News & Views
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In the past few months in the midst of Corona Virus pandemic, we have lost our two illustrious members and two valued patrons. The consecutive departure of these four members of the IOSS family have caused an immense loss and grief to us. We mourn the untimely and sudden departure of our revered member S Harcharan Singh, Ex-Chief Secretary, SGPC. Being an extremely dedicated and selfless Gursikh, we looked forward to his playing a very active role in the IOSS activities. Sardar Jagdev Singh, who was currently our Vice-President will be remembered for his complete commitment and devotion to the Institute. Sardarni Rajmohinder Kaur, the wife of revered Dr Kharak Singh, one of the founders of Institute of Sikh Studies, was a source of continuous inspiration and guidance both for the Institute of Sikh Studies and International Sikh Confederation, Chandigarh who continued to contribute to this institute even after the demise of Dr Kharak Singh. Her departure has caused an immense loss to our organization. Departure of Bibi Sukhbir Kaur wife of our illustrious and dedicated member S Gurcharan Singh has also left us grieving and mourning her death. We condole the deaths of these four dear departed and pray for peace to these noble souls.
Sikh History Portraitist, Mehar Singh passes away at 91
Well known artist of portraiture and paintings on Sikh History Mehar Singh (91) passed away on August 26, 2020 in Delhi. Mehar Singh served as President of Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi for two terms and also as Vice Chairman, Punjab Arts Council.
Born to Sardar Saudagar Singh and Sardarni Mahinder Kaur in Lahore on 1st October 1929 into a house of craftsmen having wood workshop, Mehar Singh studied at DAV College, Lahore and then for some time at Mayo School of Art, Lahore where two of his uncles were teachers. At the same time he took apprenticeship under Sardar Sobha Singh, who asked him to choose between formal education and full time apprenticeship. His father, who was not opposed to his learning art, did not want him to leave regular education in college. To please both his father and his Guru, he enrolled himself for evening studies while continuing his full time apprenticeship under Sobha Singh. He was one of earliest two disciples of Sobha Singh, the other being Amar Singh.
Singh shifted to Chandigarh in the early eighties and continued to live at his house in Sector 44 till the time his health allowed. He received encouragement and commissions from Dr M.S. Randhawa which he used to hone his art and mature into an accomplished artist of portraiture. He made portraits of artists, poets, legendary film personalities and politicians. Quite a few of the portraits of eminent personalities from the field of afr and culture, painted by Mehar Singh, are displayed in the Portrait Gallery at Punjab Kala Bhawan, Sector 16, Chandigarh, including those of Prithivi Raj Kapoor, Dr M.S. Randhawa, Sobha Singh, Prem Bhatia among many others.
Singh used to like meeting his subject for a couple of days and engaging in a dialogue to study their nammerism in order to bring authenticity and capture the character of the person in his portraits. He received a commission to make a painting of Guru Gobind Singh by S.S. Anand and further encouragement by Principal Satbir Singh to make paintings of Banda Singh Bahadur, which got him more interested in making painting of Guru Sahibaans, SGPC, Bank of Punjab, Punjab and Sindh Bank Commissioned him to make paintings on Sikh history.
He believed in the power of art to lead a meaningful life, to heal and spread happiness, brotherhood and togetherness. (Courtesy: The Indian Express, August 8, 2020)
‘Bir can be kept at Home While Maintaining Code of Conduct, can’t be Removed Rorcibly’
While the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Satikar Committee of Amritsar has objected to Sikhs keeping the Birs of Guru Granth Sahib at home, the practice is not uncommon, and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) even has a proper procedure in place for the same.
On Monday, a team led by Satikar committee head Balbir Singh Muchhal removed a Bir of Guru Granth Sahib from the residence of 78-year-old retired principal of Khalsa College Jaswant Singh in Hoshiarpur. However, there are differing views on this in the Sikh community.
