New Delhi [India], November 18 (ANI): Gurupurab, also called Guru Nanak Jayanti, is one of the most special festivals for Sikhs as it marks the birth anniversary of the first Sikh Guru -- Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Every year, the festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and the celebration begins days before the Gurupurab, by organising Prabhat pheris, followed by prasad langar (devotional food offering).
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival, which holds great sentimental value for the Sangat (devotees), cannot be celebrated with its previous grandeur.
While in 2020, the celebrations were very low-key, this year, the Gurudwara committees and volunteers are trying their best to revive those joyous festive spirits, which were once normal for this special day. This year the festival will be celebrated on November 19.
A member of Gurdwara Gurmat Parchar Sabha, R K Puram, New Delhi, under the management of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, told ANI about the impact of COVID-19 on the individual, emotional, and community levels.
"We are very heartbroken ever since the pandemic happened. Few of our people who would chant kirtans for the Sangat, have even passed away due to COVID. There have been cases that I met a member of our committee one evening and the next morning, I heard that he got infected and then after a few days, he passed away. The grief has truly shaken us all," the 65-year-old member, who refused to be named, told ANI.
Talking about the situation in Gurudwaras, he shared that the number of people who visited there regularly has fallen due to the pandemic.
"It has become difficult even for us to come to the Gurudwara since one-and-a-half to two years. Even in times I really wanted to go, I had to take a step back for fear of my children, grandchildren and wife," he shared.
"I am sure it has been the same for other people, Gurudware mein Sangat ki raunak khatam hogyi. But this is God's will. Denda bhi oo hai, te lenda bhi oo hai," he added.
He further shared that earlier Gurupurab used to be celebrated with great zeal. There used to be arrangements for food -- stalls of golgappas, tikkis -- all free sewa (service). People used to be full of enthusiasm and energy. However, this could not be organised anymore because of COVID protocols.
Prabhat pheris are very significant to the Gurupurab celebrations, and could not happen at all in 2020.
Prabhat pheris are processions that begin at the Gurudwaras and proceed around the localities singing shabads (hymns). This procession is led by the five armed guards, who represent the panj pyara (five loved ones). They head the procession carrying the Sikh flag, known as the Nishan Sahib and the Palki (Palanquin) of Guru Granth Sahib, decorated with flowers.
Then some volunteer to be the host and invite the Sangat (devotees) to their houses for tea and prasad (devotional food offering).
The committee member's wife, who also actively partakes in Prabhat pheris, recalled how the situation has changed owing to the coronavirus.
"There were no Prabhat pheris in 2020. This year we have resumed again, though on a smaller scale. Some gurudwaras are not doing them this year, and Sangat is only assembling inside the gurudwara in the morning. Still, things are much better now. We are trying our best to revive the celebratory spirit once again this year," she shared.
Her husband added that due to government restrictions and health risks, people avoided hosting and inviting Prabhat pheris to their houses.
"As per government restrictions, people were not allowed to gather and so could not invite Prabhat pheris to their houses. If one did host unofficially, then the blame for any health mishap would fall on them. The people are afraid this year as well as, so Prabhat pheris are still not back to the way they used to be," he said.
"Still, things are better this year and we hope to have grander celebrations in 2022," he signed off with a note of hope. (ANI)