By Amarpreet Kaur:
There is something about the month of October. There is a nip in the air, the weather is refreshing and the best part is the joy of festivities that each one of us eagerly looks forward to. One can say without a doubt that it is the onset of the best part of the year and the one to come: the season of celebrations and festivities. Durga Puja, Dussehra, Diwali, Gurupurab, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and the list never ends!
India as a country is known for its rich culture. Our festivals are a perfect reflection of this cultural legacy that we have. People from different religious and ethnic backgrounds come together and share the bond of happiness and oneness, further underlining the maxim ‘Unity in Diversity’, which is synonymous with India. The pomp, gaiety and splendor with which every single festival is celebrated are something that I personally love. The celebrations have an aura of positivity about them that is so contagious that nobody is left untouched by them.
Among all the festivals, the one that holds special significance in our family is the Gurupurab. Gurupurab marks the birth anniversary of the Sikh Gurus, who were the founders and propagators of the fifth largest religion in India, Sikhism. The word Sikh is derived from a Sanskrit word which means ‘a student’. And where there is a student, it is but obvious that there will be a teacher as well. The holy teacher was called as the ‘Guru’ and Gurupurab marks the celebration of the birthdays of the Sikh Gurus. Guru Nanak Dev was the founder of the Sikh religion and every year his birth anniversary is celebrated with special zeal and vigor by not only the Sikh community, but by people from all other religions as well, across the globe. This year the occasion will be celebrated on the 28th of November.
Gurupurab celebrations are a three-day affair. We begin by reading the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which is the holy book of the Sikhs, continuously over a period of forty-eight hours. This in our language is referred to as Akhand Path. This is something that every member of the family takes part in. While one recites the ‘Gurbani’, all others listen to him or her with devotion and sincerity so that they can imbibe the teachings of the Gurus into their lives. Truthfulness, honesty, hard-work, being fair are some among them. Besides, the fact that the whole family does it together only strengthens the bond of love among the members.
The forty-eight hour Akhand Path culminates on the morning of the Gurupurab. A special offering called ‘Rumala Sahib’ is made to the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. It is basically a traditional piece of clothing that the holy book is covered with. My mother makes delicious Karah Parshad which each one of us joyfully savor.
Then it is time for each one of us to dress up in our traditional best and get ready to go to the Gurudwara. At the Gurudwara, we have Shabad Kirtan which is a part of the Sikh tradition. It is a musical rendition of verses and hymns from the holy book. There are lectures by scholarly people which throw light on the history of the Sikh religion and the numerous sacrifices made by the Gurus for the welfare of mankind. The atmosphere is something definitely not to be missed. There are children, there are the young and there are the elders, not only ones belonging to the Sikh religion, but people from all walks of life. Langar or community kitchen is there where all people sit down together as equals and are served food and Parshad in the form of blessings. Stalls are put up outside the Gurudwara where hot tea and pakodas are served. There are shops selling Sikh literature and other stuff that is of significance to the religion. Karah Parshad is served in the afternoon.
As the day turns into evening, the Gurudwaras as well as homes are illuminated with lights and lamps. Aarti is done in the evening. Thereafter, it is time for fireworks, the part that I most look forward to. Crackers of varied hues light up the night sky and the feeling is really special.
Each custom that is associated with the Gurupurab has a special significance of its own. The Langar or community kitchen is a tradition that was started by Guru Nanak Dev, the first Guru of the Sikhs. Its aim was to do away with the man-made prejudices of caste, creed, religion and sect and to emphasize on the fact that all human beings are the children of one God. Nobody is discriminated against and all people partake the Langar together. The feeling of oneness with God and with all other fellow human beings is divine.
I would love to share the three principles that are the foundation of Sikhism: Naam Japo, Kirat Karo, and Vand Ke Chhako, which mean to meditate on God who is the supreme power, working hard and honestly to earn a living, and sharing whatever you have with your fellow humans. The Gurupurab holds a very important place in my life as I have been celebrating it ever since I was a child. Its significance is something that has been instilled in me right from childhood and has only got deeper in meaning with the passage of time.
To conclude I would like to share a line that comes in the Sikh prayer known as “Ardaas”. It goes like this: “Nanak Naam Chardi Kala, Tere Bhane Sarbat Da Bhala”. The meaning is that Waheguru’s blessings are always there for the welfare of the whole of mankind and every other form of life that exists on the earth. Whenever you pray, ask for yourself as much as you want, but do not forget to ask for others as well, as we all are the children of one Creator, one God. A beautiful thought indeed!