SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS OF THE SIKH COMMUNITY
Dr Madanjit Kaur*
We witnessed events of far reaching consequences of great significance in the current history of the Sikh community. These events have generated occasions of integrating the Sikhs, scattered all over the globe to come together on one platform and consolidate the solidarity of their community into one strong unit, so that their common problems can be resolved easily. The awareness of the sense of belonging to a spiritually oriented, humanitarian, universal and progressive world-view has harnessed the spirit of reviving the old glory of the Khalsa in the present context.
300 years have passed since Guru Gobind Singh conferred gurgaddi (succession) on Guru Granth Sahib in Nanded, Maharashtra. The holy book of the Sikhs was first compiled by Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs at Amritsar in 1604 AD. This version is known as the Adi Granth. Its second and final version was compiled by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs at Damdama Sahib in 1705 AD. He added the saloks (hymns) of Guru Tegh Bahadur (the ninth Guru of the Sikhs) to the volume of the Adi Granth at Talwandi Sabo. This version was bestowed the status of shabad guru by announcing its gurgaddi as the eternal Guru, Guru Granth Sahib, of the Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh before his demise at Nanded on November 7, 1708 AD. To commemorate the tercentenaries, the SGPC, Amritsar, Punjab Govt, Central Govt of India, Maharashtra Govt, and Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded, participated in a big way. Huge donations from Indian as well as NRI Sikhs also poured in.
Plans for Making the Tercentenaries a World Event
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) finalized its plan for celebrating the tercentenary of the completion of Guru Granth Sahib and requested the Centre Government of India to give global coverage to the event. The Government had already earmarked Rs 813 crore for celebrating the historical event. The plan of the route of Guru Gobind Singh Marg from Talwandi Sabo (Bhatinda, Punjab) to Nanded Sahib (Maharashtra), which is likely to pass through seven states, has been finalized. The Central Government has been approached to raise a memorial at Nanded Sahib and a library in New Delhi in the name of Guru Gobind Singh.
Under the patronage of SGPC, artisans made a golden canopy weighing 12 kg for Guru Granth Sahib palanquin to be presented to Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded.
Chief Minister of Punjab, Sardar Parkash Singh Badal announced that a sum of Rs 200 crores will be spent on the overall development of holy cities of Sri Anandpur Sahib and Talwandi Sabo as a part of these celebrations.
The Government of India requested Sikh families in Punjab and Delhi to loan the priceless relics of the Sikh Gurus owned by them for display during Gurtagaddi Diwas celebrations. The relics included copies of the birs of Guru Granth Sahib. Some of these relics were also on display during the tercentenary of the creation of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib in 1999.
Harmohinder Singh was appointed the convener at Delhi for the museum sub-committee set up by the Union Home Ministry. There were more than 100 relics now owned by families spread across Punjab and Delhi. Harmohinder Singh ensured that proper Sikh maryada was maintained when the birs were displayed at the museum and also in Delhi. A museum will be set up in Hazur Sahib, Nanded, too. These relics are priceless and of great historical importance. Families that had been approached are in Bathinda, Moga, Damdama Sahib, Sabo Ki Talwandi. The family of former Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amrinder Singh also has holy arms of Guru Gobind Singh. Among the birs of Guru Granth Sahib were two rare birs that are with a family in Chandigarh. Another bir is at Bhai Veer Singh Sahitya, Sadan, Delhi. Rare birs from Nepal, Ayodhya, Pakistan and Bangladesh were digitized under national manuscript mission.
The committee also held five regional seminars on the importance of Guru Granth Sahib. These seminars were held at Kolkata, Mumbai, Madurai, Patiala, Chandigarh and Varanasi.
Apart from the exhibitions and seminars, the committee was working to provide a rich historical experience to the Sikhs who came from all over the globe to participate in the celebrations.
In view of the influx of pilgrims and devotees to Nanded on this occasion, the Indian Railways ran three special super fast trains from Firozepur, Amritsar and Chandigarh daily to Nanded from 1st October to 30th November 2008. Air Flight was also available from Raja Sansi International Airport, Amritsar, to Nanded daily.
Holy Arms on Display in Guru Manayo Granth Jagriti Yatra
The Sikh community arranged a tour, Guru Manyo Granth Jagriti Yatra, displaying shastars (holy arms) of Guru Gobind Singh and Sikh martyrs to various parts of India from Nov 15, 2007 to mark the beginning of the year-long tercentenary celebrations of the Gurtagaddi Diwas.
Three hundred years old Sikh shastars, some of them belonging to Guru Gobind Singh, were on display in the procession of the Guru Manayo Granth Jagriti Yatra, which are kept at Takht Sri Sach Khand Hazur Sahib. These include kirpans, swords, spears and a long barrel gun. These holy shastars formed a part of the nationwide awareness campaign to commemorate 300 years of establishment of Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. Also on display was a handwritten holy bir of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Gurmukhi script from the time of Guru Gobind Singh.
The procession of the Guru Manyo Granth Jagriti Yatra was telecast by the TV channels. The composition Tin Sau Saal Guru De Naal was sung by Daler Mehandi. The Jagriti Yatra has proved a very effective cord of sentimental coordination and integration in the Sikh community. All sections of Sikhs extended full cooperation to make this venture successful in every aspect.
The special van, fitted with transparent glasses on all sides, which carried the holy volume of Guru Granth Sahib and the holy shastars of Guru Gobind Singh was donated by Vijay Wasan and his family from Maharashtra. The Wasans are non-Sikhs, but devoted to Sikhism. The entire expenses including petrol and maintenance were also borne by the Wasan family.
