Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrates the birth of the first of the ten Sikh Gurus and the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. This day is also called Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurpurab, and Guru Nanak’s Prakash Utsav. Guru Nanak was born on Puranmashi of Kattak in 1469, according to the Bikrami calendar in Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi in the present Shekhupura District of Pakistan, now Nankana Sahib.
The celebrations usually commence with Prabhat Pheris. Prabhat Pheris are early morning processions that begin at the Gurudwaras and proceed around the localities singing hymns. 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, referred to as Nagarkirtan, is organized. This procession is led by the Panj Pyaras (Five Beloved Ones). They head the procession carrying the Sikh flag, known as the Nishan Sahib and the Palki (Palanquin) of Guru Granth Sahib. They are followed by teams of singers singing hymns and devotees sing the chorus. There are brass bands playing different tunes and ‘Gatka’ teams display their swordsmanship through various martial arts and as mock battles using traditional weapons. The procession pours into the streets of the town. The passage is covered with banners and gates are decorated with flags and flowers, for this special occasion. The leaders spreading the message of Guru Nanak.
On the day of the Gurpurab, the celebrations commence/begin early in the morning at about 4 to 5 a.m. This time of the day is referred to as Amrit Vela. The day begins with the singing of Asaa-Ki-Vaar (morning hymns). This is followed by any combination of Katha (exposition of the scripture) and Kirtan (hymns from the Sikh scriptures), in the praise of the Guru. Following that is the Langar, a special community lunch, which is arranged at the Gurudwaras by volunteers. The idea behind the free communal lunch is that everyone, irrespective of gender, caste, class or creed, should be offered food in the spirit of Seva (service) and bhakti (devotion).
Night Prayer sessions are also held in some Gurudwaras, which begin around sunset when Rehras (evening prayer) is recited, followed by Kirtan till late at night. The congregation starts singing Gurbani at about 1:20 a.m., which is the actual time of the birth of Guru Nanak. The celebrations culminate at around 2 a.m.
Guru Nanak Gurpurab 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 colorful in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh and many more locations like in parts of Pakistan and England. Even some Sindhis celebrate this festival.
By Lipakshi Seedhar: Staff Correspondent and Feature Writer.