Origins and Development
Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak in Punjab (Panjab), India, in the late fifteenth century. An adherent of the faith is called a Sikh, which means “follower” in Sanskrit. There are roughly 19 million Sikhs, the majority in Punjab in the northwestern part of India. About 2 million have emigrated to live and work in the United States, Europe, or in parts of what used to be the British colonies.
Sikhism is a young religion; it is also a monotheistic one. Sikhs believe in one God called Waheguru (great teacher). Scholars think Sikhism evolved as a Hindu reform movement or as a mixture of Hinduism and Islam. The Sikhs reject that theory and claim their religion grew out of the divine inspiration of Guru Nanak and the nine gurus who came after him.
Nevertheless, Nanak was born a Hindu in Punjab in 1469. Just as many predicted that Siddhartha Gautama would become a Buddha, so did people predict that Nanak would praise God and teach many others to do the same. As a youth, he worked for a local Muslim politician, and it's recorded that he impressed everyone with his wisdom and learning. He was part of a group that would sit by the side of a river to pray and discuss religion. He meditated frequently and discussed religious notions with Hindus and Muslims. In time, he formed a group of friends, united by their spiritual concerns, who would gather along a river to pray and worship together.
There are stories told about Nanak's childhood and his amazing abilities. At school, he was taught the classical lessons in addition to Persian and Arabic languages and Muslim literature. His teacher realized he had reached the point where there wasn't any more he could teach him; he was learning from Nanak.
At one point he was absent from this routine for three days. When he came back, he didn't speak for a day. When he did, he said, “There is neither Hindu nor Muslim, so whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God's path. God is neither Hindu nor Muslim and the path I follow is God's.” There are other reports on what Nanak might have said, but the essence of having received enlightenment seems to be reliable.
After his revelation in his late twenties, he left his wife and two sons to travel in search of truth and wisdom. After about twenty years, he acquired farmland and settled in central Punjab, where he founded the town of Kartarpur and became Guru Nanak. The Sikh religion was born and Nanak was its first guru.