THE BIRTHDAY OF
GURU NANAK (Sikh Festival)
By Caroline Donne
Date varies from year to year - please check the REonline Festivals Calendar
birth date of Guru Nanak was 15 April 1469, but it is traditionally celebrated
in November. This assembly could be used at any time during this
for Whole School
The life of Guru Nanak;
Preparation and materials
- Background: Guru Nanak lived from 1469 to 1539 CE. He
was the founder of the Sikh religion.
- Materials: A map of the world with
India highlighted; a bowl of rice.
- Ask the children to think about
the word 'Leader'. What leaders have they heard about? Ask for a few
suggestions. Talk about why people become leaders: e.g. they are chosen by
people, like a prime minister or a leader (captain) of a sports team; they use
force to become leaders and keep themselves in power like a dictator; they feel
inspired or called by God, like a religious leader.
- Think about what it takes to be a
good leader. What sort of person would you choose to lead you? Here are some
suggestions: someone who is trustworthy; someone who is believable; someone who
can make a difference and change things for the good; someone who cares for
- Explain that today you are
thinking about a great leader called Guru Nanak. Guru means teacher, and people
who follow Guru Nanak's teaching are called Sikhs. He was a great leader, not
because he had a big army, or because he was very strong, but because he taught
people about God. The things he had to say about God were so amazing that
people wanted to follow him and learn more about God.
- Tell the following story:
Story. There are many stories told about Guru Nanak. He was born
over 500 years ago in northern India. (Point to it on the map if you have one
He lived at a time when there was much argument between
people because they believed different things about God.
Nanak was a child people thought he was a dreamer and that he was only
interested in writing poetry. His father gave him some money to start a
business, but Guru Nanak met some people who were hungry and he used the money
to buy food for them. This made his father very angry, but Guru Nanak said that
it was more important to feed hungry people.
One day he went for a swim
in a river. He swam under the water, but he didn't come up again. People
gathered to look for him. They could see his clothes lying by the side of the
river, but there was no movement in the water. Soon people began to think that
he had drowned. They were sad because they remembered his kindness and his
Three days passed. People had given up hope of ever seeing
Nanak again. Then suddenly Nanak appeared at his home. His family and his
friends were so pleased to see him, but something about him had changed. His
eyes seemed to be brighter and his face was full of happiness. Then he
explained that when he was in the river he had seen a vision of God and God had
told him to give people a message. The message was that God has made everything
and loves everyone. God doesn't see the differences that we see between us, he
sees us as equals and he wants us all to live peacefully with one another.
From that time on people started to call Nanak 'Guru', or teacher. Guru
Nanak gave all that he had to the poor and he made four long journeys to tell
people the message God had given him in the river. At this time of year Sikhs
all over the world celebrate the birth of Guru Nanak.
- The festival. There are
often processions through the street and firework displays. In the Sikh
temples, which are called gurdwaras, the Sikh holy book, called the Guru Granth
Sahib, is read from beginning to end. In the Punjab in India, where the Sikh
religion began, children are given new clothes and have the day off school to
join in the celebrations. Candles are lit in the gurdwara and in homes, shops
- Focus on the themes. Think
about the things that make us different from one another, e.g. the way we look,
the clothes we wear, how much money we have, the food we eat, the hobbies we
have, the football teams we support, the things we believe. How do we react
when we meet someone who is different? What did Guru Nanak teach about the
differences between us? He taught that God is not interested in the differences
between us, whether we're big or small, strong or weak, and that everyone is
Take time now to think or to pray about some of the
things you have heard today. You could use these words to help you.
Some of us are big, some are small.
Some are strong, some are weak.
Some are old and some are young.
Some are rich and some are poor.
It's easy to ignore people when they seem different from us. It's easy
to laugh at people who seem different from us. It's easy to fight with people
who seem different from us.
Guru Nanak said that we are equal because
we are created and loved by God. Help us to treat each other as equals.