Sikhism was founded by the Sikh gurus and is considered as a “Sant Mat” or a religion of saints. There were 10 living gurus in all and the eleventh, eternal guru, is the integrated holy book known as Adi Granth. The founding guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, was born in the year 1469 in a village called Talwandi. All the subsequent gurus were said to carry the spirit and the message of Guru Nanak and, therefore, known as Nanaks too. In order of succession, the 10 enlightened souls were:
1. Guru Nanak Dev.
2. Guru Angad Dev.
3. Guru Amar Das.
4. Guru Ram Das.
5. Guru Arjan Dev.
6. Guru Har Gobind.
7. Guru Har Rai.
8. Guru Har Krishan.
9. Guru Tegh Bahadur.
10. Guru Gobind Singh.
11. Guru Guru Granth Sahib or Adi Granth.
In 1708, the last guru was declared the guru for all times to come. The main purpose of all the Sikh gurus was emancipation of the masses. They have left behind a rich treasure of moral and spiritual teachings in an integrated holy book which is considered fit for a universal religion. The Sikh gurus edified a way to live amicably and spiritually and stressed on honour, brotherhood of mankind, dignity, and freedom. Each of the 10 gurus in human form reinforced the teachings of the previous guru while adding to them. The last guru, Guru Granth Sahib, is not merely a holy scripture for the Sikhs; it is a much respected spirit, equivalent to a guru in human form.
The Sikh gurus taught the people how to live, recorded their principles in the form of hymns or “Shabdas” contained within their holy text. The oneness of the Supreme Being was reiterated by each prophet together with the importance of simplicity, honesty, and decency in earthly life. They were all against superstitions, elaborate rituals, idol worship, hypocrisy, untouchability, and bigotry. Gurmukhi, or the Punjabi script was invented by Guru Angad Dev.
Each of the 10 Sikh gurus made an impact on the way people lived; tried to eradicate social inequality, and spread the message of simple living and high thinking. Sati and the purdah systems were abolished and the status of women improved. Guru ka langar or communal eating, started by Guru Nanak, was given a leg up. Guru Arjan Dev completed the construction of the Golden Temple at Amritsar and compiled the Adi Granth. All the gurus were messengers of God come to the earth to free human souls from earthly bondage.