According to the SGPC, for setting up a Bir at one’s home, a Sikh requires permission from a local SGPC member. The SGPC then sends its people to the house of the individual to check if there are proper arrangements in adherence to the code of conduct regarding installation of Guru Granth Sahib.
“People often make complaints to Satikar committees because they have some personal grudge against the person who has installed Guru Granth Sahib at home. The complainant knows that SGPC will act according to set procedure, but Satikar committee works in self-styled manner…When the complainant is sincere, he or she makes a complaint to the Akal Takht or SGPC. We have a set of procedures to give Bir or to deal with such complaints. It is true that it is not easy to maintain a code of conduct for installation of Guru Granth Sahib at homes,” said SGPC senior-vice president Rajinder Singh Mehta.
Harpal Singh Pannu, head of Guru Gobind Singh chair at Central University Bathinda, “The Dal Khalsa remained at war for years. They would stay in forests with no roof over their heads. They were like a family moving from one place to another. At those times, they made a kind of hut for the installation of Guru Granth Sahib. It was the era before Maharaja Ranjit Singh established kingdom and gurdwaras were established at local level. There has been not a single reference that can be used to stop Sikhs from installing Guru Granth Sahib at home. What Sarikar Committee are doing is hooliganism. Who has given them rights to decide wrong and right? There is no doubt that the respect of Guru Granth Sahib should be maintained — whether it is installed at gurdwara or home.”
Head of department of Guru Granth Sahib studies at Patiala University, Sarbjinder Singh, said, “Sikhs have always set high standards for the respect of Guru Granth Sahib. British government arranged for publication of Guru Granth Sahib in small size. Two Sikhs soldiers would be leading a company on war ground with a small Bir of Guru Granth Sahib during the first world war. There were two Sikhs so the second one can take care of Guru Granth Sahib in case the first one falls. So there should be no doubt that no Sikh will compromise maintaining the code of conduct regarding installation of Guru Granth Sahib. But there should not be any problem for installation at home in case if conduct is followed in spirit.”
Historian Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, former member Punjab University Senate, said, “Sikhism is not exclusive but inclusive. There is great importance of the concept of ‘Sangat’ where Sikhs come together to sit in company of Guru Granth Sahib. It can’t happen at home. So we can’t say that installation of Guru Granth Sahib at home has much relevance in the way of Sikhi. But still I do not endorse or approve any highhandedness shown by the Satikar committee while removing Birs from homes.”
Former Speaker in Punjab Assembly Bir Davinder Singh said he believes the installation of Guru Granth Sahib does not serve the purpose for which a Sikh installs Bir at home. “You can’t achieve that kind of concentration at home that you can achieve at a gurdwara. There are many aspects. But still Bir can’t be removed forcefully,” he added. (Courtesy: The Indian Express, August 13, 2020)
Guru Nanak Dev’s death anniversary: ‘Jyoti Jot’ prayers culminate at Kartarpur with Nagar Kirtan till zero line
First time after the Kartarpur Corridor was opened last year, the Jyoti Jot (death anniversary) prayers of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev were observed at his final resting place Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan on Tuesday. The event started September 20 and culminated on Tuesday with Nagar Kirtan till zero line (India-Pakistan border).
Guru Nanak’s Jyoti Jyot (death anniversary prayers — Guru Nanak is believed to have died at Kartarpur on September 22, 1539) are of immense importance at Kartarpur, which is believed to be the final resting place of the Sikhism founder. Due to the spread of Covid-19, India has still not opened the corridor for pilgrims after it was shut due to the pandemic. Earlier, Pakistan had urged India to open the corridor and allow pilgrims from India to participate in Guru’s Jyoti Jot prayers.
A statement from Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Pakistan, said, “On September 22, the 481st death anniversary (Jyoti Jot) of Guru Nanak Dev ji was observed at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur. Large number of Sikh/Nanak Naam Lewa Sangat from Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh participated in the function. The event started on September 20 with Paath Sahib (recitation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib) which ended today and ardaas (prayers) were held on September 22.”
