Guru Nanak Jayanti, the day of birth of Guru Nanak as depicted in some texts falls on 15th of April 1469. Nanak was born at Rai Bhoi Ki Talvandi village in the Lahore Province of the Delhi Sultanate (Present day Nankana Sahib Punjab, Pakistan).
Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. His birth is celebrated world wide as Guru Nanak Jayanti or Guru Nanak Gurupurab on Kartik Poornmashi. The exact date of his birth comes in the month of Katak, October-November.
Nanak, is also known by the name of Baba Nanak and Nanak Shah and by Nanak Lama in Tibbet area. Being born in a Hindu family, his parents were Kalyan Chand Das Bedi (Mehta Kalu) and Mata Tripta. He had one elder sister Bebe Nanaki.
At the age of five Nanak is said to have voiced interest in divine subjects. He would spend his time in meeting with many Sufi saints to know more about the lord and spend most of his time in meditation.
In 1487 Nanak married Mata Sulakkhani, daughter of Mul Chand and Chando Rani, in the town of Batala and had two sons, Sri Chand and Laxmi Chand. Nanak heart was not in worldly life and spends most of his time in
meditation and selfless service to the divine. It is said that one day he left his family and home in search of the Divine and the real path of oneness with supreme.
The essence of his teaching can be gazed from the lines “As the lotus unsullied in water and duck with its wings dry; Similarly O Nanak, cross over this ocean of existence with the help of Surat Shabad practice.”
Guru Nanak says, “Samund virol sarrer ham dekhya Ik vastu anup dekhai, Guru Gobind, Gobind Guru hai, Nanak bhed na bhai” , again explained that God is Guru and Guru is God, Betwixt them, there is no difference.
Guru Nanak says-that do Seva or service sharing with others and giving to those who are less fortunate, that’s why in every Gurudawara there is system of langer(food) open for all and people do Seva, where people belonging to every caste, creed and religion would come and sit together. His teachings have also profound social implications. He denounced the caste system prevalent in Hinduism and stressed the inner spiritual awakening.
Guru Nanak traveled extensively during his lifetime. Some modern accounts state that he visited Tibet, most of South Asia and Arabia starting in 1496, at age 27, when he left his family for a thirty-year period. These claims include Guru Nanak visiting the Mount Sumeru of Indian mythology, as well as Mecca, Baghdad, Achal Batala and Multan, in these places he debated religious ideas with competing groups. These stories became widely popular in the 19th and 20th century, and exist in many versions.
Guru Nanak started his mission with Muslim companion Bhai Mardana Ji , who was the first Sikh and longtime companion of Guru Nanak , first in the line of gurus noted as Sikh. Bhai Mardana accompanied Guru Nanak Dev Ji on his historic journeys. Bhai Mardana was born in a Muslim family, to couple Badra and Lakkho, of Rai Bhoi di Talwandi, now Nankana Sahib of Pakistan.
It is estimated that he accompanied Guru Nanak on five major world tours. Once said that Guru Nanak wished to visit Muslim shrines with Bhai Mardana. A significant story tells that in Mecca, Nanak fell asleep with his feet pointing towards Kabba, the most sacred site in Islam, and was considered dishonoring the house of God.
On this Nanak replied calmly and said please turned my feet in a direction in which God or house of God does not exist. Qazi took hold of Nanak feet and rotated him around, but when the Qazi lifted his eyes, he saw the Kabba standing in the direction of Guru Nanak’s feet.
The Qazi was amazed at Nanak holiness. Nanak said that God dwells in every place and in every heart. To see all this Qazi bow his head in feet of Guru Nanak and apologied for his act. The people present there took blessings from him and showed token of love and respect to the true saint by presenting ‘Khadau’.
The Festival on Guru Nanak jayanti – The celebration is generally similar for all Sikhs; only the hymns are different. The celebrations usually commence with Prabhat Pheris. Prabhat Pheris are 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 prior to the birthday, a procession, referred to as Nagarkirtan, is organized. This procession is led by the Panj Pyaras (Five Beloved Ones). They head the procession carrying the Sikh flag, known as the Nishan Sahib and the Palki (Palanquin) of Guru Granth Sahib. They are followed by teams of singers singing hymns and devotees sing the chorus. There are brass bands playing different tunes and ‘Gatka’ teams display their swordsmanship through various martial arts and as mock battles using traditional weapons. The procession pours into the streets of the town. The passage is covered with banners and gates decorated flags and flowers, for this special occasion.
On the day of the Gurpurab, the celebrations commence early in the morning at about 4 to 5 a.m. This time of the day is referred to as Amrit Vela. The day begins with the singing of Asaa-Ki-Vaar (morning hymns).This is followed by any combination of Katha (exposition of the scripture) and Kirtan (hymns from the Sikh scriptures), in the praise of the Guru. Following that is the Langar, a special community lunch, which is arranged at the Gurudwaras by volunteers. The idea behind the free communal lunch is that everyone, irrespective of caste, class or creed, should be offered food in the spirit of seva (service) and bhakti (devotion).
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 and many more locations. Even some Sindhis celebrate this festival.
Guru Nanak Dev—The spiritual master