In the Sikh system, the word "Guru" is used only for the ten spiritual prophets-Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh. Now this office of Guru is fulfilled by the 'Guru Granth', the sacred book, which was so apotheosized by the last Guru. For Sikhs, Guru is the holy teacher, the prophet under direct commission from god.
Guru Nanak's successor was chosen from amongst the disciples. Guru Nanak bypassed his own son in his favour and he made him more than his successor. He transferred his own light to him. Guru Nanak called him "Angad", a limb of his own body or part of himself. Angad became Nanak himself , Nanak-II (1504-52). He lived at Khadur, in Amritsar, which became the new centre of the Sikh faith.
Guru Amar Das (1479-1574) who inherited Guru Angad's light, shifted to Govindval which became the third seat of Sikhism. He created a well-knit ecclesiastical system and set up twenty-two manjis, dioceses, several of them headed by women. He campaigned against the customs of purdah and sati. In this way, the Sikh faith began developing features of a distinct social groups.
Guru Ram Das (1534-81), Nanak IV. purchased in 1577 from the farmers of the village of Tung, a site, forty kilometers north-west of Govindval. This was the origin of the city of Amritsar capital of Punjab.
Under Guru Arjun (1563-1606) the fifth Guru, Sikhism was more firmly established. Its religious and social ideals received telling affirmation in practice. In 1589, Guru Arjun constructed in the middle of the pool at Amritsar a temple, the Hari mandir or Golden Temple of modern day. He also founded three other towns-Tarn Taran ; Hargovindapur, and Kartarpur-which are held sacred by the Sikhs to this day. The next task undertaken by Guru Arjun was the codification of the composition of the Gurus into an authorized version. This became the scripture of the Sikhs. It is known as 'Adi Granth' ("The first book") or 'Granth Sahib' ("Book of the lord"). This book was installed on August 16,1604, in the centre of the inner Sanctuary of the Harimandir. The Harimandir and the Granth Sahib were two concrete statements of the crystallizing Sikh faith. The former provided a central place of worship and the latter became a key factor in the organization of the community.
Guru Arujn's death (May 30,1606) by torture, under Emperor Jahangir's orders, gave a martial turn to the history of Sikhism. Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind, wove a warriors equipment for the ceremonies of succession. He put on two swords, one as the symbol of his spiritual and the other that of his temporal investiture emphasizing once again how in Sikhism the worldly and the other-world were not disjointed. Guru Har Rai (1630-61)and Guru Har Krishan (1666-64), following Guru Hargobind, carried out their successive ministries from Kiratpur, in the Sivaliks. They kept the same style Guru Hargobind had introduced. Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-75), the Ninth Guru laid down his life to defend the people's right to their religious belief. Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom imparted a new fillip to Sikh history. His son, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), the last of the Sikh Gurus, transformed the pacifist Sikh sect into a martial community. He introduced rites of initiation into well-organised Sikh army known as the Khalsa. The five Sikhs who offered their heads at Guru Gobind Singh's call were initiated as the first five members of the Khalsa, god's elect. They were each given surname of Singh, meaning lion and always had to wear the five emblems of Khalsa-Kesa (unshorn hair), Kangha ( a comb in the Kesa to keep them tidy as against the recluses who kept them matted in token of their having renounced the world), Kara (a steel bracelet), Kachh (short breeches) and Kirpan ( a sword). Govind Singh also decided to terminate the succession of gurus. He asked his followers to look upon the 'Granth Sahib' as the sole object of veneration. The holy book became the symbol of god.
Within half century of Guru Gobind Singh's passing away, (1708 AD), it had turned into a political force. Yet they remained firm in their faith.
Sikhism thus owns ten Gurus, they shared the same light and revealed the same truth. The image in the Sikh tradition describes it as one flame being lit from the other. This phenomenon of ten Guru's or teachers of equality is peculiar to Sikhism.