How Is Sri Guru Nanak’s Birthday Celebrated?
The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak was born on April 15, 1469 in the Western Punjab village of Talwandi, Sheikhupura district, and sixty five kms from Lahore. His father was a village official in the local revenue administration.
As a boy, Sri Guru Nanak learnt, besides the regional languages, Persian and Arabic. He was married in 1487 and was blessed with two sons, one in 1491 and the second in 1496. In 1485 he took up, at the instance of his brother-in-law, the appointment of an official in charge of the stores of Daulat Khan Lodhi, the Muslim ruler of the area at Sultanpur.
It is there that he came into contact with Mardana, a Muslim minstrel (Mirasi) who was senior in age. It is a matter of great significance that at the very beginning of his mission, the Guru’s first companion was a low caste Muslim. By all accounts, 1496 was the year of his enlightenment when he started on his mission.
Sikhs all over the world celebrate Guru Nanak’s Birthday and the other Gurpurbs (festivals which celebrate the lives of the Gurus) by reading the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, continuously from beginning to end. This is done by a team of Sikh men and women, each reading for 2-3 hours over 48 hours, beginning two days before and ending early on the morning of the birthday.
On the day before the birthday, processions are held, led by five people representing the original Panj Piare (Five Beloved Ones) and followed by singers, musicians and even teams of people demonstrating martial arts.
The Gurdwaras (places where Sikhs go to pray) are decorated with flowers, flags and lights. Sikhs join together to sing, pray and eat together.
On the morning of the anniversary celebrations begin early, at around 4 or 5am, with hymns sung from the Guru Granth Sahib, poems recited in praise of the Gurus and lectures on Sikhism.
After this, a sweet-tasting food (Karah Prasad) is blessed and served. It is made from semolina or wheat flour, sugar and ghee (clarified butter). The congregation then shares a langar (meal) from the free kitchen.
Celebrations may also include fireworks. Sikhs who are unable to visit the Gurdwara during the festival will hold a similar ceremony in their own homes.