Journey of Guru Nanak Ji


Journey of Guru Nanak Ji

Journey of Guru Nanak        

One of the most important aspects of his life, knowledge, learning and teachings are the journeys of Guru Nanak. Though he tried to achieve a balance between the life spent at home and the part spent elsewhere, he spent more years outside Talwandi (Nankana Sahib) or Kartarpur.

His journeys have two different and distinct phases: One that he undertook for his own living and domestic or social purposes and the other that he undertook for knowing the world or making the world know him. In those days, journeys were not as easy as they are today but they were purposeful and meaningful. Journeys today are cent per cent mechanical.


The journeys of yesteryears were meaningful, though tough and tiring. Guru Nanak embarked upon four different travels in 1499 (some claim his first journey began in 1505 AD), at the age of 30 when he was young and strong, and able to take the rough and tough roads, including varying climate and seasons, in his long and powerful stride. These four holy journeys are known as Udasis.

The First Udasi

The first holy journey was the longest one. He returned home after 12 years. On the way he visited Goindwal, Amritsar, Amenabad, Lahore and Sialkot. He went up to Jagannathpuri via Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat, Haridwar, Delhi, Mathura, Brindavan, Nanakmatta, Pilibhit, Ayodhya, Lucknow, Kashi, Patna, Gaya, Raj Mahal, Malda, Dacca, Dhampur, Kamrup, Dhubri, and Chittagong. He returned through the Vindhya region, Central India and Rajasthan.

During this long and tiring journey, he propagated his ideas and spoke before Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Muslims. He delivered his spiritual lectures in temples, mosques and at different pilgrim sites. He spoke about liberation and declared that God himself elects his devotees. He talked about transmigration of the soul and rebirth. He laid great stress on internal purity. He led his disciples directly to practise Simran and Nam Japna and asked them to recite God's name: Wahe Guru. He asked them to Kirat Karni, to honestly earn by one's physical and mental effort and suggested they share their wealth - distribution before consumption - known as Wand Kay Shako.

Guru Nanak stressed on equality of humans. He said, "See the brotherhood of all mankind as the highest order of yogis. Conquer your mind, and conquer the world." (SGGS 6)

He was more than just the founder of Sikhism. In fact, he aimed at the amalgamation of different religions. He told Muslims:

And when, 0 Nanak, he is merciful to all beings, only then shall he be called a Muslim.

(SGGS 141)

He exhorted Hindus:

O Nanak, without the True Name,

Of what use is the frontal mark of the Hindus

Or their sacred thread. (SGGS 467)

He challenged and rebuked both communities:

To take what rightfully belongs to another

Is like a Muslim eating pork,

Or a Hindu eating beef. (SGGS 141)

It was a great, fruitful and rewarding journey for common men, his disciples and the Guru himself.

The Second Udasi

His second journey was directed towards south. As usual accompanied by Mardana, Guru Nanak travelled as far as Ceylon. This journey was said to have been undertaken in 1506 AD, which does not tally with facts. It must have taken place at a later date.

Guru Nanak went to Ajmer and Pushkar via Sirsa and Bikaner, then to Abu, Ujjain, Bidar, Pongal, Madras (Chennai), Nagapattam and finally to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The return journey took him to Rameswaram via the Malabar coast, Sudampuri, Dwarka, Sindh and Montgomery. He returned to Lahore via Talwandi.

When he was returning, he founded a settlement for himself (to be used later in life) at Kartarpur (which means the abode of God) on the western bank of the river Ravi. On this journey his popular hymns were accepted by a wide range of devotees. He declared that none can know His signs and accepted that "God's greatness is infinite. Ages have elapsed in discussing the nature, greatness and origin of God ... Under the Guru's instruction God's word is heard, under the Guru's instruction his knowledge is acquired, under the Guru's instruction man learns that God is everywhere contained." He assured everyone that "They who worshipped Him have obtained honour."

By the time he completed his second journey, he was rich in experience and more confident of his goal of uniting communities.

The Third Udasi

In his third Udasi, Nanak travelled up to Tibet. In 1514, he went to Mansarovar and crossed over to Tibet. He travelled across the Kailash mountains and via Ladakh came to Kashmir. He also visited Riasi and Jammu.

Wherever Guru Nanak went he always wore a combination of robes and garments worn by Hindu and Muslim holy men. People usually asked whether he was a Hindu or a Muslim. His answer can be summed up in his statement to Sheikh Ibrahim, the successor of Baba Farid. Sheikh Ibrahim asked which of the two religions was the true way to attain God. Guru Nanak replied:

"If there is one God, then there is only His way to attain Him, not another. One must follow that way and reject the other. Worship not him who is born only to die, but Him who is eternal and contained in the whole universe."

The Fourth Udasi

For the fourth holy journey, Guru Nanak changed his outer appearance. He dressed up in the blue garb of a Muslim pilgrim. He undertook this journey in all probability between 1518 to 1522 AD. During this journey he visited Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, Damascus, Alleppa and Baghdad. He returned via Persia, Turkey, Kabul and Peshawar.

Two remarkable things happened in Mecca. One was his humble claim that God is everywhere. It happened when a man raised a hue and cry that Nanak's feet were towards Mecca. So he responded: "Good man, I am weary after a long journey. Kindly turn my feet in the direction where God is not."

Wherever one may be standing, there is no direction in which there are no holy places.

The second incident was a definite surprise for everyone. In Mecca, when pilgrims and holy men gathered around Guru Nanak and requested him to sing something, he sang in Persian. Before that there is no record that he ever sang in Persian.

The Final Udasi

After this, Guru Nanak once went to Delhi. In 1529, he visited Achala Batala and in 1530 he went to Haridwar. Between all these trips, he resided at Kartarpur. By then, he had already established 30 manjis for the propagation of his faith.

It was in 1531 that Guru Nanak took off Udasi clothes and settled down at Kartarpur. Hereafter, he undertook no more journeys. His worldly journeys were over; he now began preparations for his final journey which he undertook with celebrations on September 22, 1539 in the early hours of a New Dawn.

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