Guru Nanaks Jayanti

The religion of Sikhism preaches that there is one God but that he is formless.  That is why the Sikhs do not worship idols.  The festivities in the Sikh religion revolve around the anniversaries of the 10 Sikh Gurus.  These Gurus were responsible for shaping the beliefs of the Sikhs.  Their birthdays, known as Gurpurabs, are occasions for celebration and prayer among the Sikhs.
Guru Nanak Sahib the first founder of Sikhism was born on October 20, 1469 in Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi in the present Shekhupura District of Pakistan.  The Birthday of Guru Nanak Sahib falls on Kartik Puranmashi i.e., full moon day of the month Kartik.  In the Gregorian calendar, the birthday of Guru Nanak usually comes in the month of November, but its date varies from year to year, based on the traditional dater of the Indian Calendar.

The Festival

The celebration is generally similar for all Gurpurabs; only the hymns are different.  The birthday celebration usually lasts three days.  Generally two days before the birthday, Akhand Path (a forty-eight-hour non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs) is held in the gurdwaras.
The day prior to the birthday, a procession is organised.  The Panj Pyaras (Five Beloved Ones) lead the procession.  They head the procession carrying the Sikh flag, known as the Nishan Sahib and the Palki of Siri Guru Granth Sahib.  Singers singing hymns, brass bands playing different tunes, ‘Gatka’ teams (Martial Arts) displaying their swordsmanship, and devotees singing the chorus, follow them.  The procession pours into the streets of the towns, which are covered with buntings and decorated gates for this special occasion.  The leaders also spread the message of Guru Nanak.
On the day of the Gurpurab, the day begins early in the morning with the singing of Asa-di-Var (morning hymns) and hymns from the Sikh scriptures followed by Katha (exposition of the scripture) together with lectures and recitation of poems in the praise of the Guru.  Following that is the Langar or special community lunch, which is arranged at the Gurudwaras by volunteers.  The idea behind the free communal lunch is that people should be offered good in the spirit of seva and bhakti.
Guru Nanak Jayanthi is celebrated by the Sikh community all over the world and is one of the most important festivals in the Sikh calendar.  The celebrations are especially colourful in Punjab and Haryana.
The Sikh community celebrates his birthday all over India.  Guru Nanak preached the Sikh faith and spent his life teaching, writing and wandering around the world to discuss religion with Muslims and Hindus.  Though he is the Guru of the Sikhs, there are millions of others who believe and worship him.  The celebrations are made all over India, especially in Punjab and Haryana.
Sikhs celebrate Guru Nanak’s Birthday by reading the Sikh Holy Scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib.  A team of Sikh men and women do this, which start reading Guru Granth Sahib two days before and end early on the morning of the birthday.  The celebrations of his birthday are made all over India, especially in Punjab and Haryana.
The Gurdwaras are decorated with flowers, ribbons and pictures describing various features of Sikhism.  Sikhs join collectively to sing, pray and feast together.  On the morning of the anniversary, celebrations begin early with musical presentation of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib and speech on Sikhism.  These celebrations go on until well after noon.
After the celebrations, free sweets and neighbourhood lunches are offered to everyone irrespective of religious faith.  Guru Nanak Dev believed in a caste less society without any distinctions.  He institutionalised the concept of common kitchen where all could sit together and enjoy a common meal, whether they were rich or poor.  The idea was to offer food to the people in the spirit of service and affection.
Then in the evening, the gurudwaras and houses are decorated with earthen lamps and candles.  Local bands playing religious music, the enthusiastic Bhangra dance, and the colourful folk drum players add colour to the carnival.  The fighting skills or martial arts performed by guards add to the passion of the celebration.  Sikhs who are unable to visit the Gurudwaras during the festival hold a similar ceremony in their own homes.
Guru Nanak’s worldwide message is applicable and true even today as it was in the past.  Sikhs all over the world practice what Guru Nanak Dev preached to support their beliefs in the wisdom of their founder.