In 1539, Guru Nanak Dev hinted to his followers that the mantle of Guru would now be passed on. A change of leadership is always an important time in the life of an organization, because it gives an insight into future directions.
The Guru’s family favoured his sons, but he chose to test for a successor. The event finds mention in the Guru Granth Sahib, through the hymns of poets Balwand and Sata. The Guru throws a pitcher into a muddy pool, and call for its retrieval. Again, he asks for a wall to be built, and then strikes it down, asking for it to be built again.
The Guru gave the True Command; why should we hesitate to proclaim this?
They did not obey His Word; they turned their backs on Him as Guru.
Bhai Lehna, a loyal devotee, was however ever-willing to serve as directed. When others commented on Lehna’s spoilt clothes, the Guru called it “the saffron of His court”. Guru Nanak then picked up a stick and threatened to hit all those who did not leave. All did, save Lehna. The Guru asked why he had not left, and Lehna said, “My Teacher, they have somewhere to go, I have nobody but you.” A few days before he left his body, Guru Nanak appointed Bhai Lehna as the next Teacher, on 2nd September 1539, renaming him as Guru Angad.
Guru Angad Dev earned his living by twisting coarse grass into rope, all offerings went into a common fund for running a community kitchen, and the congregation sat together to partake of the same food. He thus demonstrated dignity and importance of honest labour, and the oneness of all beings. Guru Nanak Dev had passed on the mantle to a befitting leader.
The scriptures illustrate the importance of a leader’s own conduct, but also on the importance of selection of future leaders.