It further said, “A Nagar Kirtan was taken out in 15 buses/cars at 10 am from Gurdwara Darbar Sahib and reached zero point (India-Pakistan border). After ardaas, they moved back and reached Gurdwara Sahib at 11.30 am. Ardas was performed by granthi and members of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC). The Nagar Kirtan procession was led by ETPB shrines branch and PSGPC.”
Imran Gondal, Deputy Director, Shrines, ETPB, said that the concluding ceremony in Dewan Asthan was held from 12 to 1 pm. V-C Narowal University Dr Tariq Mehmud was the chief guest. (Courtesy: The Indian Express, September 23, 2020)
Marathon Runner Fauja Singh Makes it to Children’s Book
Fauja Singh (109), the world’s oldest marathon runner, has created history as this ‘young athlete’ has been featured as a superhero in a children’s book. He has beaten a number of world records in multiple age brackets. However, none of his times have been ratified as records.
The book ‘Fauja Singh Keeps Going’, authored by New York-based professor Simran Jeet Singh, was released last month.
Fauja Singh never learned to read because he didn’t go to school, and even now, at the age of 109, he still has not learned to read. The book, which includes illustrations by Baljinder Kaur, traces the journey of the young Fauja from Punjab to the UK.
It describes how the young Fauja, whose name meant ‘warrior lion’, wanted to feel stronger but his parents worried that he might not even be able to walk.
In England, Fauja Singh eventually underwent professional training and emerged the world’s oldest runner when he ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon at the age of 100 in 2011. Fauja Singh has also written a foreword for the book. (Courtesy: The Tribune, September 24, 220)
Amritsar girl bags free trip to NASA
Amritsar, September 25. She is just 16 and is looking forward to flying to the John F Kennedy Space Centre in the US, after getting an invitation from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Meet Amritsar’s Hissaa, a Class X student of DAV Public School, who got the rare offer after she topped the International Space Olympiad (ISO) 2020. She scored 78.75 marks, obtained collectively in the preliminary, intermediate and final test.
What is surprising is the fact that not only is she the first student from India to secure this position in the senior category, but also the one to achieve it with her own hard work, without any coaching.
“It was a dream come true when I got the official confirmation. I aim to be an astrophysicist. I competed with students from Singapore and Switzerland, besides different parts of India, and bagged the first place,” said Hissaa.
“I got myself registered in September 2019, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, the first-round examination was pushed to January, followed by the second phase being conducted in June and the final in August. I am eagerly waiting for the situation to get favourable so that I could visit my dream destination, the NASA centre,” she maintained.
Hissa credited her father Savrajinder Pal Singh, an engineer with the MC, Amritsar, and her mother Kamalpreet Kaur, an English teacher in a government school, for her success.
“Having an engineering background, my father taught me the nuances of science and my mother made sure that I get the best of knowledge in astronomy,” she added. (Courtesy: The Tribune, September 28, 2020)
Letters to Editor
The article of Harbans Singh titled 'Dogras and their run-ins with China' in The Sunday Tribune on June 21, 2020 does not come clear on the key facts and war exploits of General Zorawar Singh.
A close scrutiny of the details of the military campaigns of this valiant soldier tells us that throughout his life till he died fighting in the harsh winter of 12 Dec, 1841, he was part of the army of Lahore Darbar styled as the Sarkar Khalsa of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Harbans Singh in his article wants us to believe that it was the sole initiative of Raja Gulab Singh to extend the territorial boundaries of Jammu territory into Ladakh and Tibet, but his observation is not supported by objective study of facts available to the students of history.
It may be remembered that the expansion of the Sikh Empire was the strategic policy of Ranjit Singh to frustrate any possible threat of incursions from China and the Gorkha mainland.
Gulab Singh was a feudatory or a satrap of the Sikh Empire till he bartered Kashmir for 75 lakhs after the British victory in the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1846.
