One of the most important and widely celebrated festivals in the Sikh community is the festival of Guru Nanak Jayanti. It is celebrated with a lot of fervor and excitement in many parts of India by Sikh and Punjabi communities alike.
As the name suggests, Guru Nanak Gurpurab celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who is the first Guru of the 10 Sikhs Gurus and the founder of Sikhism.
It is also known as Guru Nanak’s Parkash Utsav.
Shri Guru Nanak Dev is believed to be a Saint and a mystic. He has been a medium for the world, enlightening his followers with deep knowledge of spirituality, morality, humanity, devotion, and truth. This is why the auspicious festival is also called ‘Prakash Utsav’.
When Guru Nanak Jayanti Is Celebrated?
The Birthday of Guru Nanak Sahib falls on Kartik Puranmashi, the full moon day of the month Kartik in the Hindu calendar. For those who follow the Gregorian calendar, the festival falls in the month of October or November.
However, some scholars and organizations believe the Birthday should be celebrated on Vaisakhi, which falls on April 14 according to the original Nanakshahi Calendar passed by Sri Akal Takht in 2003.
However, many people and organizations would like to keep the traditional date by celebrating on the Full Moon Day (Pooranmashi or Purnima) of the Lunar Month Kartik. The original Nanakshahi Calendar follows the tradition and celebrates it on Kartik Purnima due to demands by various Sikh Saints.
Where It Is Celebrated?
While Guru Nanak Jayanti is a Sikh holiday, the festival is enjoyed by many demographic groups in India, including Hindus and secular people. Of course, it is a particularly major event in the Indian state of Punjab since Sikhs make up the majority of the population there.
Guru Nanak Jayanti is not only celebrated in India but is also celebrated with great enthusiasm in other countries including the UK, Canada, and America.
How Guru Nanak Jayanti Is Celebrated?
The celebrations for the Guru Nanak Jayanti festival are usually carried out for three consecutive days. Two days prior to his birthday, Akhand Path is held in all Gurudwaras – the holy place of worship for Sikhs.
It is a customary ritual in which devotees gather together and read the Guru Granth Sahib -the religious book for Sikhs continuously for forty-eight hours. Reciting of the hymns is finally stopped on the morning of the auspicious day.
The day before the festival, people organize a procession, which is led by the Panj Pyaras (a group of 5 Sikhs). Devotees carry the Sikh flag, known as the Nishan Sahib, and the Palanquin (Palki) of Shri Guru Granth Sahib, which is beautifully decorated with flowers.
Processions are held in various parts of states like Punjab and Delhi in India and people do a lot of Sewa, extending their selfless service, in cleaning the road ahead of the procession for the Palki or Palanquin, and distributing free food and drinks to everyone, regardless of caste or background and spread their happiness.
Men, women, and children, participate in a ritual called Karseva, a service to the community by cooking food and distributing it to the hungry, in the ‘Guru ka Langar’. The traditional and famous, mouth-watering ‘Karah Prasad’ is served to one and all.
These processions are led by the Panj Pyaras, the Five Beloved Ones carrying the Sikh flag, Nishan Sahib. The original Panj Pyaras played a major role in defining the history of Sikhism as they were the first ones to get baptized in the Sikh initiation ceremony of Amrit Sanchar.
Since it is a special day, people flock to the Gurdwaras in astounding numbers with their friends and families.
In many Gurdwaras, elder members conduct Kirtans and Amrit Sanchar ceremonies.
On the day of the Guru Nanak Jayanti, the Akhand Path is concluded by singing “Asa di Var”, the morning prayers. It is followed by people visiting the Gurdwaras to offer their prayers, take blessings, listen to melodious hymns and calm their minds.
All the Gurdwaras are beautifully adorned with flowers and upholstery, and at night, they are lit with light bulbs, rendering it a breath-taking view.
About Guru Nanak Dev Ji
Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born into a Kshatriya (warrior) family on 14th April 1469 A.D in the village Talwandi in Lahore, Pakistan, Guru Nanak was the son of Mehta Kalu Chand and Mata Tripti Devi.
He got married to Bibi Sulakhani and was blessed with two sons, Srichand and Lakshmichand.
Since an early age, he was religious and spent time reciting God’s name. He had a Noor, radiant glow on his face which made him stand out in the crowd.
He never threw any tantrums and was a very balanced and poised child. His devotion led him to leave his family to go in the woods and meditate. He became an advocate of God’s teachings, impressing upon the fact that there is no Hindu or Sikh or Muslim, that we all are the children of God and should recite his name during duress or eustress.
His hymns were recorded in Japji Sahib, a holy scripture in Sikhism, which is a part of Guru Granth Sahib as well. It is a description of the stages of a man’s life before he departs this life.
His first devotee was Mardana, and as Baba Nanak traveled across the land to preach to the public, his devotees kept increasing, regardless of any religious affiliation.
There are many saakhis, or short stories, which serve as important moral lessons as part of Guru Nanak’s journey that are still famous today. They throw light on his divine journey and his profound understanding of things.
During the last years of his life, he went back to his home to live with his family. Mardana, who was his faithful devotee, also followed him and lived with him.
Guru Nanak took his last breath at the age of 69 in 1538 A.D.
History of Gurpurab Festival
One of the most cherished festivals of Sikhs, Guru Nanak Gurpurab, marking the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, is a gazetted holiday in India. There is a contention between various scholars and religious groups over the date of celebrating this festival.
There are indications in the old chronicles that the gurus who succeeded Guru Nanak celebrated his birthday.
Such importance was attached to the anniversaries that dates of the deaths of the first four Gurus were recorded on a leaf in the first recension of the Scripture prepared by the Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan.
The term Gurpurab first appeared in the time of the gurus. It is a compound of the word “Purab” (or Parva in Sanskrit), meaning a festival or celebration, with the word “Guru”.
Some believe that it should be celebrated in the festival of Vaisakhi, on the 14th of April which is also in accordance with the Nanakshahi calendar provided by Sri Akal Takht (Golden Temple, Amritsar).
But according to Bhai Bala Ji, who is supposedly Guru Nanak’s childhood friend and a devotee of his teachings, he was born on the Full Moon of the Lunar Month Kartik.
This is the reason that Gurpurab is celebrated in the month of November.
The peace of mind and soul that one gets visiting a temple and spending time there is unparalleled. Gurdwaras are known to be a calming and soothing place, and during Gurpurab, the fervor multiplies.
In 2019, it will be held on the 12th of November which is a Tuesday and will mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.