Guru Nanak Jayanti - Sikh Festivals (2017)
Guru Nanak Jayanti Date 2017
Guru Nanak Jayanti (Birthday) is being celebrated
on 4 November 2017
Guru Nanak Dev Ji - Founder Of The Sikh Faith
Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism - the Sikh religion and respectfully addressed as Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
He was the first of the 10 Sikh Gurus.
About Sikhism - The Sikh Religion
A Sikh means a follower of Sikhism though the word as such means a student, rather a disciple. So a Sikh is essentially a disciple of the Guru.
Guru actually means a teacher. Here it is indicative of one who is the source of all knowledge and it refers to all the 10 Sikh Gurus as well and more broadly to the Almighty Lord, who is the source of all knowledge, even to the Sikh Gurus because they had the Divine light lit in them.
Neither Sikhism nor its norms were established in a small time frame or through one Guru. Its final form evolved over 2 centuries and more during which each subsequent Guru played a role in carrying forward and adding his teachings that ultimately culminated into Sikhism in its current form.
One most important thing to remember is that Sikhs have 11 Gurus, 10 were in human form and the 11th Guru is the living Guru, the holy book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh decreed that Guru Granth Sahib would after him be the final and perpetual Guru of the Sikhs. There would be no more Guru in the flesh.
Sikhism as a religion believes in universal brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God and is devoid of all ritualism and priestcraft.
Sikhs are not allowed to cut any body hair and anyone who does cut his hair or trim his beard, is not a Sikh.
He is called a "patit" which means downfallen in the sense that he has lapsed in following the Sikh code of conduct.
The Guru Granth Sahib - The Holy Book Of SikhsClick thumbnail to view full-size
About Guru Granth Sahib - The Holy Book Of Sikhs
The Guru Granth Sahib contains the compositions of the first 5 Gurus, the 9th Guru and the teachings of many Hindu and Muslim saints as well.
Though it was first compiled by the 5th Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the final and present version was given shape by the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
It is interesting to note here that all the words, hymns and verses contained in the holy book were uttered by those under whose name they occur.
Since all the words have been spoken by the Gurus and the saints they are called Gurbani and therefore Guru Granth Sahib is Gurbani.
Guru Granth Sahib is the spiritual authority of the Sikhs. The text of Guru Granth Sahib is in the form of poetry that is set in ragas or classical form of music.
All hymns have the word Nanak in them, no matter which Guru uttered it pointing to the fact that the Divine light of the first Guru was passed on to his successor, till the last Guru.
Every morning Hukamnama is taken. This means reading a random verse on opening the Guru Granth Sahib in the morning and the message as contained in the verse is taken as an Hukam (Order) from the Guru and is to be followed for the day.
Every morning a fresh Hukamnama is taken.
The Birthplace Of Guru Nanak Dev Ji
Guru Nanak Dev Ji And His Family
Guru Nanak was born in a Hindu family in the year 1469 AD, in the erstwhile Talwandi village known today known as Nankana Sahib, so named after him, which is near Lahore in Pakistan. A Gurudwara (Sikh temple) today stands at this place.
Depending on the ancient Indian calendar used to calculate his date of birth, it is believed he was born on the full moon day either in March/April or November in 1469 AD.
Guru Nanak birthday is today celebrated today on the day of the full moon in the month of Kartik which falls in the month of October or November each year.
His father's name was Mehta Kalu and he was a patwari, a revenue official in the government. His mother's name was Mata Tripta.
Guru Nanak had only one sibling, an older sister called Bebe Nanaki, to whom he was very much attached.
Guru Nanak Devji's Early Life
From an early age Guru Nanak was inclined towards spiritual and divine subjects. There are many strange, nay, miraculous events associated with his childhood. One such was when a cobra shielded his face against the strong sunlight falling on his face while he slept.
As a young boy Guru Nanak enjoyed the company of holy men and engaged in spiritual discussions with them.
At the age of 16 Guru Nanak was married to Sulakhni, the daughter of a pious merchant. He had two sons Srichand (born 1494) & Lakhmi Chand (born 1497).
After marriage Guru Nanak would work during the day while the early mornings and late evenings were reserved for meditation on the Lord and singing hymns where he was accompanied by a Muslim bard, Mardana, his childhood friend, who played the Rabab, a string instrument.
It was during these spiritual sessions that people started coming to listen to him.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji's Enlightenment
Guru Nanak used to go to the Vain Nadi (river Vain) to bathe. One day in 1499, when Guru Nanak was about 30 years of age he went as usual to the river to bathe but did not come out. Three days later he emerged from the river and the first words he uttered after his enlightenment were
"There is no Hindu, no Mussalman (Muslim)".
