Sikhs around the world celebrate the birthday of their founder on November 17, 2013
Guru Nanak was the founder of the Sikh religion and was born in 1469 in a village close to the city of Lahore, which is now in Pakistan. He is the first of the 10 Sikh gurus or teachers, all of whose birthdays are celebrated by followers of the religion. As he is the founder of the faith, Guru Nanak’s birthday is the most important of these festivals and is celebrated at the full moon in the month of Kartik which is generally in November by the western calendar.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion with over 30 million followers worldwide, most of whom live in India in the state of Punjab. Sizeable populations of Sikhs have also settled in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, as well as Africa and Europe. Sikhism is the fifth largest organized religion in the world. The principal beliefs of Sikhism include faith in god, living a dutiful life dedicated to family and community and the pursuit of justice for all human beings. Sikh teaching emphasizes the principle of equality for all humans and rejects discrimination on the basis of caste, creed and gender.
Sikh religious practice includes wearing a steel bangle or ‘kara’ on the right wrist, carrying a short ceremonial steel dagger at all times and leaving the hair and beard unshorn. Sikh men typically wear a turban.
The celebration of Guru Nanak’s birthday begins with a 48-hour nonstop reading of the holy book of the Sikhs in the gurdhwaras, or Sikh temples. On the day before the birthday, processions of worshippers carry the holy book and other sacred objects through the streets, singing religious songs. The birthday itself starts with early morning prayers at the gurdhwaras, followed by the singing of hymns, sacred readings, chanting and meditation that last throughout the day. A special community lunch is prepared at each gurdhwara and is shared with worshippers and the poor. In the evenings, Sikhs illuminate their homes with candles and earthen lamps and visit relatives and friends.
Sikhs play a prominent role in Indian society. The current prime minister of the country, Manmohan Singh, is a Sikh. Sikhs are well represented in the Indian armed forces and known for their bravery and military skill. Many Sikhs are prominent in the professions, particularly medicine and the sciences. The bulk of the Sikh population that resides in Punjab, India’s most fertile agricultural state, are engaged in farming.
Mela Artisans wishes Sikhs around the world a joyous holiday!
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- Esha Chhabra