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In Sikh tradition, Gurpurab is a celebration of an anniversary (birth, death/martyrdom) related to the lives of the Sikh Gurus. Observing Gurpurabs forms an integral part of the Sikh way of life.

The term Gurpurab is a compound of the word Purb (or parva in Sanskrit), meaning a festival or celebration, with the word Guru.

During Gurpurabs, special services are held at Gurdwaras which include Akhand Paath, Shabad Kirtan (singing hymns from SGGS), Katha (lectures on Sikhism), Langar (community meals) etc.

Houses and Gurdwaras are lit up to add to the festivities. Some Gurpurabs are considered more significant than the others. The tradition of Nagar Kirtan (Sikh religious parade) is popular to almost all Gurpurab celebrations. 

What is Nagar Kirtan?

Nagar Kirtanis a Sikh religious procession in which enthusiast devotees (sangat) parade around the town singing holy hymns (shabads). Traditionally, a Nagar Kirtan parade is led by Nagara (war drums), followed by saffron-robed Panj Piare (Five Beloved of the Guru) who carry the Nishan Sahibs (Sikh religious flag), followed by Guru Granth Sahib placed respectfully on a flower-decorated palanquin (Palki).

Marching school children, local bands playing Sikh religious music, mock Gatka (Sikh martial arts & swordplay) and fire crackers display form a special part of Nagar Kirtan. Devotees set up stalls alongside its route to distribute free food, sweets and langar (community meals) to everyone irrespective of their religious faith. A group of devotees (Sewadars) is assigned the duty of clearing the procession route by sweeping the roads. The procession concludes at the Gurdwara with Ardas (prayers).

The main Gurpurab celebrations are:

· Guru Nanak's birth anniversary (November)

· Guru Gobind Singh's birth anniversary (December or January)

· Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur (November)

· Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev (May or June)

· First installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Harmandir Sahib by Guru Arjan Dev

· Martyrdom of Sahebzadas (Sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji)

· Martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh Ji

· Baisakhi, which commemorates the creation of Khalsa Panth in 1699

Vaisakhi (also known as Baisakhi)

Celebrated on the 13th of April each year at Anandpur Sahib, the festival of Vaisakhi bears great significance for the Sikh diaspora.  On this day in 1699, tenth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji founded the Sikh community known as the Khalsa when he baptised the first five Sikhs who were willing to lay their lives for their faith. These five brave Sikhs, named Panj Piare (Five beloved ones) by the Guru, in turnbaptised Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself into the Khalsa brotherhood. 

On this occasion, many Sikhs choose to get formally initiated into the Khalsa brotherhood or Khalsa Panth (Order of the Pure Ones). Commemorative services held in the Gurdwaras include devotional singing, nagar kirtan, langars and Amrit initiation ceremonies. The wrappings of Nishan Sahib are also changed on Baisakhi.

This day is also observed as a thanksgiving day by the farmers. They pay their tribute to God for the abundant harvest and pray for future prosperity.

Hola Mohalla

Held at Anandpur Sahib in March each year, Hola Mohalla is the Sikh martial arts parade (also referred to as a Sikh Olympics event). Together the words "Hola Mohalla" stand for "mock fight".  This tradition was set up for the first time at Anandpur in February 1971 by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, after his subsequent battles with the Mughals, and the establishment of the Khalsa Panth (Order of The Pure Ones).  The tradition has since spread from the town ofAnandpur Sahib to nearby Kiratpur Sahib and to other Gurdwaras around the world.

The three -day celebrations at Anandpur Sahib include special devotional services, langars (communal kitchen) for devotees, poetry competitions, religious lectures, display of weapons, mock battles, tent pegging, bare-back horse riding, standing erect on two speeding horses and other feats of bravery.

During this festival, Nagar Kirtan parades are organized in the form of army type columns accompanied by war-drums and standard-bearers. These proceed from one spot to another in town, or from one Gurdwara to another. The public display of Gatka, the ‘Sikh Martial Arts and Sword Play', is the highlight of these Nagar Kirtan parades, as enthusiast and brave Sikh warriors display their skills with real weapons but mock fights.  

The Nihang Singhs, the modern day descendents of Guru Gobind Singh's army well known for their militaristic skills, are prominent figures at Hola Mahalla.

Bandi Chhor Diwas (Day of Liberation)

Bandi Chhor Diwas coincides with the Hindu festival of Diwali. Though the two festivals occur on different days, they are celebrated on the same day.

Bandi means imprisonment, Chhor means release and Divas denotes day.  Bandi Chhor Diwas celebrates the liberation of sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind Ji and fifty two other Rajput princes, from imprisonment at the Gwalior fort in October 1619. Since then this day has been associated with the Guru's liberation, as it depicts the Sikh struggle from the oppressive Mughal regime. The fifty two princes were released by the Mughals owing to the wit and wisdom of the Guru.

After his release, Guru Hargobind Ji arrived in Amritsar in the midst of Diwali festival. To celebrate this occasion, people lit up the whole city with thousands of candles, lights and lamps. On this day in 1619, the Golden Temple was illuminated with many lights, like never before, and the tradition continues to this day. People from all over throng in hordes to see the Golden Temple as well as the whole complex lit with thousands of shimmering lights.

In addition to Nagar Kirtan and Akhand Paath, Bandi Chhor Diwas is celebrated with a fireworks display. Devotees light candles and lamps in the porch ways of Gurdwaras, as well as their homes.  This festival doesn't have any fixed date and it occurs sometime in late October or November.

Guru Gaddi Diwas

'Gaddi' implies throne.Guru Gaddi Diwas is celebrated to remember a historic event that took place in Nanded (present day Maharashtra) on 20th October 1708. On this day, shortly before his death, the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh Ji ended the line of physical Gurus and affirmed the holy Guru Granth Sahib as his successor and the eternal 'Living' Guru of all the Sikhs. He then delivered a self-composed hymn:

"Agya bhai Akal ki tabhi chalayo Panth. Sabh Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru Manyo Granth. Guru Granth Ji manyo pargat Guran ki deh."


"Under orders of the Immortal Being, the Panth was created. All Sikhs are enjoined to accept the Granth as their Guru.

October 2008 marked the Tercentenary year of Guruship of Guru Granth Sahib and saw major celebrations by Sikhs worldwide, especially at Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded.

Guru Gaddi Diwas celebrations include Nagar Kirtan (Sikh religious procession), special devotional services like rain sabaee (all night) kirtan, Akhand Paath (continuous recital of complete Guru Granth Sahib that takes 48 hours) and langar from the Guru’s kitchen. The commemorative services and celebrations may begin a month or more before the official date and continue through November.


Maghi is celebrated to commemorate the martyrdom of "Forty Immortals". On this day in December 1705, forty followers of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who had earlier deserted him, gave down their lives bravely fighting the Mughal army forces that had come in pursuit of the Guru. The action took place near a pool of water, Khidrane di Dhab.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji personally blessed these Forty Martyrs (or Forty Liberated ones) and cremated them the following day at Muktsar, affirming that they have received Mukti (liberation of soul) for their heroic act. The cremation took place on the first day of the month of Magh (from where the festival derives its name) which now falls on the 13th of January.

 In Gurdwaras, Maghi is celebrated with end-to-end recital of Guru Granth Sahib and religious divans.

The eve of Maghi is the popular festival of Lohri.


Sangrand marks the beginningof new month in the Indian calendar when the sun passes from one zodiac sign to the next.

On this day, devotees throng the Gurdwaras where the beginning of new month is announced by reading portions of Holy Scriptures 'Bara Maah'(Song of the Twelve Months) from Sri Guru Granth Sahib.


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