Guru Nanak is the founder of Sikhism. Sikhism is still based on his teachings and those of the nine Sikh Gurus who followed him.
Guru Nanak was born in 1469 in what is now Pakistan. At the age of 30 he mysteriously disappeared for 3 days. When he reappeared, he began to preach the Sikh faith and spent the rest of his life teaching, writing and travelling around the world to discuss religion with Muslims and Hindus.
How is the Guru's birthday celebrated?
Sikhs celebrate Guru Nanak's Birthday and the other Gurpurbs (festivals which celebrate the lives of the Gurus) by reading the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, continuously from beginning to end. This is done by a team of Sikh men and women, each reading for 2-3 hours over 48 hours, beginning two days before and ending early on the morning of the birthday.
On the day before the birthday, processions are held in India and in some parts of England. These are led by five people representing the original Panj Piare (Five Beloved Ones) and followed by singers, musicians and even teams of people demonstrating martial arts.
The Gurdwaras (places where Sikhs go to pray) are decorated with flowers, flags and lights. Sikhs join together to sing, pray and eat together.
On the morning of the anniversary celebrations begin early, at around 4 or 5am, with hymns sung from the Guru Granth Sahib, poems recited in praise of the Gurus and lectures on Sikhism.
After this, a sweet-tasting food (Karah Prasad) is blessed and served. It is made from semolina or wheat flour, sugar and ghee (clarified butter).
The congregation then share a langar (meal) from the free kitchen.
Celebrations may also include fireworks.
Sikhs who are unable to visit the Gurdwara during the festival will hold a similar ceremony in their own homes.