In September 1539, Guru Nanak passed on the Guruship to Bhai Lehna, who was then renamed to Guru Angad Dev Ji.
Guru Angad Dev Ji was born in March 1504 in the village of Matte-di-Sairan in Ferozpur but eventually his family moved to Khadpur. His father was Sri Pheru Mal Ji, a kind-hearted grocer and his mother was Mata Sabrai Ji. He was married to Sri Khivi Ji in 1519 and had two sons namely Dasu and Datu and two daughters, Amro and Anokhi.
Like his father, he was a devout worshiper of the goddess Durga and accompanied him on his annual pilgrimage to the temple of the goddess. During one of these journeys he came across Bhai Jodha, who was reciting a prayer which touched him deeply. On enquiry he was told that it was Guru Nanak’s prayer, he decided to pay a visit Guru Nanak in Kartarpur. Upon meeting Guru Nanak at the age of 27, Lehna became a devout disciple of Guru Nanak and renounced his former practices.
Under the benign influence of the divine personality of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, he stayed on in Kartarpur for seven years in dedicated service of his Master. Bhai Lehna (old name of Guru Angad Dev Ji), would not hesitate to carry out the wishes of Guru Ji even for an instant. No act was regarded as below one’s dignity in Guru Nanak’s domain.
Once, during his stay in Kartarpur, Guru Nanak has asked his sons to pick a utensil, which has fallen in to the dirty drain, but they refused to do as said. Without any hesitation, Bhai Lehna, jumped at once into the dirty drains with his clothes on and pulled out the utensil.
Guru Angad Dev Ji – Divine God
Another instance was during the mid-winter when Guru Nanak has asked Bhai Lehna to rebuild a wall which had crashed. Disregarding the intense cold he sat to the task of rebuilding the wall and completed it.
Bhai Lehna followed every word what Guru Nanak Dev Ji told him to do. Impressed by his sincere devotion and his spirit of humility Guru Nanak Dev Ji called him ‘Angad’ – part of myself – and finally called him as Angad Dev.
Guru Angad’s first encounter with the divine light was in 1532 and he himself became the divine light in 1539.
Guru Nanak instructed Lehna to return to Khadur to instruct people in the ways of Sikhism. Here Lehna spent his time in prayer and serving the people. He distributed food to the poor daily. Longing to be with Guru Nanak he eventually returned to Kartarpur where he became totally devoted to the service of Guru Nanak. After undergoing countless tests, Guru Nanak eventually appointed Guru Angad as his successor in 1539 Upon the death of Guru Nanak, Guru Angad returned to Khadur where he went into seclusion and meditation for six months. Eventually a delegation of Sikhs led by Baba Buddha convinced the Guru that they needed him. Guru Angad longed for Guru Nanak, when he said to Baba Buddha:
“He whom you love, die for him. Accursed is the life without the beloved. The head should be sliced that does not bow before the Master. O Nanak! the body should be burnt that suffers not the agony of separation.” (Sri Rag)
“He who has been blessed by Guru Nanak is lost in the praises of the Lord. What could one teach those, Who have Divine Nanak as their Guru ?” (Majh)
Guru Angad followed the daily routine that Guru Nanak had. He would wake up early at dawn to recite Guru Nanak’s Japji (Morning Prayer) as well as sing Asa di var with his congregation, work during the daytime and then have evening prayers.
Guru Angad Dev Ji’s Contributions
The second Sikh Guru contributed the following to the people of the world:
- To do Nishkam Sewa Selfless Service to humanity.
- Completely surrender to the Will of God.
- Disapproval of exhibitionism and hypocrisy.
- Formalised the present form of the Gurmukhi script
- Establishment of Langar.
Establishment of Langar (Free kitchen)
Guru Angad Dev ji maintained langar where people of all religions and casts could gather for a free meal. The Guru’s wife, Mata Khivi personally worked in the kitchen. She also served food to the members of the community and the visitors. Her devotion to this institution finds mention in Guru Granth Sahib.
