Evolution of the Sikh Panth

Doctrines There is no divergence in belief between the Gurus but there is significant development. Guru Amar Das emphasised the belief that every cosmic age (yuga) has its corresponding and appropriate religious practice or faith (dharma). There are four ages that progressively degenerate, we are in the fourth and most degenerate age (kaliyuga). The appropriate religious practice for this age is the remembrance and meditation upon the divine Name (nam). There is no guru but the True Guru (satiguru) who can manifest in any form. So the living Guru can manifest the satiguru as can the Word (shabad) of their hymns. Guru Amar Das, following Guru Nanak's belief that there is One Nondual Reality/Being, saw God Himself as both Guru and disciple (chela). Guru Ram Das emphasised this further by writing that the Guru is the father, the mother, the brother, sister, friend and relation. Arjan reaffirmed this too (Adi Granth, p.103). Thus the revealed sabad of the satiguru is not only bound to the living Guru or scripture. The collective body of the Sikhs (sangat) are believed to be favoured by God. Arjan's emphasis lay on the Guru as the true King, the centre of a true social organisation. Arjan also expounds much more strongly the belief in the true/saintly assembly (sat/sadh sangat).(See Foundation and Transformation of the Sikh Panth entries).

History Guru Angad (1504-52) after his conversion became a Sikh (disciple, learner) and served Nanak as though he were part of Nanak's own body (ang means limb). He married Khivi and had three children. He is noted by tradition for his unquestioning obedience to the Guru's Will. Under Angad the Panth grew and before he died he appointed Amar Das as his successor.
Guru Amar Das (1479-1754) became a Sikh after hearing Angad's daughter singing Nanak's religious hymns which so captivated him at the age of seventy three. He was also married and had two sons and two daughters. Amar Das was sent to the village of Goindval to make this his base. The Panth was now large enough to justify Amar Das appointing manjis, which literally means 'string-bed' upon which devout Sikhs would sit above others who sat on the floor and preach to them the Sikh way of life. The Sikh Gurus insisted that we are all one caste before the Supreme Being. Therefore to banish the hypocrisy and social iniquities of the caste system, Amar Das instituted the free Kitchen and dining hall (langar). This allowed people of different caste and religious beliefs to eat together as equals. To keep the growing Panth together and focused, Amar Das designated two festival days (which Hindus already celebrated), collated and recorded many of the previous Gurus' hymns into four volumes (Goindval Pothis) and got a sacred well (baoli) dug as a Pilgrimage centre in Goindval. Before his death he appointed Ram Das.
Guru Ram Das (1534-81) excavated a large pool which eventually became the city of Amritsar ('pool of nectar'). The manjis of Amar Das were superseded by Ram Das' masands (representatives of the Guru in his absence). This brought greater organisation to the Panth, wherein offerings would be made to the Guru wherever Sikhs were via the Masands. Ram Das composed many hymns in praise of the divine Name, which were sung by the Panth. The tradition of singing these sacred hymns, initiated by Nanak, continues today. Ram Das appointed his youngest son Arjan to be his successor, leaving Mahadev and Prithi Chand (see entry on Minas) out. Hereafter, the remaining Sikh Gurus were all Guru Ram Das' male descendants.
Guru Arjan (1563-1606) continued the emphasis on scripture (like his father, Guru Ram Das), writing the greatest number of hymns of all the Gurus. The Minas (see separate entry) were distributing spurious hymns competing with those of the authentic hymns of the first four Gurus. Thus Arjan determined to create a definitive book (granth) containing all the authentic hymns of the Sikh Gurus and even including those of the renowned nirguni saints/sants. Bhai Gurdas worked as his scribe. The scripture was completed in 1604. The Sikh Panth now had a sacred scripture in written form, the Adi Granth. At this time the Sikh Panth had grown considerably and its presence and popularity throughout the Panjab was felt and feared by the Mughal ruler Jahangir, who declared that if the Guru would not accept Islam the Sikh Panth had to be extinguished. Arjan was captured and tortured in Lahore for not converting to Islam. He is remembered by tradition as the first Sikh Guru martyr who sacrificed his life but not his faith.
Up till now the Sikh Panth had been an exclusively religious sect, however with the martyrdom of Guru Arjan the need for socio-political freedom became ever more necessary. Before his death Arjan told his son and successor Hargobind to bear arms so that the tyranny of Mughal hostility would not obliterate the Sikh Panth.

Symbols (See Foundation of the Sikh Panth).

Adherents There are no official numbers for this time, (see note at the end of the Explanatory Introduction).

Main Centre
 Guru Amar Das shifted the centre from Kartarpur to Goindval. Guru Ram Das established Amritsar which Guru Arjan completed. This is the most important Sikh centre to date. All three villages have become major centres of Sikh activity today. Arjan founded Tarn Taran and Sri Hargobindpur in the Bari Doab and Kartarpur in the Bist Jalandhar Doab of the Panjab.