Lights, food, and community: Sikhs in St. John's gear up for Guru Nanak Gurpurab

Guru Nanak Gurpurab celebrates the birthday of Sikhism's first guru, and five teachings he brought to the religion. The St. John's Sikh community is getting ready to mark the holiday this weekend.

Celebrations will be in full swing this weekend to celebrate the first guru of the Sikh religion

A woman in orange robes kneels in pray before a low table holding a variety of objects.
Komaljeet Kaur Johal, a member of the St. John's-area Sikh community, prays to Guru Nanak and other important spiritual teachers of Sikhism. Lighted candles and halwa, a sweet dish made of butter and wheat flour, mark the special day. (Submitted by Komaljeet Kaur Johal)

The Sikh community in St. John's is gearing up to celebrate a significant holiday this weekend: Guru Nanak Gurpurab.

The holiday marks the birthday of Guru Nanak, the first guru in the Sikh religion.

"He was born in 1469 in Talwandi, Lahore in Pakistan," Diljeet Kaur, a member of the Sikh community in St. John's,told CBC News. "So he started the Sikhism. He was the first guru, as we have 10 gurus."

Though the official date of the holiday is Nov. 27, local celebrations for the community will be in full swing this weekend.

Kaur says there are many different components to the day, which is often referred to as the day of lights.

According to Kaur, celebrations include gathering at their gurdwara, which is a Sikh temple, and reading poems, making and sharing food, and decorating the temple with lights.

"Langar is called the food, we make langar in the gurdwara," said Kaur. "And all the Sangat, the people who are there, they eat food and we celebrate it like that." 

Locally, the Sikh community gathers at the gurdwara in Logy Bay.

"So we all, the Sangat, gathers there and we do some prayers and have food there and then we come back home, we light our homes," said Kaur. "And then sit together and have a meal together."

Kaur says Guru Nanak had five main teachings he gave to Sikhs: Vaand Chhako (share with everybody), Kirat Karo (living honestly), Naam Japo (contemplating god's name), Sarbat daa bhala (concept of universal brotherhood), and Speak the Truth. 

Celebrating quietly in Bonavista 

Kaur says she used to live in Bonavista, where she and her family would celebrate together at home, due to the fact there was not a Sikh population there.

Despite that, she says, people were often "very excited" to hear about her family's traditions.

"People want to know about the different religions and culture," she said.

"Especially they use to love the food. That was their favourite part, to eat the food."

LISTEN | The CBC's Nabila Qureshi finds out more about Guru Nanak Gurpurab and its significance: 
Over five hundred years ago, Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, was born. The CBC's Nabila Qureshi sat down with Diljeet Kaur, a member of the local Sikh community in St. John's, to find out more about Guru Nanak Gurpurab and its significance.

This year, Kaur has bigger plans in St. John's. The Sikh community will be holding a function in honour of Guru Nanak Gurpurab on Sunday at the Lantern, with almost 500 people invited, she said.

"It will be a big celebration," said Kaur. "There will be food, there will be, like, music, like the recital, the functions, so you can also enjoy and see our culture."

When reflecting on what makes the day so memorable, Kaur mentions community.

"We get together and sit together, have meal together," said Kaur.  "You feel like home when you do these kind of stuff, you feel like home."

The celebration of Guru Nanak at the Lantern will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free, said Kaur, and everyone is invited to join.

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Sarah Blackmore is a reporter with CBC at its bureau in St. John's.

With files from Nabila Qureshi and The St. John's Morning Show

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