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The day of Kartik Purnima is of great significance. A lot of communities gather for festivities on this day. It is especially momentous for the Sikh community as they celebrate the birth anniversary of their first Guru, the founder of Sikhism: Guru Nanak Dev.
The festivities in the Sikh religion revolve around the anniversaries of the 10 Sikh Gurus. These Gurus were responsible for shaping the beliefs of the Sikhs. Their birthdays, known as Gurpurab (or Gurpurb), are occasions for celebration and prayer among the Sikhs.
Sikhs celebrate Guru Nanak's birthday and the other Gurpurbs with an Akhand Path. This involves reading of the Sikh holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, continuously from the beginning to the end. This is done by a team of Sikh men and women, each reading for 2-3 hours over 48 hours, beginning two days before and ending early on the morning of the birthday.
A day before the Gurpurab, a procession known as the Nagarkirtan is taken out in which all men, women and children of the community participate. This procession is led by the Panj Pyares (Five Beloved Ones). They carry the Sikh flag (Nishan Saheb) and a palanquin which has the Guru Granth Saheb. Devotees follow them singing hymns in the praise of the Gurus.
On the day of Gurpurab, a Prabhat Pheri or early morning procession is held. The time is usually from 4 to 5 am, which is known as the Amrit Vela. The day begins with singing hymns, followed by Kathas or stories from the holy book.
During the later part of the day, Langar or free community lunch is organised at the Gurudwara. Everyone, irrespective of caste, creed or class sits together and food is served to them by the volunteers with the spirit of Seva (service) and Bhakti (devotion).
In the evening, Rehras or the evening prayer is recited which is followed by Kirtan till late night. At 1.20 am, which is the actual time of Guru Nanak's birth, Gurbani is sung and the festivities conclude by 2 am.
Guru Nanak Jayanti is an important celebration because Guru Nanak Dev is believed to be the founder of Sikhism and the first Guru. He was a great seer, saint and mystic.
He was a prophet of peace, love, truth and renaissance. His universal message is as fresh and true even today as it was in the past. Sikhs, all over the world, practise what Guru Nanak Dev preached to reaffirm their beliefs in the teachings of their founder. It is the birth anniversary of this great saint why Sikhs celebrate Gurpurab.