The Punjabi community in New Zealand will get together to mark the annual Guru Nanak Jayanti with piety, grandeur and unity, highlighting one of the most fascinating traditions that date back hundreds of years.
Thousands of men, women and children will join the festivities that will be organised by some Gurdwaras in Auckland and other cities in the country.
Anniversaries associated with the lives of the Sikh Gurus are marked as Gurpurbs (festivals). The birthdays of Guru Nanak and Guru Govind Singh and the martyrdom days of Guru Arjun Dev and Guru Teg Bahadur are considered sacred.
Guru Nanak, Founder of the Sikh faith, was born in a Punjabi village and the day is marked as ‘Guru Nanak Jayanti’ during October-November as ‘Gurpurab.’
Gurpurbs witness the culminations of ‘Prabhat Pheris,’ the early morning religious procession which goes around the localities singing shabads (hymns).
These Pheris generally start three weeks before the Festival.
Devotees offer sweets and tea when the procession passes by their residence.
The celebrations start with the three-day ‘Akhand Path,’ during which the ‘Granth Sahib’ (Holy Book of the Sikhs) is read continuously from beginning to end without a break.
Conclusion of the reading coincides with the day of the Festival. On this day, the Granth Sahib, placed on a float or in a van strewn with flowers, is carried in procession throughout the village or city.
Five armed guards, who represent the Panj Pyares, head the procession carrying Nishan Sahibs (the Sikh flag).
Local bands are hired for playing religious music for the procession.
Marching schoolchildren are a special part of the procession in some cities.
Sweets and langar are also offered to the public outside some Gurdwaras.
Sikhs visit Gurdwaras where special programmes are arranged and kirtans (religious songs) are sung.
Gurdwara Nanaksar Thath Isher Darbar in Manurewa has planned a series of Akhand Paths to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Trustee Rajvinder Singh said that a number of families, businesses and individuals sponsor the programme that includes the ‘Langar,’ food prepared and served to devotees and volunteers, without class or distinction.
Everyone is treated equally and would be required to be seated on the floor when food is served.
Inderjit Singh Kalkat, a prominent businessman based in Auckland, undertook the ‘Akal Path’ service from November 9 to 11 at the Darbar.
Joga Singh Chaper, Patiala District President of People’s Party of Punjab was the Guest speaker on November 11.
“It was a highly emotional and satisfying period in my life and that of family. I was delighted to see hundreds of devotees coming together as a number of events took place as a part of ‘Akand Path.’ Devotees were encouraged to recite the ‘Japji Sahib,’ composed by Guru Nanak and rendered as one of the five daily prayers by all Baptised Sikhs,” he said.
According to Mr Singh, local congregation supports these efforts.
“More than 80,000 Japji Sahib Paath were conducted during the Gurpurab celebrations last year.
Among the highlights of this year would be the ‘Gurmat Competition’ for children aged 13 years or less, involving recitation of the Japji Sahib Path.
“We also invite children to perform Kirtans and play musical instruments such as Tabla and Harmonium. Winners will be presented with certificates and mementos,” Mr Singh said.
The competition will be held at the Guru Nanak Sikh School on Saturday, November 24.
For further information, call (09) 2663590.