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Sikh Society celebrates 553rd anniversary of Sikhism founder’s birth

Prayers, hymns and a free meal marked the Prakash Purab of Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, the first Sikh guru.

The 553rd Prakash Purab (birthday) of Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, the founder of Sikhism, was recently celebrated at the Sikh Society of Thompson’s temple. 

Guru Nanak was the first of 10 Sikh gurus (teachers) and the founder of the Sikh religion. Guru Nanak, also known as Baba Nanak,  was born in 1469 AD at Talwandi in the present district of Shekhupura (Pakistan), now called Nankana Sahib in the honour of great spiritual world-teacher.
Guru Nanak's father was Mehta Kalyan Das ji  and his mother was Mata Tripta Ji. Bebe Nanaki, his elder sister, was his first Sikh disciple. At the age of 18 he married Mata Sulakhni Ji and had two sons.

Before the enlightenment of the guru, the people of the society were badly stuck in superstitions and deeds. The Muslims were oppressed in the pride of the state and the Hindus were buried under slavery everywhere. Truth and religion had taken flight.

The light of Sri Guru Nanak Sahib gave new life to the dead souls. The common people were buried under the pressure of the so-called religious leaders of that time. To free them from this slavery, God sent Guru Nanak for a special mission to prepare a caravan of righteous people on this earth.

In 1500 AD, Baba Nanak embarked on his divine mission, travelling east, west, north and south and visiting various centres of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jainis, Sufis, Yogis and Sidhas. He met people of different religions, tribes, cultures and races to spread “the real message of God.”  His travels are called udasis. It is believed that he is  the second most travelled-person (approximately 28,000 kilometres) in the world; most of his journeys were made on foot with his companion Bhai Mardana, a Muslim minstrel. The record for the most-travelled person is held by Ibn Battuta of Morocco.

As per the Puratan Janamsakhi, which is one of the oldest accounts of the life history of Guru Nanak, Guru Ji undertook five missionary journeys (udasis) to the faraway places of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Mecca, Baghdad, Kamroop (Assam), Tashkand and many more. Guru Ji travelled far and wide to spread the word of Gurbani (sacred hymns composed by Sikh Gurus containing message of Almighty supreme lord) and covered most of India, present-day Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, southwest China, Afganistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

A brief summary of the  places where Guru Nanak visited:
First Udasi: (1500-1506 AD) Lasted about seven years and covered the following towns and regions: Sultanpur, Tulamba (modern Makhdumpur, zila Multan), Panipat, Delhi, Banaras (Varanasi), Nanakmata (zila Nainital, U.P.), Tanda Vanjara (zila Rampur), Kamrup (Assam), Asa Desh (Assam), Saidpur (modern Eminabad, Pakistan), Pasrur (Pakistan), Sialkot (Pakistan). Guru Nanak 31 to 37 years old at this time.

Second Udasi: (1506-1513 AD) Lasted about seven years and covered the following towns and regions: Dhanasri Valley, Sangladip (Ceylon). Guru Nanak was 37 to 44 years old during these travels.

Third Udasi: (1514-1518 AD) Lasted about five years and covered the following towns and regions: Kashmir, Sumer Parbat, Nepal, Tashkand, Sikkim, Tibet. Guru Nanak was 45 to 49 while completing these journeys.

Fourth Udasi: (1519-1521 AD) Lasted about three years and covered the following towns and regions: Mecca - Madina and the Arab countries. Guru Nanak undertook these travels from the ages of 50 to 52.

Fifth Udasi: (1523-1524 AD) Lasted about two years and covered places within the Punjab region while Guru Nanak was 54 to 56 years old.

After his extensive tours Baba Nanak settled at Kartarpur  (1525-1539 AD) and stayed there for his rest of the life with his family and friends. Here he toiled the fields as a farmer, he worked in the kitchen, but he also sat on his Gaddi or his seat as a guru or teacher of mankind and sang divine songs which washed away all sinful thoughts from the hearts of the listeners and filled them with divine virtues who started gathering around the guru in the morning and evening for listening to him. His wife joyfully co-operated with him in this labour of love for their worldwide family. In the guru's kitchen, free food was served to all irrespective of caste, creed, sex, religion or status.

Universal Message of Guru Nanak
Attributes of creator: Ever existent; unique creator who resides within creation; without fear; without rancour; beyond time and cycle  of birth and death; self-created.

Religion originates from compassion: Guru Nanak observed that the superstructure of religion  originates from compassion.

Equality of religious faith: He preached oneness of God. There's a common creator of all living things and in the eyes of God there's no difference in terms of religion the best religion is purity of thought and action which can be achieved through meditation.

Equality of human race: Guru Nanak preached that all humans are equal irrespective of colour, caste or creed, sex and God resides in all human beings as also in all creation. Human body is also the temple of God.

Equality of women: Guru Nanak observed that woman and man are spiritually equal and women can't be inferior to a man as she gives birth to kings. He also mentioned that everyone seeks support and help of a woman in some form or the other and therefore condemning woman to be inferior to man can't be justified.

Acceptance of institution of marriage: Guru Nanak was married, had children and demonstrated that marriage can't be a hindrance to spiritual attendance.

Spiritual attainment in household: Guru Nanak was a householder. He observed that spiritual attainments are possible while leading a householder’s life. To support a household one should work hard and ensure honest means of earnings. The fruits of labour should be shared with the needy. The intention of a householder should be to serve others and spread goodness to the society.

Duty towards society: To perceive the presence of God in fellow beings and serve them accordingly.

Duty towards universe: To solve the creation and be in harmony with the divine forces and the universe as universe is the creation of God and individual should be respectful to the environment.

Need of a guru (teacher):
Guru Nanak says that a guru is a must to lead a spiritual life and observe that only the guru can, without delay, make an angel out of a human being. Further, despite the light of 1,000 suns and the brightness of 100 moons, without a guru, it is total darkness, says Guru Nanak.

Key challenge for human race: How to become truthful and break out of falsehood? Guru Nanak offers a solution — by  recognizing and surrendering to the divine will.

A large congregation gathered at the temple for Guru Nanak’s birthday celebration. The program started with the daily evening prayer followed by keertan (singing of hymns in appreciation of the Almighty). The teachings of Guru Nanak were shared with the congregation, which consisted not only of Sikhs but Nanak lovers from other communities also.
A special attraction was a keertan program (singing hymns from Gurbani) by kids. It was  a mind-blowing program which mesmerized everyone. Principal Tricia Griffin from Westwood School , Caroline Voyer from R.D. Parker Collegiate, teachers from other schools, staff members from Safeway, Walmart and Tim Hortons, and doctors and other staff members from Thompson’s clinic  and hospital and many more were part of this congregation. The program concluded with ardas (Sikh prayer), Hukamnama Sahib (order of the day) from Sikhs’ living guru — Guru Granth Sahib Ji followed by guru ka langar (free food for everyone which was started by Guru Nanak himself).
It was a wonderful day! We like to thank everyone for attending and volunteering for this big event.
May the teachings of Guru Nanak enlighten our souls and make us truthful human beings.

Kanwaljit Singh Khalsa is the granthi at Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Society of Thompson.

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