Guru Purb is a Sikh festival. It commemorates the birthday of Guru Nanak. the founder of the Sikh faith. It is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of November.
More than 500 years ago, in AD. 1469, Nanak was born in a village called Talwandi, now known as Nankana Sahib. It is about 64 kilometres from Lahore in Pakistan. Several shrines connected with the Guru are found in Nankana Sahib. On Guru Purb day, a group of Sikhs from India visits the place after taking permission from the Government of Pakistan.
Even in his childhood, Nanak showed signs of being different from other children.At the age of seven he composed a poem in praise of God, each verse of which began with a different letter of the alphabet. He was a bright student and learned quickly whatever the village schoolmaster could teach him Nanak's father therefore thought of putting him in business. He gave him twenty rupees to buy some merchandise for his business, to earn some profit. However, Nanak was of a different bent of mind and spent the entire amount in feeding hungry ascetics whom he met on the way.
Nanak started spending more and more time in the company of holy men. This worried his parents, who married him off at an early age. But marriage did not change him. Every evening he would sit with his Muslim friend Mardana, singing shabads (poems) in praise of the Lord.
Nanak traveled widely in India and beyond its frontiers. He visited Sri Lanka, Tibet and even Mecca, the holy place of the Muslims. Wherever he went, he raised his voice against meaningless rituals and wasteful outward ceremonies. He disliked caste distinction and hated injustice. He said, 'There is but one God. He is the Supreme Truth. His grace can be invoked by faith. Meditation, repeating His name, seeking the company of saints, righteous living and the service of humanity are the only means of salvation.'
The poems and hymns which Nanak sang in his lifetime were later collected and are known as Japji. The Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, begins with the Japji.
The reading of the Granth Sahib from cover to cover is a regular feature of the celebration of the Guru's birthday. The reading commences two days before the auspicious day and continues day and night without interruption. On Guru Purb day, the holy book is taken out in a procession from the four famous gurudwaras, or Sikh temples, situated in Amritsar (Punjab), Patna (Bihar), Anandpur (Punjab) and Nanded (Maharashtra).
Although all important gurudwaras run regular free community kitchens, called langars, for pilgrims and the general public, a special langar is held on Guru Purb day. These langars were started by Guru Nanak himself, to do away with all distinctions between the rich and the poor, and with all differences of caste and creed, and to promote equality and brotherhood.