March 24, 2016
Reciting the Name of Waheguru-God Almighty is the ultimate way to Salvation or Moksha from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. The process of reciting begins to works in phases.
First of all, why is the Name of God Almighty ‘Waheguru’ and not any other word? In Guru Granth Sahib, most of the time from the beginning to the end names of God like ‘Ram’ or ‘Hari’ and many others are used in the compositions or the Banis of the Gurus as well as various Saints. And since followers of the Gurus during their life time came from among Muslims as well, to explain to them in simple language, words like ‘Allah’ and many other names of God as per Islamic norm also show up. ‘Waheguru’ shows up for the first time on page number 1402 in the devotional composition of a Bhat whose poetic name is ‘KAL’. This part is called ‘Bhat-Bani’ and ‘Waheguru’ comes in the Swaye which are a praises of Guru Ram Das ji, the 4th Guru.
Just for additional information: The Bhats were Sarasvat Brahmins who earned their living by reciting Vedas from memory. And when Guru Arjan Dev ji, the 5th Guru, was compiling and editing all the Banis and devotional compositions into Guru Granth Sahib, word had spread far and wide all over India that the great Guru hade undertaken a noble work unique of its kind. Many poets came to his Darbar at Amritsar and presented their devotional compositions as they were very keen to have them included. But Guru Arjan Dev ji was selective while including only those compositions which remained within the norms of the philosophy initiated by Guru Nanak Dev ji, the first Guru.
And I would my readers to know an additional information for better understanding: Guru Granth Sahib arrives at Harmandir Sahib during the Amrit-vela (the period between midnight and dawn) riding majestically in a gold-studded Palki. Devotees rush about to put their shoulders to the beams of the Palki and you could be very lucky if you manage to carry the Palki even for a few seconds -such is the rush to do this unique Sewa.
After entering the Harmandir Sahib Guru Granth Sahib is placed upon the Piddah, or a settee. Then the Mighty-Guru is unwrapped form its ‘Night-Time-Bana or the Dress’, as one would be wearing clothes for sleeping. While this is being done the ‘Swaye-Praises’ of the Guru are recited verbatim from memory by a selected group of Sikhs before the Guru Granth Sahib is ceremoniously opened and the Hukumnama for the day is read to the waiting Sangat -the devotees.
Getting back to the main subject. Waheguru means ‘The Most Fantastic Guru’. The Guru in this case is God Almighty Himself. He Himself blesses his devotees with inner spiritual secrets. He also chooses to let these secrets be revealed through selected human-beings who awaken others.
It’s a well-known fact in Sikh history that before the bodily-form of the Previous-Guru passed away from this world, the blessed soul which was residing in him was passed on to the Next-Guru by a very simple ritual: The previous Guru would come to know, through his divine inner sense, who was to be the Next-Guru. We can assume that Waheguru was telling the Previous-Guru who would be the Next-Guru. That is how continuity was maintained in the philosophy initiated by Guru Nanak Dev ji, the first Guru.
Thereafter, the Previous-Guru would ask the Next-Guru to be seated and then he would place before him near his feet a Narial, some money. And then the Previous-Guru would place his forehead upon the feet of the Next-Guru and announce loud enough for everyone to hear, “Now, you are the Guru and not me!” Then Baba Buddha ji used to apply the Tilak on the forehead of the Next-Guru thus completing the formality of transfer of the Guru-Ship. The Previous-Guru invariably lay down and expired leaving his body behind which was ceremoniously cremated. An additional information: Baba Buddha ji, who was the contemporary of Guru Nanak Dev ji, the first Guru, was selected by him when he passed the Guru-Ship to Lahna whom he named as Gur Angad, the 2nd Guru. And Baba Buddha ji carried on doing this noble task until his son and grandson took over.
And when Guru Gobind Singh’s time had come to leave his body in this world at Nanded on the bank of River Godavari, he was asked by Bhai Nand Lal, one of his devotee, “Who would be our Guru from now onwards?” That is time Guru Gobind Singh ji asked that the Granth Sahib be brought and be posed for the devotee. Then he placed the Narial, some money and put his forehead on the open space in front of the Granth Sahib. After rising he pronounced, “All Sikhs are ordained from this moment onward to observe the Granth Sahib as the Guru; See here the personification of the Next-Guru; Those who wish to attain God find Him in the Word (of the Guru Granth Sahib). Therefore, from that day onwards Granth Sahib became ‘Guru’ Granth Sahib. Once this concept is accepted by the devotees then it is clear that God Almighty Himself lives in the ‘Word’ of Guru Granth Sahib.
When the word ‘Waheguru’ was accepted by Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Guru, and included in the Holy Scripture on page number 1402, then we can safely assume that all other names of God Almighty –which appear on various pages until then- were included in this one-word ‘Waheguru’. One can safely state that all names of God until then were ‘filtered’ into its English translation ‘The Most Fantastic Guru’ -the Waheguru.
It is my humble submission that all the philosophies of all man made religions of the world have been concentrated into Guru Granth Sahib. And let me inform all my readers that if there is a concept of Heaven -like we have a building in this world with four walls, roof and floor- and if there is a Throne inside that building like we would have a decorated chair, then Guru Granth Sahib is privileged to be seated upon that Throne forever from the day the ‘Guru-ship’ was bestowed upon it by Guru Gobind Singh ji. Therefore, God Almighty Himself is speaking through the ‘Words’ of Guru Granth Sahib.
But of course we are all entitled to our individual points of view and others may not agree with me, but I have no dispute with anyone. Crux of the issue is that those who are destined to understand this point will do so and others may ridicule me. They are most welcome to express their views. And if ridiculing me would make my critics happy then I might as well add another issue for them to beat me with. Since God Almighty Himself created all the 33 Crore (330 million) demi-gods and demi-goddess, (called Devi and Deva) then I am of the view that they all bow with reverence to Guru Granth Sahib. If you want to see if I am right or wrong, then ask any Deva or Devi you have been worshiping for Moksha and hear for yourself what he or she might have to say -if you have the power (the Siddhi) to hear your favourite Deva or Devi speak back to you. You would be very lucky if that happens.
The Story of Sant Pippa
To emphasize my point, I will tell you a short story from the life of Sant Pippa whose devotional hymns are included in Guru Granth Sahib.
Pipa’s year of birth or death is unknown, but he is traditionally believed to have lived a very long life in early 14th century and passed away from this materialistic world in late 15th century. He was born in a Chauhan Rajput royal family (Kshatriya Varna) at Gagaron in present-day Jhalawar district of Rajasthan. He became the king of Gagaraungarh -a Chauhan Rajput ruled State- which now lies within the territorial bounds of the State of Madhya Pradesh -east of the former Princely State of Kota which falls into the adjoining State of Rajasthan.
Pipa was a disciple of Shakti (Durga Bhavani). He gave up the throne after a dream and became a Sanyasi. Then. he along with his queen Sita, went to Varanasi and accepted Swami Ramanand as his guru and joined his Vaishnavism Bhakti movement. Pipa later preached Nirguni (god without attributes) belief of life. Sant Pipa is considered one of the earliest influential Saints of the Bhakti movement in 15th century northern India.
As a ruler, Pipa worshipped goddess Durga Bhavani when he was king of Gagaraungarh. He had a peculiar dream in which a message was conveyed to him not to worship Durga. Confused he went to the Durga Devi’s temple located inside his Palace and asked the statue why he had such a dream. A voice came from Durga Mata’s statue and asked him, “Rajan, why do worship me?” He replied, “I want Moksha.”
Durga Mata said, “Rajan, I can give you any amount of wealth, another beautiful queen if you want one (he already had 13 queens), make you win against your enemies in any battle. Ask for anything other than Moksha.”
He asked Durga Mata, “Why not Moksha.”
She replied, “I cannot give you Moksha because that power is with our creator -God Almighty- who created all the Devas and Devis. God Almighty Himself can give Moksha to any deserving person and no one else. I can function within the powers given to me. Ask for what I can give and I shall oblige.” This is the most important conversation which convinced Pipa to give up the throne and all worldly matters. That is what convinced him to become a Sanyasi.
Now that I have shown by historical example that no Deva and Devi can give you moksha, let us get on to the main point ‘Reciting the Name of Waheguru -God Almighty’.
How do People Start
Some people start on their own and there are others who get initiated by a Saint. Yet there are people who are initiated after they start reading Gurbani –the holy Words of Guru Granth Sahib.
