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Guru Nanak moved by the plight of the people of world wanted to tell them about the "real message of God". The peoples of the world were confused by the conflicting message given by priests, pundits, qazis, mullahs, etc. He was determined to bring his message to the masses; so in 1499, he decided to set out on his sacred mission to spread the holy message of peace and compassion to all of mankind.
It is believed that Guru Nanak is the the second most travelled person in the world; most of his journeys were made on foot with his companion Bhai Mardana. He travelled in all four directions - North, East, West and South. The founder Sikh Guru is believed to have travelled more than 28,000 Kms in five major tours of the world during the period from 1500 to 1524.
Guru Nanak saw the world suffering out of hatred, fanaticism, falsehood and hypocrisy. The world had sunk in wickedness and sin. So he decided that he had to travel and educate and press home the message of Almighty Lord. So he set out in 1500 on his mission for the regeneration of humanity on this earth. He carried the torch of truth, heavenly love, peace and joy for mankind. For 1 year he spread his message of peace, compassion, righteousness and truth to the people in and around his home.
Guru Nanak First Udasi (1500 to 1506)
In his first Udasi (travel), Guru Nanak covered east of India and returned home after spending about six years. He started from Sultanpur in 1500 and went to his village Talwandi to meet and inform his parents about his long journey. The old parents wanted comfort and protection from their young son in their old age and so they preferred it for him not to go. However, Guru ji convinced them and also there were thousands and thousands others waiting for the Divine Master for comfort, love and salvation. The Guru, therefore, told his parents,"There is a call from Heaven, I must go and I ask for your blessing." Finally they agreed and Guru ji set off on the first of his four journeys.
First Stop At Eminabad
Accompanied by Mardana, the Guru embarked on his mission and left his family set off for his first stop at Saidpur, now known as Eminabad, and there he met a poor carpenter named Lalo. The Master looked at poor Lalo graciously and he was blessed with Divine love and lo, he was a blessed man. The Guru chose to stay with Lalo for sometimes as a guest. The news reached Malik Bhago, the chief of the town, that a holy person was staying with Lalo. Malik Bhago was a corrupt man and he had amassed wealth through unfair means. He held a big gathering and invited all holy men including the Guru. The Guru, however, did not accept his invitation. The Malik then made a special arrangement for the Guru and requested him to come and eat at his residence. At last the Guru went there and Malik Bhago said,"O holy man, I have prepared so many dishes for you, but you are staying with a poor carpenter and eating his dry bread. Please stay with me." The Guru replied,"I cannot eat your food because your bread is ill-begotten and has been made with money sucked from the poor through unfair means, while Lalo's bread is made from the hard-earned money." This made Malik Bhago very mad and he asked the Guru to prove his point. The Guru then sent for a loaf of bread from Lalo's house. In one hand the Guru held Lalo's bread and in the other that of Malik Bhago's, and when he squeezed both, milk came out from Lalo's bread and blood dripped from Malik Bhago's bread. Malik Bhago was completely shaken by his guilt and asked for forgiveness. The Guru asked him to distribute his ill-gotten wealth among the poor and henceforth live an honest life. Malik Bhago was re-born with the Guru's blessing.
According to Puratan Janamsakhi, before Guru Nanak turned towards east, he went to Tolumba (now known as Makadampur in west Pakistan) and met Sajjan Thug. Sajjan always wore a white dress, displayed his rosary and thus posed to be a holyman. He had built a Hindu temple and a Muslim mosque at the courtyard of his residence. He would invite wayfarers to his residence to rest for the night. But at night, he would take away their goods and money and sometimes kill them. The Guru went and stayed with him for the night. At night the Guru did not go to bed early which made Sajjan a bit too nervous to perform his nefarious act of robbing. Sajjan asked the Guru to take rest and sleep but the Guru replied,"God's minstrel does not go to sleep, till God sends word that he should retire." The Guru then asked Mardana to play the rebec and he sang the following Shabad:
|Bronze is bright and shining, but, by rubbing, its sable blackness appeareth, Which cannot be removed even by washing a hundred times. They are friends who travel with me as I go along, And who are found standing ready whenever their accounts are called for. Houses, mansions, palaces painted on all sides, When hollow within, are as it were crumbled and useless. Herons arrayed in white dwell at places of pilgrimage; Yet they rend and devour living things, and therefore should not be called white. My body is like the simmal tree; men beholding me mistake me. Its fruit is useless: such qualities my body possesseth. I am a blind man carrying a burden while the mountainous way is long. I want eyes which I cannot get; how can I ascend and traverse the journey? Of what avail are services, virtues, and cleverness? Nanak, remember the Name, so mayest thou be released from thy shackles."|
|(Suhi Mohalla 1, p-729)|
When Sajjan listened the Divine melody, he realized that the Guru's words were actually addressed to him. Upon this he made his obeisance and fell at the Guru's feet, and prayed to him to pardon his sins. The Guru said,"Sajjan, in the Sovereignty of God, grace is obtained by two things, open confession and reparation for wrong." Sajjan stood in submission. The Guru asked him to give all his ill-gotten wealth to the poor. He obeyed the mandate and became a follower of the Guru after receiving Charanpauhal. It is said that the first historical Sikh temple was constructed on the spot where this conversation was held.