Mata Khivi was instrumental in creating and maintaining the institution of langar, whereby all devotees of the Guru and all people in general, were invited to come and eat together. This practice started initially with Mata Khivi serving food to the members of the community and the visitors who would come to see Guru Angad and it came to symbolize the Guru’s teachings; emphasizing the humanity in every single person and abolishing any innate discriminations. To this day, after every service, visitors to a Sikh gurudwara witness a congregation who join and eat Langar together. Langar also emphasized that service to fellow man was an important tenet of the Sikh way of life, as it is customary for members of the congregation to serve one another.
Guru Angad Dev ji also took a keen interest in physical fitness, and encouraged his devotees to be involved in sports after their morning prayers. It thus became a permanent part of the practice of the Sikh faith. According to Guru ji, if you are physically fit only than you can pursue higher goals in life, because a sound mind can exist only in a sound body. He provided opportunities to underprivileged sections of the society to maintain good health. He encouraged all people to be involved in wrestling bouts or Mal Akharas to compete in physical competitions. This was again his way of doing away with social taboos of people of lower caste not having physical contact with higher castes. These steps initiated by him laid the foundation for a spiritually, educated and enlightened, healthy Sikh community, without distinctions of caste and creed.
Invention of Gurmukhi
Guru Angad invented the present form of the Gurmukhi script. He guided and encouraged the Sikh devotees to make copies of the holy hymns for recitation and meditation which had brought about a complete change in his own life. It became the medium of writing the Punjabi language in which the hymns of the Gurus are expressed.
Earlier, the Punjabi language was written in the Landa or Mahajani script. This had no vowel sounds, which had to be imagined or construed by the reader in order to decipher the writing. Therefore, there was the need of a script which could faithfully reproduce the hymns of the Gurus so that the true meaning and message of the Gurus could not be misconstrued and misinterpreted by each reader to suit his own purpose and prejudices. The devising of the Gurmukhi script was an essential step in order to maintain the purity of the doctrine and exclude all possibility of misunderstanding and misconstruction by interested persons.
Guru Angad Dev Ji – Teaching
The first duty Guru Angad performed after his morning devotions and kirtan was to tend the sick and succour the needy
Guru Angad stood for a casteless and classless society, in which no one was superior to the other and no one, through greed or selfishness, could be allowed to encroach upon the rights of others. In short, he visualized a society in which members lived like a family, helping and supporting one another. He not only preached equality but practiced it. To promote the acceptance of human equality, Guru established a community kitchen where all sat together in a row, regardless of caste or status, and ate the same food.
Furthermore, the guru stressed the importance of adopting a uniform way of praising God and the utility of a social organization based on equality. He established a holy congregation, or Sangat, where people of different beliefs and varying social status sat together to hear the Master’s singing of hymns and to be inspired to lead a noble life.
¤ Devotion and Love towards God
Guru stressed the oneness of God. The purpose of life is to seek God, find him and be united to Him. He called upon the people to give up formal and superficial rituals and rally around the Creator, who alone was Omnipotent and Omnipresent. According to Guru Angad, no one has ever found acceptance or achieved self-realization without true devotion to God.
“ O Nanak, if someone judges himself, only then is he known as a real judge. If someone understands both the disease and the medicine, only then is he a wise physician. Do not involve yourself in idle business on the way; remember that you are only a guest here.”
Good deeds are important but winning God’s Grace is still more important. Pride, greed and ego are the greatest distractions to keep away humans from the Creator. A guru or a spiritual divine teacher is needed to guide the man on the true path.
“That virtuous person who does not walk in the way of greed, and who abides in Truth, is accepted and embraced by God”.
This is the nature of ego, that people perform their actions in ego. This is the bondage of ego, that time and time again, makes people suffer”
Guru Angad Dev also emphasized that one must control the greed and worldly attachment because they are impediments in the path of God. One must stay focused on the inner development.