Some people mix ‘Naam Simran’ with ‘Concentration-Meditation’. Both are meditative processes but there is a thin line of difference between the two. Both can lead to spiritual activity but the end result is different in each case.
In both, one has to sit in a somewhat similar posture. The sitting posture for ‘Naam Simran’ is called half-lotus-Asana which is comparatively relaxed. In the full-lotus-Asana, both your feet have to rest upon the opposite thighs which is difficult for some people who suffer from joint problems. Not everyone can do it.
In the half-lotus-Asana the heel of one of the foot rests against the inner side of the opposite thigh near the genitals and the other foot can be comfortably placed upon the opposite thigh. This is also called Bhagati-Asana. One can even sit in the normal crossed-leg position if its suits you because you don’t have to be austere or rigid or torture yourself in your devotion but be carefree and loving. Bhagti is Sehaj-Yoga meaning ‘easy-going-technique’ and you don’t have torture your body to achieve anything.
In ‘Concentration-Meditation’ one can go astray if you are not made aware of the pitfalls associated with it. I shall explain them at the end of this write up
‘Naam Simran’ is also called ‘Jappa Yoga’ by those who are fans of Yoga practices. The word ‘Jappa’ means reciting while reading or from memory. The word ‘Yoga’ means ‘Technique’. Therefore, in ‘Concentration-Meditation’ you adopt rigid rules and improve your concentration whereas in the ‘Jappa Yoga’ you adopt a relaxed technique and gradually, in a relaxed manner, try to open up the door to Moksha or Salvation. How?
Let us first assume and accept the fact that God Almighty lives in all of us or one can say that we are a small part of God Himself. Gurbani repeatedly states in many passages that ‘you find Him inside yourself and don’t go looking for Him in the forest or upon mountain tops or inside some cave or generally wandering in this world trying to find peace of mind.
Therefore, if God Almighty lives inside everyone one of us, then how come we have lost him and cannot merge with him. That is because God while living inside us has been covered by the dust-of-our-bad-Karma. It is like looking for something in a room which is fully dark or looking for a needle in a heap of rubble or garbage. What would you do if you have to find what you are looking for? Would you not switch on the electric light or switch on a hand held torch or light a lamp? And if the place is full of dust or rubble or garbage would you not wipe away the top surface to reveal the ‘item’ you are looking for?
Therefore, if God is inside you then you have to search for him and remove the cover of darkness from inside yourself or wipe away the dust/rubble/garbage. How do we do that?
I will explain this assuming that you are inside a house or a hut where the floor is covered with a white-carpet or cotton sheet. (I know that is unusual because normally floors are covered by colourful carpets or the floor is plain or tiled).
Next let us assume that it is constantly raining and there is a very small leak in the roof of the house or the hut. What would happen? Certain amount of water leaks through and a drop falls on that white-carpet or sheet. Each time a drop falls on it, the surface ‘changes-colour’ and becomes darker than the rest. The rain does not stop and every day one drop of water leaks through the roof and every day the portion of ‘changed-colour’ becomes larger and larger. And over a period of time the whole floor becomes discolored and covered with dirt.
Now consider that for some inexplicable reason the rain over the house or hut is loaded with a certain amount of detergent or washing powder. Therefore, as the detergent-rain seeps through the leak in the roof and a drop of detergent-liquid falls at the center of the carpet or the white sheet, the cleaning process starts. Over a period of time -just like in the earlier explained case where the soiled water discolored the surface- the white carpet or sheet would begin to get cleaned. The process would start from the middle and spread outward until it’s completely done.
Therefore, in simple words, assume that the detergent is the daily dose of NAAM which enters through the top and drops over our inner-self which had been covered with the dirt-of-bad-Karma. Slowly and steadily the essence of NAAM would clean the inner self and lead the devotee toward higher and higher level ultimately leading to a state of Moksha from the worldly attractions. And then on the day of departure from this world Dharam Raja, who keeps a record of our deeds in his voluminous ledger, would tear away the pages on the recommendation of our Guru. Thus Moksha from rebirth and death is achieved.
Now let us discuss Concentrated-Meditation
Concentrated-Meditation is done by some people by ‘Concentrating the energy of the Mind’ upon an object. The object could be anything from the flame of a candle or oil lamp or a framed photo or a statue of some demi-god or some Saint. The individual concentrates upon that object by looking at it or studying it very carefully: its each and every detail from its shape, size and the artwork or texture of its composition.
After having seen or studied the image very carefully, the person closes the eyes and recreates the image step by step in his or her mind. As soon as one finishes recreating the image in the mind one can go over it again and again depending upon available time. The session could last a few minutes to start with and gradually increase the time depending upon other priorities for the day.
The practice of Concentrated-Meditation has its positive points for your day to day functions. Firstly, it increases FOCUS which in turn helps you to focus on your job or profession. Needless to say that focus increases your productivity of whatever you may be your profession.
In this technique the power of mind increases very much and very fast depending upon your dedication and tenacity. In almost all cases I have heard of there is a tendency -due to some inexplicable reasons- to slow you down or to stop you from all together. The crucial situation appears in most cases when you cross 30 days of regular Meditation. Once you cross around 35 days it could become more difficult to devote time for some reason or the other or there may be some other disturbances strong enough to distract you. The zenith of your concentration comes after exactly 40 days.
Once you cross 40 days you are on your way to attaining one of the first Siddhi or achievement or Mental Power which gets bestowed upon you out of the 18 Siddhis or Powers which are mentioned in our ancient scriptures. These 18 Siddhis were possessed by several holy men in India irrespective of their religious faith in the past.
BUT IT IS NOT EASY AS IT SOUNDS. THERE ARE FIVE TRAPS.
What are these ‘Five Traps’? Our evolution from the Ape age to the stage of being civilized human beings has basically created the five evils which reside within our mind. There is no doubt that they were essential for survival in the distance past when survival of the fittest was the norm. These five evils are (1) Kama (the desire for sex); (2) Krode (anger); (3) Lobh (greed); (4) Moha (attachment) and (5) Ahankaar (ego).
But with the evolution of organized societies, social norms have undergone many changes. We have evolved from the hunter-gatherer stage to a settled-in-one-place stage. That change brought in permanent settlements and the need for regulations and their governance and prioritization in our daily lifestyles. Down the ages various individuals took the lead to bring about essential reforms in our behavior and they thus identified the problem-areas. And these problem-areas were identified as the abovementioned five evils.
Another very important factor in our evolution and survival has been the FEAR FACTOR.
While you may feel that Concentrated-Meditation will increase FOCUS which you may find very useful, it’s time that I remind you that all the five evils also get very much strengthened at the same time.
Once all the five evils get strengthened then the image of the object one was concentrating upon begins to show up for a short duration. This is the power of vision. Then with daily activity it may repeat every time you sit and concentrate. When this happens, the person has to exercise restraint or go whole hog and declare that he or she has had Darshan of a god.
By exercising restraint and keeping the secret to yourself one actually would rise to even higher levels. But in most cases when the word spreads, innocent people come and put their head upon the feet of such a person and seek blessings. And then they go about declaring that they have been blessed by Swamiji or Babaji. Thus his or her ego further increases. This is contrary what we are supposed to do. Destroy ego altogether.
Thus, unwittingly, many people become their loyal devotees and go about spreading half-truths. That is how self-declared godmen are created and they fleece the public and get involved in other unholy activities. One can write a lot about such self-declared godmen who are probably living as per their pre-ordained Karma.
Then comes the next trap which is Kama or desire for sex which is the first evil mentioned in the list. If the person practicing Concentrated-Meditation is a householder, then the desire for Kama remains within the relationship of husband and wife. In case the person is single man of woman then there is a great possibility of falling into the trap of Kama.
And if the self-declared godmen or god-woman has devotees who would like to serve him or her then the chances of the trap are even higher. Without going into more details I would like to point toward several cases of sexual misbehavior by such self-declared godmen which have been well documented within India as well as abroad.
The other four evils like anger, greed, attachment and ego get mixed with the first trap and there is no end to it. That is why the path of Guru Nanak Dev ji’s philosophy is the safest because the Great Guru has stipulated that you must live the life of a house-holder.
Therefore, there is a need to decide which path one wants to follow.
There is no doubt, in view of the above, that the path of Naam Simran specified by Sikhism is the best. The process of Concentrated-Meditation is a cheap second class activity for those who are selfish. The reader can decide where he or she wants to fit in. Rest is as per your Karma.