Guru Nanak At Hardwar
Hardwar is one of the Hindu pilgrimage places on the bank of river Ganges. It was a Baisakhi day and the pilgrims got up early in the morning and bathed in the river. As the sun came out, they started throwing water towards the sun. When Guru Nanak asked them as to what they were doing, one priest replied,"We are offering water to our dead ancestors in the region of Sun to quench their thirst."
Upon this the Guru started throwing water towards the west. The pilgrims laughed and asked what he was doing. The Guru replied,"I am watering my fields in my village in the Punjab." The priest asked,"How can your water reach such a distance?" The Guru retorted,"How far your ancestors are from here?" One of them replied,"in the other world."
The Guru stated,"If the water cannot reach my fields which are about four hundred miles away from here, how can your water reach your ancestors who are not even on this earth?" The crowd stood in dumb realization. The Guru preached against superstitions and false rituals, worship of gods and goddesses, penances and renunciation. He stressed that only One God, the Formless, was to be glorified. In this way he showed the path of truth and enlightenment. There is a Gurdwara called Nanakwara in Hardwar on the bank of the river Ganges where the Guru had stayed.
Guru At Gorakhmata
After Hardwar, the Guru took his route towards Gorakhmata, about twenty miles north of Pilibhit, and reached there via Joshi Math and Almora. Almora was ruled by the rulers of Chand family and they used to do their offerings of human beings to please their goddess Chandi. The Guru showed them the path of truth and thus stopped them from massacring innocent people to please their goddess.
From there he reached Gorakhmata which was the abode of Jogis of Gorakhnath clan. These Jogis had powers of Ridhi-Sidhi (supernatural powers). Their blessings were eagerly sought by the family men. People avoided their curses at all costs. Public from far and near had heard about these Jogis and their popularity was widespread. It is said that these Jogis (Yogis) had also heard about the Guru. When he reached there, they received him with great courtesy and invited him to adopt their cult, wear their garb and join them as a Yogi. The Guru explained to them that the life of seclusion which was not in the service of their fellow beings, was worthless. The Guru uttered the following Sabad:
"Religion consisteth not in a patched coat, or in a Jogi's staff, or in ashes smeared over the body; Religion consisteth not in earrings worn, or a shaven head, or in the blowing of horns. Abide pure amid the impurities of the world; thus shalt thou find the way of religion. Religion consisteth not in mere words; He who looketh on all men as equal is religious. Religion consisteth not in wandering to tombs or places of cremation, or sitting in attitudes of contemplation; Religion consisteth not in wandering in foreign countries, or in bathing at places of pilgrimages. Abide pure amid the impurities of the world; thus shalt thou find the way of religion. On meeting a true Guru doubt is dispelled and the wanderings of the mind restrained. It raineth nectar, slow ecstatic music is heard, and man is happy within himself. Abide pure amid the impurities of the world; thus shalt thou find the way of religion. Nanak, in the midst of life be in death; practice such religion. When thy horn soundeth without being blown, thou shalt obtain the fearless dignity- Abide pure amid the impurities of the world, thus shalt thou find the way of religion." (Suhi Mohalla 1, p-730)
On hearing this, the Yogis made Guru Nanak obeisanceeisance. The Guru's teaching became so effective that Gorakhmata became Nanakmata.
