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Guru Nanak Dev

Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion, was born on April 15, 1469, in Talwandi village in west Punjab in an ordinary Hindu family. His father, Mehta Kalian Das, worked as an accountant for the local ruler, a Muslim. The boy Nanak therefore grew up with both Hindu and Muslim friends.

At the age of six Nanak was sent to the village schoolteacher to learn Hindi and arithmetic. Thereafter he studied Islamic literature, Persian, and Arabic.

There is the famous tale of how he refused to wear the customary Hindu sacred thread at the age of 13, arguing that he only wanted a thread that would never wear out, get soiled, burnt or lost.

At the age of 16 he was married to Sulakhani, a merchant's daughter. The couple had two sons, Sri Chand, who was born in 1494, and Lakshmi Chand, who was born three years later.

Guru Nanak had two primary disciples, Mardana, a Muslim, and Lehna, a Hindu. He toured various parts of the world, including Mecca and Medina, which he visited in the garb of a Muslim pilgrim.

He preached to his followers that there is no Hindu and no Mussalman.

In course of time he named Bhai Lehna his successor and christened him Guru Angad.

The story goes that when his end was near, Hindus and Muslims both wanted to perform the final rites. Guru Nanak told them: 'You place flowers on either side, Hindus on my right, Muslims on my left. Those whose flowers remain fresh tomorrow will have their way.'

He then asked them to pray and lay down covering himself with a sheet.

On September 22, 1539, Guru Nanak departed from this world. When his followers lifted the sheet they found nothing there except the flowers, which were all fresh. The Hindus took theirs and cremated them, while the Muslims took their flowers and buried them.

Guru Nanak's birthplace, which is now in Pakistan, is famous as Nankana Sahib and has become a place of pilgrimage for Sikhs.

Design: Rahil Shaikh

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