The 10 Sikh Gurus

 What is the Sikh gurus list?

Sikh Gurus List
The Sikh Gurus

Sikh gurus list is the one that comprises the names of all the great men who created, nurtured and sustained Sikhism and made it a prominent religion in the world. Sikhism is a synthesis of many religious tenets the most prominent among them being Hinduism and Islam. Sikhism promotes the gospel of love, devotion and faith in one god. Sikh gurus list begins with Guru Nanak and ends with Guru Gobind Singh. In all there are 10 gurus in the Sikh Gurus list. All the 10 gurus made their own unique contributions along with sacrifices for the growth and spread of Sikhism. Though Sikhism is majorly practiced in the Punjab state of India, Sikhs are found all over the world. Many Sikhs have made phenomenal achievements in various parts of the world without compromising their identity and religion. The Gurudwaras (place of worship of the Sikhs) are regularly visited by non Sikhs not only in India but all over the world.

Timeline of Sikh gurus list

Guru Nanak

Sikh gurus list
Guru Nanak

First among the Sikh gurus list is  Baba Nanak who is the founder of the Sikh religion. He was born to a Hindu family around 1469 in Punjab. While at the time it was a small village, his birthplace is now a huge complex known as Nankana Sahib located near Lahore in Pakistan. Nanak worked as a government official during his youth but became disillusioned with the governmental structures as well as the rigid societal structures.

He began longing for something more than the life he had and started going on long journeys to visit the sacred sites of the various religions found in India. Nanak is generally believed to have visited many places including Mecca, Baghdad, Ayodhya, Tibet and even Sri Lanka. He studied and met with many Hindu and Muslim religious leaders. Obviously, his biographies include many colorful details as the biographies of religious leaders usually do, but we can construct some historical details from it.

 Sometime around 1510, he began teaching the message of Ek Onkar meaning One God. He preached that all religions believe in the same God and are merely different routes to the same destination. He became known as Guru Nanak. Guru meaning teacher. His followers became known as Sikh meaning learners or pupils. 

Preached Equality

Guru Nanak continued teaching and settled in Kartarpur in Pakistan. He gathered a small band of followers whose numbers are difficult to estimate. His followers came from all walks of life and from all castes and statuses just like they did at the time of Buddha. This was unheard of in Hindu society for a long time since Buddha which had a rigid caste system. 

While the Muslims of India did not have a caste system, still Muslims and people of other religions weren’t equal. He died around 15 years later. His reputation, and perhaps his message, can both be summed up by an interesting story about his death. It’s said that both Hindus and Muslims claimed him as one of them and fought over how funeral proceedings would go. They accidentally uncovered his body only to find a pile of flowers. 

Guru Angad Dev

Sikh gurus list
Guru Angad Dev

He was succeeded, not by a son, but by a follower who would be named Guru Angad Dev. Guru Nanak had called him his own Ang or limb and that’s how he got the name Angad. Guru Angad Dev who happens to be second on the Sikh gurus list was born in 1503. He formalized the Gurmukhi which is the script in which Indian Punjabi is written in. 

Guru Angad taught this script to many disciples and later opened schools for children belonging to various communities. He also started the concept of Mal Akhara which imparted physical and spiritual training to the youth. Angad Dev also chose a disciple to be his successor by the name Amar Das.

Guru Amar Das 

Sikh gurus list
Guru Amar Dev

The successor would be known as Guru Amar Das who was actually 25 years older than Guru Angad Dev. He started the canonization of Sikh faith by codifying the teachings of Guru Nanak into a unified book which would eventually become Adi Granth. This Guru Amar Das, third on the Sikh gurus list was born in 1479 and was an ardent critic of the caste system. To emphasize this he started the idea of ‘free kitchen’ where everyone would eat food together irrespective of their caste or social status.

On the marriage of his daughter Bibi Bhani to the man who would become the fourth Guru, Mughal Emperor Akbar gifted the couple quite a bit of land in order to improve relations with this new community. That land would eventually become the city of Amritsar, the spiritual capital of Sikhism. It’s said that when Akbar came to visit, the Guru asked him to sit down with everyone on the floor and eat with the peasants before he would meet him. Akbar did so. 

 He introduced a special type of marriage ceremony called Anand Kharaj with some new customs granting women more independence and equality.

