The influence of anisotropic strain on the valence band structure and related properties, including excitonic transition energies, transition polarization selection rules, band-edge hole effective masses, and exciton reduced effective masses, of polar and nonpolar plane GaN are systematically investigated using the well-known k⋅p Hamiltonian approach. We re-examine the band deformation potentials D3 and D4, and interband hydrostatic deformation potentials a1 and a2, and find that they take the values 9.4, −4.7, −3.0, and −12.4 eV, respectively. In order to correctly interpret the optical properties of GaN, the spin-orbit coupling effect cannot be neglected. Our numerical calculations show that pure linear polarization light emissions and absorptions can be obtained. In addition, the two topmost valence subbands can be effectively separated to reduce the band-edge density of state by manipulating the strain states in GaN epilayers, which is favorable for laser diode design. Furthermore, the band-edge hole effective masses exhibit significant in-plane anisotropy and are sensitive to the residual strain, while the influence of the residual strain on the exciton reduced effective masses is relatively weak.