There were forests around Gorakhmata. About forty miles from there, the Guru met another group of Yogis. He sat under a soapnut tree and told them that by discarding family life and living in the forests away from worldly life, could not bring salvation. The inner change for attainment of peace and everlasting joy and happiness, could be obtained anywhere by contemplating on God's name. The Yogis asked,"Master, the fire of desire is not quenched even by endless subjection of the body to discipline. Pray tell us a way to quench it." The Guru replied,
"Destroy the feeling of egoism Destroy the sense of duality and attain oneness with Lord, The path is hard for ignorant and egoistic; But those who take shelter in the Word and absorbed in it, And he who realizes that He is both within and without, His fire of desire is destroyed by the Grace of the Guru, says Nanak." (Ramkali Mohalla 1, Sidh Gosht-46, p-943)
The shrewd mind of the Yogis wanted to test the Guru still further. Knowing that the Guru did not have anything to offer, they asked him to give them something to eat. The Guru was sitting under the soapnut tree and soapnuts are always bitter. He gave them soapnuts to eat. To the utter surprise of the Yogis, the soapnuts were very sweet. By the Grace of God, the soapnuts of half-side of the tree where the Guru was sitting, became sweet and the other half of the same tree had bitter soapnuts. The same is true even to-day. That place is called Reetha Sahib and there is a Gurdwara in the memory of the Guru.
Guru At Banaras
After Gorakhmata, the Guru took southernly route and passing through Gola, Ayudhya and Prayag (Allahabad), reached Banaras, also called Varanasi- which was said to be the seat of Hindu religious learning and abode of Lord Shiva. The Guru and his companion Mardana encamped in a public square of the city. Pandit Chatur Das was the chief Brahman of the city. Guru's dress was neither of a family man nor of a Sanyasi (ascetic). Seeing this Pandit Chatur Das held a long discussion with the Guru. The Guru asked the Pandit what did he read, what did he teach to the people and what type of knowledge did he impart to his disciples? The Pandit replied,"By the will of God I teach the people the fourteen sciences- reading, swimming, medicine, alchemy,astrology, singing the six rags and their raginis, the science of sexual enjoyment, grammar, music, horsemanship, dancing, archery, theology, and statesmanship." The Guru explained that better than all these was the knowledge of God. Upon this the Guru uttered the fifty-four stanzas of Ramkali Mohalla 1- Dakhni Omkar. The true God is superior to all other gods. The first two stanzas are as follows:
"It is the one God who created Brahma; It is the one God who created our understanding; It is from the one God the mountains and the ages of the world emanated; It is the one God who bestowed knowledge. It is by the Word of God man is saved. It is by the name of the one God the pious are saved. Hear an account of the letter O- O is the best letter in the three worlds. Hear, O Pandit, why writest thou puzzles? Write under the instruction of the Guru the name of God, the Cherisher of the world. He created the world with ease; in the three worlds there is one Lord of Light. Under the Guru's instruction select gems and pearls, and thou shalt obtain God the real thing. If man understand, reflect, and comprehend what he readeth, he shall know at last the True One is everywhere. The pious man knoweth and remembereth the truth- that without the True One the world is unreal." (Ramkali Mohalla 1- Dakhni Omkar, p-929)
On hearing the Sabad of Ramkali, Pandit Chatur Das fell at the feet of the Guru, and became a Sikh, and did much to spread Sikh religion in that area. The place where the Guru stayed, is now called as Guru ka Bagh Gurdwara.
Guru At Gaya
After Banaras he reached Gaya which is a famous Hindu pilgrimage place situated at the river Phalgu (Sarju). The Hindu priests had declared that any offerings made at Gaya especially at the time of Baisakhi would secure salvation for seven generations of those who had departed from this world. The simple minded people made huge offerings and the priests fed the piters (ancestors) by offering rice balls, lighted up little lamps to illuminate their paths in the high heavens. The Guru started laughing which made the priests very angry. At that point the Guru explained that those who left their bodies on earth, did not need any food nor a glow of lamp to see. If this body could not go to the other world, obviously it was not possible for any material substance of this world to reach the other side. So the Guru enlightened the people and asked them to worship One God, the Formless.
Guru To Kamrup
After Gaya he passed through the area where modern city of Patna stands and reached Hajipur. Passing through Kantnagar he reached Malda. The town of Malda was situated at the confluence of rivers Ganges and Mahanadi. It is reported that a local merchant of Malda did a great service to the Guru for which he received Guru's blessings. The next stop was Dhubri in Assam. After Dhubri he proceeded along the Brahmputra river on to Kamrup, a place near the modern city of Gauhati. This whole route is marked by many old historical Gurdwaras bearing association with the Guru.
