Today, Gurpurab or Guru Nanak Jayanti (the birth anniversary of the first Sikh guru), also known as the Prakash Utsav, is being celebrated with much aplomb in India and amongst the Sikh community and followers of Guru Nanak Dev all over the world.
Prabhat Pheris (early morning singing of hymns starting from gurudwaras) are organized by Sikh communities in their localities all over the country. The festivities begin two days (48 hours) prior to Guru Nanak Jayanti, with the Akhand Paath or reciting from the holy book, Guru Granth Sahib.
The Harminder Sahib Gurudwara or the Golden Temple (the holiest of Sikh shrines) in Amritsar is decked up for the occasion and palanquins are carried in Nagar Kirtan. Shabad Kirtan and Gurbani (holy songs) are sung all day long at gurudwaras all over the world in celebration of the occasion. Langars (community kitchens) are set up at all the gurudwaras in celebration. Families and friends exchange greetings on this auspicious day.
On attaining enlightenment, Guru Nanak Dev spread the message of peace, brotherhood, compassion, and harmony. His main message to everyone was that of oneness, loving your neighbour, spreading goodness, and daily kirtana or japa (hymns and meditation) for leading a fulfilled life.
On this holy occasion, I remember a story of Guru Nanak Dev that I read as a child in one of my school books, which had a profound impact on me. One day, Guru Nanak Dev was resting outside the Kaaba (House of God) with his feet pointing in its direction. The qazi took offence at this and rudely told Guru Nanak Dev to move his feet away from the direction of the Kaaba. At this, Guru Nanak Dev politely asked the qazi to move his feet to a direction where God was not present. The qazi kicked him and moved his feet in a different direction but the door of the Kaaba moved in the direction of his feet. Much to his chagrin, each time he moved the feet away, the Kaaba would move too in the direction of the feet. Finally, he realized that Guru Nanak Dev was no ordinary man and fell at his feet, asking for forgiveness.
The message of this story, and of Guru Nanak Dev’s life, is that God resides in all directions, in all faiths, and in every creation in the universe. In other words, God’s presence is not limited to any one direction – what a beautiful message for a world torn in strife and chaos. His life teaches us to lead a life of humility, shunning ego and pride.
Wishing all the readers a very Happy Guru Nanak Jayanti. May there be happiness, light and harmony all around.