Community Holidays: Reflections on Guru Nanak Dev Ji's Gurpurab
Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Gurpurab, celebrated on Friday, November 19, is a holiday Sikhs celebrate to mark the birth of our first Guru. November is also Sikh Awareness Month.
The foundation of Sikhism was laid by ten gurus 550 years ago, the first being Guru Nanak Dev Ji. They each made unique contributions to the values and teachings and fought for our rights. Their contributions are what has shaped Sikhism today.
A Sikh is someone who thoughtfully embraces and practices His teachings. Sikhism has three main principles: a prayerful mind, hard-working hands, and a generous heart. A prayerful mind means to recite, remember, and be present. We can be present by listening carefully when others are speaking. Hard-working hands mean having an active, creative, productive, and hardworking life. It shapes our attitude toward self-help and self-sufficiency. Lastly, a generous heart means thinking beyond ourselves, having selflessness, believing that we have abundance, and being interconnected. Everyone, rich or poor, young or old, has something to offer to make the world a better place.
Celebrating Guru Nanak Dev Ji's Gurpurab
Guru Nanak Dev Ji was a curious philosopher who shared his wisdom on how to have a happy life while going through life’s challenges. He was a sage, environmentalist, and an avid traveler who walked more than 28,000 km. He was also a poet and social reformer who challenged religious practices.
Gurpurab is a compound word. It consists of two words: guru and purab. Purab (or parva in the language Sanskrit) means festival or celebration. Guru refers to a teacher or spiritual guide who leads us from darkness to light. Together, this means the celebration of the coming of a spiritual guide.
At gurdwaras (temples), the priests do non-stop reading of the scriptures in the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book). Path da pog is a reading of the very last part of the Guru Granth Sahib followed by a short prayer to God called Ardaas. Many people attend this Path Da Pog. After this, we proceed to celebrate with hands-on activities that may include community service and fun arts and crafts for children. We also partake in langar (simple vegetarian food that is prepared by the congregation).
At Punjabi school, where we learn the language Punjabi, we do some things to celebrate this holiday. We have an assembly where we will sing hymns. After this, kids/classes do a presentation about Gurpurab. In class, we learn more about Gurpurab and the messages Guru Nanak was trying to convey. We also present a class project that we have been working on relating to Gurpurab. Lastly, we do some hands-on activity which is usually an artwork related to this occasion.