The city of Kamrup was ruled by a woman of black magic. She had assumed the name of Nurshah, the name of one from whom she had learnt this art. She and her female companions practiced black magic and exorcised strange powers in that locality. She owned the whole country around and many a mystic, yogi etc. fell prey to her magical schemes.
The Guru stayed under a tree outside the city while Mardana went into the city to get something to eat. On his way he met some women and fell victim to their machination, who made a lamb of him. Under mesmeric influence Mardana did all what they commanded him to do. He was thus imprisoned by the witchcraft of Nurshah and could not return to the Guru. The Guru knew what had happened to his minstrel and he started to rescue him from his captors. Nurshah saw the Guru coming and tried to captivate him with her charms but her art of magic failed. She found out that her spells were of no avail. On their fruitless efforts, the Guru uttered the following Sabad on Kuchaji or the woman of bad character:
"I am a worthless woman; in me are faults; how can I go to enjoy my spouse? My spouse's wives are one better than the other; O my life, who careth for me? My female friends who have enjoyed their Spouse are in the shade of the mango. I do not possess their virtues; to whom can I attribute blame? What attributes of Thine, O Lord, shall I blazon abroad? What names of Thine shall I repeat? I cannot even attain one of Thy many excellences: I am ever a sacrifice unto Thee. Gold, silver, pearls, and rubies which gladden the heart- These things the Bridegroom hath given me, and I have fixed my heart on them. I had palaces of brick fashioned with marble. In these luxuries I forgot the Bridegroom and sat not near Him. The Kulangs cry in the heavens, and the cranes have come to roost. The woman goeth to her father-in-law's; how shall she show her face as she proceedeth? As morning dawned she soundly slept, and forgot her journey. She separated from Thee, O Spouse, and therefore stored up grief for herself. In Thee, O Lord, are merits; in me all demerits: Nanak hath this one representation to make, Every night is for the virtuous woman; may I though unchaste obtain a night also." (Rag Suhi Mohalla 1, p-762)
The Guru also uttered the following Sabad on this occasion:
"In words we are good, but in acts bad. We are impure-minded and black-hearted, yet we wear the white robes of innocence. We envy those who stand and serve at His gate. They who love the Bridegroom and enjoy the pleasure of His embraces, Are lowly even in their strength, and remain humble. Nanak, our lives shall be profitable if we meet such women." (Sri Rag ki Var Mohalla 1,2-7,p-85)
After the Guru uttered these Sabads, Nurshah thought that she would tempt him with wealth. Her attendants brought pearls, diamonds, gold, silver and laid down before him. She then prayed,"O great magician, accept me as thy disciple and teach me thy magic." The Guru rejected all the presents and uttered the following Sabad:
"O silly woman, why art thou proud? Why enjoyest thou not the love of God in thine own home? The Spouse is near; O foolish woman, why searchest thou abroad? Put surma needles of God's fear into thine eyes, and wear the decoration of love. Thou shalt be known as a devoted happy wife if thou love the Bridegroom. What shall a silly woman do if she please not her Spouse? However much she implore, she may not enter His chamber. Without God's grace she obtaineth nothing, howsoever she may strive. Intoxicated with avarice, covetousness, and pride, she is absorbed in mammon. It is not by these means the Bridegroom is obtained; silly is the woman who thinketh so. Go and ask the happy wives by what means they obtained their Spouse- 'Whatever He doeth accept as good; have done with cleverness and orders, Apply thy mind to the worship of His feet by whose love what is most valued is obtained. Do whatever the Bridegroom biddeth thee; give Him the body and soul; such perfumes apply.' Thus speak the happy wives: 'O sister, by these means the Spouse is obtained. Efface thyself, so shalt thou obtain the Bridegroom; what other art is there?' Only that day is of account when the Bridegroom looketh with favor; the wife hath then obtained the wealth of the world.
So who pleaseth her Spouse is the happy wife; Nanak, she is the queen of them all. She is saturated with pleasure, intoxicated with happiness, and day and night absorbed in His love. She is beautiful and fair to view, accomplished, and it is she alone who is wise." (Tilang Mohalla 1, p-722)
On hearing this Sabad, Nurshah and her companions fell at the feet of the Guru and asked for forgiveness and blessing to obtain salvation. The Guru told them to repeat God's Name conscientiously, perform their domestic duties, renounce magic and thus they would secure salvation. It is said that they became Guru's followers. After a short stay he departed leaving behind the awakened souls,to carry on his Divine mission.
