Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurupurab also called Guru Nanak Jayanti is the most significant festival of Sikhs, commemorating the birthday of their first religious guru, Shri Nanak Dev Ji.
All the festivals of Sikhism commemorate the birth of its ten religious gurus or preachers. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was the founder of Sikhism and is, therefore, more sacred to the followers of Sikhism.
It is a Gazetted holiday in India and is celebrated by the Sikhs with great religious devotion.
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When is Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurupurab Celebrated?
Sikhism festivals are celebrated according to the Bikrami or Vikrami calendar, which is an ancient Hindu calendar of the Indian sub-continent. It is also the official calendar of Nepal.
The traditional date of celebration is on the Full Moon Day or Pooranamashi in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik. This is according to the account provided by ‘Bhai Bala’, a childhood friend and companion of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
According to Bhai Bala, Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born on Pooranmashi in Kartik month at Nankana Saheb, in the present-day Sekhpura district of Pakistan.
The majority of Sikhs celebrate Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurupurab on the Kartik Pooranmashi that coincides with the Gregorian calendar month of November.
The date of Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurupurab in 2020 is – Monday, November 30th.
A small section among the Sikhs believes that the anniversary of Sri Nanak Dev Ji must be celebrated on Baisakhi, which is another major festival of Sikhism. The difference of opinion arose after Sri Akal Takht passed the Nanak Sahi calendar in 2003; however, a majority of Sikhs still celebrate the festival traditionally on a full moon in Kartik.
How is Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurupurab Celebrated?
The celebrations begin two days in advance with ‘Prabhat Feri’, a street procession organized by the Gurudwaras. Many times, the Gurudwaras take out joint Prabhat Feris, in which religious hymns are sung on the streets. These feris are led by Panj Pyare of the five beloved ones.
Two days prior to the festival, Gurudwaras undertake a 48 hour long non-stop Akhand path of Guru Grant Sahib, the sacred religious text containing teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Another significant part of the festival is ‘Nagar Kirtan’ organized a day before. Like the Prabhat Feri, this is also led by the Panj Pyare, carrying the Sikh Flag or the Nishan Sahib and a palanquin (known as ‘palki’ in Hindi) carrying the sacred Guru Granth Sahib.
The procession following the Panj Pyare is a vibrant display of Sikh, religion, culture, and beliefs and also a martial art. It is an amalgamation of all the values of thousands of years old Sikhism.
There are parties singing religious hymns, spreading the words of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Then there are also groups displaying their fighting skills and swordsmanship. All kinds of traditional weapons are used in the procession and the participants show their skills in fighting with them.
The procession moves through the streets and is welcomed with decorations and flowers.
The festivities on the Gurupurab day commence at 4 AM in the morning during the ‘Amrit Vela’. It is usually the time between 3-6 AM in the morning which is considered the best time for singing morning hymns.
Other religious events follow the morning hymns. Langar or free community lunch is also organized by the Gurudwaras. The best thing about these langars is that everyone irrespective of caste, creed, religion, or gender is welcomed. This gesture speaks volumes about the secularism ingrained in Sikhism.
Sikh pilgrims from India as well as from Pakistan itself, conglomerate at Sri Nankana Sahib to celebrate Sri Guru Govind Singh Ji Gurupurab.