Nanded gets a Facelift
Nanded is the second largest city in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra and is also a district headquarters. It is known as an important place of Sikh faith. The Sikhs are in minority in Nanded. Congress President Sonia Gandhi has played a significant role in the election of its Municipal Committee. Out of 78 candidates, only six Sikhs were elected members of the MC, Nanded. With the support of Sonia Gandhi, Balwant Singh Gaddiwala was elected as Mayor and Surjeet Singh Gill was elected as Deputy Mayor of the Municipal Committee. This facilitated the construction work and expansion of Nanded as per the expectations of the Sikhs there.
According to S Balwant Singh Gaddiwale, more than Rs 900 crore was spent at Nanded city by the Central and the State Governments.
The town of Nanded geared up for the tercentenary celebrations with enthusiam. According to Maharashtra government officials, more than 1500 crore had been spent on upgrading infrastructure at Nanded under the Nehru Urban Renewal Mission. Earlier this year, the town was given a spanking new airport, and the main Nanded railway station has been redeveloped in the shape of a gurdwara. The Nanded Civic City Body has completed the construction of a 22 kms long peripheral road connecting all the major gurdwaras of the city.
Among the major improvements being carried out is the overhauling and upgrading of the Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib Gurdwara Complex. The entire courtyard measuring 2,50,000 sq ft was covered with marble so as to accommodate neary 40,000 devotees at one time.
The Railways had pitched with more than 150 pairs of special trains to connect various destinations across the country with Nanded during the course of the celebrations. Nanded city officials put up tented accommodation, spread over more than 1,500 acres that could accommodate more than 5 lakh people at one place. Adequate security arrangements were made for the safety of the devotees and dignitaries visiting Nanded. The state government of Maharashtra had beefed up security with 9,000 police and para military personnel being roped in from various services.
Nanded is the second most important city after Aurangabad in Marathwada. It is believed that the tercentenary celebrations will enhance tourism and economic development of Nanded. According to the state government, after the tercentenary celebrations, the area will be developed so as to make it one of the biggest cotton growing areas of the country.
The Punjab Yatri Niwas at Nanded is funded by the Punjab Government. The building of the rest house is still under construction.
Serial on Guru Granth Sahib by Jalandhar Doordarshan
The shooting of the TV serial ‘Guru Manyo Granth’ by Jalandhar Doordarshan Kendra at ancestral places of Sikh Gurus, bhagtas and fakirs, whose hymns have been enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib has been completed. The serial is to be telecast in English, Hindi and Punjabi on the national TV network in seven installments. It is the first ever attempt by electronic media in this field. The seven episodes of this serial include compilation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, completion and Gurgaddi of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, musical arrangement of Gurbani, depiction of nature in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, universal message of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Gavo sachi bani. Reputed playback singers, including Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Pandit Jasraj, Bhupinder Mitali, Shreya Goshal, Alka Yagnik and Suresh Wadaker, have sung hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib in the serial. It has been produced and directed by Jaswant Deed. Scriptwriter of the serial is the famous Punjabi poet, Surjit Patar. The script is based on the research project conducted by Dr Jodh Singh, Head (retd), Religious Studies Dept Punjabi University, Patiala. The music is given by Uttam Singh
Guru Granth Sahib World University, Fatehgarh Sahib
The foundation stone of Guru Granth Sahib World University has been laid by Chief Minister of Punjab Sardar Prakash Singh Badal at Fatehgarh Sahib on 1st September 2008 to mark the beginning of the 300th anniversary of Gurtagaddi celebrations.
The plan of the Guru Granth Sahib World University is an ambititious project. With the foundation stone laying function of this Project, the stage has been set for the establishment of the first ever university in the name of a holy book. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Fourth Centenary Memorial Trust will manage the University, which will come up near the historic Fatehgarh Sahib Gurdwara. The 11-member Trust is headed by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief, Avtar Singh Makkar. It includes chief minister Prakash Singh Badal, state Advocate Grewal H S Mattewal, former chief secretary R S Mann, four SGPC members, including Kiranjot Kaur and Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia as its secretary, besides others. The 11-member Trust is to run the affairs of the university and Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia is presently functioning as its Vice-Chancellor. The Guru Granth Sahib World University is a unique idea. Contrary to popular perception, the university will be in keeping with modern times and trends. Besides a school of religions and civilization studies, the institution will also have a school of emerging technologies, school of basic sciences, school of management, school of social sciences, school of arts, school of languages, school of engineering, school of architecture and planning, and school of law and social justice.
The Vice-Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia has informed the media that the University would neither be religion based nor religious dominated. The University would take up the teaching of emerging technologies like information technology (IT), biotechnology (BT) and nanotechnology, besides other emerging disciplines like ecology, human rights, etc. The University also aims to promote higher education in rural areas. But it would not be possible to give reservation to rural students in this university under the present UGC norms. The University, however, has plan to hold orientation courses of four to five months duration to ensure that rural students are eligible to take admission in the university on merit. The campus of the Guru Granth Sahib World University will come up on 84 acres of land given by the SGPC to the Trust managing it. The construction work of the building is expected to start soon. At present, only the foundational monument, Minar-e-Ekonkar, has come up on the site. The chairman of the management committee, Avtar Singh Makkar has announced that the University would collaborate with other universities worldwide. The first academic session would start from September 2009. The SGPC would provide Rs 450 crores for the project. Rs 50 crores would be spent in the first phase. The University proposes to have 2,500 students on its roll in three years.
