Sikh Festivals

Sikh festivals revolve around anniversaries of the 10 Gurus who developed the beliefs of Sikhism. All the Sikh Gurus taught the message of compassion, love, dedication, hard work, worship of one God, and commitment to peace and harmony for all the peoples of the world. Their birthdays, called Gurpurab, are occasions for celebration and prayer.

Festivals and events generally follow the Nanakshahi calendar, a tropical solar calendar; many have fixed dates and others move from year to year. The epoch of the calendar is the birth of Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism and its first Guru, in 1469. The calendar is accepted in about 90% of the gurdwaras, or Sikh temples, throughout the world.

June 16 Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji

All the Sikh Gurus taught the message of compassion, love, dedication, hard work, worship of one God and the commitment to peace and harmony for all the peoples of the world.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1563 – 1606) was the first Sikh Martyr and the fifth Guru. He built the Harimandir Sahib (Home of the Divine) in which Sikhs could meet to learn, in the town of Amritsar (Pool of Nectar). To emphasize that the Sikh way was open to all, regardless of caste, he constructed the Gurdwara with doors facing all four directions. Sikhs remember Guru Aran Dev Ji for contributing to and compiling the Sikh Scriptures.

April 14 Baisakhi

Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi) is the festival which celebrates the founding of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa. The Panj Pyare (Five Beloved Ones)were the first members of the new Sikh community called the Khalsa. Guru Gobind Singh gave the Khalsa a unique identity with five distinctive symbols of purity and courage, known today as the Five K’s.

The Guru gave all Khalsa men the surname of Singh (lion) as a reminder to be courageous. Women took on the surname Kaur (princess) to emphasize dignity. With the distinct Khalsa identity, Guru Gobind Singh gave all Sikhs the opportunity to live lives of courage, sacrifice, and equality. These Sikhs were to dedicate their lives to the service of others and the pursuit of justice.

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Sikh New Year – March 14

The Sikh calendar is called the Nanakshahi Calendar and takes its name from Guru Nanak, who founded Sikhism.

The year 2018 begins the year 550 in the Sikh Nanakshahi Calendar. It is the first day of Chet, the first month of the Sikh calendar. The Sikh New Year always falls on 14 March.

First Parkash – September 1

First Parkash (opening ceremony) of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scriptures, is observed on September 1 on the Gregorian calendar. The Guru Granth Sahib, or Adi Granth, is an anthology of prayers and hymns compiled by the fifth Sikh guru, Arjan Dev ji, and includes words and verses spoken by the 10 Sikh Gurus and other saints. Sikhs regard the Granth as the final, eternal living Guru and successor to the human Gurus.

When Guru Arjan finished compiling the Granth, with 1430 pages and 5864 verses, he placed it in the newly built Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar, India. He performed the first parkash there on August 30, 1604.

Sikh Festivals Installation of the Guru

Installation of the Guru Granth Sahib – October 20

Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh Guru, compiled the first edition of the Adi Granth, the principal Sikh scripture, from hundreds of hymns by the first five Gurus and other saints. It was completed and installed in the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 1604.

Rivals later stole the Adi Granth and Gobind Singh—the 10th and last human Sikh Guru—took on the task of recreating the entire book. Guru Gobind dictated all verses he considered revealed, including verses written since the first edition, to a Sikh scholar. The project took almost five years and was completed in 1705.

On October 20, 1708, Guru Gobind Singh gave his last sermon, conferring permanent gurudom on the second edition of the Granth. Since then, the book has become known as Sri Guru Granth Sahib and is viewed as the perpetual living Guru and guide of Sikhism. It is not worshipped, but treated with reverence for its wisdom and spiritual teaching. Sikhs stand when the Guru Granth Sahib is brought into a room, and in gurdwaras (houses of worship) keep it on a raised platform in the center, opening, reading and closing it ceremoniously.

Bandi Chhor Divas 

Bandi Chhor Divas (“Day of Liberation”) is a Sikh holiday that coincides with Diwali. Historically, Sikhs have celebrated Diwali and Baisakhi along with Hindus. In the late 20th century, Sikh religious leaders began calling the day Bandi Chhor Divas. In 2003, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the Sikh elected governing body, adopted the name along with the Nanakshahi calendar.

Bandi Chhor Divas celebrates the release from prison of Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh guru, and 52 other Hindu kings by Emperor Jahangir in 1619. According to tradition, the Emperor agreed to release the Guru, who asked that the kings also be freed. The Emperor agreed, but to limit the number of prisoners leaving, released only those who could hold onto the Guru’s cloak tail. However, the Guru had a cloak made with 52 panels attached, so each king was able to hold onto it and leave.

When Guru Hargobind arrived in Amritsar a few days later on Diwali, the Golden Temple and entire city lit up with lamps and candles in celebration. Sikhs continue this tradition of lighting homes and temples on Bandi Chhor Divas, as well as exchanging gifts and feasting with family and friends.

Guru Nanak Gurpurab

This day celebrates the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder and first Guru of Sikhism. Also known as Guru Nanak Jayanti or Prakash Utsav, Guru Nanak Gurpurab is considered one of the most sacred Sikh festivals.

Guru Nanak was born on Baisakhi Day, April 5, 1469, in what is now Punjab Province, Pakistan. Most Sikhs have traditionally celebrated Guru Nanak’s Gurpurab around November, the date followed by the Nanakshahi Calendar; some scholars believe the festival should be celebrated on Baisakhi Day, April 14 on the Nanakshahi Calendar.

Two days before the actual celebration, festivities begin that include Akhand Paath, a 48-hour uninterrupted reading of the Guru Granth Sahib at gurdwaras, which are adorned with flowers and lights. The next day, Sikhs visit the gurdwara to chant hymns early in the morning and hold Nagar Kirtan, a procession with five armed guards and a decorated palanquin carrying the Guru Granth Sahib, accompanied by the singing of hymns. On the actual festival day, celebrations include readings, music, assemblies and a langar, or community kitchen, where volunteers serve food and karah prashad, a special sweet.

The Sikh Golden Rule

“Don’t create hatred with anyone as God is within everyone.” ~Guru Arjan Devji, Siri Guru Granth Sahhib


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