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Parkash Utsav: The Festival of Enlightening Illumination

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–Ananth Seth

Guru Granth Sahib Parkash Utsav commemorates the very first Parkash, which means the opening ceremony, of the Guru Granth Sahib at the Golden Temple (Amritsar) in 1604. It was on this day in year 1604 that the first ‘Parkash’ of the Sikh holy book was commenced at Darbar Sahib by the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev ji. The compilation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib was completed on August 29, 1604. On 1st of September 1604, the holy scripture was installed in Golden Temple. From then on, the day has been celebrated as the Prakash Purab of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

It is celebrated on the 15th day (new moon) of Bhadon, the sixth month in the Punjabi Nanakshaahi Calendar, which generally occurs during the month of August or September of the western calendar. The Prakash Purab of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is observed with devotion and fervour across the country and a religious procession, referred to as Nagarkirtan, is organised in various cities. This procession is led by the Panj Pyaras (the chosen five). The celebrations commence early in the morning with the devotees visiting Gurudwaaraas to seek blessings of the Almighty. This year, the 417th Parkash Purab of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is being celebrated today i.e., 7th of September.

Guru Granth Sahib is probably the only Holy Scripture in the world written by the founders of a religion in their lifetime. All other holy scriptures were compiled after the founders left for their heavenly abode. The Granth Sahib began with the first Guru, Nanak Dev ji, as a collection of his holy hymns. The scripture was known as Adi Granth and was added to by subsequent Gurus. The installation of Adi Granth by Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Guru, took place in Sri Harmandir Sahib (popularly known as Golden Temple) on October 16th, 1604. Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib ji added Ramkali Ki Vaar in the holy scripture. Later, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru, added hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur to Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The tenth guru also named the holy scripture as his successor. In 1708, Adi Granth became Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Eternal Guru of Sikhs as was declared by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The text consists of 1,430 Angs (pages) and 5,894 Shabads. The holy scripture is divided into 31 main raagaas.

During the times the Granth was being written, some people poisoned the mind of Mughal ruler Jahangir by spreading a rumour that it preaches hatred against the Muslims. An enraged Jahangir ordered Guru Arjan Dev to delete some of the hymns in the Guru Granth Sahib manuscript and imposed a heavy monetary penalty on the Guru. Guru Arjan Dev refused to expunge the offensive text or pay the fine. Guru Arjan Dev was dead against making alterations in the hymns as required by Jahangir and instead preferred a martyr’s death. This led to his execution.

The Guru Granth Sahib is the central holy religious scripture of Sikhism and Sikhs consider Guru Granth Sahib as their eternal living guru. All Sikhs bow before it and recite its hymns in the Gurdwaaraas and their homes. All Sikh ceremonies are considered incomplete unless performed in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. A number of Sikhs perform Akhand Paath – a continuous and non-stop recital of Granth Sahib on special occasions. It takes nearly 48 hours to complete the Paath. Akhand Paath is regarded as the highest and the noblest ceremony in the Sikh religion. A Saptahak Paath is a daily reading of Guru Granth Sahib over a period of seven days on special occasions. A Sehaj Paath involves reading the Guru Granth Sahib from start to finish over any length of time, without any time restrictions.

Sikhs believe that everything that happens is in accordance with the God’s will. This gives rise to the concept of Hukumnaama (spiritual decree) by performing an Ardaas in front of Guru Granth Sahib. After the Ardaas, the Guru Granth Sahib is taken with due respect in both hands and opened at random. The first Shabad on the left-hand page is the ‘Hukumnaama’ or spiritual advice to be followed during the day. Even today, many Sikhs wait for the Hukumnaama or Parkash Seva from each Gurdwara when Guru Granth Sahib Ji is opened daily in the early hours of the morning or the Hukumnaama issued every day by the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This Hukumnaama is considered to be the Guru’s royal decree to be pursued on that particular day by the Sikhs wherever they are.

Sikhs are among the most globalised community, whose presence and influence spreads across continents. At the same time, they remain deeply connected to their roots and to India. Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar occupies a central place in the life of every Sikh. Giving back to the Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar is among the purest of the Sevas the Guru Sahibs can seek from any Sikh.

 – Author is Hyderabad-based Legal Practitioner

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