Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s journeys of faith

Image courtesy: ©Lonely Planet/ Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu

Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the Sikh faith, was one of the greatest spiritual leaders of all time. Raised in a Hindu home and conversant with Islamic traditions, the Guru had a deep understanding of spirituality and his teachings were original and continue to be relevant and universal to this date. His teachings, expressed through remarkable poetry, speak of equality, brotherhood and peace. He laid down a set of guiding principles that he believed led to a spiritually fulfilling life, and these are followed by millions of Sikhs globally.

Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born and raised in Nankana Sahib and later moved to Sultanpur Lodhi at the behest of his elder sister Bebe Nanki Ji. After moving here, the Guru’s inclination towards spirituality and enlightenment was increasingly apparent. After his morning bath, he would meditate under a ber tree near the Kali Bein. One morning, when he was 28 years, he disappeared into the waters of the rivulet, resurfacing three days later to pronounce the words that form the basis of Sikhism: ‘There is no Hindu, there is no Mussalman.’

Udasis: Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji travelled extensively across India and west Asia, mostly on foot, accompanied by his lifelong friend, the rabab-strumming minstrel Bhai Mardana. These spiritual journeys undertaken to spread the message of the Almighty were called Udasis. He is also said to have climbed Mount Kailash to hold discussions and debates with highly accomplished yogis.

 

Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji travelled extensively accompanied by his lifelong friend, the rabab-strumming minstrel Bhai Mardana
Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji travelled extensively accompanied by his lifelong friend, the rabab-strumming minstrel Bhai Mardana
Image courtesy: ©Wellcome Collection

First Udasi (1500–1505) Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s first Udasi led him from Sultanpur Lodhi across north India to parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, to what is now north-eastern Pakistan, north east India and to parts of Bangladesh.

Second Udasi (1506–1509) The Guru’s second Udasi began in Sultanpur Lodhi and took him across Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, southwards across parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, westwards to Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat. He is also said to have visited parts of northern Sri Lanka.

Third Udasi (1514–1516) Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji set off from Kartarpur and spent this travel period in parts of the Himalayan region, and he visited Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Tibet.

Miniature art depicting a debate between Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and some holy men
Miniature art depicting a debate between Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and some holy men
Image courtesy: ©Public Domain/ A painting from the British Library between 1828 and 1830

Fourth Udasi (1518–1521) Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji journeyed to parts of Pakistan, Arabia and West Asia to visit Mecca and Medina, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Afghanistan and other significant religious centres of the time.

Rooted in Kartarpur After his last Udasi, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji built a community on the banks of the Ravi at Kartarpur (now in Pakistan). He spent the remaining years of his life as a farmer and passed away in 1539 at the age of 70. His ashes were moved to Dera Baba Nanak after heavy floods caused damage to his final resting spot in Kartarpur.

This excerpt has been taken from Lonely Planet’s ‘Guru Nanak’s Blessed Trail’.