Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Prakash Utsav, marks the birth anniversary of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak. Regarded as the most sacred festivals in Sikhism, followers of Guru Nanak’s philosophy celebrate this festival every year.
Anniversaries of the 10 Sikh Gurus are occasions for the celebrations and prayers among the Sikhs, as these Gurus are responsible for shaping the beliefs of the Sikhs.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji is the first Guru, and founder of Sikhism. The birth year of this great man is 1469 an his place of birth is Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi in the Shekhupura District of Pakistan, now known as Nankana Sahib. The birthday of Guru Nanak Sahib falls on Kartik Poornima, i.e., the day of the full moon in the month of Kartik.
The Festival Celebration
The celebration is similar for all Gurpurabs, although in some cases the hymns are different. Celebrations usually commence with early morning processions that begin at the Gurudwaras and proceed around the localities singing hymns. Generally two days before the birthday, Akhand Path (a forty-eight-hour non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs) is held in the Gurdwaras.
The day before the birthday, a procession, referred to as Nagarkirtan,takes place. It is led by the Panj Pyaras (Five Beloved Ones). They are at the head of the procession carrying the Sikh flag, known as the Nishan Sahib and the Palki (Palanquin) of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Following them are teams of singers singing hymns while devotees sing the chorus. Brass bands play different tunes and ‘Gatka’ teams demonstrate their swordmanship through various martial arts and mock battles cause a lot of interest, using traditional weapons. Procession moves through the streets of the town as passage is covered with banners and gates decorated with flags and flowers.
The leaders add a sacred touch to the occasion by spreading the message of Guru Nanak.
Night Prayer sessions are also held in some Gurudwaras, which begin around sunset when Rehras(evening prayer) is recited, followed by Kirtan till late at night. The congregation starts singing Gurbani at about 1:20 am at night, which is the actual time of birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The celebrations culminate at around 2 am.
Guru Nanak Gurpurab is celebrated by the Sikh community all over the world and is one of the most important festivals in the Sikh calendar. The celebrations are especially colorful in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh.