555th Parkash Purab of Guru Nanak

555th Parkash Purab of Guru Nanak.

Karminder Singh Dhillon, PhD.

The 1st of Baisakh Nanakshahi Sammat 556, which coincides with 14th of April 2024 marks the 555th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth. This issue of the Sikh Bulletin is dedicated towards commemorating this event. It is our way of sharing the joy of the advent of Guru Nanak with the Sikh world in general, and our readers in particular.

The joy will nevertheless be tempered with the stark reality that Sikhs have got the birth date of their founder wrong. It would have been excusable had Guru Nanak been born 5,555 years ago. Dates do get fuddled over periods of time that run that long. But Sikhi is the youngest spirituality, and it’s an event that happened just 555 years ago.

What’s more baffling is that Sikhs had the date right until the past 200 years or so. Historian M.A McAuliffe has said that the Sikh world had the date of Guru Nanak’s birth correct till 1816 – when the Sikhs enjoyed Khalsa Raj under Maharaja Ranjit Singh; and their religious leader was Nirmla Gyani Sant Singh as head granthi of Darbar Sahib. The Benares trained Nirmla convinced the Maharaja to use his office to have Nankana Sahib celebrate Guru Nanak’s birthday in Katak – November – for the first time in 1816. It would take another hundred years before the Katak date would become acceptable to the Sikh world at large. So that’s 200 years of celebrating it on the wrong date after 346 years of celebrating it on the correct date.

One can thus surmise a number of reasons why Sikhs have gotten the Parkash date of Guru Nanak wrong. It was a deliberate act by persons or groups of people who controlled Sikh institutions, the Sikh historical narrative and, by extension, the Sikh psyche. The birth date was altered in accordance with a specific and disturbing agenda of these persons or groups.

But control over their institutions, historical narratives and their psyche is now in the hands of Sikhs themselves. So why has the Sikh world continued to celebrate the Parkash Diharra of Guru Nanak on Katak Di Puranmasi – which corresponds to November 15th in 2024 – and is, in reality, the birthdate of Guru Nanak’s rebel and disowned son Baba Sri Chand? Why is the Sikh religious leadership helpless or worse, crippled in wanting to make the change? Why does the SGPC – the leading Sikh religious body that on governs all historical Gurdwaras and the Akal Takhat – list the correct date its official website but celebrate it on the wrong date?

Is it because Sikh institutions, Sikh historical narratives and the Sikh psyche is in the hands of Sikhs in name only, and the real keepers of all three are aligned with the very forces that altered the birth date from 1st of Baisakh to the Puranmasi of Katak to serve their specific and disturbing agendas? After all, the leading institutions that are in the business of robbing Sikhi of its Nirmlata or uniqueness through acts such as muddling the Nanakshahi Calendar issue; mixing up Sikh beliefs, practices and festivals with those of other belief systems, and insisting that Sikhi has its roots in Snatanism – amongst a myriad of other such nefarious acts – are the sampardayi, dera and taksali outfits that have their origins in Nirmla and Udasi schools of thought. And after all, one hundered percent of the Jathedars of the five takhats and the granthis of these takhats are schooled in these outfits.

Keeping in line with Sikh character and penchant for form over substance, the Sikh world will undoubtedly get excited over the figure 555 come 15th of November 2024. There will be calls to organize 555 Akhand Paths and hire helicopters to load up with 555 different varieties of flowers flown in from all over the world and rain them over Darbar Sahib Amritsar and or Nankana Sahib.

There will be calls for Darbar Sahib and or Nankana Sahib to be lit with 555 lamps and perform a fireworks show with 555 types of fireworks. Businesses would make and sell rosaries with 555 beads and publish and sell photos of Guru Nanak with the figure 555 superimposed on the image. Sikh individuals would donate 555 in their local currency to their local Gurdwaras on that day. Some rich Gurdwara run by diaspora Sikhs may want to install a 555-kilogram dome made of gold on the roof.

Elsewhere there would be calls for individuals to recite the Jap bani or just mool mantar 555 times; and calls for Sikhs to dip themselves 555 times in the pool at the various Gurdwaras. The list of possible permutations for what Sikhs can do with the figure 555 is endless. Very few would stop to ask if any of the things they are doing or being asked to do were sanctioned or critiqued by the very person to whom they are all being dedicated – Guru Nanak. Rare would be the Sikhs who would ask “but what can we do about disseminating the messages of our founder Guru? Could we even get to 5 of his basic messages? Rare too would be those Sikhs who would ask “what lessons are we teaching our children in all of this.” Even rare would be those Sikhs who would ask “But isn’t 15th November the wrong date to begin with;” or “why are we celebrating Guru Nanak’s birthday on the date when Sri Chand was born?”

The Sikh Bulletin thus decided to play its part in doing what we think is the right thing to do – which is to raise awareness regarding the most basic fumble that defines the Sikh world. We have resolved to dedicate this issue to the celebration of Guru Nanak’s Parkash Purab and to do so on the correct date – the 1st of Baisakh. The Editorial Team has put together a number of essays and articles relating to the life and messages of Guru Nanak. The Shabd Vichar section looks at a shabd composed by Guru Nanak namely ਲੇਖੈ ਬੋਲਣੁ ਬੋਲਣਾ ਲੇਖੈ ਖਾਣਾ ਖਾਉ ॥ Laiykhaiy Bolann Bolnna Laikhaiy Khanna Khao(n). The anchor article of this issue discusses the concept of God as advocated by Guru Nanak. A special essay that explains the dynamics behind the moving of Guru Nanak’s Parkash Diharra from 1st Baisakh to the Puranmasi of Katak is included in this issue.

We wish our readers an enlightening Khalsa Divas and a fabulous Nirangkari Gurpurab.

Karminder Singh Dhillon, PhD (Boston)


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