Guru Angad Dev Ji: Inspirational and pious architect of the Sikh religion

Jaibans Singh

Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first master of the Sikh religion, during his lifetime, anointed his faithful disciple Bhai Lehna as the second Guru of the Sikhs and renamed him Angad (a part of his own body and soul).

In a ceremony held at Kartarpur in the presence of a huge congregation of Sikhs, Guru Nanak seated Bhai Lehna on his throne, put five paise and a coconut in front of him and bowed before him. He then called upon Bhai Buddha to put a Tilak on the forehead of the next Guru and directed his followers to obey and serve him.

The succession has been described by Bhai Gurdas in Var 1, Pauri 45, “Angad got the same Tilak, the same umbrella over his head, and was seated on the same true throne as Guru Nanak. The seal of Guru Nanak’s hand entered Guru Angad….” The seat was taken by Guru Angad Dev Ji on September 22, 1539, when Guru Nanak Dev Ji culminated his journey in this world.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji chose Bhai Lehna, as the second master to carry forth the light of his teachings due to the his deep devotion and absolute surrender to the Sikh faith and tenets, that was tested by the Guru Nanak personally on a number of occasions.

It is notable here that Guru Nanak Dev Ji chose Guru Angad Dev Ji as the second light over claims of his own sons Bhai Sri Chand and Baba Lakhmi Das who had also attained a high degree of spiritual power through intense meditation and Yoga. Baba Sri Chand created his own sect which was named Udasis. He was revered as an ascetic by all Sikh Gurus till his passing away. Baba Lakhmi Das married and raised a family, the Bedi clan of Dera Baba Nanak are said to be his off springs.

When Guru Nanak Dev Ji culminated his worldly journey his sons and immediate family continued to stay in Kartarpur Sahib. Guru Angad Dev Ji, on instruction from Guru Nanak Dev Ji established the Guru Ghar (Gurus household) at Khadur Sahib, where his own family was residing.

Guru Angad Dev Ji was born on March, 31, 1504 to Pheru Mal and Mata Ramo Ji at Matte-di-Sarai (Sarai Naga) near Muktsar, his family was of Trehan Khatri (Traders) community. He was named Lehna by his parents. At an early age and under influence of his mother he became a disciple of Goddess Durga and as he grew older he became a priest in her Temple. He was married to Mata Khivi ji in January 1520. Mata Khivi Ji was also from the Khatri clan and belonging to a place called Sanghar in modern day Sindh, Pakistan. The couple had had two sons (Bhai Dasu and Bhai Datu) and two daughters (Bibi Amro and Bibi Anokhi).

Due to fear of the Mughals Pheru Mal moved his family from their ancestral home and resettled at Khadur Sahib, on the banks of the River Beas. Bhai Lehna became an avid disciple of the Hindu Goddess “Durga” and got involved in leading batches of pilgrims to the Jwalamukhi Temple, located at Kangra in modern day Himachal Pradesh. The temple is of great importance to the Hindus being one of the 51 Shaktipeeths of their religion.

In Khadoor Sahib, Bhai Lehna and his wife Bibi Khivi heard Bhai Jodha, a disciple of Guru Nanak Dev Ji recite the “Japji Sahib” and “Asa Di Vaar,” two prayers that the Guru had enjoined upon his disciples to recite daily. They got captivated by it and went to meet the Guru in Kartarpur Sahib.  The family realized that they had found their true Guru and immersed themselves to his service while enjoying the fruits of his teachings. With his deep devotion Bhai Lehna found a place in the heart of his Guru but the closeness also ignited jealousies within the family of the Guru. It was probably for this reason that Guru Nanak Dev Ji directed Bhai Lehna to proceed to Khadur Sahib and foster Sikh practices over there. Always obedient to a fault, Bhai Lehna did as he was told and worked ceaselessly in the name of his Guru in Khadur Sahib. He was ultimately called from Khadur Sahib, anointed as the second Nanak and sent back to set up y the Guru Ghar in Khadur Sahib

When Guru Nanak Dev Ji left his body, the pain of separation from his master was too much for Guru Angad Dev Ji to bear; he immersed himself into deep meditation and cut of all ties with the outside world for about six months. The earliest Shloks (Hyms) of his Bani (holy recitation) speaks of the pain that he felt and he expresses a desire of “dying before the one whom he loved since to live after he dies is to live a worthless life in this world.” It was only on intervention of Bhai Buddha and other prominent Sikhs that he finally came out of his mourning and took over his responsibilities as Guru. He carried forward the principles of Guru Nanak Dev Ji both in letter and spirit. Yogis and Saints of different sects visited him and held detailed discussions about Sikhism with him.

History has it that Emperor Humayun after his defeat in the hands of Sher Shah Suri came for an audience with the Guru and got irritated on being called upon to wait while the Guru was in meditation. At that instance the Guru taught him a lesson of patience and humility and blessed him with the assurance that he would regain his throne.

Guru Angad Dev Ji well understood the need to consolidate the noble work that his master had started and he immersed himself in the task. The first challenge identified by him was the need to record the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji in a script that was easily understandable. It was with this intention that he set about creating Punjabi language in the “Gurmukhi” script. An imperfect script did exist from the times of Guru Nanak which was polished by Guru Angad Dev Ji and adopted as a language of the Sikhs. It was easily comprehensible to the common people unlike Sanskrit which was complex and meant only for Brahmins.