Waheguru -God Almighty- is always present at Harmandir Sahib also called Darbar Sahib or Golden Temple
October 20, 2014
December 31, 2013
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
October 18, 2013
To start with let me explain to my readers what the word ‘Bhagat’ means.
This word is used for a person whose everyday deeds are ‘Su-Karma’ which means ‘Superior Deeds’. One can say that such a person has a pure soul and sees everyone as an embodiment of God. People observe his or her daily Karmas and automatically start calling such a person a ‘Bhagat’, meaning a fulltime devotee of God Almighty. But a wrong kind of deed can lower the prestige of such a person and people would automatically stop using the word ‘Bhagat’ for such a person.
Bhagat Puran Singh, the former Ramji Das, was in reality a born Saint. His Karma earned him the title of a ‘Bhagat’ from the public at large and he never faulted from the esteemed status. He didn’t have to wait for someone’s permission to do good deeds for the needy like Mother Teresa had to seek permission from her Church to start doing something for the downtrodden. Bhagat Puran Singh was a freelance ‘do-gooder’ who didn’t have to look over his shoulders for some religious institution to finance his efforts like Mother Teresa was assured financial support by the Church.
And let me caution my readers, before I go any further, that among the Punjabi business community there is a surname called ‘Bhagat’ which should not be assumed by the reader in the superior category: It is just another surname.
Ramji Das was born on 4th June, 1904 into a Hindu family in a small town called Rajewal or Rahon in Ludhiana district of Punjab, India. His father died of heart failure after hi money-lending business failed. To make both ends meet, Ramji Das’s mother worked as a servant in the house of a doctor in Sahiwal, now in Pakistan’s Punjab.
Despite her miserable condition she encouraged him to study up to the matriculation level (10th Standard) so that he could get one of the much sought after Government jobs. But his mind was not inclined to bookish studies and he failed to pass the Matriculation Examination. Instead he would spend hours browsing books in the Dyal Singh Library, Lahore searching for knowledge.
Then a miracle happened in the life of Ramji Das when he was still a young man. Once he had to go to some place and walking was the only option available to him due to his financial position. Motorized transportation -as one sees nowadays- did not exist in the rural areas at that time. Moreover, paved roads in the rural areas of Punjab and even in the rest of India, did not exist in those days. People either walked or they went by bullock carts or Raths (Ox driven Chariots) or on horseback: Only the rich could afford a horse or a Rath of their own.
After walking the whole day Ramji Das stopped at a village before sunset. There was no place to stay for the night as most villages did not have a Sarai (Inn) which were otherwise located at convenient distances on major highways only. The village he stopped at had a Mandir (Temple) and he went there with the hope to find shelter for the night. It was time for the evening Arti prayers and the priest asked him to take a broom and clean the courtyard of the Mandir, which he did.
After the Arti prayers, when it was time for dinner, the priest sat down in full view of Ramji Das and ate his meal. He had walked many miles and was very hungry but the priest had no considerations for a hungry man and threw the leftovers to a stray dog. Ramji Das had to spend the night on an empty stomach drinking water from a pot kept outside.
A few months after this unfortunate incident, Ramji Das was travelling in another direction when he stopped at a village with a Gurdwara (the door to the Guru) as the Sikh place of worship is called. He went there because he had heard that one could always find shelter and food at a Gurdwara.
It was time for the evening prayers and Ramji Das got thoroughly involved in doing Sewa, (selfless-service) without the Granthi having to ask him to do so. (Granthi is the person appointed to read the Sikh scripture called ‘Guru Granth Sahib’)
And what Ramji Das had often heard -one can always find shelter and food at a Gurdwara- actually happened to his pleasant surprise. When it was for dinner, the Granthi brought food for him in a Thali -the Indian metal plate. And when it was time to sleep he gave him a string cot which is commonly used in rural areas of Punjab. And the biggest surprise of all surprises, just when Ramji Das was falling asleep, the Granthi was there with a glass of hot milk and a piece of Gudd (Jaghari) which is traditionally taken with milk to help digestion.
Ramji Das went to sleep wondering about the vast difference in the moral and religious standards of the Indian society. Troubled thinking about the double standards of the Hindu priest he went to a Sant (Saint) in Lahore and narrated his unique experiences. The Sant is believed to have told him, after meditating upon the issue, that it was Gods’ calling and Ramji Das had to decide what he must do in life.
It didn’t take him long to make up his mind and he went to Gurdwara Dehra Sahib in Lahore, Pakistan. (This Gurdwara commemorates the spot where Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Guru of the Sikhs was martyred on 30th May, 1606 on orders of Mughal Emperor Jahangir) Ramji Das voluntarily went through the Amrit-pan ceremony (baptismal) for initiation into the Khalsa Panth, ‘The Universal Brotherhood of the Pure’ -the final and the highest level in the Sikh faith. At the end of the Amrit-pan ceremony Ramji Das adopted the name ‘Puran Singh’. Since ‘Singh’ meaning ‘Lion’ is suffixed to first names of all male volunteers joining the Khalsa Panth, the connotation in this case means ‘being lion-hearted and brave’. And he truly turned out to be lion-hearted and brave.
Puran Singh, the former Ramji Das, went through another transformation as if God Almighty had pre-programmed a noble-path for him. Since he was greatly inspired by the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib and the Sikh Gurus he continued to visit Gurdwara Dehra Sahib and did Sewa of many kinds: Stocking-up water near the entrance so that the Sangat (congregate of devotees to the Gurdwara) could wash their feet and clean up before entry; helping in the dairy of the Gurudwara’s Langar (kitchen); cleaning utensils in the Langar; making Rotis and serving food to the seated Sangat; sweeping and mopping the floors of the Gurdwara and doing any other service wherever and whenever needed.
One day, someone fell from the roof of the Gurdwara and was badly injured. Puran Singh immediately rushed him to the local hospital. Experiencing inner joy after helping him, Puran Singh took an old and abandoned man, whose leg was vermin-infected and badly bleeding, to a hospital. The man thanked Puran Singh saying, “Son! Now I can die peacefully.”
Due to this incident, service of humanity became the mission of Puran Singh’s life. He began to wander the lanes of Lahore looking for injured and physically handicapped people, taking them to hospitals with whatever money his pocket allowed. Once he even washed the clothes of an old beggar who was suffering from diarrhea.
On a moonless night in 1934, someone left a four year old child -a boy stricken with leprosy- at the door of the abovementioned Gurdwara Dehra Sahib. The then Head Granthi of the Gurdwara asked Puran Singh to keep an eye on the helpless child. Puran Singh named the child ‘Piara Singh’ meaning ‘the loved one’ and went a step further: Rather than pass the child over to the center for lepers he decided to care and raise him himself. He would carry Piara Singh on his back and go begging from door to door asking, “Give something for him and not for me.” This incident completely transformed his life. He then founded the famous Pingalwara (home for crippled, lepers and the destitute) in Lahore, now in Pakistan. Seeing his devotion people had already started calling him ‘Bhagat’ Puran Singh while he was still in Lahore.
After the partition on 14th-15th August 1947, when Pakistan became a separate country, the Pingalwara was shifted from Lahore to Amritsar, across the border. The idea for Pakistan to become a separate country was broached by the Muslim League party as a separate country for Indian Muslims. Once their demand was met and the new Country was demarcated, their thugs began ethnic cleansing -killing non-Muslims through well-planned assaults. With threat to their lives almost all Sikhs and Hindus left Pakistan and many Muslims crossed over from India: But all did not go across and some even came back to India to claim their ancestral homes. This conflagration, running into millions, created the largest human exodus in the world across any border killing in the process at least one million innocents besides shattering an age-old cordiality. It was an insensitive human calamity created by self-seeking politicians, both from the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. The Sikhs were not keen that a separate country should be carved out along religious and ethnic line because they were not really concentrated in any particular region and were spread thinly all over having converted to Sikhism from both Hindus and Muslims during the previous 500 years.
As a result of this cross-border exodus, Bhagat Puran Singh reached Amritsar in 1947 to a camp with over 25 000 refugees. He found a large number of them critically wounded and incapable of nursing themselves. The situation had developed very suddenly and the Indian Government had not made plans for such a contingency. But Bhagat Puran Singh, being an evolved soul, took the initiative: With some chloroform and turpentine oil he started treating their wounds. He would often go into nearby neighborhoods to request people food and medicines for the needy.
