The great Guru Angad Dev was born at Harike in Ferozepur district, Punjab on March 31st of the year 1504 (Vaisakh Vadi 1st, Samvat 1561). His father was Bhai Pheru Mall; his mother was Mata Ramo ji. Guru Angad Dev grew up at his grandfather’s ancestral house at Matte-di-Sarai near Mukatsar. However, when he was young his father, along with his family, was compelled to leave Matte-di-Sarai because of Mughal and Baloch invasions. Later, the family resettled at Khadur Sahib, which is situated beside the River Beas.
Guru Angad Dev started following the footsteps of his mother, Mata Ramo ji, and became an ardent devotee of goddess Durga since a very young age. Every year, he used to lead a group of worshipers to Jawalamukhi Temple.
Conversion and Succession
The earlier name of Guru Angad Dev was Bhai Lehna ji. Once Lehna ji, while on his way to pilgrimage of goddess Durga, overheard a heartwarming hymn which was originally composed by the first Sikh Guru Nanak Dev. This compelled him to meet Guru Nanak. Upon meeting him, Lehna underwent an instant conversion to Sikhism. After Guru Nanak became assured of Lehna’s dedication, he bestowed upon him the stature of the second Sikh Guru and renamed him as Guru Angad Dev (meaning ‘Part of the Original’).
Poet, Philosopher and Family Man
In January 1520, Guru Angad Dev got married to Mata Khivi ji. They had four children. Bhai Dasu and Bhai Datu were their two sons while their daughters were named Bibi Amro and Bibi Anokhi. He highly encouraged the spirit of education amongst his children.
As the second Sikh Guru, he promoted the following regimes –
- Daily routine of early morning worship, including bathing, meditating, singing bhakti hymns especially Asa di Var, and studying the knowledge imparted by Guru Nanak Dev.
- As one of the pioneers of Sikhism, he amended the Gurumukhi script. He added meaningful and rhythmic vowels for the script’s easy reading techniques.
- He authored 63 slokas, which were later incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib.
- Under the auspices of Guru Angad Dev, the ‘Guru ka Langar’ system, initiated by Guru Nanak Dev, flourished in major Guru Dwaras as an established institution.
Other Contributions to Sikhism
Guru Angad Dev led an extreme selfless life and contributed all his earnings to ‘Guru ka Langar’. He was a renowned compassionate healer and he attended to many physical, mental and spiritual sufferers. Throughout his lifetime, he promoted the art of physical fitness through wrestling. He was assisted by his wife, Mata Khivi ji, in all his humanitarian activities. After a long time quest, Guru Angad Dev nominated Guru Amar Das as his successor and as third Sikh Guru.
The teachings disseminated by Guru Angad Dev promoted the following points –
- Surrendering oneself to the ‘Will of God’;
- Rendering Selfless service to humanity, i.e. Nishkam Sewa;
- Condemning hypocrisy and immodesty;
- Validating the Gurumukhi script as perfected by him.
Invention of Gurmukhi
Under the aegis of Guru Angad Dev, the Gurumukhi script was given a new meaning and impact. It was restructured with an aim of making it simpler for the common man to learn and write. This gave a complete new dimension to the Punjabi language and literature. Under this language reformation, the Sikh community set itself free from the intricacies of the age-old Sanskrit religious traditions. During those times, the Sanskrit language was read, written and used only by the upper-class Brahmins as it was the language of the Vedas, the ancient most scripture of the Hindus. Gurumukhi script gave birth to the unprejudiced literature to be used by the whole Sikh community. This gave a new identity to Sikh literature and enabled Sikhs to express their thoughts without any cultural or religious hindrances.
Earlier, the Punjabi language was written either in Maharaja or Linda script without any vowel sounds. In order to decipher the written material, there was no concrete grammatical base. Guru Angad Dev felt the necessity for preserving the authenticity of the doctrine of Sikh religious scripts. Therefore, he devised the Gurumukhi script so that the true meaning or message of Sikh literature could not be altered or misconstrued by readers as per their own prejudice.
Along with rewriting Guru Nanak’s hymns in the new Gurumukhi script, Guru Angad Dev also finished writing the official autobiography of Guru Nanak in the year 1544.
Nanak, hurl into the flames
All the honours of the world.
Ever have these wicked things
Made men ignore Holy Word.
But let them remember that
None of these will go with them
On the other side of death.
Why refer to them as blind
Whom God dispossessed of sight?
He who can’t sense holy will
o Nanak, he’s blind indeed.
Every pauper does pretend
To be a potentate today
Every nitwit professes
To be an erudite man.
One who is bereft of sight
Would be judge of precious stones,
That’s the latest style of
Talking in fantastic terms.
One who’s rotten to the core
Parades himself as a saint.
One who ever tells untruth
Is adjudged as perfect man.
That’s the way of iron age.
But Nanak despair not
Even now the Guru can
Teach you how to pick and choose
Men who are up to the mark.
Vedic pundits have doled out to us
Mythological lore and have expressed
Precepts of virtue. sin and requital
For we reap the fruit of what we have sown
And presents we get we are to repay.
Thus we are reborn in heaven or hell
Conforming to our deeds in former lives.
‘Tis said men are born in high caste or low
Yet the world’s amazed at this distinction.
