That Guru Nanak was an extraordinary teacher and saint is not in question, for his perceptive and lucid themes brought perhaps a more realistic and indeed simplistic view of worship of 'the one God', which perhaps the dominant religious ideas of the time failed to achieve. His themes laid bare the inherent dogmas of the two religions (Hindu-ism and Islam), creating a faith that was socially far in advance of its time, with its ideas of equality before God.
Who then was Guru Nanak, and what drove him to seek a tolerant, open and a more generally ritual-free faith? In attempting to encapsulate the life of Guru Nanak, we must inevitably turn to the existing material available. That is not an easy task; it is impossible to ensure that all the 'facts' arecorrect, for so much folklore, myth and legend has become entwined with the story.
The life of Guru Nanak was first recalled verbally by following generations and later recorded in what are referred to as the 'old' Janamsakhis. There were four accounts known as the Janamsakhis, each of which had some common background. Three were composed within a hundred years of the death of Nanak, and thus within the lifetimes of the early Gurus. A colleague of Gum Gobind Singh wrote the last one, the Mani Singh Janamsakhi. Later the 'new' Janamsakhis retold the life of Guru Nanak, adding embellishments and further modifications. So which stories are we to believe?
In truth, we do not know much of the detail. Suffice to say that the main facts of his life are well known, but the period of his nomadic teaching has inevitably become blurred with time and legend.
Further information about the Sikh religion can be found in the Pilgrim's City Guide to Amritsar.
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