Sikhism is considered the youngest of the major world religions. As per traditional Sikh belief system, this religion is based upon the divine revelations received by Guru Nanak, almost 500 years ago in the state of Punjab. The word Sikhism has its roots in the Sanskrit term 'Sikh', which means a student or disciple. The Sikh community is a staunch believer in the concept of one god and do not indulge in idol worship or is any form of racism. The most sacred text of Sikhism is the Guru Granth Sahib. This holy text is a compilation of preaching of ten Sikh gurus and also that of various other spiritual personalities of their time.
The core teachings of the religion include service of mankind, through charity and simple living. “Gurudwara” is the name given to place of worship of Sikhs and it means “Door of the teacher”. This religion is very liberal in spirit, thus, people practicing any faith or from any walk of life can come for blessings in a Gurudwara and can also partake in the free meals known here as langars. Today, this religion has about 25 million followers and various Sikh festivals are celebrated with great fervor by the community around the world and especially in India. Browse through the article, to know more about these joyous occasions.
This is humongous event, which sees gathering of thousands of Sikhs at Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. This event was first conceptualized by the tenth and last mortal Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh as a means to unite the entire community. On this day warrior Sikhs performed various military activities like mock battles and also showcased their individual skills with different traditional weapons. The valor displays were followed by poetry competitions and soulful kirtan (devotional songs).
This tradition has been kept alive by contemporary Sikhs as well. The dedicated Sikhs known as the Nihang Singhs have kept the traditional martial arts of the community, known as Gatka alive. They perform this and various other deeds of valor on this day, such as swordsmanship, horse riding and mock battles. Large congregations gather at the Gurudwaras and kirtan is sung with great devotion. In modern times the festivities of this occasion are not just limited to India but have spread to other parts of the world as well, with large scale migration of the community round the globe, which has transformed the event in sort of 'Sikh Olympics'.
All the Sikh festivals including Vaisakhi are celebrated based on the traditional Sikh calendar, known as Nanakshahi calendar. The Sikh community celebrates the day of Vaisakhi with euphoric enthusiasm, as it was on this day that the community received a clear identity in form of Khalsa. The last human Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, baptized the first five Sikhs and gave the community a set code of conduct that would demarcate them as followers of a separate religion. This day is celebrated by the Sikhs across the globe but the main celebrations take place at Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib in Punjab.
To mark this occasion Sikhs organize large fairs and parades. The focal point of these activities are the local Gurudwaras, which are beautifully decorated for the occasion and most Sikhs make it a point to visit these places of worship, to pay their respects to the holy Guru Granth Sahib, placed on a dais in these shrine. The Sikhs participate in the kirtan with great reverence and fervor on this day and also distribute charity in form food and other edibles among the needy. This festival usually falls in the month of April.
Martyrdom of Guru Arjan
The Sikhs being a community taught to celebrate the valor, hardship and sacrifice, celebrate the martyrdom of their fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev in the month of June. Guru Arjan Dev in his death set an example of ultimate strength of patience and acceptance in the will of the almighty. He was tortured and killed at the orders of the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir at Lahore on 25 May, 1606. To commemorate his death anniversary, every year throughout India and world Kirtan, Katha and Langar are organized at various Gurudwaras. Since in India, the weather is scorching hot, Sikhs distribute chilled sweet soft drink made from milk, sugar, essence and water to one all, as a service to mankind.
Bandi Chhor Divas (Diwali)
The date of this Sikh festival corresponds with day on which Diwali is celebrated, which usually falls in the month of October or November as per the Gregorian calendar. The tale behind the celebration of this Sikh festival goes this way, the sixth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Hargobind Sigh, who had been imprisoned by the Mughals was released on this day and along with him he was able to rescue other 52 captives, who were Hindu Kings, kept as prisoners at the Gwalior Fort. This event occurred in 1619 and since then to celebrate this joyous event, Sikhs decorate their homes with various kinds of lightings, such as candles, electric bulbs etc. The major celebrations of the day take place at Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) Amritsar. Paying homage at Gurudwaras and listing to gurbani is also an integral part of this day.
Guru Nanak Gurpurab
Celebrated, in the month of November, this day as the name suggests marks the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. The revelries of this day usually last for around three days. As per tradition, Akhand Path which involves, forty-eight-hour reading of Guru Granth Sahib, without any break is organized at various Gurdwaras, two days before his birthday. A day before the occasion, a huge procession is taken across various towns by Sikhs, these are led by the Panj Pyares and accompanied by the Guru Granth Sahib, kept on a beautiful Palanquin. Large groups of Ragis provide religious fervor to the proceedings by singing various devotional hyms and are joined in chorus by devotees. On the d day, to honor the memory of the Guru, diyas, candles and fireworks are lit at Gurudwaras.
Besides the abovementioned major Sikh festivals, there are various other occasions celebrated by the community, which include birth anniversaries (Parkash Utsavs) of other eight Sikh Gurus, Gurgadi Divas (passing of guruship), death anniversaries of other Sikh Gurus.
The Sikhs are known as a full of life and indomitable community. This article gives details of various festivals celebrated by them.