Sikhs around the world are joining together to celebrate 550 years since the birth of Guru Nanak – the religion’s founder and first guru.
His birth is celebrated worldwide as Guru Nanak Gurpurab. His birthday falls each year on Kartik Pooranmashi – the full-moon day in the month of Katak. As with many faiths, Sikhs follow a lunar calendar, which means that it falls on a different date each year. In 2019, it is on 12th November.
Guru Nanak founded Sikhism in the 15th century. He travelled far and wide, teaching people the message of one God who dwells in every one of His creations and constitutes the eternal Truth. He set up a unique spiritual, social, and political platform based on equality, fraternal love, goodness, and virtue. Guru Nanak’s words are recorded in the form of 974 poetic hymns in the holy text of Sikhism – the Guru Granth Sahib.
Nanak was born in Nankana Sahib near Lahore. This was in Punjab India but is now part of modern day Pakistan. His father was the local tax collector for the village. There are many accounts which tell of Nanak’s early spiritual awakening. He was said to be a precocious child with particular insights into religious teachings and philosophy. Although he often spent time alone in meditation, and was fascinated by religious rituals, he also had a rebellious streak, not always accepting religious dogma. For example, at the age of 11, boys of his age are supposed to wear a sacred thread of caste. Nanak refused to wear the thread, arguing that caste should not be used as a means of judging a person. He later taught his followers to concentrate on spiritual practices which would enable them to transform their egotism into selflessness.
The celebration Guru Nanak’s birthday will have begun 2 days ago, with the Guru Granth Sahib being read continuously for 48 hours. To commemorate his birth, followers traditionally begin with an early morning procession. Through the day, devotees chant and sing hymns. A special prayer known as ‘Rehrasi’ is organised at sunset. According to Sikh tradition, it is believed that Nanak was born at around 1:20 am. Therefore, evening prayers continue till then, as worshippers sing hymns in his praise. The festival draws to a close about 2:00 am.
Guru Nanak was the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. It is part of Sikh religious belief that the spirit of Nanak’s sanctity, divinity and religious authority descended upon each of the nine subsequent Gurus when the Guruship was devolved on to them.