Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, is described by Western writers as a saint of the Bhagati Wave in India. He preached service of the people and worship of God and followed the path of nonviolence. However, Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Master in succession to Nanak, took up a sword and fought many battles resulting in a lot of bloodshed. They conclude that Guru Gobind Singh, thus changed the path of service and worship to the militant path of sword and wars.

Such observations are intended to project course a wrong view that Guru Gobind Singh did not follow the same path as laid down by Nanak. He adopted a path of violence involving loss of life which cannot be regarded as a strictly religious path. This wrong impression has also been endorsed by many Indian writers who are supposed to know Sikhism better than the western writers. The analysis would recall that all the Gurus and the Khalsa followed the same path laid by Nanak’s Bhagati Marg.

About six centuries ago, a religious revolution took birth in India. It was named Bhagati Wave. Bhagats “saw” God in the people themselves. Real worship of God was preached to be sincere love for all human beings. This wave broke the barriers of caste and creed and was equally popular with Hindu and Muslim Bhagats (Sufi Fakirs) who jointly led this movement. Bhagats of the so called lowcaste came to be respected more than the high caste Brahmins. The shining stars of this wave included Rama Nand, Kabir, Farid, Ravidas, Nam Dev etc. whose hymns along with those of ten other Bhagats have found place along with those written by Gurus, in the Adi Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Book of the Sikhs. The hymns repeatedly point out that if one wants to “realize” God, he need not go to the forests to “search” Him. The abode of God is the human mind itself. “Do not tease, harass or mistreat any person, God in him will be unhappy” was their guiding principle. All human beings, Hindus or Muslims, low or high caste, rich or poor were regarded as “children” of God. They sang praises of God and so they felt very near him and enjoyed His bliss.

  1. Not merely a Bhagat:

Guru Nanak was not merely a Bhagat, he was a social and religious revolutionary. He challenged the bigoted and ritual slave priests to stop injustices done by them to the common people, in the name of “religion.” He awakened the masses to assert for their religious and human rights. For this, he started the institution of “Sangat,” sitting together for prayers, “Pangat”, eating together free food. All persons, Hindus or Muslims low or high caste, men or women were treated as equals without any discrimination. The hatred was replaced by mutual love.

In unmistakable words, Nanak strongly criticized, both the religious as well as political leaders, for their failure to do their duty towards the common people. He addressed the unjust kings as butchers sucking the blood of the common people. The corrupt employees were mentioned as “knives” in the hands of the rulers to cut open the body of the helpless people. Nanak equated them with carnivorous animals. Nanak preached that a king has no right to rule if he cannot deliver justice. A fence (King and his officials) is supposed to protect the field (common people). If the “fence” itself starts destroying the “field” where from would one seek protection? Nanak, in addition to being a Bhagat, was thus a social revolutionary to protect the human rights of the common man.

Nanak said that the responsibility of warning the Kings against their evil acts lies on the shoulders of the religious leaders who unfortunately had joined hands (they do it even today out of fear) with the unjust rulers. Kazi, supposed to be an impartial judge took bribes to favor rich and powerful people. Brahmans obtained food and donations from the common people by falsely promising them that all would reach their forefathers in heavens.

An invitation of Malik Bhago, a corrupt official, for a sumptuous feast was accepted by all but declined by Nanak. When asked to explain, Nanak, fearlessly told at the face of Malik, “It is not the delicious food but the blood of helpless people. How can I eat it?”

  1. Same Path:

Nanak, thus, was a revolutionary saint. He was all for protecting the downtrodden, to which the other nine Gurus and later on the Khalsa stuck steadfastly. They did not change the path even though great sacrifices had to be made for it.

Contd part II

Article extracted from this publication >>  December 20, 1985