“They know that they will have to depart, so why do they make such ostentatious displays? Those who do not know that they will have to depart, continue to arrange their affairs. He accumulates wealth during the night of his life, but in the morning, he must depart. O Nanak, it shall not go along with him, and so he regrets.” “The mouth is not satisfied by speaking, and the ears are not satisfied by hearing. The eyes are not satisfied by seeing—each organ seeks out one sensory quality. The hunger of the hungry is not appeased; by mere words, hunger is not relieved. O Nanak, hunger is relieved only when one utters the Glorious Praises of the Praiseworthy Lord.”
He was a constructive architect of a society which focused on the social and religious freedom and equality, promoting dignity of action without distinction of caste and status. He was born at a time when ritual, caste distinctions and superstition had reduced the people to a low level of existence. He gave them courage and uplifted them. He taught the people to lead a righteous life and show due reverence and respect to God instead of supplicating before men. By his own example he made the people fearless and put a new life and spirit in them.
“Those who have the Fear of God, have no other fears; those who do not have the Fear of God, are very afraid. O Nanak, this mystery is revealed at the Court of the Lord.”
The Guru also extolled the dignity of labor and decried the division of society on grounds of birth and founded a classless society based on the idea of equality and universal brotherhood.
He was particularly aware of the degradation which the lower classes of the people suffered through centuries at the hands of rulers and the so called high caste people. He aligned himself with the down-trodden and the less fortunate sections of the people and preferred to stay with the working class people.
¤ Company of the Holy
Guru Angad confirms that “those who meditate on the Eternal Lord, who is fearless and is All Pervasive, are not only themselves emancipated, but they rescue many others form this net of illusion.”
Guru Angad believed in the service and well-being of all mankind and not just of his own followers. He laid stress on character building rather than observance of rituals and formalities. The path which Guru Angad pointed out to his Sikhs for achieving enlightenment was through service and good actions and devotion and worship of one God. He asked his followers to win Divine grace by prayer, singing His praises, cultivating humility, a spirit of service and submitting at all time to His will. Paying a fine under pressure, does not bring either merit or goodness. That alone is a good deed, O Nanak, which is done by one’s own free will. Sewa has to be done selflessly.
¤ Divinity Within
He stressed the importance of the physical body as an instrument of spiritual development. He told his followers that there was a spark of divinity in every human being. The body is the temple of God as it houses the soul. God’s presence can be felt by deeper contemplation and reflection within.
“Twenty-four hours a day one looks for contentment in eight different directions but one must also explore the ninth place, which is to their own body and contemplate within. Within the body are the nine treasures of the Name of the Lord—seek the depths of these virtues. Those blessed with the karma of good actions praise the Lord and become true devotees” – Guru Angad Dev
“Those who are blessed with the glorious greatness of Your Name — their minds are imbued with Your Love. O Nanak, there is only One Ambrosial Nectar; there is no other nectar at all. O Nanak, the Ambrosial Nectar is obtained within the mind, by Guru’s Grace.”
¤ Life of Action
He held firmly that physical austerity was not necessary and that spiritual development was not dependent on ritual and external wanderings. “austerity and everything come through immersing oneself in the meditation of the Lord’s Name. All other actions are useless. O Nanak, believe in the One who is worth believing in. By Guru’s Grace, he is realized.”
Guru Angad was at once a spiritual teacher and a man of action. To Guru Angad, religion was not only a spiritual experience but a way of life. Every action must have an impact of spirituality, humility and love. This can be achieved if one is always conscious of the presence of God. Guru Angad insisted that there should be harmony between thought and action and purity in life. “Doing some thing unwillingly or doing under pressure from someone, does not bring either merit or goodness. That alone is a good deed, O Nanak, which is done by one’s own free will.”
Whilst carrying out his mission he made use of two qualities of which he has become a ‘Model’ to all the Sikhs. He taught them self-less service and showed them the way to devotional prayers. Guru Angad Dev Ji is synonymous with ‘Nishkaam Sewa and Bhagati’.