Guru Nanak Jayanti ranks among the popular festivals in India. Guru Nanak is the first of Sikh gurus. He is considered as the founder of Sikhism. Guru Nanak was born in the Indian state of Punjab, India (which is now part of Pakistan), on 15 April 1469. His followers and believers, have faith in his spiritual teachings, which they have collectively known as Sikhism.
Sikhs are peace loving and hardworking folks. They can be found settled world over. In India, though their population is less than 5%, they have contributed vastly for the country through various ways. You can find them as successful business leaders, working in the army, and they are known for their charitable causes and contributions.
Where is Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrated?
Guru Nanak Jayanti is celebrated as the birth anniversary of their spiritual leader. You can find people all over the states of Punjab and Haryana celebrating it with great pomp and joy. Celebrations are not only held in India, but by Sikhs who are settled in foreign soil also tend to celebrate with gusto and enthusiasm to that of their Indian counterparts.
This year it falls on Friday, 23 November. Calculations are done based on Kartik Puranmashi or the full moon day of the month Kartik.
Who are the people that celebrate Guru Nanak Jayanti?
Guru Nanak Gurpurab is considered as a sacred day for Sikhs. Just as all religions have birth celebrations of their spiritual leader, Gurupurab is marked as the birthday of Guru Nanak. It is the birth of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. Usually the festival is celebrated all over the world on November 4 Saturday, but based on the lunar calendar the date is chosen.
How is Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrated in the United States of America?
Sikhs who are based world over celebrate Guru Nanak Jayanti, the birth of their founder, Guru Nanak. The birth is celebrated as a witness to his life and the preaching which should be followed and taken seriously by his followers. Though Sikhs celebrate the birth of all the 10 gurus, they celebrate Guru Nanak’s birth on a large scale, as he was the founder of the religion.
In the United States of America, the Sikhs have a sizable population. They have been living there for more than a century and have contributed to the society in several ways. It is not surprising that Americans admire and respect the Sikh community. Each year, the president of USA, greets the Sikhs, on Guru Nanak Jayanti.
In parts of Washington DC, which is the capital of America, you can find Sikhs celebrating the festival. The celebrations are similar to that which happens in India. The celebrations in the Sikh community start well ahead of the stipulated day of Gurpurab. The Guru Granth Sahib, which is their holy book, is read 2 days in advance.
The non-stop reading of the holy book is known as Akhand Path. Various religious leaders of the Sikh take turns to read the book. The reading of the holy book is more like chanting prayers, which sound like music to the ears.
On the second day, a procession is carried out by the Sikhs. The panj pyaras or five chosen ones carry the Sikh flag. The Guru Granth Sahib is placed on a palanquin and marched on the streets for his followers to pray and worship. The procession is known as Nagarkirtan. Singers follow the five chosen ones and chant slogans as they pass the streets.
People decorate the streets with flowers and many of them even join the procession. Not commonly seen in America, but in India, trained martial arts individuals, perform their skills using swords. Even mock battles are displayed for people to see and understand Sikhism better. For Sikhs the knife is a religious metal and should be carried by all grown up men.
Usually community leaders walk ahead of the procession and devotees join as it passes along. The birthday is celebrated with great pomp and joy. It starts very early in the morning. Devotees go to their place of worship, Gurudwara to sings praises. Once all the hymns are sung for each of the 10 gurus, reading from the holy book is done.
It is known as reading session or katha. As you might know, Sikhs are popular for their langars or community halls serving free meals. On the birth of Guru Nanak, special lunch is prepared for one and all. All are welcome to take part in the community feast. The kitchens are huge and can easily cater to the needs of more than 1000 people at one time.
It is not common to find people of all religions in the langar and taking part in the lunch. The celebrations go on past midnight. Once the prayers are offered, the devotees start offering hymns of praise to their leader. Sometimes the singing and praising can go on till 2am in the morning.
The reason for that is that Sikhs believe Guru Nanak was born after 1:20am. By 2am, the celebrations, which mainly comprise of singing hymns wrap up. Only then, devotees start to leave and head home. In America, the Sikhs know the importance of sharing and caring for others.
They demonstrate this very significantly through the birth of their leader, Guru Nanak Jayanti. Though celebrations are smaller in scale when compared to India, you cannot deny that it is one of the most important festivals in America.