Gurpurabs are very auspicious and important celebrations for Sikhs, which marks the birth or death anniversaries of the Sikh Gurus. Sikhs on the day of Gurpurab gather especially at Gurdwaras to remember and pay homage to their gurus. All across the world, where Sikhs are living, the Gurpurabs are celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervor. Martyrdom day Gurpurabs are marked with humbleness and respect.
It is during the time of gurus, that the word "Gurpurab" came into existence. Gur in this means "Guru" and Purab came from the Sanskrit word parva, which means festival or celebration.
History indicates that the Sikh gurus, after Guru Nanak Dev ji had celebrated his birthday. Even the writings of Bhai Gurdas (1551-1636) have the mentioning of Gurpurab. It was written at the time of Guru Arjan Dev ji.
The celebrations of Gurpurab last for three days. On the first day, before birthday-date, to celebrate Gurpurab, Akhand Path is observed at Gurdwaras. Some people even conduct this at their residents. The path is done by reading the holy book of Sikh, "Guru Granth Sahib" for uninterrupted 48 hrs.
On the second day, processions or Nagarkirtan in the towns and cities is conducted in which the Sikhs chant the holy hymns. On the third day, at Gurdwaras kirtan and special assemblies are conducted to throw light on the lives and teachings of the gurus followed by Guru Ka Langar for all.
Though all the gurpurabs are mentioned in Nanakshahi Calendar but the important Gurpurabs are:
1. Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji
2. Birth Anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji
3. Martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev Ji
4. Martyrdom day of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji
5. Putting in place of Guru Granth Sahib in the Golden Temple at Amritsar
Guru Nanak Dev Ji is the founder of Sikhism and so his birthday is of special importance to every Sikh. Usually his birthday known as Guru Nanak Jayanti falls in November but as per the lunar Indian Calendar, every year his birthday date keeps on changing. To start with the celebrations, Prabhat Pheris are held many days before the birthday date of Guru Sahib. Prabhat means morning and Pheris, which is derived from Pheras means rounds. In Prabhat Pheris Sikhs gathers at one place early morning at Gurdwara and start singing hymns. The whole procession then moves towards the home that has invited them for religious mean. After the complete pheri, Prashaad is distributed among the Sangat. Guru Nanak Dev Ji's birthday celebrations last for three days and instigate with Akhand Path. On the second day, a procession led by Panj Piare is organized that passes through main roads and streets. The Palki (Palanquin) of Guru Granth Sahib is the main attraction that is decorated with flowers. Passersby pay obeisance to Guru Granth Sahib. Devotees also chant hymns and Sikhs play "Gatka" a kind of Sikh martial art in the procession. On the third day, i.e. on the birthday-date, Asa-di-Var (morning hymns) is recited at 4-5 AM. Then the hymns from Guru Granth Sahib are read which are followed by Katha, recitation of poems and lectures on the life of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The whole celebrations are performed till 2:00 pm which is followed by Ardas and Guru ka Langar.
At some Gurdwaras, even the night prayers are done in which path of Rehras Sahib is recited followed by late night kirtan.
Birthday of guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth guru of Sikhs falls at the end of December or beginning of January. The process of Prabhat Pheris, Akhand Path, Procession, Kirtan and Langar is similar to that of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
This day falls on 16th of every June. Mughal Emperor, Jahangir, on 25 May 1606 at Lahore agonized Guru Arjan Dev Ji to death as he refused to leave his faith in Sikh religion. On this day Kirtan, Katha and Langar at gurdwaras are organized. As it happens to be the hottest months of the year in India, so Sikhs also distribute "Chhabeel" chilled sweet drink made from milk, water, sugar, essence and ice on this day. It is distributed free of cost at Gurdwaras, road side, highways and many other places in the towns and cities.
Guru Teg Bahadur Shaheedi Divas is observed in the month of Nov and celebrates the martyr of ninth guru of Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji. He was beheaded on 11 November 1675 at Chandi Chowk, Delhi on the orders of Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb as he refused to adopt Islam. He through his martyr had protected Kashmiri Hindus as well.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji had conferred the guruship of Sikhs on Guru Granth Sahib on 3 October 1708. So the day is celebrated with different charm and energy. On this day Kirtan, Ardas, Katha, Prashad and Langar are organized.
At Bangla Sahib Gurdwara, New Delhi Gurpurab of Guru Harkrishan Ji is celebrated with same passion. It falls in the month of July. Bangla Sahib was actually the palace of King Jai Singh who offered guru ji a stay at his palace when he came to visit him. Thousands of Sikhs each year came to visit the Gurdwara.
Gurpurab of Guru Ram Das Ji (Guru Ram Das Ji Prakash Utsav) is celebrated with great devotion at Amritsar. It is Guru Ram Das Ji who laid the foundation of Golden Temple and the sarovar is called Ram Das Sarovar. Guru ji was born in the month of Katak, September. But the dates keep on changing and some times it falls in October as well. To celebrate the Gurpurab of Guru Ram Das Ji Akhand Path, Kirtan, Langar are observed.