Baba Guru Nanak Dev ji, the first of the 10 Sikh Gurus, was born on April 15, 1469 in Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi (now in Pakistan, known as Nankana Sahib) and is the founder of Sikhism. This year is his 549th birthday and it will be commemorated on November 4, a gazetted holiday in India. His birthday is celebrated across the world as Prakash Parv or Guru Nanak Jayanti and in India the celebrations start two days prior to his birthday with the reading of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs in Gurudwaras.
The Akhand Path is carried out for 48 hours at a stretch followed by ‘Nagarkirtan’ the day before Guru Prakash Parv. The procession is led by the five beloved ones or ‘Panj Pyaras’ where they carry the Sikh flag, called Nishan Sahib, and the holy book in a palanquin. During the procession, men, called Nihang Sikh, perform a Sikh martial art called ‘Gatka’ showcasing the valour and skills of the Sikhs. Sikh leaders walk barefooted along with the procession sharing preachings of Sikh Guru. The processions are also filled with music highlighted with symbolic and decorative items.
On the day, people sing devotional songs and set out for Prabhat Pheris in the early hours of the day. Following the morning hymns, ‘katha’ sessions are held when preachings of Guru Nanak from the holy scriptures are read out to the followers. The morning rituals end with ‘Kritan’ where leaders of the gurudwara sing songs in praise of the Guru. Gurudwaras through the day organise langars, free community meals, for people from all walks of life and from all faiths. Several Sikhs volunteer to serve people in langars on this day as ‘seva’ or service is considered to be the highest form of act according to Guru Granth Sahib.
Devotees travelling from all corners of the country and the world throng to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the pilgrimage site of Sikhs. In Amritsar, devotees in the evening light candles in the shape of ‘Ik Onkar’ which symbolises ‘one supreme reality’ which one of the main tenets of Sikh religion. Otherwise, people assemble together and burst crackers, but last year, Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Community celebrated eco-friendly Gurupurab keeping in sight the growing air pollution where the committee three months prior to the celebrations extensively campaigned green initiative and also served devotees in leaf plates.