Baisakhi Gurupurab Holla Mohalla g
Holla Mohalla Gurupurab Baisakhi


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gurupurabGurpurab literally means 'festival of the guru'. The Sikhs celebrate 10 Gurpurabs in a year. At each of these festivals, one of the ten gurus of the Khalsa Pantha is honored. Akhanda pathas, community feasts, kar seva and religious processions form part of the festivities. All Gurpurabs are considered auspicious and important but special significance is accorded to the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, in the month of Kartik. The Sikhs believe that Guru Nanak brought enlightenment to the world; hence the festival is also called Prakash Utsav, the festival of light.

Guru Nanak was born in 1469 in a village called Talvandi near Lahore, in present-day Pakistan to a Kshatriya family. His father was a revenue collector. Nanak was given a traditional Hindu education and exposed to the basic tenets of Islam in his childhood. He began associating with learned men early in his life, and under their influence started composing and singing hymns. Always secular in his outlook, he even organized a canteen where Muslims and Hindus of all castes could come and eat together.

gurupurabWhile in a small town called Sultanpur, it is believed that he had a vision from god, directing him to preach to mankind. This, according to Sikh legend, was fulfilling the prophecy that had been ordained for him. His horoscope had predicted that he would be respected by both Hindus and Muslims and would lead them to god.

Fifteen days before the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, celebrations begin. Religious processions called Prabhat Feris are taken from house to house for a fortnight. A day before the festival, an enormous parade starts from the gurdwara in the afternoon. People old and young join in this trail of goodwill and happiness. Leading the crowd are the Panch Pyare. Behind them, placed on a beautifully decorated tableau, is the Guru Grantha Sahib.

gurupurabFollowing it is a troupe of musicians, singing shabads, in honor of the guru. As they weave their way through the markets and residential areas of the city, people come forward to seek the blessings of the Panch Pyare, by prostrating themselves before the priests. The procession gives an opportunity even to the old and the infirm to pay homage to the Guru Grantha Sahib before it winds its way back to the temple. This eternal guru of the Sikhs is believed to consecrate the ground over which it travels. On the day of the festival, Akhanda pathas are organized in gurdwaras and many central locations in cities. A special shabad called Asaji di War is sung very early in the morning. Devotees start streaming into the gurdwara at about the same time. They sit and listen to the recitation of excerpts from the Grantha Sahib. After the head priest offers ardas, the entire congregation sings shabads based on the teachings of Guru Nanak, until noon. Food, which has been cooked in the community mess by volunteers, is then offered to the guru in an elaborate ceremony for his blessings. Karah Prasad is then distributed to all those present. Men and women of all ages, belonging to different castes and creeds, then sit together to partake of the consecrated food in the guru kalangar. Cooked and served by those performing kar seva, this is just one of the methods of service to the community. At night, people light candles and oil lamps around their houses. Some even burst crackers in celebration of the occasion. To honor Guru Nanak on his birth anniversary, devout Sikhs practice the egalitarianism that he preached and reaffirm their belief in the teachings of their founder.