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Guru Nanak's birthday celebrated

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Guru Nanak's b’day celebrated

New Delhi, Nov 15 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday led Sikhs around the world in remembering Guru Nanak, the founder of the faith, on his 536th birth anniversary and in marking the most important festival of the Sikh religious calendar.

In city after city, processions led by young children dressed as the Panj Pyaras, or five beloved disciples of the Guru, were taken out even as groups of youths staged martial arts displays. 'Kada prasad' or sacrament was also distributed to people who thronged the streets in large numbers to watch the processions go by.

Gurdwaras across the country had been lit up since Monday, while special prayers and community kitchens called langars were organised Tuesday on Gurpurab, as the birthday is termed.

The festive spirit was particularly visible in Punjab, where the majority of India's Sikhs reside.

A huge rush was the order of the day as devotees thronged gurdwaras across the state and also in neighbouring states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir to pay obeisance.

At Amritsar's Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple, the rush of the devout was such that they had to wait for several hours to pay obeisance at Sikhism's holiest shrine. Religious hymns emanating from the Golden Temple could be heard even at a distance.

The temple complex is generally lit up from days before the Hindu festival of Diwali up to a few days after Gurpurab, setting an example of religious harmony.

People have been thronging the temple complex in the run up to Gurpurab to view the spectacular lighting display.

The rush was no less at Punjab's other important gurdwaras, including those at Anandpur Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib.

People from other religions, especially Hindus, also offered prayers at the gurdwaras.

"These festivities are a continuation of the celebrations of Diwali and (the Muslim festival of) Eid earlier this month," pointed out Ajaib Singh of Fatehgarh Sahib, 45 km from state capital Chandigarh.

The anniversary was also observed at Gurdwara Nankana Saheb in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak (1469-1539) laid down the tenets of what is the world's youngest religion some 500 years ago by combining Hindu and Muslim elements in a single creed.

"Realisation of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is Truthful Living," he exhorted his followers.

Within a short period, Guru Nanak came to attract hundreds of thousands, and the religion began to take roots.

Succeeding Guru Nanak were nine other 'gurus', the last of whom, Guru Gobind Singh, gave the Sikhs the identity by which they can be recognised even today.

Despite their numerical minority in overwhelmingly Hindu India, the Sikhs are a high profile community known for their enterprise, grit and courage - qualities they say are closely linked to their religion.

There are some 22 million Sikhs worldwide - over 19 million in India, heavily concentrated in Punjab but found all over the country. They also live in large numbers in Britain, Canada, East Africa, Malaysia and the US.

Sikhs are a very recognisable community, with the men sporting turbans and beards - often flowing, sometimes tied and sometimes even clipped, even though the religion forbids this.

When baptised, Sikhs take a vow not to cut their hair as well as not to smoke or drink alcohol.

They also keep the five K's: 'kesh' (long hair), 'kangha' (comb tucked in the hair), 'kara' (steel bracelet on the wrist), 'kachha' (loose underwear) and 'kirpan' (dagger).

Arjun Dev, the fifth guru who reigned 1581-1606, gave Sikhism the Granth Sahib, which contains hymns of Sikh gurus as well as those of Hindu and Muslim saints such as Kabir.

Sikhs attach great importance to the reading of the Granth. Ordinarily, the book is opened at any page and the reading starts with any passage.

To the 10th guru, Gobind Singh (1675-1708) goes the distinction of founding the Khalsa, or the army of the pure, to defend the religion.

The community is highly respected and it has contributed enormously, quite disproportionate to its numbers, in almost every field in India. Manmohan Singh, a devout Sikh, is the first from the community to become prime minister.

Indo-Asian News Service

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