The establishment of Guru Granth Sahib World University would be a boon to students of the area who would be able to get education in most recent emerging fields. The Punjab Government (led by Akalis) is laying stress on education and Guru Granth Sahib World University is a part of a wider plan to establish world-class learning centres in Punjab.
Chief Khalsa Diwan University, Amritsar
The Chief Khalsa Diwan Educational Committee will establish a University of Chief Khalsa Diwan to mark the 300th year of Gurgaddi Diwas of Guru Granth Sahib. The foundation stone of the university would be laid by Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal on the concluding day of the 62nd All India Sikh Educational Conference at Sri Guru Harkrishan International School at Amritsar.
Some Significant Features
Punjab declared holiday on Gurtagaddi Diwas
The Punjab Government declared Public holiday on October 20, 2008 on account of tercentenary of Gurtagaddi Diwas. This public holiday had been declared in all Punjab Government offices, educational institutions and offices of Boards and Corporations.
Illinois, USA proclaimed Oct 20, 2008 as Guru Granth Day
Illinois state Governor Rod Blagojevich, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Palatine Mayor, Rita Mullins proclaimed October 20, 2008 as Sri Guru Granth Sahib day. The leaders greeted Sikh community on the occasion of tercentenary of consecration of Guru Granth Sahib.
Meanwhile, the Gurdwaras across the state had drawn up elaborate plan to celebrate the occasion and had invited all local leaders to join in.
Sikhism originated in India in 1469 and is the fifth largest religion in the world. Twenty five million Sikhs around the world, including about half million in the U.S. have celebrated the declaration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Eternal Guru (spiritual guide) of the Sikhs as declared by the 10th and last Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh on October 20, 2008 at Nanded in Maharashtra.
Remittance for 105 prisoners
The sentences of around 105 prisoners all over the Punjab state had been remitted on the occasion of the celebration of Gurta Gaddi Diwas. These prisoners were set free from Ropar Jail on October 20, 2008. Prisoners remitted from sentence mainly included those who were accused in accident cases. Some case was of attempt to murder as well. These prisoners had been awarded three to five years of imprisonment. Around 38 prisoners had been shifted to Ropar Jail. These include 13 from Ludhiana Central Jail, five from Barnala Jail , four from Gurdaspur Jail, three from Nabha Jail, two from Borstal Jail, Ludhiana and one from Moga Jail. All the prisoners benefited were serving short sentences.
Obama greets Sikhs
The democratic presidential nominee (later elected President of USA) Barack Obama had extended his greetings to the Sikh community in America on the occasion of the tercentenary celebration of the succession of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the final Guru of the Sikhs. His letter addressed to the American Gurdwaras Parbandhak Committee, which was posted in media websites at Washington on October 19, 2008, reads as follows:
“Throughout the world, Sikh communities are celebrating the tercentenary of the Guruship of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
“Sri Guru Granth Sahib is considered the universal spiritual leader and guiding light for the Sikh community. In 1708, Guru Gobind Singh officially ordained Guru Granth Sahib as the final and perpetual Guru of Sikhs. The Worldwide celebrations will commemorate the 300 years of consecration of Guru Granth Sahib and the anniversary of the accession of Guru Gobind Singh.
“On the occasion, both Sikh and non-Sikh community members will gather to promote and honour the countributions that the Gurus have made to the Sikh Community.
“I would like to extend my congratulations to the American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and thank them for their ongoing efforts to promote cultural diversity and awareness on behalf of the Sikh Community.”
Golden Palanquin for Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded
A golden palanquin made by the kar sewa jatha Tarn Taran (Punjab), headed by Baba Jagtar Singh was taken to Takht Sri Hazur Sahib Nanded with religious fervour. The devotees chanted hymns from Guru Granth Sahib while sending off the palanquin on October 13, 2008. Giani Gurbachan Singh, Jathedar, Sri Akal Takht and Deputy Commissioner, Tarn Taran and other senior officials were present when the palanquin was flagged off for Mumbai by road.
The palanquin reached Mumbai on October 27, 2008 from where it was taken in a religious procession to Nanded. It was installed at Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib on october 30, 2008. The cost of the palanquin is said to be more than Rs 50 lakh. Earlier the Dera Baba Jagtar Singh sect had sent a gold palanquin worth crores of rupees to Sri Nankana Sahib, Pakistan in 2006.
Bejeweled Kalgi for Takht Sri Hazur Sahib
The US-based Sikh Dharma International and Guru Ram Das Sikh Mission presented a valuable bejeweled Kalgi (plume) to Takht Sri Hazur Sahib Nanded on October 29, 2008 for the occasion.
The kalgi has been handcrafted by famous Beverly Hills jeweler Angelo Castelo. One of his clients was late Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi of California. A kalgi has great historical significance in the history of the Sikhs. The Tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh famous for wearing a kalgi on his turban. He is reverently called Kalgidhar by his devotees.
The kalgi created by Castelo replicates the shape of Guru Gobind Singh’s kalgi, but with a distinctive modern flair. The piece is cast in gold, set with blue topaz and diamonds on silver base. It is a tribute to the great contributions and sacrifices of Guru Gobind Singh, whose courage, fortitude and radiance gives life and strength to the Khalsa community.
This kalgi is a gift from the Sikhs of the West. Bhai Satpal Singh, Chairman of Guru Ram Dass Sikh Mission and Bibi Inderjit Kaur Khalsa, wife of late Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Jogi and many converted Sikhs from US, New Mexico, Germany, Canada and UK were present on the occasion of the presentation of the Kalgi in the sanctum sanctorum of the Takht Sri Hazur Sahib.
