Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji (1469-1539)
Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji, the first guru of Sikhism was born on 15 April 1469 at Rai Bhoi in Talwandi Village (Currently known as Nankana Sahib) in Pakistan. He did not claim to be Hindu or Muslim, but as someone who believed in God and truth. He had travelled far and wide across Asia teaching people the message of ik onkar (ੴ, ‘one God’), who dwells in every one of his creations and constitutes the eternal Truth. He spoke out against religious rituals, pilgrimages and the caste system. When he spoke to people he never asked them to follow him, instead, he told them to remain true to their faiths and to carry on believing in God. As the first guru, Guru Nanak dev ji contributed a total of 974 hymns in Guru Granth Sahib ji.
Shri Guru Angad Dev ji (1504-1552)
Shri Guru Angad Dev ji, the second guru of sikhism was born on 31st March 1504 in village of Harike in Punjab region with name “Lehna”. After serving Guru Nanak Dev ji for many years, Guru Nanak dev ji gave Lehna the name Angad (my own limb). He created the Gurmukhi, which is the written form of the language Punjabi and taught this to many Sikhs throughout his life. Soon, this became very well-known among people. A firm believer in education, Guru Angad founded many schools for children and helped to improve people’s ability to read and write. He also began the tradition of ”Mall Akhara” where physical exercises, martial arts, and wrestling was taught as well as health topics such as staying away from tobacco and other toxic substances. He placed emphasis on keeping the body healthy and excersising daily. Guru Angad dev ji contributed 63 hymns in Guru Granth Sahib ji.
Shri Guru Amar Das ji (1479-1574)
Shri Guru Amar Das ji, the third guru of sikhism was born on 5th May 1479 in Basarke, Punjab (currently Amritsar, Punjab). He started the tradition of appointing manji (zones of religious administration with an appointed chief called sangatias), introduced the dasvandh (“the tenth” of income) system of revenue collection in the name of Guru and as pooled community religious resource, and the famed langar tradition of Sikhism where anyone, without discrimination of any kind, could get a free meal in a communal seating. He also introduced “Anand Karaj” which means blissful event where Anand hymns are sung during Sikh marriage. He wrote and compiled hymns into a Pothi (book) that ultimately helped create the Adi Granth.
Shri Guru Ram Das ji (1534-1581)
Shri Guru Ram Das ji, the fourth guru of sikhism was born on 24th September 1534 in Chuna Mandi, Lahore, Punjab (now in Pakistan). He, along with Guru Amar Das ji, are credited with various parts of the Anand and Laavan composition in Suhi mode. It is a part of the ritual of four clockwise circumambulation of the Sikh scripture by the bride and groom to solemnize the marriage in Sikh tradition. He founded the town named after him as “Ramdaspur”, started by completing the pool, and building his new official Guru centre and home next to it. He invited merchants and artisans from other parts of India to settle into the new town with him.The town was financed by donations and constructed by voluntary work. The town grew to become the city of Amritsar, and the pool area grew into a temple complex after his son built the gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, and installed the scripture of Sikhism inside the new temple in 1604.
Shri Guru Arjan Dev ji (1563-1606)
Shri Guru Arjan Dev ji, the fifth guru of sikhism was born on 15th April 1563 in Govindval, Taran Taaran. A great scholar, Guru Arjan compiled the scriptures of the Sikhs, known as the Adi Granth. He tried to teach as many people the scriptures as possible, so included it in hymns about Muslim saints too. He also finished the construction of the Golden Temple in Amritsar that Guru Ram Das ji has started. They constructed it with four doors facing in four opposite directions, to show that they welcomed people into the temple from anywhere and from any background. Guru Arjan dev ji was a prolific poet and composed 2,218 hymns, more than half of the volume of Guru Granth Sahib ji. He wrote a voluminous amount of Sikh scripture including the popular Sukhmani Sahib. He completed many other infrastructure projects, such as water reservoirs called Santokhsar (lake of peace) and Gongsar (lake of Gongaga), founding the towns of Tarn Taran, Kartarpur and Hargobindpur.