Guru Ram Das

Sikh gurus list
Guru Ramdas

  Amar Das was succeeded by his son-in-law Ram Das who is fourth on the Sikh gurus list was born in 1534. He formed the center of his work at the site which would become Harmandir Sahib also known as the Golden Temple. He was the founder of the city of Amritsar in Punjab. For Sikhs Amritsar is equivalent to Vatican, Mecca or Benaras. He was also the first Guru to choose a son to succeed him. All the following human Gurus descended from him. Technically, they also descend from Guru Amar Das through his daughter. 

Guru Arjan Dev

Sikh gurus list
Guru Arjan Dev

Arjan Dev, fifth on the Sikh gurus list was born in 1563.  He completed the construction of the Golden Temple in Amritsar that his father had started. Guru Arjan Dev invited a Muslim Sufi leader named Mian Mir to lay the foundation of the temple to show that the temple was open to everyone. He also finished the compilation of Adi Granth and installed it in the Golden Temple. He incorporated many hymns of Muslim and Sufi saints into Adi Granth.

By the time of Guru Arjan Dev, the Sikhs were a community influential enough for the Mughal Emperor to see them as a threat. On top of that, the Guru had supported a rebellious son of Mughal emperor Jahangir. Guru Arjan Dev was arrested by Jahangir. He was told to choose between conversion or death. Arjan Dev chose death. He was tortured and executed in 1606.

 In his life, Guru Arjan Dev started the process of turning Sikhs from a religious group into a political group. This politicization was instrumental in the creation of Khalsa.

Guru Hargobind

Guru Hargobind

Arjan Dev’s young son, Hargobind became Guru at the age of only eleven. His father’s execution had a huge impact on his tenure as Guru. Hargobind the sixth on the list of Sikh gurus was born in 1595. He was also known as the soldier saint. It’s said that he used to wear two swords, one to represent Piri, religious leadership and the other to represent Miri, secular leadership.

 He started the process of militarization of the Sikh community. He was a firm believer of the fact that sometimes it was necessary to pick up arms in order to protect the faith, the needy and the poor. Guru Hargobind also constructed the Akal Takht which was meant to serve as the political centerpoint of the Sikh community while the Golden Temple was the religious centerpoint. He was the first Guru to lead an army and actually clash with the Mughals. 

Guru Har Rai 

Guru Har Rai

When Guru Hargobind passed away in 1644, he chose his grandson, Guru Har Rai to succeed him as seventh on the Sikh guru list. He was born in 1630. Guru Har Rai’s father, Baba Gurditta had predeceased his father. During his tenure as Guru, there was a war of succession in the Mughal Empire. 

Prince Aurangzeb and Prince Dara Shikoh were contesting for the throne. The Guru supported Dara Shikoh who was more influenced by the Sufis as compared to the orthodox Aurangzeb. Shahanshah Aurangzeb eventually won and summoned the Guru to answer for his support of the losing side. The Guru sent his son Ram Rai. Aurangzeb asked him to interpret a verse from Adi Granth which apparently was anti-Islamic. Ram Rai misinterpreted it, on purpose, in order to not cause offense. While Aurangzeb was pleased, Guru Har Rai was certainly not. He excommunicated his son and pushed him out of succession. Instead of him, he chose his younger son, Har Krishan to succeed him.

Although Guru Har Rai was a peace loving man, he did not disband the army that his father had created. He only physically distanced himself from it and never used it to solve the problems of the empire.

Guru Har Krishan 

Guru Har Krishan

  Har Krishan became Guru at the age of only 5 and died of smallpox when he was 8. Born in 1656, he was the eighth on the Sikh gurus list. At a small age he worked and provided help for the victims of Smallpox but unfortunately himself contracted the disease and eventually succumbed to it.

Guru Tegh Bahadur 

Guru Teg Bahadur

 His successor and brother to his grandfather, Tegh Bahadur was the next Guru. Tegh Bahadur ninth on the Sikh gurus list was born in 1621. He extensively traveled the country preaching Sikhism and meeting with people who had been victims of Aurangzeb’s religious persecution. He was arrested by Aurangzeb due to his continuous support for Kashmiri Hindus whom Aurangzeb was persecuting. Aurangzeb ordered the Guru to either perform a miracle, convert or die. The Guru chose death. This is a theme in Sikh history. Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed in 1675. Before being arrested, he had already given his son Gobind Rai command of the Sikhs. 

