by Kristen Meiser — February 09, 2021
"Eliminate your conceit and then perform service to humanity, only then you will be get honor." - Guru Angad
As Guru Nanak neared the end of his life, he announced Guru Angad as his successor, chosen for his loyal faith and strong work ethic. Guru Nanak bestowed him the name Angad, meaning “limb” of Guru Nanak. Guru Angad lived up to the title, growing Guru Nanak’s teachings and practices, further formalizing the faith, and helping create the great Sikh legacy.
Guru Angad is remembered for his many contributions to Sikhi including, ensuring equal opportunities for all, empowering women, instituting langar, and emphasizing the importance of physical fitness for all.
In Guru Angad’s time, the caste system was maintained, in part, by keeping certain members of the population uneducated and disenfranchised. Guru Angad fought this by opening schools and formalizing the Gurmukhi language.
In the past, politicians and religious establishments could dictate the lives of lower caste members. With schools and a common language everyone could take control of their own lives and goals. Thus, the creation of Gurmukhi was a huge step forward in establishing equal opportunities for everyone. It also enabled Guru Angad to document the life of Guru Nanak so his teachings could be shared and understood by everyone.
Guru Angad emphasized the importance of women throughout his teaching. He preached that men and women were equal and gave women religious rights and a seat side-by-side with men.
Moreover, he showed the dignity and equality of women through his relationship with his wife, Mata Khivi. Guru Angad was rarely seen working without his wife, and she beautifully lived out his teachings with her actions. Mata Khivi pioneered women's empowerment within Sikhi by establishing roles for women in leadership.
She also instituted langar. When people would come to visit Guru Angad, she would feed them regardless of their caste, religion, gender, or race. This embodied Guru Angad’s teachings, and the principle behind langar, that every person deserves respect and kindness simply because they are human.
Mata Khivi was able to show the teachings of Guru Angad through her skillful and selfless service and her love for every person she encountered. She was the perfect example of a strong, empowered woman for future Sikh women to emulate.
Guru Angad and Mata Khivi, both recognized the importance of feeding everyone and made langar a formal part of Sikh tradition. They trained the sevadars (volunteers) to make each community kitchen a place of refuge where everyone is treated with respect and dignity.
Mata Khivi personally worked in the kitchens, serving food to anyone who came. Guru Angad made and sold cots, and donated all his earnings to the community fund. Together they showed the two ways Sikhs can engage in Langar (serving in the kitchen and donating your earnings).
Guru Angad believed that a sound mind could only thrive in a sound body. He encouraged everyone to lead healthy lifestyles that included avoiding toxic substances and engaging in physical fitness. He suggested exercising every day after morning prayers.
He also established Mall Akharas (wrestling arenas) where martial arts, wrestling, and other exercises were taught. This served the dual purpose of keeping people fit and removing the caste system tradition where lower caste members could not touch higher caste members.
Guru Angad was a great successor to Guru Nanak and brought so much to the Sikh faith. Before he died he chose Guru Amar Das to become the third Sikh Guru.