By Jharna Shahani
Sikh Festivals are celebrated as ‘Gur Purabs’. Guru Nanak Gur Purab, one of the most important and most celebrated festivals for Sikhs, Sindhis and Punjabis marks a 5-day celebration of colours, langar (food) gurbani (devotional music) and crowd as much as it symbolizes worship and spirituality.
The birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion, generally falls in the month of November - the date varying according to the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated with a lot of zeal and zest, the celebrations being initiated 4-5 days prior to the event.
Early morning processions called ‘prabhat pheris, are the first signs of the approaching Gur Purab, where the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of the Sikhs) is carried on a Palkhi
(palanquin), flanked by the Nishan Sahib (the Sikh Flag), with brass bands playing tunes and reciting hymns from Sikh scriptures. An evening Pheri is led prior to the Purab day too. Besides, a 48-to-60 hour recitation of the sacred religious text from the Granth Sahib called the ‘Akhand Path’ is a norm at all Gurudwaras (the Sikh temple).
The entire Gurudwara and its surroundings are brilliantly lit right from the approach road to the temple. The sight fills the air with festivity and is naturally beckoning.
The serene beauty of the interiors of the Gurudwara lies in its spacious environs and the beautifully decorated and revered Manji Sahib (an elevated platform in the temple), which houses the sacred Sikh text – The Guru Granth Sahib. During Gur Purab, the décor of the Manji Sahib is enhanced in such a way that one is attracted to it and naturally receptive to the aura of the Godliness that prevails.
Fresh flowers, colourful streamers, lights, decorative motifs and festoons etc., grace the platform in all their splendour – the ultimate attention being grabbed by the Rumala (the silken cloth that reverently covers the Guru Granth Sahib). Extra care is taken to see that the Rumala is of festive material and pattern, edged with decorative gold or silver lace, at times metallic hues, at others subtle and elegant; and a new and more festive one graces the Granth Sahib everyday.
As a regular visitor to a few Gurudwaras during this festive period, I have noted an encouraging trend as the years have passed by. This year, with the increased awareness of global warming and pollution control, Gyanijis (the head administrator of the gurudwara) of many Gurudwaras have consciously abandoned fresh-flower decor and opted for re-usable paper streamers, rope and other decorative lights, net and synthetic material etc., to decorate the Manji Sahib. They propose to recycle this for next year’s decoration.
Often, very vibrant coloured lights and shimmer materials are used to decorate the entire temple. At some Gurudwaras, the decoration is kept very subtle and classy by not using shimmer materials and streamers; rather, they use more of gold or silver material and pastel colours, which distinctively are a class apart.
Black and white colours are regarded as symbols of sorrow in the Sikh and Sindhi traditions and thus avoided for decorations during happy occasions.
The decorations for Gur Purab may not be as elaborate as other Hindu festivals but they surely increase the charm of the Gurudwara and its reverence quotient.