World ? Asia ? India

Guru Nanak Parkash Divas

Guru Nanak celebrations at the Golden Temple, Amritsar

Nov 2009 (annual)
Guru Nanak Parkash Divas (birthday of the founding father of Sikhism) is one of the most sacred days of the Sikh calendar, venerated by Sikhs worldwide. The holy Golden Temple in Amritsar witnesses some impressive celebrations around this time.
For three weeks before Guru Nanak's Parkash Divas, special early-morning processions called Prabhat Peris are held, featuring hymns and chants in honour of the Guru. People along the way offer sweets and tea to the marchers.

For three days before Guru Nanak's Parkash Divas begins, a marathon continuous reading of the Aad Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of the Sikhs) takes place. The reading is called the akhand path.

On the day of the Guru Nanak's Parkash Divas festival itself the Aad Guru Granth Sahib (holy book)is carried out of the temple in a procession, covered with garlands of flowers and accompanied by the Panch Pyare, the armed guard instituted by the Tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, carrying the Nishan Sahib, the Sikh flag. The festive procession is accompanied by music and drummers. Following the procession, a special free lunch banquet is held for all present. Sikhs hold this meal in a spirit of seva (service) and bhakti (devotion).

Born in 1469 to a Kshatriya (warrior-caste) family, the Guru Nanak was a precocious child. He learned Sanskrit and Hindi at the age of seven and reportedly impressed his teachers with his "knowledge of extraordinary and divine matters". Soon he embarked on four long travels throughout whole India including Tibet and Ceylon and throughout the Middle East to discuss with the heads of various religious centres and to preach his doctrines about God and social justice.

His teachings explicitly rejected both the cruel social systems of Hinduism and the theocracy of Islam, forming instead another path, built on the virtues of the good life of the householder and of praising and understanding the One God. Asceticism, deprivation, philosophical speculation and celibacy were all considered useless methods of attaining consciousness of the divine. Rather, singing the praise of God and meditating on his name were the instruments of the good, religious life. (The martial elements of Sikhism were introduced by later gurus).
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