Guru Gobind Rai or Guru Gobind Singh

Guru Gobind Singh

Gobind Rai became the tenth Guru of the Sikhs at the age of only eleven. He’s known for having founded the Khalsa. The story goes that he asked for a volunteer who would give his life for the Guru. One volunteer came forth. He took him to his tent. The Guru came out alone after a while with a bloody sword, in all appearance, having killed the previous volunteer, and asked for another. He did this till he had five volunteers. He then came out with all five of them still alive. 

They came to be known as Panj Pyare, the five beloved ones. The Guru baptized them by giving them Amrit, a drink of sugared water. These five became the first of the Khalsa, the new Sikh community. They then baptized the Guru making him the sixth to join the Khalsa. All of them, including Guru Gobind Rai changed their last name to Singh meaning Lion. All men to enter the Khalsa took Singh as their last name while women took Kaur as their last name. This erased their past social statuses and made them all equals. Guru Gobind Singh also gave the Sikhs the Five Ks or Panj Kakaar. They are:

  1. Kes, meaning uncut hair, meant to give the Sikhs a distinguishable look 
  2. Kangha, meaning a wooden comb, meant to represent cleanliness. 
  3. Kara, meaning an iron bracelet, meant as a symbol of the never ending God.
  4.  Kacchera, meaning undergarment, which looks something like boxer shorts. This is meant to represent control over lust and desire. 
  5. Finally, Kirpan, which is a small dagger meant to defend the helpless.

Threats to Guru Gobind Singh

 Khalsa was also meant to centralize all the various Sikh communities spread throughout India. This was seen as a necessity by the Guru in response to the increasing threat of the Mughals. In fact, the Mughal emperor and his governors in Punjab sent various armies to crush the Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh himself lost all four of his sons to the Mughals. Two of them, Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh died in the Battle of Chamkaur. While the younger two, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh were both caught and bricked up alive by Wazir Khan, the Mughal Governor of the region of Sirhind. Neither of them was older than 10. The Guru lost all four of his sons within just a few days at the end of 1704.

  After Aurangzeb died in 1707, his son and successor, Bahadur Shah invited the Guru for peace negotiations. The Guru was camped at Nanded in Maharashtra which was under the Marathas, when assassins sent by Wazir Khan attacked and injured him. The Guru, realizing his death was near, did not declare a follower to be the next Guru. Instead, he declared the Adi Granth to be the next and the eternal Guru. Hence, it is now known as Guru Granth Sahib. 

 Guru Gobind Singh Ji passed away on 7th of October, 1708. Before his death, Guru Gobind Singh gave the command of his army to Banda Singh Bahadur and told him to conquer Punjab to end the tyranny of the Mughals there. 

See Also

Rise and fall of the Maratha Empire

Decline of Mughal Empire – Complete Analysis

FAQs on Sikh gurus list

Who is the 11th guru of Sikh?

There is no 11th Sikh guru. The 10th and last guru, Gobind Singh did not name any successor before his death. He only handed over the command of his army to Banda Bahadur and ordered him to conquer Punjab. He proclaimed the ‘Adi Granth’ to be the eternal guru. Henceforth the Adi Granth came to be known as the Guru Granth Sahib.

Who is supreme God in Sikh?

Since Sikhism is a monothiestic religion, it does not have any concept of supreme god. Instead it advocates ‘Ek Onkara’ which means one god.

Who was the 1st Sikh Guru?

Baba Nanak also known as guru Nanak is the 1st Sikh guru. He also happens to be the founder of Sikh religion.

Do Sikhs drink alcohol?

Consumption of alcohol is an integral part of Punjabi culture. As far as Sikhism is concerned, alcohol consumption is prohibited. But this is followed by only the baptized Sikhs. The common followers do not mind its consumption.

Are Sikhs closer to Muslims?

It cannot be decisively said that Sikhism is closer to Islam or Muslims. Though the Adi Granth has some hymns of Sufi saints and Islam, but comparatively Sikhism is more close to Hinduism. All said and done it is a synthesis of the 2 religions.

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