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Current Events: Nanak Jayanti – Lewiston Sun Journal

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Let’s learn about a wonderful holiday, Nanak Jayanti, that more than 30 million people celebrate each year. This year, Nanak Jayanti is on November 30.

Nanak was a man who lived from 1469 to 1539 in India. His name is pronounced NAW-nack – rhymes with LAW snack. The word, jayanti, is Hindu for anniversary or birthday. It is pronounced juh-YUHN-tee (sounds similar to three English words: duh, HUNT tea).

So just as Christmas is a day that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, Nanak Jayanti celebrates the birth of Nanak. In India, a wise teacher is often called a guru (goo-roo). It means a teacher, guide, expert, or master of a certain area of knowledge or work. We use that word a lot in English, as well. So, Nanak is often called Guru Nanak. He was the man who began the Sikh religion or Sikhism. (Sikh is pronounced like the English word seek.)

Guru Nanak was born in April, 1469, in a village called Talvandi. (Today, it is the city of Nankana Sahib, in the Punjab province of Pakistan.) Some people say he was born, not in April, but November. His mother and father were merchants, and he had a sister who was five years older than he was.

There are many stories about how when Nanak was a young boy, he was very interested in God and in religious teachings. There are also stories of miracles that happened, like the time as a child when he fell asleep with his head in bright sunshine, but a shadow of a tree shaded him, not moving all the time he was asleep.

When he grew up, Nanak married a woman named Sulakhani, and they had two sons.

When Nanak was 27, he left his family and went on many long journeys, searching for spiritual truths. He traveled for 35 years, to Arabia and back, and up and down and up and down India. Some think he went to Tibet and Mecca, and may even have gone to Rome. We don’t know all that for sure, but in 35 years, a person could certainly visit a lot of places.

In his travels, Nanak was searching for spiritual truth and trying to become more wise and good himself, but he was also teaching people the things he learned.

Four of the many important teachings of Guru Nanak are: Be honest and true. Treat all people as equals. Avoid evil, such as anger, greed, and unkindness. Allow no discrimination.

Some people believe that Nanak was actually a part of God. Some believe he was a prophet who received teachings from God. Some believe he was not a part of God and not a prophet, but just an extremely wise person, a guru who learned how to follow and be like God. They believe he was so spiritual that if we follow his teachings, we can become wise and spiritual, too.

Whatever people believe about Guru Nanak, there is no doubt that his teachings have changed many lives for the better. And every year, millions and millions of people all over the world celebrate Nanak Jayanti.

Before he died, Guru Nanak chose a new guru, Guru Angad. After him, there were eight more gurus, making a total of 10.

Fortunately, to try to be like Guru Nanak, a person doesn’t have to travel for 35 years. There is a book that contains his teachings and those of some of the other nine gurus. The book is called Guru Granth Sahib, and though a book, it is considered the final guru.

The text has 1,430 pages, and in a way, we might think of it as a hymn book, because the teachings in the Guru Granth Sahib are meant to be sung.

How do people celebrate Nanak Jayanti?

Every year people celebrate Guru Nanak’s birthday with fireworks and processions through the streets. If people can’t join a procession in the street, they might have a smaller one in their school or even in their home or apartment.

People usually dress up and sing hymns as part of the processions.

Candles are lit in homes and in public places like offices and stores.

Children often receive new clothes, and many people take the day off from work and school.

In Sikh temples – called Gurdwaras – the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, is read aloud from cover to cover.

Just as Christmas is a happy, festive day for Christians, Nanak Jayanti is a happy, festive day for Sikhs.

Fun Facts

• Families celebrating Guru Nanak Jayanti cook and eat a big meal together. It is said that all five flavors – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy – should be included in the food.

• There are many children’s books about Guru Nanak. It’s possible your library has one.

• Celebrating Nanak Jayanti sometimes involves demonstrations of a style of stick-fighting called Gatka. The sticks, which represent swords, are about three-feet long and about as thick as a broom handle. They have a hand-protector made of leather. The fighters often hold a small round shield, as well.



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