Guru Granth Sahib in Spanish
It was the last wish of Baba Jee Singh, a Spanish convert Sikh, who suffered from cancer, to accomplish the task of translation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Spanish before his death. Baba Jee Singh joined Sikhism in seventies under the guidance of late Yogi Harbhajan Singh Khalsa. The Spanish translation by Baba Jee Singh has been completed along with the joint efforts of his wife Bibi Gur Amrit Kaur, also a Sikh convert. It took a long period to complete the translation. Like the Shabdarath Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Published by SGPC) in four pothis (volumes), the Spanish translation has also been published in four volumes. To fulfill the last wish of her husband, Bibi Gur Amrit Kaur brought the four volumes of Guru Granth Sahib, with Gurmukhi, English and Spanish translation/transliteration for their release at Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded on the occasion. The holy book release function was presided over by the Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Giani Gurbachan Singh. This function was organised by Guru Ram Dass Mission of US and the Sikh Dharma International. Bibi Gur Amrit Kaur came to Nanded along with Bibi Inderjit Kaur, wife of late Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi and Satpal Singh, Chairman of the Mission.
The Spanish translation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is a welcome addition in the spread of Sikhism in this millenium. Today, more than a million people speak Spanish as a native language. Spanish or Castellian is an Indo-European language that originated in northern Spain and gradually spread to the kingdom of Castile and other parts of the world. It is believed that the translation of Guru Granth Sahib in Spanish would be instrumental in spreading the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib in a considerable wider area. The Guru Ram Dass Mission is devotedly engaged in spreading the teachings of Sikhism in the Western World. It has opened its chapters in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and other Latin American countries. The authenticity of the Spanish translation has been checked by the former Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti and other Sikh scholars.
Nanded to be named as Hazur Sahib
The Maharashtra Government is contemplating to rename the city of Nanded, situated on the holy river Godavari as Hazur Sahib Nanded to commemorate the tercentenary celebrations of the Gurtagaddi Diwas and parlokgaman (demise) of the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh. This is the city where Guru Gobind Singh passed on the Gurugaddi to Guru Granth Sahib before he left for heavenly abode on 30th November, 1708 AD. The city of Nanded is also known as Abchalnagar (unshakably rooted). It is also famous as one of the five Takhts (spiritual) seats of the Sikh community. Nanded is also known as Nanded Waghla in Marathwada.
The city of Nanded became the focus as an international tourist centre on account of influx of lakhs of Sikh devotees and tourists from various parts of the globe on the occasion of the tercentenary celebrations. These tercentenary celebrations generated a lot of enthusiasm among foreigners. Clad in spotless white dresses and blue robes, thousands of converted Sikhs from US, Latin, America, Mexico, Chile and Brazil, UK and Australia visited Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded. Bhai Satpal Singh, ambassador of Sikh Dharma and Chairman of Guru Ram Dass Mission informed that most of the converted Sikhs from the West were visiting India for the first time. A number of the jathas of foreign Sikhs could not come to Nanded because the management of the Takht Sri Hazur Sahib could not provide sufficient boarding and lodging facilities to them. The US-based Sikh mission organised a grand function on 26th October, 2008.
Nearly 25 lakhs Sikhs from around the world reached Nanded. For the first time in the independent India, so many people assembled at Nanded.
Demand to rename Nanded Railway Station
Among proposals initiated to mark the tercentenary of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Gurtagaddi Diwas and Sachkhand Gaman Patshahi Dasvin Diwas (the day Guru Gobind Singh left for heavenly abode), the Railways proposed to the Union Home Minister to rename Nanded railway station as Hazur Sahib Nanded railway station.
Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav had requested Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil to approve the proposal for the celebrations to be held from October 30, 2008. Mr Laloo Prasad had been requested by Tarlochan Singh, MP, and Tara Singh, MLA from Maharashtra, for the same.
Nanded Airport named as Guru Gobind Singh Airport
Since the construction work of the Airport at Nanded has been completed, “Guru Gobind Singh Airport” has been written at its main entrance. At the behest of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the high level committee constituted by the Central Government and led by Union Home Minister for the development of Hazur Sahib had unanimously decided to name the airport at Hazur Sahib, Nanded after the name of the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
Air India flight Fares for Hazur Sahib
The special Amritsar-Nanded 122 seater Airbus 316 (IC823) had been launched keeping in mind the tercentenary celebrations at Nanded. The ticket rates – Rs 37,380/- and Rs 52,750/- for economy and executive classes, respectively, were later reduced to Rs 18,950/- and Rs 28,170/- on account of low response of the passengers for the flight.
Haj-like Facilities for Hazur Sahib Pilgrims Demanded
Union Minister of sports Manohar Singh Gill wants Air India to make Amritsar-Delhi-Hazur Sahib Nanded flights a regular feature besides urging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and civil aviation Minister Praful Patel to further reduce the airfare on this special flight. Special air flights to Nanded had been introduced on October 29, 2008 to facilitate Sikhs to attend the tercentenary celebrations. Air India intended this flight to be discontinued from November 4, 2008. Manohar Singh Gill stated, “Hazur Sahib Nanded is our Haj and all facilities that are enjoyed by our Muslim brethren should also be extended to the Sikhs...” The government of India spends about Rs 450 crore every year to facilitate Haj of our Muslim brethren to Mecca, it will be in the fitness of things that a similar gesture is made to the Sikhs by making the Amritsar-Delhi-Hazur Sahib Nanded flight regular, besides reducing its return fare further still from Rs 15000/-”
Sikh Architecture dominates Nanded landscape
The Present building of the Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1837, which has been spruced up on the occasion of the tercentenary celebrations.
