The Sikh Festivals : Gurupurab
Literally festivals, Gurupurabs are anniversaries associated with the lives of the Sikh Gurus. The Sikhs celebrate 10 Gurpurabs in a year. At each of these festivals, one of the ten gurus of the Khalsa Pantha is honored. Of these the important ones are the birthdays of Guru Nanak and Guru Govind Singh and the martyrdom days of Guru Arjun Dev and Guru Teg Bahadur.
Guru Nanak’s jayanti falls in the month of Kartik (October / November). The Sikhs believe that Guru Nanak brought enlightenment to the world, hence the festival is also called Prakash Utsav, the festival of light. The Tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, was born on 2 December 1666 in Patna. The martyrdom day of the fifth Guru, Arjun Dev falls in the months of May and June and that of the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur, in November.
Prabhat Pheris, the early morning religious procession that goes around the localities singing shabads (hymns) start three weeks before the festival. Devotees offer sweets and tea when the procession passes by their homes. Gurpurabs mark the culmination of Prabhat Pheris. The Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of the Sikhs) is read continuously from beginning to end without a break for three days. This is known as akhand path. It is concluded on the day of the festival. The Granth Sahib is also carried in procession on a float decorated with flowers. Five armed guards, who represent the Panj Pyares, head the procession carrying Nishan Sahibs (the Sikh flag). Local bands play religious music and marching schoolchildren form a special part of the procession.
Sweets and community lunches are also offered to everyone irrespective of religious faith. It is served with a spirit of seva (service) and bhakti (devotion). Sikhs visit gurdwaras where special programmes are arranged and (religious songs) sung. Houses and gurudwaras are lit up to add to the festivities. On the martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev sweetened milk is offered to the thirsty passers-by to commemorate the death of the Guru.
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, was born in a Punjabi village (presently in Pakistan) in 1469. Always secular in his outlook, he even organized a canteen where Muslims and Hindus of all castes could come and eat together. It is believed that he had a vision from god, in Sultanpur, directing him to preach to mankind.
Guru Gobind Singh forged the distinctive identity of the Sikhs and called them Khalsa (the pure) and made it mandatory for them to have the five Ks – Kesh (hair), Kripan (dagger), Kada (bracelet), Kangha (comb) and Kachcha (underwear). Guru Arjun Dev was burnt alive at the stake in the hot months of May and June and Guru Teg Bahadur was beheaded in Delhi.
Gurpurbs are part and parcel of Sikhism. In history we see that the Sikhs have to sacrifice even their lives in order to celebrate the Gurpurbs. Whether it is DEWALI (Bandi Chhor Diwas), VAISAKHI (Khalsa Sajna Diwas), or Martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Sahib (Sahidi Diwas), Sikhs gather and remember their Gurus & pay homage to the great Martyrs. All the Gurpurbs are celebrated with great fervor & enthusiasm by the Sikhs throughout the world. We are giving the account of the main & widely celebrated Gurpurbs.
The birth-day celebrations & Gurpurbs of Guru Sahibs usually last for three days. Generally before the birthday-date Akhand Path is held in the Gurdwara. A large procession (Nagarkirtan) is organised one day before the birthday. This is led by the Panj Piyaras (Five beloved ones) and the Palki (Palanquin) of Shri Guru Granth Sahib and followed by groups of kirtani Jatha, Various School bands and students, emenent Citizans, Gatka Parties (displaying mock-battle with the traditional weapons), and devotees singing hymns from Guru Granth Sahib in chorus. The passage of the nagarkirtan is decorated with flags, flowers, religious posters decorated gates and banners depicting various aspects of Sikhism. On the Gurpurab day, the Divan begins early in morning at about 4 or 5 a.m. with the singing of Asa-di-var and hymns from Guru Granth Sahib. Sometimes it is followed by katha (discourse), religious and Sikh Historical lectures and recitation of poems in praise of the Guru. Kirtan-Darbars and Amrit Sanchar ceremonies are also held in the Gurdwara hall. After Ardas and distribution of Karah Parshad (sweet pudding) the Langar (food) is served to one and all and there is kirtan till late in the night, the distribution of langar continues to the end of the programme.
BIRTHDAY OF GURU NANAK SAHIB
Guru Nanak Sahib (the First Nanak, the founder of Sikhism) was born on 20th October, 1469 at Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi in the present distrect of Shekhupura (Pakistan), now Nanakana Sahib. The Birthday of Guru Nanak Sahib falls on Kartik Puranmashi i.e. full moon day of the month Kartik. On this day the Birthday is celebrated every year. The Shrine (Gurdwara) repsesenting the home of Baba Kalu (Father) and Mata Tripta (Mother) is called Gurdwara Janam Asthan, situated at Rai-Bhoi-di-Talwandi in the present district of Shekhupura (now Nanakana Sahib in Pakistan). The Sikhs from all over the world gather here and celebrate the Gurupurab every year with great devotion and enthusiasm.
BIRTHDAY OF GURU GOBIND SINGH SAHIB
Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, the tenth Nanak was born at Patna Sahib on 22nd December 1666, (Poh Sudi Saptmi). His birthday generally falls in December or January or sometimes twice within a year as it is calculated according to Hindu Bikrami Calendar based on moon-year. S. Pal Singh Purewal of Canada prepared a new calender which is called "Nanakshahi Calendar" based on sun-year. According to this calendar the birth-day of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib falls only once in a year i.e. on 5th January (every year). But the implementation of Nanakshahi Calendar is yet post-poned.
Guru Arjan’s martyrdom day
Guru Arjan’s martyrdom day falls towards the close of May or beginning of June. In Lahore before partition almost every Hindu and Sikh was out to visit the Guru’s samadhi or tomb. At short intervals there were sabils where sweetened and iced milk-water was served to every passer-by. The number of visitors was in lakhs, not in thousands. Arrangements were so perfect that the parents of a lost child could be traced in no time. At numerous places there were parties of singers singing hymns, lectures, sermons and kathas or naration of stories from sacred scriptures. Nowadays this day is celebrated everywhere in gurdwaras and by leading processions and serving cold drinks free.
Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom day
Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom day falls in November-Decembcr. The day is celebrated by organising processions, singing hymns in gurdwaras, and by organising lectures, sermons, kirtans, etc.