By Neeraj Mahajan & Ankit Mahajan
A number of Central Government, Punjab State Government, Private, Sikh as well as non-Sikh organizations in India and abroad are trying to outdo each other to celebrate the 550th Prakash Utsav or the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji in a big way. Guru Nanak the first Sikh Guru is the founder and head of one of the most dynamic and vibrant religions in the world. This is what makes this Guru Nanak Jayanti or Gurpurab all the more significant.
The 550th Prakash Utsav is one of the most sacred festivals for people from different religions and faiths all over the world who adore and respect Guru Nanak Dev Ji and his preaching.
The Sikh religion revolves around 10 Sikh Gurus who gave a shape to the Sikh faith.
Guru Nanak Dev ji, the founder of Sikhism, was born on Vaisakhi Day, April 5, 1469 at a place called Talwandi, now in the Shekhupura District of Pakistan. Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, in Pakistan, is the birthplace of Guru Nanak.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s birthday celebration generally begin with Prabhat Pheris or early morning processions starting from the Gurudwaras, with local people walking behind, in the procession sing hymns. Generally teams of singers sing the hymns while the other devotees take part in the chorus.
About say two days before the Guru Nanak Jayanti, Akhand Path (48 hour non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib) in the Gurudwaras is one of the main centres of attention.
Some scholars believe that Guru Nanak Dev ji’s birthday should be celebrated on April 14 as per the Nanakshahi Calendar approved by Sri Akal Takht.
On the day of Gurpurab, celebrations start early morning at about 4 to 5 a.m. – Amrit Vela. This is followed by Asaa-Ki-Vaar (morning hymns) and Kirtan (hymns from the Sikh scriptures. Finally there is a Langar, a special community lunch. The idea behind all this is to sow the seads of community where everyone howsoever rich or poor and irrespective of caste, class or creed is an equal. The langar also symbolizes the spirit of seva (service) and bhakti (devotion) – a sacred and inseparable element of the sikh religion.
This year the central government has issued directions to all Indian missions and embassies abroad to celebrate Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary in a grand manner and spread his message of universal brotherhood and peace.
The government of India has already kick started the preparations for the ceremony which will stretch across the globe for over a year. All Indian missions and embassies abroad will celebrate Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary through seminars and ‘kirtans’ (hymn recitals).
According to former Supreme Court lawyer turned Indian External Affairs minister Shushma Saraj, “In this turbulent world, where violence and killings are prevalent, where people are being massacred in the name of religion, through this anniversary celebration, we want to spread the message of Guru Nanak and other Sikh Gurus in the world.
The World Punjabi Organization- has also been roped in to partner with the government to give shape to a grand event and add color to the year-long celebration.
The External Affairs Ministry has directed that the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji the spiritual thinker and one of the greatest religious leaders of all times should be celebrated as ‘Universal Brotherhood Year!’
Meanwhile, Punjab, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has set-up three panels to oversee arrangements for the celebrations. The panel will oversee the development of infrastructure at the holy places as well as supervise the religious and cultural events.
Amarinder Singh has written to the Prime Minister to release about 4 billion for the celebrations.
Some of the steps being contemplated by the different wings of the government of India for the year long celebration starting November 23rd this year include a number of religious activities like kirtan, katha, prabhat pheri, langar and educational activities like seminars, workshops and lectures. Commemorative coin and postage stamp will also be released. The Shri Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC), in Amritsar will be the knowledge partner of the Government of India.
A national Institute of Inter Faith Studies will be set up in Punjab. In addition to this, chairs in the name of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji are being set up in UK and Canada, apart from organizing an international seminar.
Doordarshan, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha TVs will live telecast programmes on Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Gurubani in different Indian and world languages will be published.
Sultanpur Lodhi will be developed as a heritage city incorporating ‘Pind Babe Nanak Da’. A high powered telescope will be installed in Indian territory to view Kartarpur Sahib, Pakistan. The Sultanpur Lodhi railway station will be upgraded. A train will run passing through places associated with Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
The infectious spirit behind Guru Nanak Dev ji 550th Prakash Utsav also seems to have influenced the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETBP) in Pakistan which is making special preparations at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.
Millions of People from across the globe are expected to converge at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan — the sacred birthplace of Shri Guru Nanak Devji on 14th November. The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETBP) in Pakistan is making arrangements for accommodation, visa and security of the devotees who visit Pakistan to celebrate the Gurupurb festivities.