Whose Birthday Sikhs Celebrate in November?
Guru Nanak or Baba Siri Chand?
Guru Nanak’s Avtar Divas of Vaisakh sudi 3 (April 15, 1469) is documented in “Sakhi Mehl Pehle Ki” by Seehan Oppel. This sakhi was written about 30 years (1570- 74) after Guru Nanak’s departure from this world. Seehan Oppel used to live at Sultanpur and was a trustworthy disciple of Guru Nanak. He also served Guru Angad and Guru Amar Das.
It is a dishonour to a great philosopher and the founder of Sikhism to have controversy on his Avtar Divas (date of birth). This controversy was masterfully crafted about 120 years (1658-59) after Guru Nanak’s death. This was masterminded by a hired Hundali writer Gorakh Das in a book known as “Janam Sakhi Bala”. This Bala Sakhi was full of myths stating that Guru Nanak was born on Kattak pooranmasi. In matter of fact the Kattak pooranmasi date of birth was belonged to Baba Siri Chand son of Guru Nanak.
Baba Siri Chand was a rebellion against Guru Nanak’s philosophy. He had nothing to do with Sikhism. However, Sikhs all over the world celebrate his birthday in November(Kattak pooranmasi) and claim it is Guru Nanak’s. It is true but sad, the majority of Sikhs are not aware of the real date of birth of Guru Nanak.
Guru Arjan appointed Hundal as a massand( preacher) at Jandiala Guru. His successor Bidhi Chand in 1655 produced a document stating that Guru Nanak and Baba Hundal were both followers of Jind Peer. He downgraded Guru Nanak by saying Hundal was spiritually superior. The main objective of the document was to defect from Guru Nanak’s Sikhi and declare themselves as Gurus. To accomplish this they had to produce fake material ( book) titled Janam Sakhi Bala. This book was written with all false stories and rituals leading to damage Guru Nanak’s credibility. Bidhi Chand titled this book “Bala” after his elder brother Bal Chand. They made him a fictional character in this mythical Janam Sakhi Bala. In reality there was no person named Bala, who was Guru Nanak’s companion.
The Hundali group was financed by the government of that time to diminish Guru Nanak’s philosophy. They also magnified Udasi rituals and miracles. Bidhi Chand arranged to produce a fake birth certificate of Guru Nanak with Baba Siri Chand’s date of birth on it. This group lobbied all Sikh writers, scholars, historians such as Dyaram Abrol, Bhai Surat Singh, Kesar Singh Chhiber, Santdas Chhiber, Kabi Sohan, Bishan Singh, Kabi Santokh Singh and Sikh religious centres. They mass produced this mythical material for free distribution. Apart from Dyaram Abrol and Bishan Singh all others fell into their trap. One can see even today that there are similar anti- Guru Nanak philosophy groups with different names and objectives. These groups are SGPC, RSS, Taksals, Derradars and most of the Gurdwara management committees.
The Chief Khalsa Divan published a book titled “Kattak Ke Vaisakh” by Karam Singh Historian in 1930. This book was very critical to Janam Sakhi Bala. It explained that Guru Nanak was born on Vaisakh sudi 3, not in Kattak as it’s described in Bala sakhi. The Chief Khalsa Divan(Bhai Vir Singh) under the extreme pressure from the Bala sakhi group banned the sale of this wonderful book in 1932. However Hira Singh Dard took notice of this ban and found one copy in Gurbakhsh Singh Bagbanpura’s library. He published this book again in 1932, otherwise it would have been lost for ever. So here is the old saying: “the Truth can be hidden but it can never be lost”.
Historically there was no cultural tradition of celebrating birthdays or anniversaries in Sikhism or in Indian society. The very first Avtar Divas of Guru Nanak was celebrated at Nankana Sahib on Kattak pooranmasi in 1868. This happened under the influence of the mythical Bala sakhi at that time. These birthday celebrations started as a result of Western (British) influence on Indian society. The anniversaries or Gurupurab celebration in Gurdwaras started in the 20th century with the help of Singh Sabha movement.
There was something strange I noticed, that most of the Sikh scholars (with exception of few) of that time took Bala sakhi as a gospel truth. This may be the result that they had sold themselves to the Bala sakhi group. Where as the foreign non-Sikh scholars like Ernest Trump, W. Hew McLeod, John Malcolm and Max Arthur Macauliffe all rejected the Bala sakhi’s Avtar Divas for Guru Nanak. I do not agree with every thing they wrote on Sikhism however with this topic I do. Now a days it is common knowledge that Guru Nanak’s Avtar Divas is on April 15th but it is still celebrated in November, one wonders Why?
The naïve Sikh sangat says it does not make any difference when to celebrate or not to celebrate. My answer to this, there is a difference of millions of dollars. When ever there is a celebration such as Gurupurab, anniversary or what ever special day, the Gurdwaras or Derras generate large amount of easy income. In other words a “money making day”. So the simple explanation, “economics”. More celebrations would generate more money for the Gurdwara committees, SGPC, Derradars and Taksals. These celebrations are organised in such a way that they do not teach Sikh public any Gurbani wisdom. Instead they promote rituals and mythology (false storeys) not relevant to Sikh philosophy.
The reason Guru Gobind Singh chose Vaisakhi day in 1699, as it was Guru Nanak’s Avtar Divas. Guru Amar Das asked the Sikh sangat to gather on Vaisakhi day for the same reason. It is our obligation to follow Guru’s order and not a phoney book( Bala sakhi). I would say to receive Guru’s blessings, Sikhs should celebrate Vaisakhi and Guru Nanak’s Avtar Divas together in April. Doing this the Sikh community will save millions of dollars and time. The Sikh public have been waiting for a long time, hoping the religious leaders(SGPC) would take the initiative and guide the Sikh community on this issue. However it seems the community members have to do this themselves. I request the Sikh public to do the following:
- Let us all celebrate Guru Nanak’s birthday not Baba Siri Chand.
- Send greetings to friends and relatives wishing “Happy Vaisakhi and Guru Nanak’s Avtar Divas” in April.
- Pressure the Gurdwara management committees to Celebrate Vaisakhi and Guru Nanak’s Avtar Divas together in April.
- These celebrations should include seminars, conferences and logic based discussions on Sikhism.
- Put stop to Nagar Kirtans, as they are total waste of money and time.
At present time we are all familiar, there are more celebrations in Sikhism than the number of days in a year. Celebrating two together mean one less. It may be like a drop in the bucket, but it could be a step in the right direction. One less would result thousands less in the world. That is how Sikh community would save millions of dollars.
This article highlighted the following myths in Sikhism:
- It is a myth that Guru Nanak was born on Kattak Pooranmassi.
- It is a myth that Bala was Guru Nanak’s companion.
- Janam Sakhi Bala is a mythical book.
- Bala is a fictional character in Janam Sakhi Bala.
“ Kur nikhute nanka orak sach rahi” SGGS, M:1, page 953
Falsehood will come to an end, O Nanak, and Truth will prevail in the end.
- Janam-Sakhi Parampra Di Janam Dati, Sakhi Mehl Pehle Ki (A Critical Edition of an Earlier account of Guru Nanak’s Janam Sakhi) Edited by S. S. Padam, May 2014.
- Kattak Ke Vaisakh by Karam Singh Historian, edition 2008.