With the script in place the Guru set about ensuring its widespread adoption and practice, he opened learning centres and is known to have personally taught the script to children. He then took the assistance of many disciples of Guru Nanak to record the holy “Bani” (spiritual teachings)  of Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the Gurmukhi Script. Primary among the disciples who helped in the compilation is said to be Bhai Bala who accompanied Guru Nanak Dev Ji in his extensive travels (Udasis). Guru Angad Dev Ji made a personal contribution of 63 Shabads (Hyms) and Shloks to Sikh Bani, which are a part of the Guru Granth Sahib. 

The Pothas (scripts) compiled by Guru Angad Dev Ji were among those that Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth master, procured from Bhai Mohan, the ascetic son of Guru Amar Das, and utilised to inscribe the Guru Granth Sahib. The inscription of the first copy of the scripture was done by Bhai Gurdas and it was in the Gurmukhi script. 

The second big contribution of Guru Angad Dev Ji to the development of the Sikh religion and its practices is formalising the institution of Langar (community kitchen) that was an essential part of the teachings of Guru Nanak as the essence of community living. The Langar serves simple food to one and all without prejudice of caste or creed and is a very significant facet of the Sikhs way of life. From the initial days itself the Sevadars (volunteer) of the Langar were told to look upon it as a place of rest and refuge apart from provisioning food; they were told to remain always polite and hospitable to all visitors

In the establishment of this practice Guru Angad Dev Ji found unrelenting support from his wife Mata Khivi. She personally looked after those who came to partake the holy food and her devotion to the cause and concept continued even after Guru Angad Dev Ji passed away and right up to the times of Guru Arjan Dev Ji when she finally left this world at the ripe old age of 76. She lovingly contributed to the Langar till her last days. With Guru Amar Das she established the concept of “Pangat and Sangat” which subscribes primary importance to nourishing the body and then the soul. Mata Khivi’s devotion to the institution of Langar finds mention in Guru Granth Sahib.

Such was the devotion of Guru Angad Dev Ji to his master that he visited all important places and centres established by Guru Nanak for preaching Sikhism. He took all steps required to strengthen the roots of the Sikh religion by establishing more centres of learning and “Dharamsalas” (religious Institutions).

The Guru paid special attention to facets of human development in his newly involving community. He was especially fond of children whom, as noted above, he personally taught the Gurmukhi script. He opened a number of schools to give a boost to education and literacy, especially ensuring the Sikhs became well versed in Gurmukhi. Being a keen wrestler he started the tradition of opening “Mall Akhara” (centre for wrestling) which can be attributed to the build-up of strength and military acumen of the Sikhs.

Women empowerment and equality of women with men was very close to the heart of the Guru. He called for equality between men and women at a time when women were treated as objects and slaves of men, without any rights or a say in community affairs. He welcomed women to the Sangat (congregations), offered them seats side by side with men and gave to them equal religious and social rights.  He set a personal example by involving his wife, Mata Khivi, in all community affairs and giving to her independent responsibility of running the Langar as elucidated above. Traditions set by him in this field carried forth through the most testing and challenging times and are well embedded within the community to this day. 

In the field of social and religious uplifting of the downtrodden, the Guru laid a lot of emphasis, as his master, Guru Nanak, had done, on the creation of a casteless and classless society that set aside ego and remained supportive of each other.

He brought about the much needed uniformity in prayers and religious practices that helped create a unique bond within the Sikh community. In this regard he furthered the concept of Sangat as laid down by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It stressed upon his Sikhs the need to give up on debilitating and superficial rituals while devoting heart and soul to the prayer and service of the one and only creator. He said that self-realisation can be attained only through single minded devotion to God.

In order to extol the virtues of dignity of labour, the Guru earned his own living within the community by manually producing strings for cots. The offerings went into the common community fund and were used for community administration and development.

Guru Angad Dev Ji was a true example of “Nishkam Seva” (selfless service) to humanity against the backdrop of great devotion to the one and only creator. As the second Nanak, on his shoulders fell the responsibility of nurturing the nascent Sikh religion and giving it a direction in consonance with the vision and practices of his master. By paying attention to institutionalising various facets like Langar, language, uniformity in rituals etc. he steered the Sikh community on to the right path of both spirituality and community routine, which progressed to become a way of life and a tradition. Tenets established by him have endured over the centuries and are still being avidly followed. Guru Angad Dev Ji left his earthly body on 29, March 1552, leaving behind his sublime teachings and after naming Guru Amar Das Ji as his successor and the third Nanak.

Jaibans Singh
About Jaibans Singh 480 Articles
Jaibans Singh is a Delhi based analyst of defence and security affairs specialising in J&K and Pakistan. He is Post graduate in Journalism and Mass Communication from Punjabi University with a Gold Medal. His areas of interest are Analysing defence and security aspects which impact national security, sharing views in reputed think tanks like CLAWS and CENJOWS of which he is a member, providing consutancy to defence based visual media projects of noted channels like DD and National Geographic and other freelance defence related work.

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