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Guru Nanak's birthday

To discover about how Sikhs celebrate the birthday of Guru Nanak.

by Helen Levesley

Suitable for Key Stage 3

Aims

To discover about how Sikhs celebrate the birthday of Guru Nanak.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. Who has a birthday on 13 April? (Chances are that you will get at least one hand.) Did you know that you share your birthday with nearly 18 million people? However, you also share your birthday with someone very special to Sikhs. You share a birthday with their founder Guru Nanak. Curiously, however, Sikhs may also celebrate his birthday on 2 November. How good, to be able to have two birthdays.
  2. Sikhism is the youngest of the six main world religions, and was founded by Guru Nanak: he was born in 1469, to a middle-class Hindu family in the Punjab region of Pakistan. At this time there was conflict between Hindus and Muslims about whose religion was best. Guru Nanak, after much discussion with various holy men and debating his ideas, discovered a new kind of teaching. This came mainly after a strong religious experience, where he had disappeared during bathing, and although the river was dredged, no body was found.
  3. After three days, Nanak returned. For one day he was silent, but after that he pronounced that he had been to the court of God and had had direct experience of him. The only path to follow was not either Hindu or Muslim, but the path of God. He had had a profound religious experience in which his whole outlook and the way he viewed life had also changed.
  4. Modern-day Sikhs still follow his teachings today about there being one God and that every person has a part of God within them.

    Listen to the following small sections of his teachings, and think about how you might be able to follow them in your own life:

    Reader 1:  There is no rich or poor, male or female, no high caste or low caste before God. A caste is the section of society to which you belong by birth.

    Reader 2:  It is through actions that someone comes to God.

    Reader 1:  As fragrance dwells in a flower, a reflection in a mirror, so does God dwell in every soul. Seek out God, therefore, in thyself.
  5. It is right then that Sikhs should celebrate the birthday of their founder. Guru Nanak was the first of ten human Gurus in Sikhism and each has a special day. These days are known as gurpurbs and they are celebrated with much enthusiasm and excitement by Sikhs. What is involved in this kind of celebration?
  6. Sikhs celebrate gurpurbs with an Akhand Path. This is where a team of readers will read the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, from beginning to end without stopping. It takes 48 hours to complete and the readers usually take it in turns and read for two to three hours each, including reading through the night! The reading ends on the day of the festival. Quite a long time, but this is seen as a way to worship and show a Sikh’s devotion. This will usually happen at the gurdwara, the Sikh place of worship.
  7. The gurdwara plays an important part in the gurpurbs too. On the day of Guru Nanak’s birthday, it is delightfully decorated with flowers, flags and lights. Sikhs will join as one in the gurdwara and wear their best clothes. They will also join together in the langar, or communal dining area, and have a meal together to celebrate the birthday of their founder.

Time for reflection

I want us to think back to the experience that changed Guru Nanak so profoundly. I am sure you can all think of experiences you have had that made a difference or changed your outlook on something. Think about that experience now, and how you acted afterwards. Guru Nanak found that his experience affected him so much that he felt he needed to lead others to follow his path.

Listen to two of the many teachings that Guru Nanak gave us:

Reader 1:  It is through actions that someone comes to God.

Reader 2:  As fragrance dwells in a flower, a reflection in a mirror, so does God dwell in every soul. Seek out God, therefore, in thyself.

Take these ideas out with you into school today, and try to think about what they mean. I hope that the peace Guru Nanak found will come into your life today.

Publication date: April 2009   (Vol.11 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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