A Sewa Model for Sikh Volunteers
– Sikh Missionary College, Ludhiana –
Gurbakhsh Singh USA
A set of pictures of some youth, before and after adopting Sikh sroop by them, are printed on the outside of the back cover of Sikh Phulwari, the monthly journal of the college; it touches the core of the heart of the readers, and they get interested to carefully study the contents of the journal. This is true index of the services rendered by the volunteers of the Missionary College to educate Sikhs regarding their great and glorious heritage. Their teachings motivate people to enjoy the honour of being practising Sikhs.
Regular readers know that the organizers are committed to preach the message of gubani, the Sarb Sanjhi spirituality, compiled in Guru Granth Sahib. The editors strictly adhere to the Sikh Code of Conduct (Sikh Rahit Maryada) approved by the Khalsa Panth and published by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar. They sincerely and honestly preach it, without being influenced by so many modifications/changes adopted by some societies, organizations or scholars at their own level. Even some jealous individuals / organizations criticize the college to deflect them from their goal of educating the Sikh community on Panthic lines.
A look on the inside of the front cover gives a pleasant surprise, and provides great satisfaction to the readers. A Sikh interested in the glory of the Panth feels very optimistic to know the multifarious activities undertaken by them to serve the community, particularly the Sikh youth.
Because of the lack of committed preachers and good role models, even the born-Sikhs are straying away from the honour of being a visible and practising Sikh. Of course, this situation has developed partly because of the subtle anti-gurmat propaganda done by the enemies of the Sikh philosophy. However, inspite of such efforts to distort gurmat teachings and Sikh history, the message of Gurbani, is becoming more and more popular in the world every day. In response to such activities aiming to conceal the light of gurmat, the number of volunteers, cooperating with the Missionary College to spread the message of Sikh faith, is increasing every year. About 5000 volunteer Sikhs participate in their central annual function.
The 4-day annual gathering is held by turn in different cities/gurdwaras. To accommodate the large number of competitors for different sections, including shabd vichar, lectures, keertan in gurbani ragas, poetic recitations, etc., functions are held in more than one nearby gurdwaras simultaneously. Leading Sikh scholars and preachers of the Panth are also invited to participate in the annual gathering to explain gurmat and motivate the participating youth to adopt Sikh character.
Sikh Phulwari Monthly Journal
Keeping in mind the nature of the contents and the number of volunteers popularizing the journal, there is no wonder that its readership for Punjabi and Hindi languages is more than 70,000 probably the maximum number among the Sikh religious journals.
In addition to the classical articles on Sikh heritage and Sikh philosophy, they publish the translation of a hymn about which scholars are not of the same opinion; they give the gurmat interpretation of the hymn to satisfy all the readers. Some Sikhs are interested in the journal to read the answers to the modern-day questions about Sikh heritage and philosophy, while others wait for the journal to know the pulse of the Sikh society, ‘The Readers Write’ section of their journal.
Also, the editors review the English journals and pick one best article, they think will interest their readers.
Missionary Training Colleges
Four colleges are being run at Anandpur Sahib, Jalandhar (for girls only), Bareily (UP), and Bhaur Saidan (Haryana). The trainees are taught according to the syllabus prescribed for gurmat parcharaks. It is a three year course and the students get diploma in gurmat studies. At present about 200 trainees are registered as full-time students. They are provided free board & lodging. Some Sikh volunteers give regular contribution to finance these colleges. For their final practical training, the trainees participate in gurdwara functions in both villages and cities. So far hundreds of students who have passed from these colleges,. are working in different gurdwaras in India and some have found jobs overseas.
The college runs a 2-year correspondence course teaching all aspects of the Sikh faith. It is upto the candidates how much time they take to complete the course, keeping in mind their other worldly duties. A couple of thousand students have passed this course; about 40 thousand students are registered and are at different levels of their study.
A very popular activity of the college is the holding of weekly gurmat classes in different towns and localities; 3-5 qualified and trained professors (volunteers) conduct the two-hour class according to the approved syllabus in gurmat philosophy, Sikh history and gurbani. Special lectures are arranged for the students, whenever an outside scholar visits the centre.
In addition to their monthly journal, the college has published about 600 titles including tracts, most of them are printed repeatedly and are continuously revised to include the latest information on the topic. It is the heavy sale of their publications which is the main source of income for financing their activities and managing their offices; of course, to appreciate the services of the college, some Sikhs do contribute for publication of the literature for free distribution in the community. About one lac pamphlets, tracts and folders on different subject are distributed free every month directly to the houses of the individuals and to the sangat in village gurdwaras. The aim is to cover the entire population of the villages in Punjab and the regions around it. Most of the free literature is distributed by the students of the missionary colleges, who visit different villages and make door-to-door contact with the Sikhs. This project of personal contact with the villagers awakened many families to get attracted to their roots and they rejoined the faith as formal Sikhs.
For correct reading and understanding the meaning of gurbani, special gutkas of Nitnem and Sukhmani Sahib are printed and made available for sale at all the circle office.
Literature stalls are run by the volunteers in some gurdwaras regularly and at other places on special occasions to provide low cost literature to the sangat. In many cities, they have their local offices with regular stock of books for sale.
Teaching Through Testing
Annual competitions are held among the youth. For the gurmat test, the candidates are grouped at four levels based on their age:
i. upto fifth class
ii. 6th to 8th class
iii. 9th to 10th class
iv. Above 10th class
The test material (books for the course) is provided to the students to study and prepare for the examination. Last time (2006), a very large number of youth 1,21,000 enrolled for the examination. The prizes are given to the top students and those who pass the examination with credit. Value of the prizes and books distributed in 2006 was to the tune of Rs 10 lac. Some Sikhs interested in exposing the youth to their unique heritage and impressed by this activity, contribute towards the prize money. This is a very effective way for encouraging youth to study and be proud of their faith.
Without social services, these activities are not fully effective. Accordingly, library and dispensary facilities are provided in some schools. The needy students are supplied school needs; financial support to some students is also provided.
Free coaching for CET and PMT aspirants is also given at Chandigarh (Gurdwara Sector 34) by Professors from the University/Colleges. During summer vacation, gurmat and keertan classes are conducted in Chandigarh and nearby gurdwaras. About 3-4 thousand children take advantage of these facilities provided free to desirous students.
For matrimonial relations, facilities have been provided in the office at Chandigarh. They publish advertisements in the monthly journal Sikh Phulwari. The matter may be e-mailed or sent to them by post as well. The college holds special gatherings and arranges for amrit ceremony, thus admitting the desirous Sikhs to the Panth. Gurdwaras/schools may contact the principal for such services.
In view of the increased activities of the college, additional buildings have been planned. A partly-built 6.50 acre plot in Chanalon (near Kurali) was donated by an industrialist Sikh who was pleased with the achievements of the college. Also, plots have been purchased in Ludhiana, Mohali and Jalandhar; construction work for gurdwara-cum-college facilities is going on in the three cities with the support of the well-wishers of the Panth.
We pray that God may grace their love for sewa and that they may continue to involve more and more people for learning and appreciating the Sikh heritage.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies,
2009, All rights reserved.