Guru Nanak Jayanti Date 2017
Saturday 4 November
India being a multi cultural country and multi lingual country has plenty of festivals and celebrations all round the year! Sages, saints, yogis and gurus form major part of Indian culture and tradition. Indian festivals are categorized on different basis. Honoring, respecting and celebrating the birth of religious gurus, who enlightened the life of people is a custom in India. One of those lavish birth anniversary celebrations of a Sikh Guru is Guru Nanak Jayanti.
The term Jayanti is often associated with celebration of birth anniversary and it is widely used in Hindu festivals like Hanuman Jayanti, Mahavir Jayanti, etc. that celebrate birth anniversaries of Gods. It is also used to describe the celebrations of great personalities like Sant Kabir Jayanti, Gandhi Jayanti, Rabindranath Tagore Jayanti etc.
When is Guru Nanak Jayanti Celebrated?
Guru Nanak Jayanti falls on the full moon day of the Kartik month (November-December) according to the lunar calendar.
In 2017, Guru Nanak Jayanti will be celebrated on 4 November.
Although the festival is a commemoration and tribute paid to the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, his birthday was different from the date of celebration of Guru Nanak. He was born on 15th April 1469 at Shekhpura district, which is now a part of Pakistan. It is said that Guru Nanak founded Sikhism on this day and that’s why Guru Nanak Jayanti is celebrated on Kartik Purnima day.
Guru Nanak Jayanti Celebration in India
Guru Nanak Jayanti is the celebration of the birth anniversary of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak. It is one of the major festivals of Sikhs. Also termed as Guru Nanak Gurpurab or Guru Nanak’s Prakash Utsav, Nanak Jayanti is the most sacred festival in Sikhism. Not only Sikhs, but also Hindus and followers of Guru Nanak and his philosophy from other religions too celebrate this festival. Most of the festivities and carnivals in Sikhism revolve around the birth anniversaries of the Sikh Gurus, who brought Sikhism to life and shaped it.
Guru Nanak Jayanti is a gazetted holiday in India. All schools, colleges and educational institutions declare it a holiday. Many private organizations also declare holiday on Guru Nanak Jayanti.
It is celebrated all over the world. However, the celebration is extremely special in the regions where Sikh communities live for generations like in Punjab, Chandigarh and Haryana.
History of Guru Nanak Jayanti
Guru Nanak Jayanti is associated with the life of the Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
He travelled extensively to many places to teach and spread the messages of God. His primary message is- God creates everything, lives in even smallest element and constitutes everything in the world.
Guru Nanak was born on 15th April 1469 and he had an elder sister, Bebe Nanaki, who was five years older than Nanak. His parents were Hindus and his father was an accountant.
When Nanak was 6 years old, his father got him admitted in a village school. He stunned the teacher by explaining the symbolism of the first alphabet character. It resembles the unity and oneness. Several incidents that happened in his childhood depicted that Nanak was not an ordinary child.
One day, when Nanak was sleeping, his head was protected from the sunlight through miraculous incidents. It was noticed by a landlord named, Rai Bular. Once he was shadowed by a tree and in another incident, he was shadowed by a poisonous cobra.
When he was still 6 years old, his sister got married and moved to Sultanpur with her husband. Nanak, who was extremely attached to his sister found it difficult to live without her. So, he also joined her sister and lived with her.
The man who witnessed how the boy was shadowed and his sister realized the spiritual powers in him. His sister encouraged him to follow his inner beliefs and travel a lot. He spent all his time reading the holy books.
After 10 years, when he turned 16, he started to work under her sister’s husband. This was the major part of his life. Very soon, he realized that he is been called by the almighty and deserted his family. From the childhood, he was very fond of spirituality, divinity, humanity, purity and devotion to god. This was his ultimate preaching to the people. Everyone worshipped him as the messenger of the god.
When he was 18 years old, he married Mata Sulakkhani. The couple had two sons, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Chand. The elder son Sri Chand lived for 135 years and he also got enlightened by his father’s preaching and teaching.
Guru Nanak was profoundly impressed by Hinduism and Islam. He believed that both religions teach the same things and started preaching the masses that there is no distinct religion like Hinduism or Islam.