The Sikh Architecture, which developed within Punjab is basically derived from Sikh value system and Sikh ethos. Therefore, it is primarily called Temple Architecture or Gurdwara Architecture.
Sikh Architecture is characterised by aesthetic values of progressiveness, liberal attitude, exquisite intricacy, austere beauty and logical flowing lines. The Sikh architecture is at once striking and attractive, and the present Sikh artisans acquired skills in adopting patterns and motifs suiting their religious philosophy and values of life.
The Sikh Architecture is enhanced in beauty and grandeur by the elegance of its perfect skill of applied arts and striking designs set in unique framework. The harmony of proportions, rhythm created by the alternation of structural elements, viz., domes and sub-divisions into various levels in different dimensions shows perfection of conception and composition. The dominating central dome (mostly golden), embellished and ornamental panels, geometrical and floral designs, chhatris (kiosks) at corners and domes drawn in a line decorating the parapet which present harmonised rhythmical synthesis of the Hindu-Muslim styles of architectures, along with certain distinctive characteristics are the chief features of Sikh architecture. The most striking example of the Sikh Architecture is the celebrated Golden Temple (original name Sri Hari Mandir Sahib) at Amritsar.
The features and outlines of the Sikh architecture dominate most of the recently constructed buildings raised as part of the beautification plan of the Takhat Hazur Sahib Management Committee. It may be the state government hospital building, a panorama on Sikhism or the railway station, golden domes greet devotees thronging the holy city.
It is to be noted that in 1999, Government buildings were given this touch at the white city of Sri Anandpur Sahib in Punjab to mark the tercentenary of the birth of Khalsa, which was created by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699 at Anandpur Sahib. The Sikh architecture which had originated and developed with the construction of Sikh gurdwaras (religious buildings) is now being used in various styles of non-religious buildings also.
Langars at Nanded
Even as the tercentenary celebrations of Gurtagaddi Diwas drew to a close at Hazur Sahib, not only pilgrims from far-flung areas, but also local residents carried with them the lasting memories of prasad [food taken at grand langars (community kitchens)] set up by Sikh Babas (saints) from Punjab, Haryana and other parts of the country. It was a unique experience for the people of Maharashtra, who believe in Anna Poornabrahma (meaning food is equal to Brahma), to taste Punjabi cuisine while partaking of langar. They would make beelines for the community kitchen as soon as appeals for partaking of langar on public address system was announced. The Sikh Babas urged them that no resident of Nanded should cook food at home.
People of all age groups could be seen thronging these langars and gulping down lassi with a thick layer of butter and cream. Residents of Nanded were so much impressed with the Punjabi cuisine for its tasty thick gravies, delicious healthy parsadas (rotis) homemade butters and curd, etc. A number of Maharashtra people from far-flung areas came to Nanded just to pay obeisance at Takht Hazur Sahib and partake langar.
The langar of Baba Nidhan Singh Dera at Nanded dates back to over two centuries. There were other langars arranged by the Sikh saints. Three hundred halwais (cooks) at the langar of Baba Kashmir Singh Bhuriwale prepared laddoos, jalebis and other sweets. The city had the highest consumption of desi ghee and butter during the celebrations. Puris, parathas and karah, samossas and kachauris, made of desi ghee were available at langar sites. Traditional Amritsari cuisines like kulche chhole, puri, lassi were served at langars set up by Baba Sewa Singh of Khadoor Sahib Wale and UK based Nishkam Sewak Jatha, headed by Baba Mohinder Singh.
Aurangabad Gurdwara – a Repository of rare Manuscripts
The historic Gurdwara built at Aurangabad in the memory of Bhai Daya Singh, one of the Panj Piaras, is a repository of rare Sikh manuscripts dating back more than 300 years. This information came to the forefront of media during the celebrations. Bhai Daya Singh was the first Sikh to be baptised by Guru Gobind Singh on the occasion of the creation of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib in March 1699 AD. Although the five Panj Piaras enjoyed equal status as the Guru’s confidants, Bhai Daya Singh had always been regarded as the first among equals. He was also Guru Gobind Singh’s emissary sent from Dina village, in Punjab to deliver Guru’s letter ‘Zafarnama’ (letter of victory) to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1705 AD.
One of the rare handwritten manuscripts preserved at Aurangabad Gurdwara is a copy of Zafarnama written in Persian script. In the Zafarnama, Guru Gobind Singh condemns emperor Aurangzeb, regarding how he and his hencemen had broken their oaths sworn upon the holy Koran and made dreadful attacks on the Guru’s camp.
There are two handwritten birs of Adi Granth and some other religious pictorial graphics preserved at the Aurangabad Gurdwara. Some of the manuscripts are written in golden ink. Another important manuscript preserved here is in the form of a letter of Bhai Chanda Singh. It is written in Persian script and urges the Sikhs to join the kar sewa of Takht Hazur Sahib which was started by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. All the manuscripts preserved at Gurdwara Bhai Daya Singh at Aurangabad are significant source of Sikh archives.
The issues of Nomadic Sikhs of South came into limelight on the occasion of the tercentenary celebrations at Hazur Sahib in Nanded.
Nomadic Sikhs, i.e., Sikligar and Vanjaras and Lobanas in thousands from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, living below poverty line joined mainstream Sikhs from the north for the first time in the three centuries to participate in celebrations held at Hazur Sahib, Nanded. They were happy that they were ferried to Hazur Sahib for the celebrations in trucks and other vehicles.
