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Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh tradition, was one of several important religious figures in medieval North India. His ideas are seen to have emerged from a creative interaction between indigenous Hindu beliefs and those that came with Islam to the Indian subcontinent beginning in 1000 CE. Unlike other contemporary figures, however, Guru Nanak established a community of followers (Sikhs) whose lives were centered on his spiritual ideals. By the closing decades of the 16th century, the Sikhs created detailed narratives of his life and mission, and it is not hard to reconstruct his life as the community remembers it.

Guru Nanak was born into an educated, landowning, influential Hindu family that lived in Talwandi (Punjab), a village established by an upper-caste Hindu convert to ...

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