It is pertinent to be mentioned here that the military expeditions of Zorawar Singh were at the behest of the Sikh Raj guided by the political interests and high traditions of Sarkar Khalsa.
It is precisely for this reason that the army on the trail of such difficult campaigns comprised Sikhs, Dogras and the Buddhists and the commanders fighting under the Dogra General also came from different religious communities.
The records tell us that the army under him was specifically constituted to further the frontiers of Sikh Raj deep inside the Himalayan region.
He used to openly proclaim that, 'he was born to extend the boundaries of Khalsa Raj beyond the Himalayas'. Gen. Zorawar Singh was always greeted among the troops with the cries of 'Sat Sri Akal' and 'Jai Deva'. The final campaign of the Dogra General in 1841, when death came to him, was sanctioned by Maharaja Sher Singh in line with the State policy enunciated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
The writer of the article has seriously errored on facts by giving the impression that Raja Gulab Singh as a sovereign and Zorawar Singh as his army commander acted independently of Sarkar Khalsa in the military campaigns into Ladakh and Tibet.
Nothing is farther from the truth !
Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh
Apropos the ibid write up, The Tribune dated June 15, 2020, p.10 has given some wrong factual details. The advent into Ladakh was 1834 (not 1934-35), when the Sikh Army of Maharaja Ranjit SIngh (not Dogra Rulers) led by General Zorawar Singh advanced upto Garo and Rudok, defeated the Lhasa army and signed a Treaty with them favourable to the Sikh ruler.Maharaja Ranjit SIngh ruled firmly till he died in June 1839, there was no other ruler in the Trans-Sutlej area. Again in 1841-42, it was the Sikh Army led by General Zorawar Singh which went into Ladakh, where later this very courageous General was killed. The Sikh Kingdom finally came to an end only on 30 Mar 1849. These details need to be placed in the correct perspective.
Lt General R S Sujlana
Member, Institute of Sikh Studies
Dear Singh Sahiban
Giani Jaspreet Singh Ji, Jathedar Sri Akal Takhat sahib.
Bhai Gobind Singh Ji Longowal, President, SGPC, Amritsar.
S. Roop Singh Ji, Chief Secretary SGPC, Amritsar
I am well past 85. I studied at Khalsa High School at Nankana Sahib and passed my Matric from Punkjab University at Lahore in 1947. Unlike today, we used to have one period on Sikhism every day and Giani Bisram Singh ji was our teacher. He had instilled in us basics of Sikhism, Sikh Ethics and Sikh history. In addition we were exposed to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji path and its teachings.
Since my childhood, two dates are eched in my mind. The Shahedi Purab of Guru Arjan Dev Ji as 04 June and of Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib ji on November 24. Since we were following the Gregorian Calendar, these dates were fixed. On June 04, I asked my wife to prepare the Kahrah Parsad Deg because it was Guru Arjan Dev ji Shahedi Purab. She said the Purab has already been observed on May 26. I could not believe myself.
Then I remembered that then ruling Shromani Akali Dal under the influence of RSS and BJP has done the damage by asking SGPC to follow the Bikrami Calendar. Now we will never have a fixed date for any Gurpurab. Every year the dates will change. We will find it hard to explain to our grand children that Guru Baba Ji were born on a different date this year than last year.
They say, if you want to destroy a nation, distort its history, destroy its Calendar and its language. This is happening among the Sikhs today.
You Sardar Sahiban occupy three most important posts in the Sikh Religious heararchy. Be Bhai Munsha Singh and act without fear and with faith in Guru Ramdass ji Sahib.
If you cannot follow Prof Purewal Calendar, at least follow the Georgian Calendar. History will not excuse you if you do not do the right things now. I will be happy to receive your response. My E-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Col (retd) Avtar Singh
2339 – 68 Corporate Drive, Scarborough
Ontario – M1H3H3, CANADA.