| Why should we
have another book on Guru Nanak, the founder of
Sikh religion, when there exists already a vast
literature on his life and teachings? There would
indeed be a justification for a new study of Guru
Nanak and his life, if some hitherto unknown facts
relating him are found, or a reinterpretation of
existing literature on him is required.
Generally, for the progress
of disinterested research, there subsists a close
relationship between the author and the choice
of his subject. The author makes just a modest
claim that his work is a "small window to
the world of Guru Nanak."
This work is not a recital of
the principal events connected with Guru Nanaks
life nor is it a compendium of his teachings.
Historians and biographers use evidence for the
reconstruction of their subjects from different
With his artistic sensibility,
penetrating insight and narrative skin, Roopinder
has portrayed Guru Nanak as one of the greatest
humanists who gave his message of love, the brotherhood
of man and charity with passionate ardour. He
kindled a spirit of courage and fortitude for
the tortured humanity to wrestle with the problems
of human existence. By interspersing his narrative
with appropriate quotations, drawn from Guru Nanaks
basic teachings as contained in the Guru Granth
Sahib and Janamsakhis, and relating them to their
historical context, and illustrating them through
appropriate reproduction of paintings and sketches,
Roopinder has produced an exquisite portrait-gallery
of Guru Nanak, his life, and teachings.
The broad facts of Guru Nanak
and his life are too well known. From this study,
Guru Nanak emerges as a great and successful institution-builder,
who had conceived the ideas of kirtan, sangat,
pangat, and gurdwara. He chartered a new course.
Endearing many hearts by his message, he drew
followers, who, imbued with a spirit of dedication,
devoted themselves to the service of humanity.
There are certain specific features
of Guru Nanaks personality and message that
need to be highlighted because these have a special
relevance to our own time. Those who cry loud
today for the necessity of following secularism
as a panacea for the ills of our society and regarding
it a precious legacy of the European enlightenment
of the post-French Revolution period should look
up to Guru Nanak, who had laid down unequivocally
his doctrine of human fraternity.
He had said, "There is
no Hindu, nor Mussalman." His closest associates
were Bala, a Hindu, and Mardana, a Muslim. Roopinder
rightly says that Guru Nanaks religion was
not merely for the individual but for the multi-cultural
society. As a witness to the misrule of the Lodhis
and the invasions of Babur, Guru Nanak realised
the futility of warfare, which he condemned as
a manifestation of human cupidity. He stood for
the demolition of all castes. According to him,
the caste of a person is what one does.
This study shows that throughout
his life, Guru Nanak did not indulge in metaphysical
abstractions or recondite analysis of various
religious thoughts. Abhorring theological speculations,
he did not commend renouncing the world and living
the life of a recluse. He emphasised that life
has to be lived in this topsy-turvy world, and
for leading a purposeful and creative life, Guru
Nanak produced a value system which neither time
nor custom can stale.
However beautiful a sermon may
be, it is not going to help anyone unless it is
listened to and acted on. Like Jesus Christ, Guru
Nanak practiced what he preached in order to ensure
its adequacy for society and its welfare. What
could be better for the mitigation of cast-consciousness
than through the institution of langar, where
men and women, irrespective of their caste and
religion, eat together. This concept of langar
cultivates among the people a strong bond of community-consciousness,
self-help and service.
Idle recitations of mantras
for seeking Divine favour, he abjured. Idol worship,
he thought, breeds ignorance and superstitions
beliefs. Like Christ, he regards love as the highest
and the greatest virtue for the happiness of mankind.
Roopinder emphasises the great value of Guru Nanaks
basic dictum "Kirat karo, nam japo, vand
chakko (engage in human labour, recreate the name
of God and share what you have).
But that was not enough for
Guru Nanak. He went further than the worship of
God and a complete surrender to Him. Social progress,
he thought, was vitally as important as the moral
and spirited regeneration of society.
On the basis of the Janamsakhis
compiled during the 17th-19th centuries, the author
has identified by maps the places that Guru Nanak
had visited in India and abroad, including Hardwar,
Puri, Kurukshetra, Rameshwaram, Mecca and Baghdad.
In this connection, Dr Kirpal Singhs recent
study of the Janamsakhis is also relevant. Dr
W. H. McLeod is sceptical of the information cited
in the Janamsakhis. Even if some account in the
Janamsakhis is apocryphal, essentially in this
genre we meet a form of history that depends upon
reporting and modes of transmission. Such stories
might be truer in spirit than what can be established
as absolutely correct and documentarily established.
Before Guru Nanak died in Kartarpur
on September 7, 1539, he installed Guru Angad
as his successor than any of his sons, which shows
his fierce impartiality and his recognition of
merit. The Epilogue provides a synoptic survey
of the growth of Sikh faith and its consolidation
in one of the most turbulent periods of the Indian
The task that Roopinder Singh
had undertaken was arduous, but in this short
and unpretentious work, he has performed it brilliantly
with economy of thought and precision. More strength
to his elbow to take up henceforth, Guru Gobind