The Guru travelled many miles in the wilderness of Assam. His minstrel Mardana was very hungry and tired, so they sat under a tree. After sometimes Mardana went to get something to eat. On his way he met Kauda, the cannibal. Kauda took Mardana by surprise and bound him hand and foot by a rope and then carried him to the spot where he had kept a big pan full of oil for frying the flesh of his victims. Kauda started to lighten fire under the pan. When Mardana saw that, he was very frightened and prayed to the Guru to come to his rescue. The Guru already knew and was on his way to get him released.
Kauda was trying to light the fire when the Guru appeared. This bewildered Kauda completely. The Guru looked at him compassionately and graciously and said,"Kauda! See-est thou not what thou dost, wilt thou cast thyself in the burning fire of hell?" The very gracious and holy sight of the Divine Master made such people realize their guilt and they fell on his feet and begged for mercy. Kauda whose conscience was dead with heinous crimes, suddenly came to realization and was overwhelmed with repentance. He fell on the feet of the Master and prayed for mercy. The gracious Master blessed him with the Name. Kauda was completely a changed man and thereafter lived as a devout disciple of the Guru.
Guru At Jagan Nath Puri
After Golaghat Nagar and Dhanasri valley where cannibals inhabited in large numbers, the Guru went back to Gauhati. From there he proceeded to Shillong and to Silhet where an old Gurdwara stands in his memory. He then went to Dacca and on the way he passed through Calcutta and Cuttack and finally reached Puri.
The temple of Jagan Nath, the Lord of the East, was one of the four most revered temples of the Hindus- the other three being Som Nath, Badri Nath and Vishwa Nath. It is said that Jagan Nath's idol was sculptured by the architect of the gods and it was installed at the temple by Lord Brahma himself. It was the anniversary of installation of the idol when Guru Nanak reached the temple. The Guru visited the temple not to adore their Lord but to teach the people that the worship of God was superior to the worship of the deity. It was the evening time and the priests brought a salver full of many lighted lamps, flowers, incense and pearls and then all stood to offer the salver to their enshrined idol-god. The ceremony was called 'Arti', a song of dedication. The high-priest invited the Guru to join in the god's worship. The Guru did not join their service which enraged the priests. On being asked the reason the Guru explained that a wonderful serenade was being sung by nature before the invisible altar of God. The sun and the moon were the lamps, placed in the salver of the firmament and the fragrance wafted from the Malayan mountains was serving as incense. The Guru, therefore, instead of accepting the invitation of the high-priest to adore the idol, raised his eyes to the heaven and uttered the following Sabad of Arti:
"The sun and moon, O Lord, are thy lamps; the firmament Thy salver; the orbs of the stars, the pearls enchased in it. The perfume of the sandal is Thine incense; the wind is Thy fan; all the forests are Thy flowers, O Lord of light. What worship is this, O Thou Destroyer of birth? Unbeaten strains of ecstasy are the trumpets of Thy worship. Thou hast a thousand eyes and yet not one eye; Thou hast a thousand forms and yet not one form; Thou hast a thousand pure feet and yet not one foot; Thou hast a thousand organs of smell and yet not one organ- I am fascinated by this play of Thine. The Light which is in everything is Thine, O Lord of Light. From its brilliancy everything is brilliant; By the Guru's teaching the light becometh manifest. What pleaseth Thee is the real Arti. O God, my mind is fascinated with Thy lotus feet as the bumble-bee with the flower: night and day I thirst for them. Give the water of Thy grace to the sarang Nanak, so that he may dwell in Thy name." (Dhanasri Mohalla 1, Arti, p-663)
According to the Puratan Janamsakhi, the Guru ended his first Udasi with the visit to Puri and returned to Punjab in 1506.
There is some discussion amoung Sikh scholar whether the first and second udasis were infact just one continuous journey. It is stated by some that: "If the Guru had returned from Puri on the first Udasi, he must have visited some important places on his way back, but there is no mention of it in the Janamsakhi. However, the Meharban version of the Janamsakhi treats the eastern and the southern journeys as a single Udasi. Others argue that the geographical location of Puri is as such that a visitor planning to visit south India, would not return to Punjab and then start for the southern journey. Many writers therefore, believe that the Guru continued his southward journey from Puri."
|Travels of Guru Nanak|