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Gur Panth Parkash

Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh



Guru Nanak’s Haleemi

Inderjit Singh Jaijee

On his travels, Guru Nanak stayed one night with a pir. The pir had the deepest respect for Guru Nanak and wanted to make him comfortable. He asked Guru Nanak what he would like to eat and said that he could provide even the most lavish dishes. The Guru replied that he was not particular and would share whatever the pir himself normally ate … but then he said “I aways take my food with a slice of haleemi.”

The pir went off to arrange the meal. He asked others staying at his khanqah how haleemi was prepared but nobody had heard of it. Later, when he served the Guru he confessed that despite all his efforts, he had been unable to provide any haleemi. At this, the Guru smiled and said: “Oh no … haleemi is what you have just given me. I want no lavish dishes. It is haleemi (humility) that I relish.”– Janamsakhi

Our gurdwaras are splendid. We appear to be operating on the principle that there must be lots of marble and lots of gold. To make the point that the Sikh teachings articulate the highest principles, we increase the height of the gurdwara – as if we cannot have lofty principles without having lofty gumbads. If the renovation budget of a Gurdwara runs into crores, the sangat enthusiastically rises to the challenge and donations pour in. We make the process itself doubly holy by entrusting it to babas who presumably know what to do because they assume that they are God’s agents.

When devotion takes the form of stones and cement, people appear to find satisfaction, it is something solid and always there to admire. Building or renovation is more solid a material thing than putting money into improving human material. You spend thousands on educating a child, and everything seems to be going well … but then suddenly the kid takes some unexpected bad decision and you are left with nothing but disappointment. And yet, Guru Nanak directed his efforts toward improving human material rather than piling up stones and covering them in gold leaf.

How easy it would have been for Guru Nanak to have instructed Sri Chand and Lakhmi Chand in a set of rituals and invested them with hereditary authority. But again, Guru Nanak did not take the easy path: he established sangat and pangat but never clergy – and to this day, the role of clergy in Sikhism is not as authoritative and as exclusive as in other religious groups. Anyone can read Guru Granth Sahib and perform ardaas – or for that matter, a marriage or funeral rituals.

If the Sikh religion followed the principle that the son of a leader is a leader, then Sikhs would have accepted mahants as the ‘rightful’ controllers of their shrines. It took a long and painful struggle during Gurudwara Reform Movement and the Singh Sabha movement to remove mahants from gurdwaras. Now, such people are again creeping back, once again being encouraged by political leaders. With time, such people become very powerful indeed. When Guru Granth Sahib is covered with jewel-encrusted rumalas, we bow to it … it is only when the grand rumala is removed that we can open the Holy Book, read and try to understand and be guided.

Some of the babas are sincere and some are not … but good or bad, neither can cite any word of Guru Nanak to legitimize their activities. They have no automatic right to interpret Guru Granth Sahib for other Sikhs. In the matter of kar seva, they are free to join in community effort on the same footing as any other person. Where work is of a specialized nature, obviously they should refer to those with expertise. Without impugning their motives, it would be better if they were asked to keep aside and pray for the successful completion of the work.

In all things, let us revive the values of Guru Nanak and learn to love the haleemi and follow his example of putting spiritual values above consideration of family, power and grandeur.


ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All rights reserved.