Shri Guru Hargobind ji (1595-1644)
Shri Guru Hargobind ji, the sixth guru of sikhism was born on 19th June 1595 in Guru ki Wadali, a village in Amritsar, Punjab. He was the only son of guru Arjan Dev ji. He symbolized it by wearing two swords, representing the dual concept of mīrī and pīrī (temporal power and spiritual authority). In front of the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, he constructed the Akal Takht (the throne of the timeless one). The Akal Takht represents the highest seat of earthly authority of the Khalsa (the collective body of the Sikhs) today. Known as the ‘soldier saint’, Guru Hargobind ji was the first guru to teach people that sometimes it was necessary to take up arms and go to war to defend the faith. This was because he believed that no violence could actually encourage other evils to come about. He also believed that this was a way that people could protect the weak and needy.
Shri Guru Har Rai ji (1630-1661)
Shri Guru Har Rai ji, the seventh guru of sikhism was born on 16th January 1630 in Kiratpur Sahib, Rupnagar, Punjab. He was a peaceful leader. He devoted himself to spreading the teachings of Guru Nanak and taking on missionary work, hence he travelled around spreading the messages of the Sikh faith. He also meditated a lot and encouraged people to do the same. Although he was a very peaceful man, he didn’t abolish the army that his grandfather Guru Hargobind ji had created. Instead, he distanced himself from it physically and never used it himself to solve conflicts with the Empire. He started several public singing and scripture recital traditions in Sikhism. The katha or discourse style recitals were added by Guru Har Rai, to the sabad kirtan singing tradition of Sikhs. He also added the akhand kirtan or continuous scripture singing tradition of Sikhism, as well as the tradition of jotian da kirtan or collective folk choral singing of scriptures
Shri Gur Har Krishan ji (1656-1664)
Shri Guru Har Krishan ji, the eighth guru of sikhism was born on 7th July 1656 in Kiratpur, Shivalik Hills. He was the youngest of all the gurus. He is also known as Bal Guru (Child Guru). Guru Har Krishan ji was a humanitarian, which meant that his main aim was to help people. He helped many people, no matter where they came from or what their religion was. Throughout his short life, he mainly helped heal people who were suffering from a smallpox epidemic. It is said that he died because he contracted smallpox while successfully curing his followers before reaching the age of eight. Guru Har Krishan ji had the shortest reign as Guru, lasting only 2 years, 5 months and 24 days. On his deathbed, Guru Har Krishan ji said, “Baba Bakale”, and died in 1664. The Sikh religious organization interpreted those words to mean that the next Guru is to be found in Bakale village, which they identified as Guru Tegh Bahadur
Shri Guru Teg Bahadur ji (1621-1675)
Shri Guru Teg Bahadur ji, the ninth guru of sikhism was born on 21st April 1621 in Amritsar, Punjab. He was the youngest son of Guru Har Gobind ji. Considered as a principled and fearless warrior, he was a learned spiritual scholar and poet whose 115 hymns are included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. He believed strongly that people should be allowed and have the freedom to worship whatever religion they wanted. For this reason, he defended the Hindu religion to try and protect Hindus from being forced to convert to Islam. He was trained in archery and horsemanship. He was also taught the old classics such as the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Puranas. His works include 116 shabads, 15 ragas, and his bhagats are credited with 782 compositions that are part of bani in Sikhism. He founded the city of Anandpur Sahib in the foothills of Himalayas. In 1675 Guru Tegh Bahadur ji was executed in Delhi on 11 November under the orders of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and his body was burnt.
Shri Guru Gobind Singh ji (1666-1708)
Shri Guru Gobind Singh ji, the tenth guru of sikhism was born on 22nd December 1666 in Patna Sahib, Bihar. He was a spiritual master, warrior, poet and philosopher. He founded the Sikh warrior community called Khalsa and introduced the Five Ks (Kesh, Kada, Kangha, Kaccha, Kirpan), the five articles of faith that Khalsa Sikhs wear at all times. He is credited with the Dasam Granth whose hymns are a sacred part of Sikh prayers and Khalsa rituals. He was the one who finalized and enshrined the Guru Granth Sahib as Sikhism’s primary scripture and eternal Guru. In 1684, he wrote the Chandi di Var in Punjabi language, a legendary war between the good and the evil, where the good stands up against injustice and tyranny. He created “Panj Pyare”, the first khalsa in the sikh tradition and gave them a new surname “Singh”. The co-initiation of men and women from different castes into the ranks of Khalsa also institutionalized the principle of equality in Sikhism regardless of one’s caste or gender.