This one statement was an announcement of the universal brotherhood of man and God as the father of all.
The 4 Udasis (Spiritual Journeys)
After Enlightenment - The 4 Udasis (Spiritual Journeys)
After Guru Nanak attained enlightenment he undertook 4 long journeys to far off places to preach his philosophy of Sikhism, that of one God.
Each journey is called a "Udasi". During these 4 udasis Guru Nanak toured the length and breadth of the current day India and Pakistan, and countries like Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Tibet, Syria, Turkey, Iran and also visited Muslim holy places like Mecca and Madina.
These journeys sowed the seeds of Sikhism far and wide. These Divine journeys lasted a total of about 25 years all done on foot. It is believed that Guru Nanak Dev Ji travelled over 28000 kilometers during these Divine tours from 1499 to 1524.
Guru Nanak declared that there was no need to become a recluse to obtain salvation. It could be done living a householder's life, tending to the family while remembering the Lord even at work and praying in the morning and evening.
As a personal example he worked in the fields during the day and carried out his spiritual pursuits in the mornings and evenings.
Guru Nanak cut at the roots of caste, creed and other religious distinctions prevalent at the time by starting the practice of Langar (common meals) and Pangat (the high and low sitting together to partake the Langar).
After his Udasis Guru Nanak settled down in Kartarpur village. When he sensed his end was near Guru Nanak appointed Bhai Lehna (who later on came to be the 2nd Sikh Guru, Guru Angad Dev Ji) as his successor as he found him more worthy than his own two sons, whom he tested on various occasions.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji merged with the Divine Lord on the 22 September 1539.
Both the Hindus and the Muslims revered Guru Nanak alike since his message was universal. So much so that when he left his earthly body both the factions wished to dispose off the mortal remains as per their traditions.
However when the sheet covering his body was removed only flowers were found. These were then cremated by each one as per their rites.
The Three Pillars Of Sikhism
The three pillars of Sikhism that Guru Nanak Dev Ji established are:
1. Naam Japna - Meditation on the One Eternal God's Name
2. Kirat Karna - Making an honest living, off one's own hands
3. Vand Chakhna - Sharing one's food with others, especially with those in need
Guru Nanak's Message
Guru Nanak preached :
- All human beings are equal.
- Men and women are equal.
In fact he raised a woman's status a notch higher by saying "from a woman is born a man, even Kings are born of women. How can women then be talked about of as being bad?"
- A universal message to all.
He said "without mercy towards other living beings one cannot be called a Muslim and "without the True name, the sacred thread or the forehead mark of the Hindus is useless".
Taking what is not rightfully yours is like a Muslim eating Pork and a Hindu eating Beef.
Guru Nanak Devji's Birthday Celebrations
It is one of the most sacred festivals for the Sikhs. Guru Nanak Devji's birthday dates keep on changing as it is based on the lunar calendar. It however falls in the month of October or November every year on a full moon day.
Guru Nanak Devji's birthday is also called Guru Nanak Devji's Gurpurb or Guru Nanak Devji's Prakash Utsav.
- The celebrations start off with early morning processions called Prabhat Pheris that are taken out from the Gurudwaras. These processions proceed in their own localities with those accompanying singing hymns that are associated with Guru Nanak Devji. About 10-15 Prabhat Pheris are taken out before the day of the actual birthday.
- Two days before the birthday Akhand Path is held in the Gurudwaras. Akhand Path is a 48 hour non stop recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs.
- A day before the Akhand Path is started, a large procession called Nagar Kirtan is taken out in the entire city if it is small or in the surburb of the city if it is a big city.
This procession is led by Panj Pyaras (Five Beloveds) carrying the Sikh flag called Nishan Sahib. They are followed by the Palki Sahib (Palanquin) carrying the Guru Granth Sahib. Followed closely by the bards and devotees singing hymns.
Traditional weapons are displayed and mock battles are also held. Huge gates and banners decorated with flowers and flags are set up by various organisations.
On the day of the birthday, celebrations start off quite early in the morning at 4 or 5 o'clock.
First the morning hymn Asa Di Vaar is sung followed by other hymns from the Sikh scriptures. Katha or religious discourses are also held.
Various groups take part in them and this continues till the afternoon when Langar is held. Langar is open to all who wish to partake of it.
Prayers, hymn singing and other religious discourses are also held in the evening continuing till late into the night.
Buildings, homes and Gurudwaras are lit with festive lights on this occasion.
Guru Nanak Devji's birthday is celebrated all over the world wherever the Sikh community resides.
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© 2014 Rajan Singh Jolly