associated with the lives of the Sikh Gurus are referred
to as Gurpurbs (festivals). Of these the important ones
are the birthdays of Guru Nanak and Guru Govind Singh
and the martyrdom days of Guru Arjun Dev and Guru Teg
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, was born
in a Punjabi village (which is now in Pakistan) in 1469.
His birth anniversary, or Guru Nanak's jayanti, which
falls in the months of October-November, is enthusiastically
celebrated by Sikhs as gurpurab.
Gurpurbs witness the culminations of Prabhat Pheris,
the early morning religious procession which goes around
the localities singing shabads (hymns). These Pheris
generally start three weeks before the festival. Devotees
offer sweets and tea when the procession passes by their
The celebrations start with the three-day akhand path
in which the Granth Sahib (the holy book of the Sikhs)
is read continuously from beginning to end without a
break. Conclusion of the reading coincides with the
day of the festival.
On this day the Granth Sahib is carried in procession
throughout the village or city. It is placed on a float
or a van strewn with flowers. Five armed guards, who
represent the panj pyares, head the procession carrying
Nishan Sahibs (the Sikh flag). Local bands are hired
for playing religious music for the procession. Marching
schoolchildren are a special part of the procession.
Free sweets and langar are also offered to the general
public outside some gurdwaras.
Sikhs visit gurdwaras (Sikh temples) where special programmes
are arranged and kirtans (religious songs) are sung.
Langar or community lunch is also arranged in the gurdwaras.
The langar is open to people of all walks of life and
of all faiths. It is served by local volunteers with
a spirit of seva (service) and bhakti (devotion).
At night Sikhs illuminate and decorate their houses
and Gurdwaras with candles and electric lights. This
festival usually occurs in the month of November (kartik).
The Tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, was born on 2 December
1666 in Patna (Bihar). His Guruship is highly significant
as he forged the distinctive identity of the Sikhs with
five K and called gave the name Khalsa (the pure) to
his followers. His birthday, which falls in December,
is also marked by prayer readings, kirtans and processions.
The martyrdom day of the fifth Guru, Arjun Dev, is observed
with prayers and processions. On this day stalls are
erected on roadsides for offering kachi lassi (sweetened
milk) to the thirsty passers-by to commemorate the death
of the Guru who was burnt to death during the hot months
of May and June.
The ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur, was beheaded in Delhi.
His martyrdom day is also observed with prayers and
processions. It occurs in the month of November.