Sikh Festivals and the Calendar Problem
The dates of Sikh festivals have traditionally been defined by using a lunar calendar, with the result that the festivals were not on the same Western date each year. Recently a new calendar has been introduced to fix this problem by lining up with the Western calendar so that Sikh festival dates are the same each year. Unfortunately not all Sikh organisations approve of this calendar, with the result that there are now several dates for most festivals, depending on the calendar you choose.
Unlike other Sikh festivals, Vaisakhi doesnt move around the Western calendar and has always been celebrated on 13 or 14 April. For the first 5 years of this Millennium it was celebrated on April 13.
Vaisakhi is the Sikh New Year festival. Its also the anniversary of the founding of the Khalsa on Vaisakhi 1699 by the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Vaisakhi is celebrated in much the same way as Gurpurbs.
Gurpurbs are festivals that are associated with the lives of the Gurus. They are happy occasions which are celebrated most enthusiastically by Sikhs.
The most important Gurpurbs are:
● The birthday of Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism (November)
● The birthday of Guru Gobind Singh, founder of the Khalsa (January)
● The martyrdom of Guru Arjan (June)
● The martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur (November/December)
Sikhs celebrate Gurpurbs with an akhand path. This is a complete and continuous reading of Sikh scripture (Adi Granth) that takes 48 hours and finishes on the day of the festival.
The reading is done by a team of readers, each reading for between 2-3 hours.
Gurdwaras are decorated for Gurpurbs, and Sikhs dress up in new or smart clothes and join together for special services.
In India, and in some parts of Britain, the Sikh scripture will be paraded around the locality in a procession led by the Sikh flag, and accompanied by 5 Sikhs representing the first 5 members of the Khalsa (the Panj Piaras or Five Beloved Ones).
Divali, the Festival of Light, comes at the end of October or early November. Its a festival that Sikhs and Hindus both celebrate.
Sikhs give the festival a special meaning by celebrating the release of Guru Hargobind from imprisonment at Gwalior.
This is a festival of martial arts that follows the Hindu festival of Holi.
The festival was originally created to distract Sikhs from the Hindu festival.
The majority of Sikh customs are associated with the Khalsa, the body of initiated Sikhs to which most adult Sikhs belong. Sikhs who have been through the Amrit Ceremony of initiation become Amritdhari - or initiated - Sikhs, take new names, and wear the 5 Ks.
Singh and Kaur
Khalsa Sikh men take the name "Singh", which means lion, while Khalsa Sikh women take the name "Kaur" which means princess.