From 1947 till 1958, Bhagat Puran Singh did not have a permanent dwelling. He could be seen sitting outside the Golden Temple, the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Post Offices, Railway Stations and sitting under a tree outside the office of the local Civil Surgeon. He was all along urging people to donate to his noble mission, the Pingalwara. He would wander the streets asking for donations.
Subsequently the Pingalwara was registered as ‘The All India Pingalwara Charitable Society’ headquartered at Tehsilpura -a suburb of Amritsar- on Grand Trunk Road, the National Highway-1.
Bhagat Puran Singh died in 1992 but long after his death, the home he founded still tends the castaways of the society: The diseased, disabled, abandoned, forlorn, the poor, physically and mentally handicapped people. There is no discrimination by religion and no one is asked to convert to Sikhism unlike Christian Missionaries doing so. In fact, almost 95% inmates of the Pingalwara are of non-Sikh faith with no conditions whatsoever to change their faith.
The other uniqueness of Bhagat Puran Singh is that though he never finished his basic schooling, he became a writer, a (self) publisher, an environmentalist, and a philanthropist. A pioneer and an early advocate of what we today call the ‘Green Revolution’, Bhagat Puran Singh was spreading awareness about environmental pollution and the increasing soil erosion long before such ideas became popular. Pamphlets with his writings on various subjects, such as environmental awareness, were printed on re-used paper and freely distributed personally by him and his helpers.
Bhagat Puran Singh was honoured in 1979 by the Government of India with the Padma Shri award, given for exceptional and distinguished service in any field. But he was among the citizens of India who returned their awards and medals in protest after the Indian army’s avoidable attack on the Golden Temple in 1984. He peacefully expired on 5th August, 1992 at Amritsar due to old age -his mission was done and his time had come. By the time he left for his heavenly abode he had served the needy for over 60 years starting much before 1934 when he first carried the four year old leprosy stricken child on his back.
Bhagat Puran Singh was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 –a year before his death- for his selfless work: Feeding, clothing, tending the sick and dying people. But he was never given this world famous prestigious award even though he had served for more than 60 years with serious financial limitations and with whatever money the general public would donate.
Compare this disparity to Mother Teresa, who, by the time she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 had served the needy for 29 or 30 years only -establishing her ‘Missionaries of Charity’ on 7th October, 1950 under financial protection of the Church.
I have nothing say against Mother Teresa: I am trying to point out the double standards of people who decide who did a greater deed.
What could be the reason for this obvious disparity?
1. Was it because Bhagat Puran Singh was not a Christian?
2. Was it because he came from a developing country and was not from Europe?
3. Was it that the Nobel Committee found this turban wearing maverick out of place?
4. Was it because he had not travelled far and wide by fancy jetliners and not met prominent international personalities like Jet-Set Mother Teresa had done? She was a frequent international traveler meeting prominent world personalities. An international exposure obviously helps in networking and fund raising.
5. On the contrary to move around within Amritsar, Bhagat Puran Singh peddled his personal three-wheeled Cycle-Rikshaw, the cheapest taxi in India. And he travelled by buses and trains even when he had to visit New Delhi to receive his Padma Shri award from the Indian Government.
6. Perhaps, the Nobel Committee had not been able to objectively compare the vast difference in the circumstances under which Bhagat Puran Singh and Mother Teresa worked. This may have happened because whoever presented the proposal to the Nobel Committee had not, probably, highlighted the significant differences in their work environments.
In my humble opinion, Bhagat Puran Singh’s work had been of Greater Significance than Mother Teresa’s!
Bhagat Puran Singh’s selfless service was of greater significance than Mother Teresa’s. Yet when she died even the President of India went for her funeral with much media hype whereas Bhagat Puran Singh’s death went almost unnoticed at the national level. If the President of India went for her funeral, because he was a Christian himself, then he should have gone in his personal capacity not using the National facilities and the media should have reported it accordingly. And there were prominent politicians hunting for Christian votes.
Shame on the so-called Great Hindu Culture! For a foreign missionary to come and to do what Mother Teresa did in Calcutta, it’s a blot on the so-called ‘Great Hindu Culture’: But it’s not surprising. It was because of the selfishness of the Brahmins in general which changed Ramji Das to Bhagat Puran Singh. And then the right-wing diehards Hindus cry foul when some people get converted to Christianity.
Bhagat Puran Singh chair:- Bhagat Puran Singh Chair for Studies in Selfless Service to Humanity was established at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar in 2005. Objective of this chair is to highlight the contributions of Bhagat Puran Singh in the betterment of our society and how his philosophy can be used for a healthy and prosperous future. After his demise Dr. Bibi Inderjit Kaur is the present head of the Pingalwara.
Stamp on Bhagat Puran Singh
A Rupee Five Commemorative postage stamp on Bhagat Puran Singh was released by the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology in 2004 paying tribute to a great self-regulated personality.
Guru Gobind Singh travelled to Nanded accompanied by Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah in 1707-1708. For my readers to understand as to why they came to be together when the Mughal rulers were otherwise fighting against the Gurus and their followers, it’s necessary to briefly know the background leading to this event.
And before I go further, let me clarify that readers should not confuse the name of Bahadur Shah with the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Jafar. Their rule was almost 150 years apart and the later was deposed by the British in 1857 after the battle of Delhi and banished to die a lonely and ignoble death in Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar).
The popularity of Guru Arjan Dev, the 5th Guru of the Sikhs, caused much concern to the Mullahs and in particular to Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (1569–1624), leader of the Naqashbandi School of thought which countered the liberal policies of Emperor Akbar’s reign, the 3rd ruler of the Mughal dynasty. They all prodded Emperor Jahangir, the 4th ruler, for strong action against Guru Arjan Dev. Jahangir wrote in his autobiography titled ‘Jahangirnama’, “The Hindus going to this Guru is understandable but even the stupid Muslims are going to him. I think I will ask him to either change his ways or accept Islam.”
Guru Arjan Dev was arrested in June 1606 on flimsy charges and as an alternative to being let-off, conversion to Islam was offered. But he stood his ground and was tortured in Lahore, now in Pakistan. When extreme torture did not break him, it was decided to wrap him up in a freshly skinned cowhide and throw him out in the hot June sun: The fresh hide would shrink and squeeze him into submission. Guru Arjan Dev asked for a last wish to be fulfilled, before certain death: He wanted to wash off his bloodied body so that the hide of the holy-cow would not be defiled. His tormentors found it very amusing and permitted him to enter Ravi River for a bath which runs west of the city. He went into ‘Jal Samadhi’ (Deep Meditation in Water) and never came out. Gurdwara Dehra Sahib, Lahore stands on the site of his martyrdom.
By torturing a divine personality of Guru Arjan Dev’s eminence, Jahangir had unwittingly started digging the grave of the Mughal Dynasty. His action contrasts his ancestors Babar, Humayun and Akbar who paid due respects to all the previous four Gurus: Guru Nanak the 1st, Guru Angad the 2nd, Guru Amar Das the 3rd and Guru Ram Das, the 4th.
The attitude of Shahjahan was no better but Aurangzeb’s maltreatment of non-Muslims went beyond all reasonable limits. He unleashed a reign of terror upon the Hindus by forcibly converting them by the sword besides strongly opposing to the Sikh Gurus.
Most readers may not know that the Koran justifies the use of sword if other coercive ways don’t make ‘non-believers’ accept Allah as the only God even though such ‘non-believers’ maybe very devout in their own ways and believe in one formless God. And Aurangzeb’s effort to spread Islam in India was highly appreciated by the Caliph of Islam who lived in Baghdad, Iraq.
According to the ‘History of Kashmir’ by P. N. K. Bamzai, when Aurangzeb’s atrocities became unbearable, the Brahmins of Kashmir went to the holy Amarnath cave in the higher snowbound ranges of Himalaya to pray to Lord Shiva. At night, as they slept, one of them saw Lord Shiva in his dream telling him. “No one can save Hindu religion now except Guru Teg Bahadur, the 9th Guru of the Sikhs at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab.”
Guru Teg Bahadur had earlier founded Anandpur Sahib and it was his place of residence. According to Bamzai a group of 500 Kashmiri Brahmins came to him on 25th May 1675 led by Kirpa Ram Dutt, a Sarasvat Brahman of Matan, near Srinagar (he later became Kirpa Singh).