Many Sikligar and Vanjara Sikhs live in slums of Nizamabad (Andhra Pradesh) 150 kms from Hazur Sahib. This area is at a short distance to the Gurdwara built by the residents of Nizamabad. Their ancestors had come with the Lahori Fauj (Sikh army) to the south for making arms and ammunition. The Lahori Fauj was sent by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to Hyderabad state on the request of Nizam Hyderabad. Most of the Sikh soldiers who fought for the erstwhile princely state were alloted land and they settled here after marrying local girls. However, their present condition is very poor. Despite their poor condition, they never resorted to begging. They earn their living by repairing utensils. They profess Sikh religion. However poor and living in slums, they live with dignity and have been struggling to discover their roots. They complained that no Sikh leader or organisation has ever contacted and visited them to better their lot and coordinate them with the mainstream Sikhs.
The history of the Nomadic Sikhs of the South can be traced back to the visit of Guru Nanak, who visited South India, including Hyderabad and Bidar, along with his Hindu and Muslim disciples. Some Sikligars are said to have converted to Sikhism during the period of Guru Gobind Singh.
Guru Gobind Singh spent his last days at Nanded. Some followers of Guru Gobind Singh stayed back and made Nanded their home by marrying into local families. The descendants of these Sikhs are known as Deccani Sikhs.
UK based Sikh scholars Nidar Singh Nihang and Paramjit Singh have explored the history of the Deccani Sikhs of Hazur Sahib. Their intensive research work compiled in the form of a book entitled, In the Master’s Presence: The Sikhs of Hazoor Sahib, was recently released during the celebrations at Nanded. The two volume work also explores the history and traditions of Hazur Sahib the fourth Sikh Takht. The first volume traces the development of Hazur Sahib from the foundation of the very first modest structure built over the ashes of Guru Gobind Singh in 1708 to the construction of the present structure by Maharaja Ranjit Singh during early nineteenth century (1830). However, some unique built heritage of Hazur Sahib shrine has been destroyed in the name of modernization and beautification during the present times.
Plans for the Welfare of Nomadic Sikhs: In a bid to bring over two crore ‘Nanak Panthi’ and ‘Kabir Panthi’ Sikhs scattered in 104 parliamentary constituencies all over south and central India in to the Sikh mainstream and to get them due recognition, the All India Shiromani Akal Dal (AISAD) has decided to set up two coordination centres at Nanded in Maharashtra and Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh.
Though these Sikhs have a considerable presence around Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bidar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and certain South Indian states, they are deprived of due recognition in the existing political set up of these states. These Sikhs are economically weak. No Sikh leader or central Sikh organisation like SGPC or Shiromani Akali Dal has approached them and endeavoured for their welfare. Being far away from Punjab, these Sikhs are gradually drifting away from the Sikh mainstream, since they are isolated and almost on their own. According to the president of All India Shiromani Akali Dal headed by Jaswant Singh Mann, their organisation’s main aim is to focus on the all around development of the Nanak Panthi Sikhs and ensure their welfare and bring them into the mainstream Sikhism. For this purpose, the organisation has opened two centres at Nanded and Bilaspur. This is a significant decision in the history of the Sikh community taken at this occasion.
SGPC President Avtar Singh informed the media on December 3, 2008 at Chandigarh after the meeting of the SGPC office bearers and executive committee members for the grant of one additional increment to the SGPC staff on the occasion of the Gurta Gaddi Diwas Celebrations.
Offspring of Guru Gobind Singh’s Horse of Nanded
Guru Gobind Singh had been famous for his excellent skill in horse riding. He has been popularly called neele da aswar or neele gore wala (meaning, master of blue horse) in the Sikh legends.
One of the object of curiosity and attraction for the devotees during the tercentenary celebration of Gurta Gaddi Diwas at the complex of Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded has been the stable where the offspring of Dilbagh, a stallion of rare breed, the famous horse of Guru Gobind Singh has been kept. The devotees were seen visiting the stable, bowing their heads in reverence before the horses’ cabin and making offerings in golak (cash box) at the stable.
An interesting tradition is associated with the offsprings of Guru Gobind Singh’s horse. There is a unique practice of giving gaddi installation of the offspring of Guru’s horse. At present, the gaddi is held by Anmol, whose predecessor, Pawan has grown old. There are three more horses of this breed in the line for the gaddi, including Gorkha and Hans. The gaddi ceremony of these horses is observed with religious sanctity. Ardas is performed at Takht Sri Hazur Sahib before the installation ceremony of these horses.
The stable in the compound of Takht Sri Hazur Sahib has also a number of other horses of fine breeds, which reminds us of the quality of horses kept in Guru Gobind Singh’s Camp. Takht Sri Hazur Sahib gets offsprings of horses of fine breeds from devotees. These horses are also kept at this stable. At present, there are 46 horses. Most of them have been offered by the Sikhs from the Punjab.
The horses of the stable at Hazur Sahib, Nanded are reared with all care. It is to be noted that these horses are not for human use. On special occasions, they are bedecked in traditional style with gold ornaments and costly dresses. They are taken out in procession (jalau) during Diwali, Holi, Dussehra, Baisakhi festivals and gurpurabs associated with Guru Gobind Singh. The horse Anmol has gold jewellery in his stock of more than fifty kg in weight.
