Guru Nanak Jayanti
Celebrated on the first full moon during the Hindu month of Kartik – which usually falls somewhere during the month of November on the Gregorian calendar – Guru Nanak Jayanti is a day that celebrates the birth of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. In India, this Gurpurb (anniversary of a Sikh’s birth or death) is a gazetted holiday, meaning that most people are off of work and most businesses and government offices are closed on this day.
Born on April 15th, 1469 in what is now known as Nankana Sahib, Punjab, Pakistan – Guru Nanak would grow up to become the founder of Sikhism and a teacher that spread the word of the oneness of God. As the founder of Sikhism, he also taught people about the intertwining of one’s spiritual and secular life. While many of his teachings drew both on Muslim and Islamic thought, his philosophy wasn’t just an amalgam of the principles found in these religions. His teachings also contained many revolutionary ideas about the true nature of God and the importance of one’s spiritual enlightenment over external rituals, penances and pilgrimages. He also denounced the caste system of India and taught that everyone if equal – regardless of class, gender, wealth or station of birth.
Customs, Traditions and Celebrations
This day is usually celebrated with feasts, the telling of stories, prayers and community activities. However, one of the most important celebrations on this day are the many Guru Nanak Jayanti parades that take place all over India. A pre-dawn parade called parbhat feri occurs on this day and features many followers walking through the streets and singing spiritual songs. Many participants will also perform Karseva on this day. Karseva is literally “selfless service” and is work or service that is done without thinking of any sort of personal reward. Therefore, many people will perform community service on this day in food kitchens for the poor or in hospitals.
This holiday allows people to acknowledge the founding traditions of Sikhism and the principles of service to others over one’s own selfish desires. It also allows people to come together and help each other in not only secular terms but spiritual ones as well.