Once, he was bathing in the River Baain and suddenly disappeared. The people lived in town took strenuous efforts to find him but they could not. The clothes worn by him were found on the bank of the river. Everyone believed that he was dead. After three days he reappeared. This was the major incident where he felt himself to be directly connected to the God.
After this incident, the next day, he spoke to people, “There is neither Hindu nor Mussulman (Muslim), but only man. So whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God’s path. God is neither Hindu nor Mussulman and the path which I follow is God’s”
From this preaching, the townsmen regarded him guru (teacher) and this gave birth to Sikhism.
The principles and preachings of Guru Nanak, who founded Sikhism is all about spreading love, purity, humanity, divinity and spirituality.
Rituals and Traditional Practices of Guru Nanak Jayanti
Being one of the major festivals, Sikhs celebrate the day with religious fervor. The festivities begin a day before the Guru Nanak Jayanti. A lavish and grandeur parade is a major part of this celebration. The celebration begins from local Gurudwara and people gather in Gurudwara to honor their guru.
Facts about Guru Nanak Jayanti Processions
Guru Nanak Jayanti is not a private festival celebrated at home. It is a community festival and more of a religious get-together of Sikhs to pay tribute to their first guru.
Guru Granth Sahib is the holy book of Sikhs, which is like Vedas of Hindus and Bible of Christians. This holy book shares a major part of this celebration. Texts, hymns and verses from this book are sung by the worshippers and gurus during the procession and offering in the Gurudwaras.
Nagarkirtan refers to the celebrations that take place before the day of birthday celebrations. Armed soldiers form a major part of the procession, referred to as Panch Pyaras (the five beloved ones.) The head of the panch pyaras carry the Sikh flag. The parade accompanies a group of singers, along with chorus, who sing the important hymns from the holy book.
A team of musicians (band musicians, mostly brass bands) play various tunes during the procession.
Gatka is a team of expert martial arts men who display their expertise and swordsmanship through performing different martial arts using weapons.
The procession on the birth anniversary commence in the early morning at 4 am to 4.30 am. It is called the divine or amrit period when the atmosphere is pure and divine. It is the major reason why we are often recommended to wake up before the sunrise during this time.
The procession begins with the morning hymns, continued with stories, hymns and verses that praise the Guru.
The community lunch is referred as Langar and it is a very special lunch. The lunch is generally arranged by the volunteers of the gurudwaras.
Prabhat Pheri- the Morning Procession
Prabhat Pheris are conducted every day before the actual day of Guru Nanak Jayanti. Usually, these morning processions start three days before Guru Nanak Jayanti day. Besides, in Gurudwara, people read verses of Guru Granth Sahib (a holy book of Sikhs) from beginning to end without giving a break.
In the early morning, a procession called ‘Prabhat Pheri’ commence from the local Gurudwara. The Prabhat Pheri march around the nearby areas and surroundings. People chant various hymns and verses from their sacred books from beginning to end of the parade.
Prabhat Pheris become very special on the day of the Guru Nanak Jayanthy. The holy book is decorated beautifully and carried during the procession. The parade is accompanied by armed guards, musicians, and singers. Parade is followed by offerings at Gurudwaras, which is followed by community meal. There is no restriction on taking community meals on Guru Nanak Jayanti- religion, age and gender is immaterial. Anyone can participate in Langars or the community meals.
In addition to processions, bhajans and prayers during morning and noon, night prayers are also offered at Gurudwaras.
Why Guru Nanak Jayanti is celebrated on Kartik Purnima?
Unlike the celebrations of birth anniversary, Guru Nanak Jayanti is celebrated on a different day than Guru Nanak’s birthday.
Although there are no proper texts or references available to explain why this festival is celebrated on Kartik Purnima, it is believed that Guru Nanak found Sikhism on the full moon day of Kartik month.
Kartik Purnima, the full moon day on the lunar month of Kartik is a very special and auspicious day in all religions followed in India. This day is celebrated as ‘Karthikai fest’ in Hindus, especially in Tamilnadu. This is called the festival of lights, where people light oil lamps and decorate their homes.
Even Jains observe a similar celebration as of Sikhs on Kartik Purnima. So, it is an auspicious day in all religions.