Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten gurus of the Sikhs. He was born in 1469 in Taiwandi, a village near Lahore in Pakistan. The Sikhs celebrate his birth every year on the Pooranmashi (full moon day)in the lunar month of Katak.
His father, Kalayan Das Mehta, also known as Mehta Kalu, was a local patwari (accountant) for crop revenue in Taiwandi. He lived with his mother, Mata Tripta and elder sister Bebey Nanki. Guru Nanak, from an early age, mastered in Vedas and Sanskrit and was enrolled in a Madrassa to study Persian and Arabic languages.
Guru Nanak married Sulkhni in 1487 and was blessed with two sons, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das. In 1485, he was appointed as an official in charge of the government's grainery in Sultanpur. It was there that he came into contact with Mardana, a Muslim minstrel (Mirasi) and turned to spiritualism. His first statement after his prophetic communion with God was "There is no Hindu, nor any Mussalman."
Guru Nanak founded and formalized the three pillars of Sikhism:
1. Naam Japna or reciting, chanting, singing and remembering God's name and virtues.
2. Kirat Karni or doing good deeds, earning a honest, pure and truthful livelihood by hard labor for the benefit and improvement of the individual, their family and society at large.
3. Vand Chakna or giving charity to poor and needy and helping others in the community who need help.
Guru Nanak preached against discrimination and prejudices due to race, caste, status, etc. He also preached that there is ONE God and pleasing him should be the goal of every human. He also promoted women's rights and equality.
Guru Nanak is remembered by various names like Satguru Nanak, Baba Nanak, Nanak Shah Faqir, Bhagat Nanak, Nanak Kalandar etc. by people from different religions and cults.
Gurupurab, one of the major festival of Sikhs, is celebrated ten times a year marking the birth days of the ten Sikh Guru. The celebrations are alike for all of them except for some difference in the hymns and prayers. The festival is of three days, beginning two days before the birthday.
Devotees of Guru Nanak take out Prabhat Pheris early in the morning and perform Akand Panth where the reading of holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, is practiced. Nagarikirtan is also organized a day before the birthday. This event is performed by five people called Panj Pyaras, who hold Sikh Flags in their hands called, "Nishan Sahib" and carry Palki of Guru Granth Sahid. Panj Pyaras are followed by singers who sing hymns. A team called "Gatka" demonstrates different martial arts and play mock fighting using traditional weapons.
The Gurudwaras are filled with devotees who decorate the town and their houses with flags, flowers, lights and written messages of Guru Nanak.
The main day (the birthday) begins with the morning hymns known as the Asa-Di-Var and is followed by other hymns from the holy book. The final celebration includes serving of Langar in which food is served to rich and poor people without discriminating them from their class, color, creed or sex. Partaking of a common mean on these occasion is reckoned as an act of merit.
Rehras (an evening prayer session which is performed in many Gurudwaras) is recited by the devotees during the sunset time. Kirtanbegins right after Rehras and continues till late at night. The birthday of Guru Nanak is celebrated at 1:20 am at night and ends at 2:am.