A noteworthy tradition is also attached with the appointment of horse keepers and caretakers employed at the stable of Hazur Sahib, Nanded. A family of non-Sikhs has been taking care of the stable for the past many generations. Their primary duty is to look after the offsprings of Guru Gobind Singh’s horse besides the over all charge of the stable. They are assisted by other employees also. At present, Sandeep and his father Madhav perform duties at the stable in shifts round the clock. Earlier his grand father, Pundlik and great grandfather, Jalvaji used to take care of the stable. This family is posted here on hereditary basis to serve the offspring of Guru’s horse and cannot be removed from duty till their death.
Horses had great significance in the history of the Sikhs. Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth master of the Sikhs introduced the tradition of horse trading among the Sikhs. The Sikhs are a martial race. The horse trading proved a significant development in the organization of the Sikh community. Besides developing skill in horse riding, it helped the Sikh community as a source of lucrative business. During the medieval ages, horses had great importance, being the fastest means of transport and traveling as well as an asset for the soldiery in the battlefield. The sixth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Har Gobind had to face tough times for self defence (after the martyrdom of his father, Guru Arjun Dev) on account of Mughal hostility.
Guru Hargobind opted for the Miri-Piri doctrine (combination of temporal and secular sovereignty) after his pontification. He got erected Akal Takht (Eternal Throne) and issued hukamnamas (letters of command/epistles) instructing his followers to make offering of arms and horses. Guru Hargobind had strong contingent of more than 500 armed horse-men as his body guards. The Sikh sangat used to offer horses for Guru’s Darbar (court) at Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Amritsar. However, the tradition had been discontinued after the departure of Guru Hargobind from Amritsar to Kiratpur on account of his struggle with the Mughals after the battle of Amritsar. The offering of horses by the Sikh sangat was revived during the time of Guru Gobind Singh. A number of hukamnamas issued by Guru Gobind Singh before the creation of the Khalsa (1699 AD) and post-Khalsa period are documentary evidence of this practice. Under the leadership of Banda Singh Bahadur and the Dal Khalsa (the grand army of the Sikh jathedars), the Sikh soldier has to bring a horse for himself to be included in the cavalry contingents.
Khalsa Sports Festival at Nanded
Sports play an important role in personality development. Sports make a person physically strong and mentally alert, and also infuse the spirit of sportsmanship, cooperation, discipline and tolerance. The significance of sports had been duly recognized by the Sikh Gurus. Guru Angad Dev, Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh specially stressed upon the prime importance of games along with other aspects of life. A two-day ‘Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa Sports Festival’, dedicated to the Sikh martial arts, as part of the Gurtagaddi Diwas celebration was held at Nanded Hazur Sahib from October 31-1 November 2008.
The sports festival was inaugurated by Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister of Punjab. Only players with unshorn hair participated in it. Besides the traditional Punjabi games including Kabaddi and wrestling, the festival also included horse riding, gatka, nezabazi and other martial art games. Contest in malkhamb, the traditional game of Maharashtra was also held. Former cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi, hockey player Onkar Singh and boxing Coach G S Sandhu were honoured with a cash award of Rs. 51,000 each and a citation and a memento for bringing laurels to the Sikh community at the international level. A march past was taken out by players and traditionally dressed Nihangs, while students of Mata Gujri College, Fatehgarh Sahib presented an Orchestra based on Punjabi folk tunes.
At this occasion, the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee announced its future plan to regularly hold sports tournaments to inculcate fervour for sports and a sense of competition among the youth. Avtar Singh, President SGPC along with the managements of gurdwaras and its educational institutions planned to initiate efforts for developing sports culture and infrastructure in order to motivate the youth towards sports and extracurricular activities. He said that every possible effort would be made to popularize traditional martial arts like gatka, nezabazi and horse riding among the Sikh Youth. There is a due need for the promotion of the sports in a big way so that unbounded energy of the youth could be cherished in a constructive manner and they may be saved from falling prey to the growing trend of drug addiction. The sports and development of hobbies is the only way to get rid of this menace.
Sukhbir Singh Badal, President, Shiromani Akali Dal announced on this occasion that Kabaddi League would be started in Punjab and the inaugural of the World Kabaddi Tournament would be held in the near future.
Takht Sri Hazur Sahib’s Maryada
The 300th Gurtagaddi Diwas celebrations an Hazur Sahib, Nanded have brought to the fore some of the ceremonies and rituals performed here which have marked variations from the maryada (Sikh Code of worship) observed at the three Takhts of Punjab and various gurdwaras managed under the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. These rituals and practices bear prominent impact of the Hindu way of worship.
At Takht Sri Haminder Sahib Nanded Gurdwara Harminder Sahib, the daily routine of worship starts at 2 am with the performance of ardas by the Jathedar of Takht Sri Hazur Sahib before washing of the sanctum sanctorum with holy water of Godavari. Then the daily worship begins with the aarti in a room located right behind the Takht Sahib. The aarti (prayer) is performed with a puja thali midst the ringing of bells and recitation of gagan mein thaal, rav, chand, deepak baney. A hymn composed by Guru Nanak and incorporated in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Rag Dhanasari, p 663). In the SGPC-managed gurdwaras and three Takhts in Punjab, the aarti is only recited and not performed with lamps and flames and puja thali (aarti is mostly recited in the evening after the recitation of Rahiras Sahib (evening prayer of the Sikhs).
Another unique feature of the morning aarti performed at Sri Hazur Sahib is that five amritdhari (baptized) Sikhs daily carry muslin-covered silver thaals (plates) on their heads to Takht Sahib just as the aarti concludes. These thaals bearing a gold bowl of kheer, puri, lassi, sweet pulao, panjiri prasad and dal are taken inside the sanctum sanctorum, known as Angeetha Sahib, where the tenth Sikh Master, Guru Gobind Singh had breathed his last in 1708 AD. Then the gold doors are closed for the bhog (food offered to the deity) and thrown open only after the ritual is over. The thaals are then carried back to the rooms in the vicinity of the gurdwara. The bhog food is prepared in a special kitchen.
