UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Sep 22

22 September 1539

Death of Guru Nanak

What happened?

On 22 September 1539, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism died aged 70 at Kartarpur in present-day Pakistan.


  • Guru Nanak was born on 15 April 1469 at Nankana Sahib, Punjab, Pakistan to a Hindu family. His father was a crop revenue accountant. Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary is celebrated as Guru Nanak Gurpurab by Sikhs all over the world.
  • Even though Guru Nanak worked as an accountant for a while, he was drawn towards spiritualism and showed a spiritual and intellectual side from a young age. According to Sikh traditions, there were events in his early life which distinguished him from others and confirmed that he was special.
  • He studied both Hinduism and Islam.
  • Guru Nanak introduced the concept of langar where everybody partakes of a meal as equals. This is a tradition continued by Sikhs till date in Gurudwaras. This practice symbolises charity and equality.
  • He travelled to many places like Mecca, Baghdad, Multan, etc.

Guru Nanak’s Teachings

  • There is only one god – a tenet that is stressed upon in the saying ‘Ik Onkar’. This is the phrase used in Sikhism to refer to the one Supreme Being that controls the universe.
  • Guru Nanak was against caste-based distinctions. He also denied the need for priests and rituals.
  • He said that he was not an incarnation of god or even a prophet, but that everyone could ‘speak’ to god directly. The concept of god is ‘Vahiguru’, an entity that is shapeless, timeless, omnipresent and invisible. Other names for God in the Sikh faith are Akaal Purkh and Nirankar.
  • He laid great stress on purity of character and actions.
  • Sikhism also lays a lot of importance to charity and selfless service.
  • Many concepts of Hinduism are also seen in Sikhism such as the concept of Maya, Kali Yuga, Jivamukta (salvation), reincarnation and karma.
  • Many believe Sikhism to be a bridge between Hinduism and Islam.
  • Guru Nanak denounced idol worship and pilgrimages.

Sikh Gurus

  • After Guru Nanak’s death, the baton of the Guru passed on to Guru Angad.
  • There were 8 more Gurus in Sikhism.

Guru Nanak

Founder of Sikhism

Guru Angad

Started the Gurmukhi script. Visited by Humayun.

Guru Amardas

Institutionalised the faith. Picked the site for the Golden Temple, Amritsar.

Guru Arjan Dev

Compiled the Adi Granth (a.k.a Guru Granth Sahib). Executed by Jahangir.

Guru Hargobind

Introduced the Akal Takht (seat of power).

Guru Har Rai

Supported Dara Shikoh against Aurangzeb.

Guru Har Kishan

Was the Guru from age 5 till his death before reaching 8 years.

Guru Tegh Bahadur

Was publicly beheaded by Aurangzeb for refusing to convert to Islam in 1675.

Guru Gobind Singh

Established the Khalsa in 1699 and organised the Sikhs into a martial sect.


Guru Granth Sahib

  • This is the central scripture of Sikhism and it is revered as the 11th Guru by Sikhs.
  • It was chiefly composed by Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan, and Guru Teg Bahadur.
  • Guru Nanak contributed 974 poetic hymns to the Guru Granth Sahib.
  • It also contains teachings of Bhakti saints like Kabir, Ramananda, Namdev and a Sufi saint Sheikh Farid.
  • The book is written in the Gurmukhi script in various languages like Lahnda (western Punjabi), Sanskrit, Sindhi, Persian, Braj Bhasha and Khariboli.


Also on this day 

1687: Aurangzeb conquered and ended the Golcondan Sultanate or the Qutb Shahi dynasty. 1908: Bulgaria declared independence from the Ottoman Empire. 1965: Ceasefire declared after the second Indo-Pakistan war. 1970: Death of renowned Bengali writer Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay. 1980: Iraq invaded Iran and a war followed that lasted almost 8 years. 1992: Indo-British Extradition Treaty was signed in London.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

Also read the biographies of:

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