According to another writing, titled ‘Bhatt Vahi Talaunda’ the number was sixteen (16): But both accounts verify the authenticity of the fact that the Kashmiri Brahmins came to Guru Sahib
After listening to their predicament, Guru Teg Bahadur was deeply concerned. Just then Gobind Rai, the 9 year old son of the Guru who later became Gobind Singh, walked into the room where he saw everyone in a pensive mood. When he asked his father the reason for their predicament, he told him everything. Normally a question by a 9 years old child on a serious matter would be dismissed with some excuse but his father seemed to know the real spiritual caliber of his son. When Gobind Rai asked, “What is the remedy for it, dear father?” his father said, “It demands sacrifice by a personality of high eminence.” Gobind Rai said, without batting an eyelid, “There is no other soul of eminence in the whole country other than you, dear father.”
It was indeed remarkable that a minor son asked his father to sacrifice himself at the altar of justice and righteousness and that too for the sake of people who worshiped statues of gods and goddesses. The Sikh philosophy, enunciated from the time of Guru Nanak, opposes the worship of statues and emphasizes the worship of one formless God Almighty by reciting ‘His Name’. It’s also very significant to note that there were -and they still exist to this day- four Shankaracharyas (akin to Cardinals of Christianity) –all Brahmins who are supposed to be guardians of Hindu religion.
The first one is located at Jyotirmath in Uttarakhand in North India -about 300 kms east of Anandpur Sahib where Guru Teg Bahadur lived. The other three are at Puri in Odisa in the East, Shringeri at Karnataka in the South and Dwarka at Gujarat the West –thus covering the whole of India. They were established in the 9th century and were supposed to be and still are the spiritual heads of Hinduism.
Unfortunately they never ever made any effort to stop forcible conversions and demolition of temples by Muslims -ever since Islam came to India. Instead, in total antipathy, they jealously guarded the areas under their own Matthas (Monasteries). They lived in a selfish manner and were not even on talking terms with each other. Had they been selfless with some foresight, they could have called upon the numerous Rajput rulers -whom they the Brahmins had elevated to the number two position in the Caste system as guardians of the society- to stand united against the onslaught of Islamic rulers.
But the selfish Rajput rulers were themselves constantly at war with each other besides vying to send their daughters to the Mughal harams. And the countryside was pillage by unscrupulous marauders who took away not only the wealth of India but thousands of men, women and children as slaves to be sold-off as far away as Europe –the Gypsies of Europe say, “We came from Bharat Maa”. And when many of the Indian slaves died crossing the snowy mountains between India and Afghanistan, the Islamic plunderers mockingly named them ‘The Hindu Kush’ meaning ‘The death trap of Hindus’.
And the most remarkable part of this history is that when Lord Shiva appeared in the dream of one of the Kashmiri Brahmins, ‘He’ did not tell them to go one of the four Shankaracharyas. Why? Because Mahadev (literally meaning ‘the highest among the gods’ as Lord Shiva is also called) knew all along that the so called custodians of Hinduism were actually a bunch of selfish and slimy individuals who were more concerned about feeding their fat bellies with goodies from the poor and upping their massive egos than doing any good for the society.
Gobind Rai was indeed right when he said to his father, “There is no other soul of eminence in the whole country other than you, dear father.”
Google ‘Shankaracharyas’ for more details.
After hearing the fearless verdict from his minor son, Guru Sahib asked the Brahmins to send a word to Aurangzeb that ‘if Guru Teg Bahadur accepts Islam they shall willingly convert’. Thereupon, Kirpa Ram Dutt and his companions sent a petition to Emperor Aurungzeb through the Governor of Lahore. The Brahmins of Hardwar and Banaras –two other major centers of pilgrimage in north India- also conveyed the same message when they heard about the Guru’s decision. They were all very sure that Guru Teg Bahadur would stand his ground like Guru Arjan Dev had done in the past. Why didn’t the Brahmins of Hardwar and Banaras go to one of the nearest Shankaracharyas?
The Sikh Gurus, by personal example, had shown to their Sikhs ‘how one has to offer martyrdom at the altar of justice’ -fearlessly.
Guru Teg Bahadur installed Gobind Rai, his 9 year old son, as the 10th Guru and prepared to leave for Delhi to face his remarkable destiny. He had literally challenged the Mughal Emperor and a challenge or a dare to his authority was like asking for death. As soon he came out of the jurisdiction of Anandpur Sahib, he was arrested, shackled with heavy chains like an ordinary criminal, put into a cage and carried on top of an elephant all the way to Delhi as the Muslim masses on the way hackled and taunted him for daring the Emperor. In shackles he was marched in front of Aurangzeb in the Diwan-e-Aam (the general court) inside the Red Fort and the Emperor gave him a choice: ‘accept Islam or be executed’. Guru Teg Bahadur preferred martyrdom to conversion. By living up to the expectations of the Brahmins, of which they were very sure, he saved Hindu religion from permanent extinction forever.
Unfortunately the present day Hindus shamelessly prefer to overlook this fact. Book Publishers of Hindu background are so ungrateful that they prefer to print books about several gods and goddesses and never mention Guru Teg Bahadur’s martyrdom and sacrifice. They don’t print books about him because it would remind them of this shame.
With the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur the grave of the Mughal Dynasty –which Jahangir had started digging- was complete. Now it was a matter of time before the final demise of their rule. Since the Gurus had shown to their Sikhs ‘how they had to feed the insatiable appetite of the cruel demon of religious persecution’, the Sikhs made innumerable sacrifices for the overall good of the country in the face of systematic persecution that followed by the Mughal tyrants.
Guru Teg Bahadur was beheaded in full public view on 11th November 1675 at the Kotwali (police station and prison) where Gurdwara Sheesh Gunj now stands in Chandni Chowk bazaar, Delhi. The martyrdom of his father motivated Guru Gobind Rai, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, to prepare for a big event. Since he was only 9 years old he marked time to prepare himself for the future. When he came of age, he created the ‘Khalsa Panth’, the Brotherhood of the Pure in March 1699 to defend the meek and hapless. That is the time when from Guru Gobind Rai he became Guru Gobind Singh by suffixing the ‘Singh’ (Lion) to his name, like he had made his followers do.
The creation of ‘Khalsa Panth’ brought the Guru in direct confrontation with the Mughals who were unfortunately helped by the 22 Hindu hill Rajas of present day Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The Guru’s force being small and inexperienced was pitted against larger numbers but the Sikhs gave no-quarters and asked for no-concessions: Each Sikh killing many before falling in battle. The Mughal Commanders in the field along with their hill associates swore upon the Koran and the holy-cow, respectively, promising Guru Gobind Singh a safe-passage if he left the fort and went away elsewhere. Guru Sahib knew that the promise was false but his inexperienced fighters urged him to agree: Shortage of urgent supplies forced the situation. (Blockade of forts was the most effective tactic in those days to force terms and conditions upon opponents -like imposing sanctions upon defaulting countries now.) When Guru Gobind Singh came out of the fort on a cold and rainy December 1705 night, the immoral and deceitful enemy attached him, backing off from their solemn promise.
This was the ultimate sin which further accelerated the downslide of the Mughals.
Guru Gobind Singh lost two of his four sons in the battle. The other two along with their grandmother were entrusted for safe passage to his cook Gangu Ram, a Kashmiri Brahmin of Kaul Gotra. But, instead of following the age old Hindu norm, ‘A guest is to be treated like God’ he turned them over to the Governor of Sarhind for a prize. They were bricked up alive for refusing to accept Islam and their grandmother died of shock seeing the cruelty meted out to children who were just 7 and 9 years old.
It maybe coincidental but Indira Gandhi was also of Kaul Gorta and some people believe that she was, perhaps, Gangu’s descendant. The fact is that Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi’s father, mentions in his autobiography that Raj Kaul, Gangu’s son was allotted a Jagir (perpetual land-lease) by Mughal Emperor Farrukhsiar near a canal west of Delhi about the year 1716. The family name ‘Nehru’, according to him, originated because of the residence being next to a canal meaning a Nehar in Persian.
We are now seeing the Taliban perpetuate the same cruelty upon innocent people. Is that the writing on the wall? Is history going to repeat? It would be worthwhile waiting for the demise of ‘a cruel culture’.
Once the news about the martyrdom of his sons reached Guru Gobind Singh, he wrote a severe indictment called ‘Jafarnama’ (moral victory) to Aurangzeb -a masterpiece in Persian language- exposing his double standards and immoral rule. When Aurangzeb read it, he regretted but it was too late. The Emperor fell ill shortly thereafter and died on 20 February 1707.
