The Gurus of the Sikh Faith

Human Gurus Guru Granth Sahib Home use
Mool Mantra Daily Hukamnama Commandments

Gu means darkness or ignorance, and ru means light or knowledge. There were ten human Gurus until the last one granted Spiritual Guru status to the Adi Granth, known afterwards as the Guru Granth Sahib. The temporal Guru became the Khalsa, or Sikh community.

1. Guru Nanak (1469-1539)
He had a mixture of Hindu and Islamic influences. He refused the Hindu sacred thread ceremony at ten. His father in the commercial caste worked for a Muslim landlord in Talwandi. When thirty he vanished for three days, returned and announced his mission with the Mool Mantra (which was later placed into Sikh scriptures). In the context of strife, Guru Nanak stated Ek Ong Kar: we are all one, created by the One Creator of all Creation, and the Name of God is Truth, Sat Nam.
Guru Nanak taught a spiritual way of life:
  • Nam Japa which means to awaken before sunrise, clean the body, and to clean the mind by meditating on God's Name and reciting the Guru's hymns. Furthermore, in the day, this calls on one to remember God's Name with every breath.
  • Dharam di Kirat Karni which means work and earn by the sweat of the brow, to live according to family values, and practice truthfulness and honesty.
  • Vand Ke Chakna which means share one's earned rewards with others before considering oneself and to live to inspire and support the whole community.
2. Guru Angad (1504-1552)
Improved and perfected Mahajni script for writing Punjabi (hymns of Guru Nanak)
3. Guru Amar Das (1479-1574)
Missionaries and all eat together in a common kitchen
4. Guru Ram Das (1534-1581)
Founded Amritsar
5. Guru Arjan (1581-1606)
Built Harimandir (House of God), compiled the scripture (to become the Guru Granth Sahib) and was the first martyr as he was killed on the order of Mughul Jehangir in 1606
6. Guru Hargobind (1606-1644)
Patched up relations with the authorities and some battles
7. Guru Har Rai (1630-1661)
Spiritual focus
8. Guru Har Krishen (1656-1664)
Spiritual focus
9. Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675)
His hymns went into Adi Granth (making a second version), which became fully the Guru Granth Sahib but he was beheaded on the order of the Emperor of India in 1675
10. Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708).
He is almost as important as Guru Nanak, one reason being ending the line of human Gurus. The temporal Guru became the Khalsa, into which he absorbed himself after its formation. He formed it by first asking for a volunteer and they went away. The first one seemed killed when the Guru returned with a blooded double edged sword - but more Sikhs then volunteered until five had gone altogether. All of them then returned alive, and were initiated into the Khalsa, the spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood devoted to purity of thought and action, giving them amrit (sugared water stirred with a two-edged sword). Being in the Khalsa means no sexual relationships outside marriage, no meat, tobacco, alcohol, and other intoxicants. All Sikhs since, who are baptised into the Khalsa, are identifiable by wearing the five Ks:
  • kesh (uncut hair held within a turban, and an uncut beard)
  • kangha (wooden comb for tidy hair)
  • kara (thin steel circle worn on the wrist, representing Truth and freedom and exclusion of any deviation from these)
  • kirpan (sword with one cutting edge to defend the fine line of the Truth)
  • katchera (specially made cotton underwear as a reminder of the commitment to purity)
This soldier-saint said, When all other means have failed, only then is it righteous to take up the sword. He defended the poor, meek, and oppressed in India.

About the Guru Granth Sahib

  • First compiled by the Guru Arjan Dev, in 1604 in Amritsar
  • Second version, by Guru Gobind Singh, finalised at Damdama Sahib in 1705, included the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur, and his own couplet

  • All texts of Guru Granth Sahib intend to reveal the glory of God
  • Creator made the world and people contain his divinity
  • Whole creation moves according to a predestined plan
  • Humankind does not fully comprehend reality

  • Guru Arjan Dev asserted the fundamental unity of all religions and the same nature of all mystic experience
  • It has a catholic character
  • Compositions of Hindu bhaktas, Muslim divines, Sufi poets and others
  • Content from high born Brahmins and proud Kashatriyas
  • Content from so called lowly Shudras and the unlettered Jats
  • Satires reactionary and despotic rulers, clergy and sects out of touch, and fake fakirs

  • Egalitarianism promoted against the caste system
  • Philosophy of action, deed and consequence
  • Fulfillment only in living, not by withdrawal
  • Values and a practical code of conduct
  • Yes to contemplation, stillness and inwardness but whilst engaged
  • Extinction of the ego
  • Humility is the highest virtue
  • Rejects queitism, passivity and abstractions
  • Emphasises shared communal experience, purposive and idealistic involvement

  • Consistent with ancient Indian thought origins and ultimate reality
  • World is Maya or illusion but Nirvana only achieved by accepting the reality of this unreality
  • The relative solidity of the world is accepted

  • Trinity of sat chit and anand
  • The Soul too contains this trinity or the God within (though loses it).
  • God is omnipotent and omniscient
  • Initiator and the End
  • Self-Creator and Self-Propeller
  • The soul is God's consort in an indissoluble union
  • Man is ordained wife of the Will of God
  • Much nuptial and spousal imagery of the hymns
  • The soul however travels through much suffering, pity and piety

  • Sources between the 1100s and 1600s
  • Contains songs, hymns and sayings of many saints, sages and bards
  • Content from different parts of India
  • Direct language
  • Local dialects plus Sanskrit, Prakrit, Persian and Arabic
  • Much prose is traditional (salokas and pauris) like classical ragas
  • Yet popular folk metres in hymns and songs such as alahanis, ghoris, chands
  • Follows Indian musicology
  • Each psalm or song is after a number (mohalla) which denotes the composer Guru
  • Runs from first to the tenth Guru
  • Each Guru recognises the Founder Guru
  • Major hymns are Japji (Guru Nanak), Anand (Guru Amar Das), Sukhmani (Guru Arjan Dev), Rehras (Guru Nanak, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev)
  • These are recited solo and in congregation by the faithful as morning and evening prayers

Mool Mantra Ek Ong Kar, God is One - click for more information

The Mool Mantra (of which there are several translations, and the Gurmurkhi version is displayed above) stays that:

Sikh website including the daily reading from Amritsar

Once at the website click for the daily Hukamnama from Amritsar. Scroll down to see the English if the Internet browser Gurmukhi font is not installed. The Guru Granth Sahib is opened randomly to any page and the shabad there becomes the day's Hukam (meaning command). This random method has existed since the Golden Temple was established with the Guru Granth Sahib in 1604.


The Commandments of the ten Gurus:

Believe that:

Do not:

A baptised Sikh must wear the 5 Ks:


Home Use

There is a prayer for the home installation of the Guru Granth Sahib:

Blessed is the hour when I see you
I am glad to be in your presence
You are the giver of my life, my beloved God;
I maintain my whole being by keeping you in mind.
Your teaching is true, your word is sweet,
Your eyes see everything, you are calmness itself.
Your patience is the source of my peace,
Your Law is unchanging, my Sovereign.
My God is beyond birth and death.

Guru Arjan (trans. Piara Singh Sambhi), Adi Granth, 562



Human Gurus Guru Granth Sahib Home use
Mool Mantra Daily Hukamnama Commandments

Adrian Worsfold