Sikh Holidays and Festivals
What are the sacred days in Sikhism?
Historically, Sikhism arose, baed on the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev, as an alternative to Hinduism and Islam when followers of those two religions were in conflict in India during the 16th century. Sikhism today is a distinct world religion still numerically centered in India, but with a growing presence in Europe and America. (See Sikh fast facts)
Sacred days are a high priority in the Sikh faith. The most important holidays in Sikhism are gurpurbs, festivals marking the birthday or martyrdom of a Guru. Other holidays are melas or fairs. Most Sikh holidays are celebrated with a ritual 48-hour reading of the entire Guru Granth Sahib, processions (see above), preaching, prayer, and congregational worship.
Overview of Sikh Holidays
Guru Gobind Singh's Birthday - January 5
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, was born in 1666. His birthday is celebrated in December or January. Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa and nominated the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book, as his successor Guru.
Maghi - January 14
Maghi commemorates the martyrdom of the "Forty Immortals," forty followers of Guru Gobind Singh who had previously deserted him, fought bravely against overwhelming Mughal army forces and were martyred in Muktsar. Guru Gobind Singh blessed them as having achieved mukti (liberation) and cremated them at Muktsar. On Maghi, Sikhs visit gurdwaras and listen to kirtan (hymns). Naturally, the largest gathering is at Muktsar where an annual fair is held.
- Also see a timeline for Sikhism
Hola Maholla - March 26
Hola (or Holla) Maholla is a mela celebrated in Anandpur on the Indian festival of Holi in memory of Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru instituted this day for military exercises and mock battles, followed by music and poetry contests. The holiday is still celebrated with mock battles and displays of horsemanship and skills with the sword. There are also processions with the Sikh flag and the Guru Granth Sahib.
Vaisakhi - April 14
Vaisakhi, in April, began as a Hindu festival of thankgiving but for Sikhs, marks the founding of the Khalsa in 1699. Those ready to be initiated into the Khalsa are usually baptized on this day, and the Sikh flag is replaced.
Martyrdom of Guru Arjan - June 16
Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru, was tortured and killed by the Mughal emperor Jahangir in 1606. His martyrdom is commemorated in May.
- Also see Sikh Symbols
Celebration of the Guru Granth Sahib - September
This festival, celebrated in August or September, commemorates the completion of the Sikh holy text in 1606.
Diwali - Varies
Diwali is a Hindu festival of lights that was appropriated by the Sikhs to celebrate the release from prison of Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru, from prison in 1619. The Golden Temple was illuminated with lights to welcome the Guru home, and Sikhs continue this tradition by lighting lamps on Diwali each year. The Golden Temple is illuminated with thousands of lights.
- Also see Diwalii
Guru Nanak's Birthday - November 15
Also in October is Guru Nanak's birthday celebration. He was born in 1469 in modern-day Pakistan.
Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur - November 24
Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru, was executed in November 1675 by the emperor Aurangzeb.
Recommended for You
More on Sikhism
More Religious Holidays
World Religions - Main pages
- John Bowker, ed., World Religions (DK Publishing, 1997).
- "Ceremonies and Festivals." Sikhs.org. <http://www.sikhs.org/fest.htm#gurpurbs>
- "Sikh Festival Dates 2004 and 2005." infoplease. <http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0777467.html>