What is Guru Nanak Gurpurab?

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Guru Nanak Gurpurab is the name of the sacred festival that celebrates the birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus, Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak was born in present day Nankana Sahib in Punjab, Pakistan, and first began teaching there. Today it is a city of great historic and religious importance. Every year thousands of Sikhs from all over the world visit the city and its gurdwara to pay their respects and celebrate the birth of their foremost Guru. Although previously Nankana Sahib was a tehsil of the Sheikhupura district, in May 2005, the Punjab government decided to raise the status of Nankana Sahib to that of a district as a way of promoting development in the area, and investment from Indian Sikhs.

Although Guru Nanak was born on 15th April in the Gregorian calendar, his birthday falls on the day with a full moon in the Katak month of the calendar that the Sikhs follow. This means that the birth anniversary is celebrated sometime from October and November, depending on the year, in a weeklong festival. This year it falls on the 14th of November.

A significant number of Sikhs to arrive in Pakistan come from India. Despite recent Pak-India border tensions, Pakistan has issued 3,316 visas to Indian Sikh pilgrims to attend the birthday celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak Dev from 12th – 21st November. The first train of pilgrims arrived at Wagha Border on Saturday carrying a thousand pilgrims. The pilgrims will visit different cities of Punjab to attend various ceremonies, celebrating along the way.

The festivals in Sikh religion fall around the anniversaries of the 10 Sikh Gurus. These Gurus were responsible for shaping the beliefs of the Sikhs. Besides Guru Nanak, another of the ten Gurus connected to present day Pakistan is Guru Arjan, considered the first martyr of the religion. He was the fifth Guru, and was martyred in Lahore. The Gurdwara Dehra Sahib Sri Guru Arjan Dev which is located right next to the Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque was named after him. The same gurdwara is also famous for housing the funerary urn of the Sikh ruler Mahraja Ranjit Singh, and accordingly also called the Samadhi of Ranjit Singh.

Another famous gurdwara in Pakistan is gurdwara Panja Sahib at Hasan Abdal, 48 km from Rawalpindi, so called because of a handprint on a rock believed to be Guru Nanak’s. Guru Nanak and his devotee Bhai Mardana Ji arrived in Hasan Abdal in 1521 and there is said to have performed a miracle which led to the formation of a spring. The gurdwara was later made near the site of the spring. Just as Muslims revere the Zamzam spring for its abundance and perpetuity, so do Sikhs revere the spring at Hasan Abdal.

Sikhs number around 30 million worldwide, and around 50,000 of them live in Pakistan, most of them in Punjab. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Sikhs became politically powerful enough to form the first Sikh Empire under the leadership of the Mahraja Ranjit Singh, with Lahore as its capital.

Prominent Pakistani Sikhs include Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora, a politician, Hercharn Singh, a soldier, and Dr Gulab Singh, a homoeopathic doctor.

Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora is a politician and social worker. He is patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Sikh Council, and the first Sikh member of the Punjab provincial assembly, being nominated by the Pakistan Muslim League (N) in 2003. He is also a member of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee.

In 2007, Hercharn Singh became the first Sikh officer commissioned by the Pakistan Army.
Other prominent Sikhs include Inspector Amarjeet Singh of the Pakistan Rangers and Lance-naik Behram Singh of the Pakistan Coast Guard.