Guru Nanak was the founder of the Sikh religion. He was the first of the ten Sikh religious gurus. Guru Nanak was born on 15th April 1469 at Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi in Shekhupura district (Pakistan) now known as Nanakana Sahib. The Gurdwara representing the home of Baba Kalu (Guru Nanak’s Father) and Mata Tripta (Guru Nanak’s Mother) is called Gurdwara Janam Asthan. It is situated at Rai-Bhoi-di-Talwandi in district of Shekhupura, now Nanakana Sahib in Pakistan.
At the early age of five years, Guru Nanak became interested in spirituality. He was an astonishing child with coherent thinking from his early days. He was married in the year 1487 and was blessed with two sons but he could not connect himself to domestic life and left home in search of the truth.
After attaining enlightenment, Guru Nanak traveled extensively accompanied by Mardana and preached the Sikh faith and spent the rest of his life teaching, writing and traveling around the world to spread Sikhism. His first statement after his prophetic communion with God was “There is no Hindu, nor any Mussalman.”
Guru Nanak composed poetic verses in honor of Ik, Onkar, one creator. He was a great preacher and saint. He always preached liberal social practices. Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs contains the teachings of Guru Nanak. His preaching laid emphasis on oneness of God. He was against caste differences, idol worship, pseudo-religious beliefs and ritualism. He refers to God as his Enlightener and Teacher. His gospel was meant for all men. He proclaimed their equality in all respects.
Guru Nanak’s birthday is also known as Guru Nanak Jayanti. Birthdays of all the ten religious gurus of Sikhs are called Gurpurabs. The birth anniversary of Guru Nanak falls in the month of Kartik on Kartik Poornima (the day of full moon). According to Gregorian calendar, usually this festival is celebrated every year in the month of November. This year Guru Nanak’s birthday will be celebrated on 21st November.
On Guru Nanak’s birthday Sikhs visit Gurudwara in Shekhupura, Pakistan from various parts of the world. This Gurudwara in Shekhupura is now renowned as Nankana Sahib. A grand fair is held at Nankana Sahib. A huge number of Sikhs come to this shrine from all over the planet to celebrate the birthday of Guru Nanak.
Three weeks before Guru Nanak Jayanti, the ritual of Prabhat Pheri (morning procession) is followed. People participate in processions and chant shabads (hymns) and sing prayers. Two days prior to the festival Akhand Path (ceaseless recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib from beginning to end) begins. A team of Sikh men and women is involved in reading the Guru Granth Sahib. Each member of the team reads this Holy Scripture for 2-3 hours in two days. The path culminates on the Guru Nanak Jayanti. Then, Guru Granth Sahib is taken out in a procession on a float, beautifully adorned with flowers. Five people representing the original Panj Pyare (Five Beloved Ones) lead the processions carrying the Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag). Processions are followed by musicians, singers and martial arts demonstrating teams (especially Nihangs, the Sikh warriors). The main day gets a start early morning around 4 or 5 am with hymns followed by recitation of poems in Guru's praise and lectures on Sikhism. When praise and worship is completed, Karah Prasad (a sweet-tasting food made from semolina or wheat flour, sugar and ghee) is blessed and served. Fireworks may also be a part of the celebrations.
Golden Temple in Amritsar is the main attraction on this day. It is among the renowned holy places of Sikhs on the earth. People who reside in such areas where there is no Gurudwara in the proximity; organize Kirtans, Paths, Ardas and Langars at their homes. Guru Nanak’s birthday is celebrated by the Sikh community throughout the world with gaiety and gusto. It is amongst the most significant festivals of the Sikhs. For the followers of Guru Nanak, his birthday is a time to dedicate themselves once again for humanitarian pursuit.
As a kid, he loved to play war games with the other kids where he used to lead mock battles. He had many followers and admirers, and this list also included a Brahmin named Pandit Shiv Dutt. One of the interesting incidents of his childhood says that once, Patna’s Raja Fateh Chand and his Rani, who were a childless couple went o Pandit Shiv Dutt and asked for his blessings so that they can have a child. The Pandit suggested them that if an innocent kid like Govind Singh prayed to God, their wish would get fulfilled. So, the couple visited their palace and asked the kid to pray to God to bless a son just like him. Govind Singh smiled and said that there can be no other child like him so if she wished she could call him as her son. So, from that day onwards the Rani called him “Child God” (Bala Pritam). This name is also used today to refer this divine Guru.