Guru Angad Dev was the second of the ten Sikh Gurus. He began his spiritual journey as a devoted and sincere disciple of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder Prophet of Sikhism and the first Sikh Guru. He proved to be a very loyal disciple and sincerely acted upon every command of the guru with unwavering faith. He also displayed great character and wisdom which endeared him to Guru Nanak who chose him as his successor rather than one of his sons. Guru Angad was born as the son of a prosperous Hindu trader and developed an early interest in God and spirituality. When he came to learn of Guru Nanak, he became his devotee and decided to spend the rest of his life in the guru’s service. Following Guru Nanak’s advice, he traveled to different places to spread the guru’s teachings and distribute alms to the poor. On becoming the guru following Guru Nanak’s death, he continued the legacy of the first Sikh guru and followed an austere life dedicated to the well being of others. Guru Angad Dev is credited to have popularized the modern version of the Gurmukhi script which became the medium of writing the Punjabi language.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born as Lehna on 31 March 1504, in Matte Di Sarai, Muktsar, Punjab, India, into a wealthy Hindu family. His father Pheru Mal was a prosperous trader and his mother’s name was Mata Ramo. Eventually his family moved to Khadur.
He became interested in God and spirituality at a young age and grew up to be an ardent devotee of the Hindu goddess Durga. Every year he led groups of pilgrims to visit the temple of Durga at Jwalamukhi for praying and dancing.
He once heard the recitation of a hymn of Guru Nanak from Bhai Jodha a neighbor who was a follower of the guru and was immediately captivated by it. While on his annual pilgrimage to Jawalamukhi Temple he asked his group if they would mind going to see the guru. The group objected and being their leader, he obliged to their decision.
However, the hymns of Guru Nanak never left his mind. So overtaken was he by his desire to meet the guru that he mounted a horse and left for the guru’s village one night. Upon meeting Guru Nanak he was overcome by the Sikh leader’s humility and simplicity, and decided to become his disciple immediately.
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Lehna renounced all his former religious practices and became completely devoted to the guru. Guru Nanak told Lehna to return to Khadur and spread the teachings of Sikhism. Lehna followed the guru’s instructions and returned.
He spent considerable time preaching the teachings of Sikhism to the people. He wholeheartedly served the people and distributed food to the poor daily. However, he was so consumed by the thoughts of his guru that he longed to go back to him.
Lehna came back to the service of Guru Nanak. He served him wholeheartedly and displayed unfailing devotion towards him. Guru Nanak tested his devotion and loyalty many times, and each time Lehna followed the guru’s orders with utmost loyalty.
Legends in the Sikh tradition state that when Guru Nanak was looking for his successor, he gave some tests to both of his sons and Lehna. While the sons refused to follow the guru’s orders, Lehna obediently complied with them. Thus Guru Nanak was prompted to choose Lehna as his successor instead of either of his sons.
Guru Nanak touched Lehna and renamed him Angad (part of the body) or the second Nanak on 7 September 1539. By this time Lehna had spent six or seven years in the service of Guru Nanak at Kartarpur.
Guru Nanak left for his heavenly abode on 22 September 1539. Guru Angad carried forward his legacy and continued to spread the teachings of Sikhism. Like his predecessor, Guru Angad too followed a simple lifestyle and laid much emphasis on the value of physical labour.
He earned his own living by twisting coarse grass into strings used for cots to demonstrate that physical labour is honorable and desirable. He travelled widely, preaching the teachings of Sikhism and also established several new centers of learning.
He loved children and cared greatly about their education. For this purpose he opened many schools. He felt it was better for the children to receive education in their own mother tongue. Thus, he popularized the use of Gurmukhi script for education; the script is now most commonly used for writing the Punjabi language.
He was a prolific writer who wrote the first biography of Guru Nanak after collecting the facts about Guru Nanak's life from Bhai Bala. In addition he composed 63 Saloks (stanzas), which are included in the Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Angad Dev is best remembered for popularizing the use of Gurmukhi script which became the medium of writing the Punjabi language in which the hymns of the gurus are expressed. Initially the Punjabi language was written in the Landa or Mahajani script but these scripts were not suitable for the gurus’ hymns as there was a risk of incorrectly deciphering the writing. The development of the Gurmukhi script helped to express the true meaning of the gurus’ teachings without any misunderstanding.
Personal Life & Legacy
Guru Angad married Mata Khivi in January 1520. The couple had four children: two sons and two daughters. His wife was a very pious woman who personally worked in the community kitchen and served food to the visitors and followers.
Before dying, Guru Angad Dev appointed his sincere disciple Amar Das as his successor. Guru Angad died on 28 March 1552 at the age of 47.