Early one morning accompanied by Mardana, Guru Nanak went to the river Bain for his bath. After plunging into the river, Guru Nanak did not surface and it was reported that he must have drowned. The villagers searched everywhere, but there was no trace of him. Guru Nanak was in Holy Communion with God. The Lord God revealed himself to Guru Nanak and enlightened him.
After three days Guru Nanak appeared at the same spot from where he had disappeared. He was no longer the same person he had been, there was a divine light in his eyes and his face was resplendent. He remained in a trance and said nothing. He gave up his job and distributed all of his belongings to the poor. When he finally broke his silence he uttered "There is neither a Hindu, nor a Muslim: only man".
Guru Nanak was thirty years old at this time in 1499. The next stage of his life began with extensive travels to spread the message of God. Accompanied by Mardana, Guru Nanak undertook long journeys to convey his message to the people in the form of musical hymns. He chose this medium to propagate his message because it was easily understood by the population of the time. Wherever he travelled he used the local language to convey his message to the people. He travelled throughout the Indian subcontinent and further east, west and north to spread his mission. Wherever he went he set up local cells called manjis, where his followers could gather to recite hymns and meditate.
His first long journey over, Guru Nanak returned home after twelve years of propagating his message. He then set out on a second journey travelling as far south as Sri Lanka. On his return north he founded a settlement known as Kartharpur (the Abode of God) on the western banks of the river Ravi. It was here that Guru Nanak was to settle down in his old age.
On his third great journey Guru Nanak travelled as far north as Tibet. Wherever he travelled he always wore a combination of styles worn by Hindu and Muslim holy men and was always asked whether he was a Hindu or Muslim. On his return journey home he stopped at Saidpur in western Punjab during the invasion of the first Mughal Emperor Babar. On seeing the extent of the massacre by the invaders, Mardana asked Guru Nanak why so many innocent people were put to death along with those few who were guilty. Guru Nanak told Mardana to wait under a banyan tree and that he would return in a while to answer his question. While sitting under the tree Mardana was suddenly bitten by an ant. In anger Mardana killed as many ants as he could with his feet. Guru Nanak said to him, "You know now Mardana, why do the innocents suffer along with the guilty?"
After having spent a lifetime of travelling abroad and setting up missions, an aged Guru Nanak returned home to Punjab. He settled down at Kartharpur with his wife and sons. Here his followers would gather in the mornings and afternoons for religious services. He believed in a casteless society without any distinctions based on birthright, religion or sex. He institutionalized the common kitchen called langar in Sikhism. Here all can sit together and share a common meal, whether they were kings or beggars.
Feeling his end was near, the Hindus said they would cremate him, the Muslims said they would bury him. Guru Nanak resolved by saying: "You place flowers on either side, Hindus on my right, Muslims on my left. Those whose flowers remain fresh tomorrow will have their way." He then asked them to pray and lay down covering himself with a sheet. Thus on September 22, 1539 in the early hours of the morning Guru Nanak merged with the eternal light of the Creator. When the followers lifted the sheet they found nothing except the flowers which were all fresh. The Hindus took theirs and cremated them, while the Muslims took their flowers and buried them.