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Gur Panth Parkash

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





ਸੇਵਕ ਕਉ ਸੇਵਾ ਬਨਿ ਆਈ

With the unprecedented outbreak of Corona virus Covid-19 and assuming pandemic proportions all over the globe, the entire world and life seem to have been quarantined and subdued as if it has suddenly come under the curse of a mythical sphinx. The pandemic has proved to be a great leveller disabling the rich and the poor, the advanced and the backward alike. Infact, the more advanced and rich the countries, the more helpless and the more victimised they have been rendered. This pandemic has also brought out some of the unique inherent qualities of certain religious communities to the forefront. Although, all religions profess and propagate selfless service of mankind and the destitute and uphold the values of charity, yet very few among them come out to serve the needy and the starving during calamities such as this coronavirus pandemic. Now when millions and millions of people have been rendered jobless and without food all over the globe, very few religious communities and their charitable organizations have come out to serve the needy despite their rich resources and their still grander religious exhortations for feeding the hungry and the starving. In this respect, the followers of Sikhism, although Sikhism has the smallest following in the world, have earned the distinction of serving food to the largest number of needy and starving people all over the globe irrespective of the caste, creed and colour of the needy people. It would be informative to know about the number of free meals and amount of food being served by some of the leading Sikh organizations like the United Sikhs, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management committee (DSGMC) and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to name only three.

United Sikhs has stepped up with Emergency Response Teams to feed families in need from all corners of the globe from India, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Australia, United States, Canada and more. In total, UNITED SIKHS has provided over 1 million free meals to those in need. As soon as COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, UNITED SIKHS immediately began working with authorities to provide as much support as possible. They immediately put the principle of selfless service into action and launched a global response to help tackle this unprecedented pandemic. In the United States, UNITED SIKHS has provided support in California, Washington, Texas, Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida, Massachusetts, Utah, Maryland and was tapped by New York's Office of Emergency Management to prepare and serve 30,000 meals to New Yorkers at the start of the New York State on Pause Executive Order that led to the eventual New York City lockdown. The Sikh Center of New York prepared more than 30,000 home-cooked meals for Americans in self-isolation amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Sikh community was approached by New York Mayor's office for food packages that were handed out to several distributing federal agencies in the area. The agencies will further distribute and deliver free food to people affected by Covid-19 in New York City, one of the worst affected cities in the US by the novel coronavirus.

The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) has been serving langar to 1.25 lakh people everyday in major gurdwaras in the national Capital. At Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, langar is being prepared for 50,000 people daily. The DSGMC has also provided its guest houses to doctors and nurses facing accommodation issues due to the coronavirus pandemic. Along with free community kitchen, DSGMC has also given rooms of prominent gurdwaras to the doctors and nurses of RML Hospital, Lady Harding Hospital and many more for their stay. Many medical staff members who do not want to carry the threat of the virus to their homes and some were debarred to enter their homes by their neighbours were given exclusive rooms by the Gurdwara committee for their stay and supplied with high protein diet and other facilities.

This unique free food service (Langar) and accommodation provided by the DSGMC to the Corona Warriors was duly acknowledged by the Delhi Administration and the Delhi Police by holding a Parikarma of the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara.

With sirens blazing as a mark of respect, the Delhi Police performed a 'parikrama' of Gurudwara Sri Bangla Sahib Gurudwara on Monday for providing food to nearly one lakh people daily amid the ongoing lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to curb the spread of coronavirus COVID-19 in the country.

The convoy of 100 vehicles, including 35 police vans and 60 motorcycles, was led by Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Eish Singhal. It is learnt that some senior officers of Delhi Police also paid obeisance at Gurudwara Sahib and did 'seva' (service) by helping in preparation of 'langar'. However, this parikrama should not be seen just as a mere physical activity. This gesture of the Delhi Police reflects the respect of the whole nation towards the Sikh community for their selfless service in this time of National adversity. The Sikhs feel humbled that the tradition of langar started by Guru Nanak is now seen as the best way to serve the humanity.

The SGPC, the apex Sikh religious body, too has been rendering yeoman's service during the pandemic. It has been also serving free food to the needy homeless, poor migrant workers rendered jobless due to state of lockdown through all the community kitchens (Langars) of about 100 Sikh shrines under its control and offering its big halls, sarais and hospitals to Punjab Government for medical treatment of Corona patients and for providing isolation and quarantine facilities to them.

After preparing food, it is taken in SGPC vehicles to various locations, slums and workers' colonies. It goes to the credit of Sikh shrines and other social organizations that nobody has ever gone to sleep without food in the state of Punjab during this pandemic. This massive food distribution service by the SGPC has been supplemented by the voluntary donations made by the devout Sikh sangats all across the state. As against the donation of 13000 quintals of wheat to SGPC gurdwaras last year, a record 26000 quintals of wheat has already been contributed so far and more quantities of wheat are still pouring in and several other essential commodities are also being donated by the Sikh devotees.

Thus, free distribution of food (Langar) has become the brand Sikh signature of the Sikh community all over the world. Commenting upon this unique characteristic of selfless service of free food distribution by the Sikhs during natural calamities and pandemics all over the world, Prof Ira Pande in her weekly column "Touchstone" in The Tribune, dated May 17, 2020 writes, "I have written countless columns but the warmth that my piece on the Sikh community received has taken me by surprise. So many friends, non-Sikhs mind you, have said they heartly agree: What Sikhs have shown is that they follow their religion in their life in a way no other community has done. They have learnt well the lessons their Gurus taught them."

ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2020, All rights reserved.