But the Perfect Guru’s nectarine Word
Expresses what is real in this world,
Carries to us lore of the Holy One
And arouses urge for contemplation.
Saints say all this for they see and know
They who have acquired lore of the Divine
Mediate on its light day and night.
God fashioned the world for He decreed so
And by His will He guides and governs it
And He oversees all the things He made.
Nanak, if ere death man sheds his ego
He shall win the praise of the Lord Himself.
He who terrifies none
Nor himself dreads anyone
Says N anak: let such a man
Be counted among the wise.
He who’s not dampened by woe
Nor excited by delight
He who keeps away from greed,
Power, avarice and pride
So says Nanak: such a man
Is the replica of God?
If his heart abounds in urges galore,
If glamour and greed still beguile him
There’s an art that yogi failed to learn
Art of living is that art, to be sure.
True Yogi ignores world’s tricky praise
Nor is he perturbed by its duping charge.
He chooses to live where low-priced steel
And the gleaming gold are valued alike.
He is untouched by good luck or ill fate.
Joy elates him not, grief doesn’t unhinge
Footloose mind strays in all directions
Aimlessly, without any goal in view.
One. must learn to check and administer it.
Says Nanak: He who tames the mind is
Truly liberated and a real saint.
Guru Angad Dev ji’s Message
Guru Angad Dev highly promoted egalitarianism in his teachings and way of life. He envisioned social equality and classlessness deeply imbibed in the future society. Also, he practiced selflessness and human equality by organizing community kitchen where people of all caste and creed used to sit together in a row for having the food.
In the word of Guru Angad, “He Himself creates, O Nanak; He establishes the various creatures. How can anyone be called bad? There is One Lord and Master of all; He watches over all, and assigns all to their tasks. Some have less, and some have more; no one is allowed to leave empty.”
Besides, the guru said that if God is one and the same for all, it should be sought in a uniform manner by all. He organized many Satsangs i.e. sacred congregation where people from all ways of life used to gather for listening to their Master’s singing of hymns; and for getting inspiration to lead a noble and pious life.
Devotion and Love towards God
As per the wisdom of Guru Angad Dev, the purpose of one’s life revolves around –
- Seeking the God,
- Finding Him and
- Getting united with Him
He enlightened his disciples and described God as the Creator who is Omniscience, Omnipotent and Omnipresence. One shall thus do away with all the superfluous and superstitious rituals and attain self-realization through true devotion towards God.
The guru described worldly attachment and greed as two major hindrances in the path of spiritual upliftment and self-realization. Inner development is what everybody should focus on in order to attain God.
Quotes in the word of Guru Angad Dev are as follows –
- “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”
- “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.”
Guru Angad Dev greatly supported the lower section of the society which had been facing various social and economical atrocities during those times, as a major chunk of the state riches and treasury were held by few countable elites in the society. The guru encouraged the poor and the deprived to lead a fearless and dignified life. He condemned the division of society and extolled the dignity of labor. He slowly parted himself from elite class to align himself completely with the working class people.
Fearlessness is one of the important steps in the path of God, said the guru. To further quote him, “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.”
Company of the Holy
Guru Angad corroborates, “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 Dev strongly believed living a selfless life and a life devoted in the service of mankind. He emphasized in character building through devotion of one God, rather than fulfilling baseless rituals and formalities. Divine prayers and hymns, sung in praise of God, help in submitting one’s true-self to the God’s will. The guru also said, “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.”
Eliminate your conceit and then perform service to humanity, only then you will be get honor – Guru Angad Dev
The guru also focused on gravity of the physical body which is instrumental in the path of spiritual development. The body is a temple which houses the God in its soul. Every individual possesses the spark if divinity and with deeper reflection one progresses towards achieving God.
“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.” – Guru Angad Dev
Life of Action
Physical austerity was of very less importance to the guru. He also set forth that spiritual development is independent of age-old rituals and external wanderings. He said, “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.”
One should be fully aware of the presence of God all the time, said the guru. He further divulged the following points –
- “Doing something 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.”
- “Mortals are known by their actions; this is the way it has to be. They should show goodness, and not be deformed by their actions; this is how they are called beautiful. Whatever they desire, they shall receive; O Nanak, they become the very image of God.”
- “O Nanak, the worldly achievements and glory is worthy of being burnt in the fire if it causes one to forget God. Usually these worldly things have caused mortals to forget the Name of the Lord. Not even one of them will go along with you in the end.”
Jyoti Joht and successor
Following the footsteps of Guru Nanak, Guru Angad Dev appointed Guru Amar Das as his immediate successor. Guru Amar Das thus became the third Nanak of the Sikhs and Guru Angad passed on all the sacred spiritual scripts to him just before his death.
Guru Angad Dev left his body on March 29th, 1552, at the age of 48 years. From age 35 for 13 (1539 to 1552) years, he successfully carried on his Guruship. His Gurbani comprises of of 63 Shabads and Saloks.
During that time, he was in the process of building a new town at Goindwal near Khadur Sahib. He also handed over this responsibility to Guru Amar Das. It is said that the evicted Mugal Emperor and Babur’s son Humayun once visited Guru Angad Dev to seek his blessings for his reinstatement in the court of Delhi.