Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539) is the first of the 10 Gurus and Founder of the Sikh faith. At the age of 30, Guru Nanak left home to travel and spread his message of Ik Onkar or One God and took upon himself to enlighten people of the word of the real God. He traveled widely within India and to distant countries, covering a distance of 28,000 km spread over five journeys or Udasis.
Bhai Mardana, Guru Nanak’s Muslim childhood friend, accompanied Guru Nanak in all his journeys, playing the Rebab, a musical string instrument.
In all places and along the journey, Guru Nanak would enlighten people through his divine Shabads (Hymns) the existence of Ik Onkar or One God, and to give up existing superstitions and futile rituals in their pursuit for salvation. Well-read in several religious scriptures, the Guru would engage in healthy debates with priests and religious scholars as he went along, winning them over with logic.
Guru Nanak Ji’s First Udasi was from 1500 to 1506 when he visited places in the north including present Pakistan, Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar , Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Bangladesh, West Bengal, and Orissa.
Guru Nanak’s Second Udasiwas from 1506 to 1513 at the age of 37 years when he traveled through the southern parts of India including present Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Sri Lanka.
In circa 1507, Guru Nanak’s entourage is believed to have visited the Nilgiri hills from Palghat. Though the saint was known to speak several languages, it is doubtful if was familiar with the hill languages. However, as the first written record of Nilgiris in 1602 states some of the hill tribes were proficient in Kannada and Malayalam by virtue of their trade with the plains people in Kerala and Karnataka. Guru Nanak Ji could have used these people as interpreters. In any case, the Nilgiris hills were sanctified by his presence.
Nilgiri Documentation Centre