When Bahadur Shah became the Emperor after Aurangzeb, his actual name was Qutb ud-Din Muhammad Mu’azzam and he was the Governor of Kabul. His younger step-brother, Azam Shah –the other son of Aurangzeb- was the Governor of the southeastern part of the empire as shown in the map below. Azam Shah declared himself the next Emperor and ascended a make-believe throne at Ahmadnagar though the capital was Delhi. The map also indicates the general geographical location of the Sikhs, Rajputs and Marathas who carved their respective Empires after the Mughals -for a short period though- before the English took over the whole of India.
Fighting for the throne and killing your kith-and-kin was the ultimate sin which caused the downfall of the Mughal dynasty. Discredit for this trend falls squarely upon the shoulders of Aurangzeb who got rid of his elder brother Dara Shikho though their father Shahjahan had nominated him as the successor. Aurangzeb literally walked over the blood of all his brothers to ascend the throne besides pre-maturely imprisoning his father for the rest of his life in Agra fort. Then to appease the diehard Sunni Mullahs –who didn’t approve of his deeds and perhaps to condone for his sins- Aurangzeb began to rule by the Sharia (Islamic Law) which caused the abovementioned events to take place.
Once the war of succession became imminent, Muazam sent a request to Guru Gobind Singh for military help. Guru Sahib was by then camping at Sirsa and the request for military help was unusual. A change of attitude was, perhaps, necessitated after the Mughal Commanders observed the fighting tenacity of the Guru’s followers. Though Muazam was not directly involved in such campaigns -being far away in Kabul- but reports reaching him may have shown the writing on the wall: The possibility of a Sikh military force emerging in north India.
Guru Gobind Singh agreed to give military support on two conditions: Firstly when Muazam becomes the Emperor he would treat all his non-Muslim subjects as equals and Secondly he would hand over to the Guru all those who committed atrocities upon his Sikhs. Though it may seem that the defaulters were to be ‘punished’, on the contrary, no Guru had ‘ever-punished-anyone’. In fact, during the short history of Sikhism, their sermons had made human beings out of demons.
After Muazam agreed to the two conditions, a Jatha (Group or Troop) of Sikhs blessed by Guru Gobind Singh was sent. He did not take part in the battle since he wanted his followers to stand alone and develop their military skills for the future. Moreover, he had pronounced, when he created the ‘Khalsa Panth’ in 1699, that he as their Guru, would always be present among his Sikhs whenever they would remember him. Therefore Guru Gobind Singh was with them all the time in the battle.
The crucial battle was fought at a place called Jajuwan -north of Agra- on 19 June 1707 and Muazam was victorious. To permanently remove any challengers to the throne, Muazam executed his younger step-brother Azam Shah and his two sons. He thereby added some more misdeeds to the cauldron of sins setup by his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
After Muazam became the Emperor, Guru Gobind Singh went from Sirsa and to Moti Bagh in Delhi where a Gurdwara stands on the Ring Road now. Then, on invitation from Bahadur Shah, he went to Agra. The Mughal Emperor received him very courteously in the Durbar getting up from his throne to do so and offered a seat which was never done: Others had to remain standing. Then he presented Guru Gobind Singh with a Khilat -a trail of expensive gifts. The Khilat also included a Saif (equivalent of the Indian Khanda or the European Broad Sword) shown below which once belonged to Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad. The Saif was sent to Aurangzeb by the Caliph of Baghdad in appreciation of his efforts to spread Islam in India. It’s now preserved among the weapons of Guru Gobind Singh at Keshgarh Sahib Gurdwara in Punjab, India.
The photograph of his weapons shown above is placed opposite page number 101 of ‘Mahan Kosh’ (Encyclopaedia of Sikh Literature) compiled by Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha. Names of the weapons from front left to right are: Barsha (long blade spear), Jeejail (front loading musket), Khanda, the Saif mentioned above, Kataar (a close combat dagger) and Nagni (a twisted-steel-shaft long spear). Page number 101 also has an impression of five inscriptions in Arabic and Persian scripts carved into the steel blade of the Saif as displayed below along with their translations. I acknowledge with thanks the translations done by Arabic and Persian scholars known to Syed Ehtesham Rizvi, the Librarian, Center for Art and Archaeology, American Institute of Indian Studies, Gurgaon, India.
After presentation of the Khilat, Guru Gobind Singh reminded the Emperor of the two conditions he had agreed upon but Bahadur Shah remained noncommittal. Maybe, he didn’t want to antagonize many anti-Sikh elements his Court. However, instead of chastising the Emperor, Guru Sahib decided to persuade him. The Emperor requested Guru Sahib to accompany him towards the Deccan, the southern peninsula of India, where the Mughals were fighting the Marathas in the present day hinterland of Bombay. During their ride together Guru Gobind Singh reminded him about his promises on several occasions but Bahadur Shah evaded the subject.
Some anti-Sikh elements in the army tried to provoke a fight with the trusting Sikhs and a prominent Sikh named Maan Singh was killed by them. Despite the provocation, the two reached Nanded where Guru Sahib tried for the last time to persuade the Emperor. When he found him backtracking on his word, Guru Gobind Singh told the Emperor on his face that he would rule for a very short period.
By not keeping his word, the Emperor dumped some more sins into his account which started the process of putting the Mughal Dynasty into its grave.
The words of Guru Gobind Singh came true and Bahadur Shah ruled from 1707 to 1712 –for 5 years only- and was mercilessly killed in Lahore by his own sons at the age of 70. The rulers after Bahadur Shah –in particular Farrukhsiar- laid a prize on the head of a Sikh: Anyone bringing the chopped head of a Sikh got 10 Rupees as shown in art impression below. All such historic orders were recorded in the Court Diary of the Mughals called ‘Darbarey Akhbaar Maula’.
The Mughal Dynasty’s cauldron of misdeeds continued to simmer with many more sins committed by those who followed. Unheard of things happened to succeeding rulers until the last one in 1857.
Guru Gobind Singh probably knew all along that Emperor Bahadur Shah would not keep his word. His willingness to let his Sikhs fight for the Mughals was meant to train them for bigger military confrontations which subsequently enabled them to play bigger roles in the history of north India.
It may sound coincidental but the fighter to continue the struggle against the Mughals was found by Guru Gobind Singh in Nanded itself a short distance away from the spot where he had his last meeting with Bahadur Shah. The name of the fighter was Madho Dass, a Bairagi Sadhu, meaning ‘the one who had renounced the worldly life of a householder’. He was given the Pahul in September 1708: baptized with Amrit prepared with the Khanda in the same way as Guru Sahib had done for the first time in March 1699. Thus he became a Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh and was named Gurbaksh Singh, meaning ‘blessed by the Guru’.
However he came to be known as Banda Bahadur or Banda Singh Bahadur. This happened when he met Guru Gobind Singh for the first time sitting on his Asan or his seat in a comfortable pose. He asked in a challenging voice, “Who are you?” Guru Sahib asked, “Don’t you know who I am?” Madho Das realized who he was and said, “Oh, so you are Guru Gobind Singh.” Then, with due humility, he lowered his head to the ground and said, “Guru Maharaj, I am your Banda,” meaning ‘Male Slave’. Thus he was known as ‘Banda of the Guru’ and when he crushed Mughal rule in Punjab, his followers called him Banda Bahadur or Banda Singh Bahadur. For full details about Banda Bahadur click http://www.sikh-heritage.co.uk/warriors/Banda%20Bahadur/Banda%20Bhadur.htm
Art impressions below depict the event as it happened.
By finding Madho Das at Nanded and by channelizing the supernatural powers of a Bairagi Sadhu, Guru Gobind Singh set an example for us: ‘For performing insurmountable deeds you have to develop your spiritual self through prayer and devotion to God Almighty’.
Gurbaksh Singh alias Banda Bahadur alias Banda Singh Bahadur shook the foundation of Mughal Empire in North India during the next seven years -1709 to 1715- and paved the way for complete liberation of Punjab from 1764 onwards. His pioneering struggle helped establish the Sikh Empire which put a stop to the six monthly raids from Afghanistan and forcible conversion of people. It was achieved at great personal sacrifices by innumerable Sikhs of Guru Gobind Singh.
