Guru Nanak Jayanti, also called Guru Nanak Gurpurab or Guru Nanak’s Prakash Utsav is a major Sikh festival, commemorating the birth of Sikhism’s first Guru – Guru Nanak Dev Ji (15th April 1469 to 22nd September 1539). It is the most significant festival for the Sikh community and is celebrated with extreme devotion and reverence.
The festival is celebrated on Kartik Poornima (full moon day in Kartik month), falling in the Gregorian months of October-November.
Guru Nanak Jayanti 2019
The year 2019 will mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev and will be observed on Tuesday, 12th November 2019.
When is Guru Nanak Jayanti Celebrated?
Guru Nanak Gurpurab is celebrated on Kartik Puranmashi – full moon day in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik. The festival falls in Katak month, the eighth month of Nanakshahi Calendar and corresponds to Gregorian calendar months of October-November.
There is a little controversy related to the birth of Guru Nanak, as some believe that he was born on Vaisakhi, marking the beginning of a new year as per traditional Sikh calendar. However, as per one of Guru Nanak’s childhood friend Bhai Bala’s account, he was born on Puranmashi in the Hindu Lunar month of Kartik.
This claim has been widely accepted and Guru Nanak Gurpurab is celebrated on Puranmashi (full moon) in Kartik month; though, many religious clerics still believe that the Jayanti must be celebrated on Vaisakhi falling on April 14th as per the Nanakshahi calendar.
Guru Nanak – Life and Teachings
Guru Nanak was born on 15th April 1469 at Rai Bhoi Ki Talwandi, near Lahore in present day Sekhpura district of Pakistan. Today, there is a Gurudwara Janam Asthan where Guru Nanak was born and the city is known as Nankana Sahib, located in Punjab province of Pakistan.
Guru Nanak’s father Kalyan Chand Das Bedi was a local accountant (patwari) for crop revenue at Talwandi. His mother’s name was Mata Tripta and his father was also popular by the name – Mehta Kalu. Guru Nakak had a five years elder sister Bebe Nanaki. He moved with his sister to Sultanpur, when she got married in 1475.
At the age of 16 Nanak started working under Daulat Khan Lodi, who was the governor of Lahore during the reign of Ibrahim Lodi. There are numerous events from Guru Nanak’s early life, which suggest that he had divine grace upon him. Guru Nanak was deeply impacted and interested in divine subjects, since an early age of five.
There are reported incidents where Nanak had surprised his teachers by displaying spiritual knowledge and understanding. There are stories those tell Guru Nanak’s out of box compassion to help poor and vulnerable, often miraculously.
Guru Nanak got married to Mata Sulakkhani in the town of Batala in Punjab province on 24th September 1487. Consequently, the couple had two sons – Sri Chand (8th September 1494 – 13th January 1629) and Lakhmi Chand (12th February 1497 – 9th April 1555). Sri Chand, the elder son of Guru Nanak founded the Udasi sect, an ascetic sect for the sadhus (ascetics) of North India.
Guru Nanak was a religious guru (teacher), a spiritual healer who founded Sikhism in 15th century. He started the composition of Guru Granth Sahib by contributing 974 hymns. The main teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib are based on the philosophy of one creator. It expressed selfless service to humanity, social justice and prosperity for all, irrespective of the demographic differences. The concept of reincarnation or messenger of God is forbidden in Sikhism; though, the role of a Guru as spiritual and social master forms the base of Sikh religion.
Guru Nanak stressed upon the fact that both spiritual and social lives are an integral part of each other. He preached leading a socially active life with truthfulness, honesty, purity and selfless service for the society, especially the poor and needy. Guru Nanak died in Kartarpur Pakistan on 22nd September 1539.
Guru Nanak Jayanti Celebrations
Guru Nanak Jayanti is celebrated with much enthusiasm and reverence by the Sikh community. The celebration is similar to other Sikh festivals with the only exception of having different hymns. The celebrations begin with early morning processions known as prabhat pheri, originating from Gurudwaras and participants singing hymns from Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Granth Sahib is also displayed in the procession, placed on a decorated palanquin.
Recitation of the Guru Grant Sahib starts two days in advance at the Gurudwaras. A 48 hours akhand path (nonstop recitation) is held at the Gurudwaras two days prior to Guru’s Jayanti. On the day before Guru Nanak’s birthday a procession called Nagarkirtan is organized. The procession is led by panj pyare, holding Nishan Sahib, the Sikh triangular flag.
As usual, guru Grant Sahib is also made a part of the procession, placed on a palanquin. The participants could be seen singing hymns in groups and playing traditional musical instruments. There is also a display of martial arts and battle skills by Sikh warrior communities like the Khalsa clan. The procession passes through streets decorated with flags and flowers.
Amrit Vela, the early morning time before the dawn is considered most auspicious by Sikhs for meditation and reciting Guru Granth Sahib. Hence the day of Guru Nanak Jayanti commences with chanting of Asa di Var, a kirtan written by Guru Nanak himself, in Amrit Vela (4 a.m. to 6 a.m.). This is followed by kirtan and katha in praise of the Guru.
Prayers are followed by a communal free lunch called langar. People from different sections of the society i.e. poor and rich, young and aged, irrespective of religion, caste or gender; sit together side by side in a queue, to eat the food. Some Gurudwaras even hold evening prayers on the day.
Guru Nanak Jayanti Significance
Guru Nanak Dev Ji was Sikhism’s creator and also its first Guru. He is the most revered Sikh’s Guru and is worshipped as equivalent to God. Guru Nanak Dev started the composition of the holy book of Sikhs – Guru Granth Sahib, which forms the centre of all Sikh festivals.
Nanak emphasized on the philosophy of one God and the significance of a Guru or spiritual teacher. He showed a practical way of attaining enlightenment through prayers and worship, without compromising family and other worldly possessions.
People have extreme faith in the miraculous powers of Guru Nanak and many disciples consider his teachings as their lives governing principles. Moreover, the celebration of Guru Nanak Gurpurab also signifies communal harmony, as other caste devotees like Muslims and Jains, too devotedly participate in the celebrations.
The festival reaffirms the disciples’ faith in religion and Guru and brings forth the basic idea of service to humanity above self. The free for all community lunch conveys the message that no religion is greater than the service to humanity. The festival is significant in many ways and must be celebrated year after year with fervor and reverence to Guru Nanak Dev.
Guru Nanak Dev Jayanti 2019 – a remarkable Occasion
The Union Cabinet of the government of India, chaired by the Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi, has passed a resolution in November 2018 for the celebration of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, both in India as well as abroad, in a grand and befitting manner.
External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj announced in Delhi on 12th August 2018, that Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th birth anniversary in 2019 will be celebrated in all the missions and embassies of the Government of India, located abroad.
Seminars and kirtans will be held in the missions and embassies to spread Guru’s message of peace, love and brotherhood. Many projects were approved by the cabinet to commemorate the festival. Some of them are – development of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor and development of Sultanpur Lodhi, issuing of commemorative coins and stamps and running special trains for the pilgrims.