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Guru Nanak: Passing of the torch

Sarbpreet Singh left the shores of his homeland, Sikkim, and went to America in his early twenties. When he learned about the lives of the Gurus, the trials and tribulations they faced, and the glorious story of the Sikh Empire, he felt his spirit soar like it never had before. Following his interest, in The Story of the Sikhs, he penned down the rich historical context that defined the foundational principles which guided Sikhs during the era of each Guru.

Here’s an excerpt from his book about Guru Nanak, who spent his entire life fighting injustice, superstition and ritualism, passing of the torch to Guru Angad.

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The Story of the Sikhs || Sarbpreet Singh

One winter’s night, during heavy rainfall, a part of the wall of the Guru’s house collapsed. The commotion woke up the household, including both of his sons. Several of the Guru’s most devout Sikhs also gathered, many sleepily rubbing their eyes, shivering under the coarse shawls they had tossed around their shoulders to ward off the rain and the cold. The Guru decreed that the wall be fixed immediately!

There was much hemming and hawing and shuffling of feet. Some wondered privately if the Guru was going senile. Finally his sons mustered the courage to speak. ‘It is past midnight father and bitterly cold. Please go back to bed. In the morning we will engage a mason and labourers and take care of this.’ The Guru merely looked at the group and said, ‘Why do I need masons and labourers when I have all of you?’ Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Lehna stepped up, inwardly laughing at his foolishness. After all, what was the need to repair the wall at once?

Lehna got to work under the watchful eye of his master as the rest of the Sikhs, including Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das, returned to their warm beds. Lehna diligently rebuilt a large section of the wall and found the Guru looking over his shoulder as he worked. ‘It is crooked Lehna,’ said the Guru. Without a moment’s hesitation Lehna tore down the wall and started again. This time the Guru let him build it and examined it critically when it was finished. ‘You built it in the wrong spot Lehna! You are going to have to move the wall.’ Uncomplaining, Lehna threw down the wall and started to build it for the third time.

It was dawn by then and the Sikhs began to wake up. Some gathered around Guru Nanak’s house watching Lehna work. Finally, when the wall was completed, the Guru once again expressed dissatisfaction and commanded Lehna to tear it down yet again. Some of the Sikhs began to titter. The Guru’s sons mocked Lehna, calling him a fool for obeying such unreasonable orders. Lehna went back to his work unperturbed.

Lehna continued to serve his master for three more years in this manner. Guru Nanak grew increasingly fond of Lehna and spent a lot of time instructing him. The Guru’s sons had grown jealous of Lehna’s deepening relationship with their father and began to openly express their dislike for him. The Guru, sensing the depth of the animosity, decided to send Lehna away to Khadur. Of course, his disciple left with no hesitation and started to live a disciplined life of prayer and meditation in his hometown, garnering great respect from the locals. Although he was distraught at being separated from his master, he never complained, certain that Guru Nanak must have had a reason for sending him away…

Finally came the fateful day when the Guru assembled everyone on the banks of the Ravi and formally anointed Angad as his successor.

14 June 1539 was a warm summer’s day in Punjab. A strange scene unfolded on the banks of the river Ravi, which flows by the town of Kartarpur. Guru Nanak was surrounded by his family and his beloved Sikhs, but he was doing something most unusual, even disconcerting. Surely unbefitting an elderly patriarch whose followers loved him and respected him like none other, Guru Nanak rose from his seat—the Guru’s seat—and to it he led Angad, who looked embarrassed and nonplussed. Guru Nanak, with a reassuring smile, gestured towards the Guru’s seat and bid Angad to sit. Angad looked reluctant, but being the most obedient of his master’s followers, he gingerly lowered himself into the seat. To the assembly’s astonishment, Guru Nanak reverently placed an offering of five paise or pennies and a coconut before his disciple and prostrated himself before him. The assembly gasped audibly. The Guru rose and turned to Bhai Buddha, another of his beloved disciples, a solemn man, who had been known as ‘Buddha’ or the wise old man, since he was a precocious lad! Bhai Buddha, on the Guru’s command, anointed Bhai Lehna’s forehead with a Tilak or saffron mark, signifying royalty. The torch had been passed. Visibly and dramatically. The humblest of Guru Nanak’s disciples, Bhai Lehna, now known as Guru Angad, was now his successor.

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Now that you have had a glimpse of the life of Guru Nanak, who had paved the path of spirituality for many, read in detail more about other Sikh Gurus in Sarbpreet Singh’s The Story of the Sikhs.

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