Yet when the Sikhs came to power under Maharaja Ranjit Singh and other princely rulers south of Sutlej River, they did not go about putting Muslims to the sword in the same way as it had been done to them.
Had it not been for the events that took place –sacrifices of the Gurus and their selfless Sikhs- there would not have been Pakistan, today.
There would have been just one country called ‘The Islamic Republic of Hindustan’ with Hinduism banished to the corridors of museums.
Women wearing Burqa would have gawking in wonder at the Hindu artifacts and beautifully carved statues of gods and goddesses. A socialite among them may have commented placing her manicured palm upon her heaving bosom, “Hai Allah! (Oh my god!) We should have let some of them stay-on.” Her neighbor would have glared at her, “Why Jeenat?” Her reply, “They would have made those beautiful figurines for my drawing room, No? What an impression it would have made at my next kitti-party.”
I have heard from Indian and Pakistani Muslims, “Had you Sikhs not put a stop to what Aurangzeb was doing, the whole of India would have been Muslims.”
September 28, 2012
Devotion and loyalty to the Guru is the most important quality that a Sikh is expected to imbibe with a sincere feeling of humility and surrender. And one of the ways to do this, beside many others, is Kar Sewa meaning ‘Selfless service with your Hands’. Besides service with your hands one could contribute financially and or materially. All this is done without any expectation of payment in return. (Kar is hand and Sewa is selfless service).
One of the most humble ways of doing Kar Sewa is to go down upon your knees and get your hands into the dirt at a construction site where something for the general good of, not only the Sikh community, but, all people is being made: you could carry a basket full of bricks or mortar or sand/mud upon your haughty head; haul around bucketfuls of water; serve drinking water to the physically exerting in Kar Sewa; give a helping hand to the masons etc.
And the most important part of doing Kar Sewa is ‘NOT TO TALK ABOUT IT’: how much you did; how hard you worked compared to others; how your clothes became dirty; how much money and material you contributed etc. And while doing Kar Sewa, such thoughts will enter your mind: ‘I’m an important and rich person, yet so humble’, ‘Are others watching me working so hard?’, ‘What impression would they form about me?’ All these are acts of show off and egoism. In order to rise spiritually one has to ‘kill’ ego and ‘imbibe’ humility.
Kar Sewa can be started by the management of a Gurdwara or it can be started by a Sikh Sant (Saint). Most of the time, Sikh Sants have organized and overseen Kar Sewa at various locations all over India and even abroad. In the recent past Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal had organized the cleaning of Holy Bein River through Kar Sewa. The river is associated with the visit of Guru Nanak, the First Guru when he vanished in the water for three days and emerged to say, “No koi Hindu na koi Musalman” (Neither is there a Hindu nor a Muslim). The Santji was even on the cover of Time magazine.
Though the list of Kar Sewas is very long, for this post I have selected the road bridge across Godavari River at Nanded (pronounced Nander) where Kar Sewa did something which the Government should have done. Nanded is a small town and a district with the same name located on the left bank of Godavari River 651 kilometers (430 miles) east of Bombay (Mumbai) on the eastern-most part of Maharashtra state of southwestern India as shown by an arrow.
For the Sikhs Nanded came into prominence with the arrival of Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru, in 1708 accompanied by Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah-I. Readers may wonder how the two got together when there was historical suppression of the Sikhs by the Mughal rulers. Since that is a long story, I will write another blog as Part-II to this one.
After arrival at Nanded, Guru Gobind Singh left for his heavenly abode and the site where his bodily remains were cremated has been sanctified by Gurdwara Sachkhand Sahib situated on the left bank of the river. Before the Tenth Guru left for his heavenly abode he passed the Guru-ship to the Holy Granth Sahib thus finishing the line of ‘human-gurus’ and establishing a unique tradition of the ‘written-word-being-the-eternal-guru’. Thus Granth Sahib became the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ for eternity for the Sikhs.
Prayers are held all the year round and devotees from all over come in large numbers. Sikhs generally refer to Nanded as ‘Hazur Sahib’ or ‘Abichal Nagar’. Both these names basically apply to the principal shrine Sachkhand Sahib, but are commonly used for Nanded town itself. ‘Hazur Sahib’ is a title of reverence, meaning ‘Exalted Presence’ and ‘Abichal Nagar’ means ‘Immortal Town’. (Abichal is Immortal and Nagar is Town or City) Nanded is also one of the five Takhts -seats of religious authority and legislation- for the Sikhs.
Guru Gobind Singh conferred Guru-Ship upon the ‘Granth Sahib’ in the traditional way all the previous Gurus had always done. Thus the ‘Granth Sahib’ became “Guru Granth Sahib”.
The main Sachkhand Gurdwara on the right.
Besides Gurdwara Sachkhand Sahib, other historical Gurdwaras at Nanded associated with the visit of the first and the tenth Gurus are Nagina Ghat, Banda Ghat, Sangat Sahib, Baoli Sahib, Mal Tekdi, Shikar Ghat, Hira Ghat and Mata Sahib. Except for the Gurdwara at Mal Tekdi, which is associated with the visit of Guru Nanak, the first Guru, all the others commemorate the visit of Guru Gobind Singh. This is also the place where the Tenth Guru passed on the Guru-ship to the Holy Granth Sahib thus finishing the line of ‘human-gurus’ and establishing a unique tradition of the ‘written-word-being-the-eternal-guru’. Thus Granth Sahib became the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ for eternity. After Guru Gobind Singh left for his heavenly abode, a small group of Sikhs continued to look after all the Gurdwaras. Sikhs living in Punjab and other parts of the world have been ever since visiting Nanded in large numbers to pay obeisance.
Travel across long distances in the 18th and 19th centuries was fraught with many dangers but when the English colonial rulers started laying-out a railway network from the middle of 19th Century, it became comparatively easy. Nanded got connected to the rail network through a meter-gauge line which ran from Hydrabad in south India up to Manmad on the Delhi-Bombay rail-link. The meter-gauge link was made by ‘The Nizam’ of Hydrabad, a Muslim ruler, who was well disposed toward Nanded because all his palace guards were Sikhs from Punjab. The meter-gauge was abandoned and a broad-gauge was installed in the 1980s. This enabled direct rail-link from Amritsar in Punjab all the way to Nanded. There are three Gurdwaras across Godavari River away from Nanded. They are Shikar Ghat, Hira Ghat and Mata Sahib. Below is the link which shows the shrines in Nanded town and those that are across the river.
The thin line which runs from Nanded to the east is the railway line and it crosses a tributary of Godavari as indicated by a thin blue line. One can see how difficult it must have been for the Sikhs to visit the three Gurdwaras and what all they had to bear for the sake of their devotion and for the love of their Guru.
Before the railway network and paved roads were made, to visit the three shrines across the river the Sikhs had to either take a boat across the crocodile infested river or use a road bridge which was facing in the wrong direction. And if they used the road bridge, then they had to walk through rough and forested region full of thorny bushes over a long distance to reach Shikar Ghat, Hira Ghat and then Mata Sahib, in that order. After the visiting the last Gurdwara Mata Sahib they had to do the reverse journey.
But when the railway line came up, it passed from west to east traversing north of Godavari River. In this case the Sikhs found it easy to walk along the railway track because the track was clear of wild growth. Then they approached the three shrines from the north as the distance was considerably reduced compared to the earlier route.
Then they had to face another problem: cross over the rail-bridge upon a tributary of Godavari which flows-in from the north. They had to go over the rail-bridge gingerly balancing between the wooden slippers lest they fall through the gap to the river below. And if a train was due, there was even greater danger. I have myself walked the rail-bridge on two occasions when I was 5 years and 14 years old and it was a unique experience never to be forgotten.
And after crossing the rail-bridge the Sikhs had to walk cross-country to the three Gurdwaras starting with Mata Sahib, Hira Ghat and then reach Shikar Ghat. Thereafter the journey had to be repeated in the reverse order. This could take the whole day walking many miles. During both my trips, we left early morning and reached back at the main Gurdwara in Nanded by mid night. And the area is infested with snakes and it’s risky walking cross-country without a light. Compare this to present day visitors who reach Nanded by the night train, hire an auto-rikasha and do the round of all the historical Gurdwaras in about two hours time and then they go back by the night train. But walking had its own charm.
