s birth anniversary, his thoughts and values are being remembered. Undeniably, the seed of religious values he had planted has not only inspired Sikhs but also has a great impact on people across the globe.
(By Dr.Bijayalaxmi Dash)