Once, a curious child asked his grandmother, “Why do we light up our house on Guru Nanak Jayanti?” The grandmother smiled and responded, “Because, dear, it is not just our house that lights up, but our hearts too. This festival reminds us of the teachings of Guru Nanak and helps us live a righteous life.” Such is the profundity and significance of Guru Nanak Jayanti.
Guru Nanak Jayanti is one of the most revered festivals celebrated by Sikhs worldwide. The day commemorates the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism. As we dive into the realms of its history and significance, it’s essential to understand its role in shaping millions of lives today.
History of Guru Nanak Jayanti
The history of Guru Nanak Jayanti offers an insightful lens into the remarkable life and journey of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who left an indelible mark on spiritual thought and humanism. Born in 1469, in the humble surroundings of Rai Bhoi Di Talwandi, which today is recognised as Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, his teachings solidified the core beliefs of Sikhism.
As Guru Nanak traversed different regions during his ‘Udasis’ or travels, he propagated a message of love, equality, and unity, transcending the boundaries of regions and religions. These travels took him to various parts of India and even beyond, to places like Mecca and Tibet.
Even as a child, Guru Nanak exhibited a disposition different from others. Challenging prevailing religious dogmas and societal prejudices, he envisioned a society where all individuals were equal, devoid of the divisions that religious and caste differences imposed. His landmark assertion, “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim,” was not just a statement but a revolutionary thought that emphasised universal brotherhood.
Over the years, the celebration of his birth anniversary has transformed. What might have started as intimate gatherings in households or local gurdwaras is today a worldwide event marked by large processions, devotional singing, prayers, and the heartwarming tradition of community kitchens, known as langars.
Significance of Guru Nanak Jayanti
Guru Nanak Jayanti is not merely an annual event; it embodies the profound teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, urging individuals to introspect and embrace these teachings.
Universal Brotherhood: Guru Nanak’s emphasis on recognising the divine in every soul was not just a philosophical idea but a call to action. By acknowledging the divine in each person, he propagated the belief that every individual is worthy of love and respect.
Equality: In a society riddled with caste-based hierarchies and gender biases, Guru Nanak’s teachings on equality were groundbreaking. His establishment of the Langar system, where everyone, regardless of their socio-economic or religious background, sits and eats together, was a practical demonstration of this belief.
Selfless Service: Guru Nanak’s principle of ‘Seva’ or selfless service is a cornerstone of Sikhism. On Guru Nanak Jayanti, this principle comes alive as Sikhs globally immerse themselves in voluntary services, reaffirming their commitment to community and humanity.
Meditation: Spiritual introspection and connection with the divine are at the heart of this day. As dawn breaks, the air resonates with hymns, setting the tone for a day of reflection and spiritual enlightenment.
Guru Nanak Jayanti Date
Every year, the Guru Nanak Jayanti date is calculated based on the lunar calendar. It falls on the full moon day (Purnima) in the month of Kartik, according to the Hindu lunar calendar. The Gregorian date varies every year due to this, but it usually falls in late October to early November. Celebrated with great zeal, this date marks an important day of reflection, prayer, and community gathering for Sikhs. In 2023, Guru Nanak Jayanti falls on the 27th of November.
Guru Nanak Jayanti Quotes
Guru Nanak’s words are a guiding light for many. Here are some poignant Guru Nanak Jayanti quotes that resonate with his teachings:
“Burn worldly love; rub the ashes and make ink of it; make the heart the pen; the intellect the writer; write that which has no end or limit.”
“He who has no faith in himself can never have faith in God.”
“Even kings and emperors with heaps of wealth and vast dominion cannot compare with an ant filled with the love of God.”
“Death would not be called bad, O people, if one knew how to truly die.”
“Speak only that which will bring you honour.”
“God is one, but he has innumerable forms.”
“The world is a drama staged in a dream.”
“By conquering the mind, you conquer the world.”
His teachings, encapsulated in these quotes, offer wisdom that is timeless and universally applicable.
The Celebratory Traditions of Guru Nanak Jayanti
Guru Nanak Jayanti is not just marked by its spiritual significance but also by its vibrant traditions. Preceding the main day, the practice of ‘Prabhat Pheris’ begins. These are early morning processions starting from the gurdwaras, moving to different localities, and singing hymns. The sacred book of Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib, is read continuously in a relay manner for 48 hours in a practice known as ‘Akhand Path’. Another major attraction is the ‘Nagar Kirtan’ procession led by the Panj Pyaras (Five Beloved Ones), where participants sing hymns, distribute sweets, and showcase their martial arts skills. Amidst these grand ceremonies, what remains the epicentre of the celebration are the values of love, compassion, and unity taught by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, making this festival a beacon of hope and spiritual rejuvenation.
To sum up, Guru Nanak Jayanti is not just a festival, but a reminder. A reminder of the principles upon which Sikhism stands, the ideals that Guru Nanak Dev Ji espoused, and the path he illuminated for millions to follow. It’s a day of reverence, reflection, and recommitment to the values that make us human.
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