Also known as ‘Gurpurab’ or ‘Guru Nanak Jayanti’, this festival celebrates the birth of the first Sikh Guru and founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Jayanti. Born in 1469 near Lahore, in modern-day Pakistan, Guru Nanak Jayanti received enlightenment in 1496 and began preaching to the world about peace and religious harmony.
Celebrations begin two days in advance, with the commencement of the Arambh Path – an unbroken recitation of the Holy Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, which takes forty-eight hours to complete. On the day before Guru Nanak’s Prakash Utsav, naga kirtan (processions) take place in the streets, with singing and dancing to spread the message of Guru Nanak Jayanti. Processing barefoot, the procession each carry a Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag), following behind the palanquin (ornate float) on which the Guru Granth Sahib is ceremoniously carried. Gatka (Sikh Martial Arts) often take place as part of the procession too.
On the day of Guru Nanak’s Prakash Utsav itself, observances last all day, beginning in the gurdwara (Sikh temple) with Prabhat Pheris (early morning processions) and Asa-di-Var (devotional hymns). These are followed by a Katha* session, where the teachings of Guru Nanek Jayanti are read from the Guru Granth Sahib. Kirtan (devotional songs) are also sung in praise of the Guru, and Langar (sacred free food) is provided at community lunches.
* Katha is the verbal explanation/discourse of Gurbani (the utterings of the Guru’s) and our great history. Katha has been an integral part of Sikh practice since the revealed inception of Sikhism by Sri Guru Nanak Dev. Many Sikhs believe that through Katha they will gain knowledge about Sikhism and become enlightened. Katha is both a spiritual and historical discourse, endowing the listener with spiritual and worldly knowledge.
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