Aarti and bhog, the dominant features at Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, associated with Guru Gobind Singh are a deviation from the Sikh maryada. They are precisely associated with the Hindu culture. However, these two rituals are integral parts of the morning worship observed at Takhat Hazur Sahib Nanded.
The custom of aarti and bhog has been observed here for the last 300 years. The bhog food is cooked here everyday and taken to the Guru’s room without fail. The bhog dal is later mixed with the remaining portion and distributed among the people who feel that it will cure them of all kinds of ills and bring them prosperity and good luck. There are five cooks for the special kitchen of the gurdwara. Normally half a kg of dal is cooked for bhog purposes, but during the celebration days, the quantity had been increased. Devotees sitting outside with bowls in hands wait for the bhog prasad. The other bhog dishes are distributed among the devotees who make prior booking for it.
The most significant variation in the maryada of Takht Hazur Sahib from the Takhts of Punjab is that the recitation of Guru Garnth Sahib and the Dasam Granth go on simultaneously and hukamnama or vak is taken from both the Granths separately. Here veer ras (heroic poetry) is a dominant flavour of the religious fervour. Another unique ritual followed at Hazur Sahib is associated with the worship of goddess Durga, the Hindu deity.
Unlike the karah prasad offered in the Sikh gurdwaras, the devotees offer here panjiri prasad, which can be collected from the counters put up by the Takht Sri Hazur Sahib Management.
Another significant feature of the maryada observed at Hazur Sahib is that, the naubat (a traditional musical instrument) is played by non-Sikhs in front of Takht Sahib everyday. Milk mixed with water the Godavari is sprayed on the gurdwara building from a fire tender on the eve of the Diwali. This practice was followed during the celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the Gurtagaddi Diwas.
Another noteworthy practice performed here is that a goat is sacrificed on Dussehra night every year. This ceremony was performed on Diwali day this year (Oct 28, 2008). The fresh blood of the sacrificed goat is used for tilak on the Guru’s weapons. This custom is another striking deviation from the Sikh maryada performed at other Takhts. A western Sikh, witness to the goat sacrifice this year during the celebrations had to bear the brunt of the local Sikhs when he objected to this ritual. He was beaten up badly and was saved by devotees gathered there.
Being under the management of a separate committee, the maryada of Takht Sri Hazur Sahib is quite different from that of the Akal Takht and the SGPC gurdwaras. The text of the Rahiras path (evening prayer) is wider and even the Ardas is different in composition and contents.
In another noteworthy deviation from the Sikh tradition, the Jathedar of Hazur Sahib has to be a bal brahamchari (celibate) and and must remain so throughout his life. The maryada of the Takht does not allow the Jathedar to leave Nanded ever, as he is the only one allowed to perform sewa (service) inside the sanctum sanctorum. This relates to the medieval concept of the holy and the profane, no one except the priest was allowed to go inside the shrine and the devotees had to offer their prayers standing at the door. At present, Giani Kulwant Singh is the Jathedar of Takht Sri Hazur Sahib. The Jathedar of Hazur Sahib nominates his second in command (vice-Jathedar) to attend meetings of Sikh high priests at Sri Akal Takht Sahib or elsewhere.
The Jathedar of Sri Hazur Sahib has a tight schedule. His duties start at 2 AM with the performance of the ardas. After a break of only a couple of hours, the Jathedar has to perform the daily rites in the sanctum sanctorum where even other Sikh high priests are not allowed to enter. Finally, the Jathedar goes back to his official residence in the Takht Complex after the evening prayers, which are performed in the most traditional manner. Like the Jathedar of Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, the Gagrya Sikh, who carries gagar (silver jar/pitcher) for bringing holy water from the Godavari to Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, too has to be a bachelor and cannot leave Nanded throughout his life. At present, Haryala Singh is the Gagrya Sikh of the Takht. The task of bringing water from the Godavari is also unique. A task force of the youth carrying traditional weapons escorts the Gagrya Sikh, barefoot. The tradition of performing aarti besides ardas on the riverbanks is mesmerizing experience. Perhaps, this mannerism and practice points to the hostile atmosphere in the past, which the priest of Hazur Sahib had to face during the 18th century.
We see, thus, that there are wide differences over the practices and mode of worship practised at Nanded for the last 300 years. Some of the staunch Sikhs, like ex-Jathedar of Akal Takht, Prof Darshan Singh and Paramjit Singh Sarna, President, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee are staunch critics of the maryada performed at Hazur Sahib. Therefore, they did not participate in the 300th celebrations of the Gurtagaddi Diwas at Nanded. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee is yet to take a stand on this issue. However, they are hopeful of a mutual agreement on this issue in future. We have to be lenient in view of the preservation of the Sikh heritage at Nanded by the local Sikhs with dedication throughout the period of 300 years and that too in odd times when they had no scope of any support from the Punjab Sikhs after the fall of the Sikh kingdom. It was only Maharaja Ranjit Singh who took strong measures to built the gurdwara at Nanded on solid ground with security and provisions. Even the SGPC for the last so many years had not bothered much to come closer with the management of Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, notwithstanding the fact that the authority of Nanded is recognised as the fourth historical Takht, and the Jathedar of Takht Sri Hazur Sahib is invited in the meetings of the Sikh high priests.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2009, All