The management of historical Gurdwaras at Nanded knew about the difficulties and had been requesting the Civil Administration to make a road bridge to provide a shorter and safer route, but to no avail. Non availability of money and engineering problem at the deep river gorge were the usual excuses. Some local insensitive Hindus had the audacity to comment sarcastically, “Why do you want to waste money? The Sikhs will make it themselves. Just wait and see.”
And the Sikhs made it themselves.
In 1966 a Sikh Saint, Sant Baba Jivan Singh, arrived at Nanded. He was accompanied by a close associate Baba Dalip Singh. After paying homage at all the shrines he stood on the edge of the deep gorge opposite Shikar Ghat Gurdwara, on the opposite bank, accompanied by his close associates. He put his palms together to do the traditional Sikh Ardas to Waheguru (beseech God Almighty). After the standard wordings of the Ardas, he explained the difficulties faced by Gods’ devotees and sought Wahegurus’ help to make a bridge at the very spot they all stood.
At the end of the Ardas the traditional Sikh Jaykara, ‘Bole So Nihal, Sat Shri Akal’ followed by the Sikh Fateh, ‘Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh’ were hailed by the group in a loud, clear and lingering manner, as it is always done. The Jaykara and the Fateh echoed across the gorge and skimmed the waves of the river and were heard by all and sundry.
And in the ‘spiritual world’ the request for a bridge must have been heard, registered and noted for action, as the request of a Sant.
It’s believed that a small hut was made at the spot where the Sant and his associates stood and did the Ardas. They lived there indulging in prayers and singing the praises of Waheguru and waited for His miracle to take place. The associates of the Sant went and passed the word around at other Gurdwaras and the rest-houses where devotees first arrive and stay. And when the Sikhs went back to Punjab or wherever they had come from, the word spread, “Sant Baba Jivan Singhji has done the Ardas and a bridge has to be made across Godavari River at Nanded.”
All this was done by word of mouth and not by advertisements or flyer campaigns.
Then Gods’ miracles began to happen. One day an architect arrived out of nowhere and said, “Babaji, I’ll design the bridge for you.” Obviously free of charge.
A truck load of cement arrived out of nowhere and the driver said, “Babaji, I have been sent by ‘a-big-building-contractor’ to deliver this. Where do I unload?” And a truck load of stone aggregate arrived and a truck load of steel rods came and a truck load of sand came with a promise that the driver will keep bringing more as and when needed.
Then the Sikhs started coming in big and small batches and they all said, “Babaji, we have come from ‘such-and-such’ village in Punjab and we’ll do Sewa for ‘so-many-days’.
All this without any charge.
While construction work was going on, the Langar was also running side by side. Everyone who came could eat. No one went hungry. Tea was constantly being made and served. Those who were physically exerting at the construction site could take a tea-break anytime to refresh themselves. The whole ambience was energetic and friendly with devotion to a superior cause being the motivating factor.
Those who could not provide material or physical help gave cash donations which were put into a wooden cash box called Golak with a sealed lock. Santji had the key and as per Maryada’ (code of conduct) the Golak was opened in front of five Sikhs who counted the money and undated the on-site ledger for donations. Cash contributions helped to meet sundry construction and Langar expenses.
While the construction work picked up Hindus and Muslims from the area came to watch the enthusiastic Sikhs doing something which they had never seen before. Some of them joined in and were enthralled. The Civil Administration -all Marathi speaking Hindus who had been stalling the demand for a bridge- was also spying and sending out reports to their higher ups in Bombay. The result of their spying and reporting proved unique and positive.
Then the local politician stepped in to try and benefit from the selfless enterprise: as politicians always do. He proposed to the Public Works Department to get a road made heading towards the bridge. And to up his political image with the higher echelons of the ruling party and Government, he persuaded the Minister of Surface Transport to inaugurate the road which would run over the bridge and connect the vast semi-arid agricultural areas across the river with the wholesale market in Nanded: inauguration of the road discretely implied inauguration of the bridge.
And to keep his image in good shape with the hard working Sikhs, majority of who came from Punjab and went back and had nothing to do with local politics, the political leader visited Santji a number of times to appreciate what was being done and to say a few words of encouragement: as if the Sikhs needed encouragement from people like him.
By 1969, after 3 years and about 9 months, the bridge was ready for inauguration and by then the road had been slowly inching toward the bridge. The local politician got a black granite slab engraved with the name of the Minister of Surface Transport along with many other irrelevant names and had it embedded into a masonry pillar on one side of the bridge facing Nanded town. On the other side two similar sized slabs were put which read, the one on the left in English and the other in Gurmukhi:-
Tablet with period of construction -Apr 1966 to Dec 1969- on the lest and the Gurmukhi version on the right. (Gurmukhi is the script for Punjabi language)
EK ONKAR (means God is One)
Godavari Bridge Shikarghat
With kind blessings of Guru Gobind Singhji Sahib.
This bridge was constructed
from public donations and
by social service
Length 953 feet
Work started Dec 1966
Work completed April 1969
Two views of the bridge looking towards Shikarghat Gurdwara hidden behind the trees on the mound
Two views on the right are looking towards Nanded
There was no need to mention the names of Sant Baba Jivan Singh and his close associate Baba Dalip Singh. Nor was it necessary to mention the names of innumerable Sikhs: who designed it; who provided how much raw material; who all toiled in the heat and all those who gave money. It’s assumed with full faith in Waheguru (God Almighty) that the ‘spiritual world’ knows everything and has recorded the Sewa of all those who contributed.
View of masonry pylons of the bridge looking towards the mound with Shikarghat Gurdwara.
Traffic upon the bridge
Ironically the Sikh population in the general area of Nanded is a trickle compared to the vast Hindu majority. And Sikhs from Punjab and elsewhere in the world are also a microscopic minority. And because they wear a turban, unavoidably they become prominent and stand-out among thousands. Therefore they appear in large numbers and give the impression of a multitude.
The biggest benefit from the bridge is enjoyed by the local Hindu population who can now wiz across it and take their agricultural produce to the wholesale market in Nanded. The countryside has become a major banana growing area since then.
Granthis reading the Holy Hymns (A Granthi is a person who reads the Guru Granth Sahib)
A view of Shikarghat Gurdwara
Gurbani, the Holy Scripture of the Sikhs states, “Khavo kharcho rall mil bhai, Totth na aawaey vadhdo jayee” (Eat and share with others, oh brothers! It will always increase, never runs short)
How I wish others could follow the Sikhi-way and bring peace and prosperity all around rather than bombs and blasts.
April 13, 2012
Wars are going on all over the world; population increasing at an exponential rate; food production not increasing at same rate; specter of mass hunger not far; rich eat too much and throw away un-eaten food; poor have to scavenge; homeless and poor frustrated; politicians ever busy playing their self aggrandizement games; unheard of things happening due to hunger and poverty; as long as the belly is full, chances of crime are less.
I heard from a Sikh Saint long time ago, “Peace would descend upon earth when several Langars shall run.” (Langars are kitchens serving free food (vegetarian only) in the Sikhi way -the Sikh code of conduct) Perhaps the time come to divert money from weapons of destruction to free food?
Guru Nanak, the First Guru of the Sikhs, foresaw the future of mankind and started the Langar system 500 years ago.
The Sacrament of Langar has two important features: the Sangat (congregation of devotees of the Guru) and the Pangat (row of seated people in the Langar). ‘Guru ka Langar’ meaning the Guru’s Langar is a symbol of equality, fraternity and brotherhood: the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, kings and paupers, all share the same food sitting together as equals thus creating social equality.
The word ‘Langar’ is from Persian language meaning an anchor; a stay or a rope for the tent; the shrine of the Sufi Order; an alms-house. Punjabi, the language of Punjab state of India, is a mix of Persian words besides Sanskrit and other languages. The word ‘Punjab’ itself is a Persian word meaning ‘of the five waters’: the land is intersected and watered by five rivers.
After the Langar system was started, Guru Amar Das, the third Guru in succession to Guru Nanak, strengthened it and asked the Sikhs to make voluntary contribution in cash or kind as their religious duty. Since then, Langar has been central to Sikhi. And it’s a sin for a Sikh to question a man’s faith and creed before letting him sit and eat there. At every Gurdwara (the Doorway to the Guru as the Sikh shrine is called) howsoever small, a meal is always shared with others regardless of religion, caste, skin-color, creed, age, gender or social status.
Emperor Akbar, the third ruler of the Mughal dynasty who had a secular leanings compared to his diehard Mullahs, once went to meet Guru Amar Das for his blessings. The Guru had stipulated that if someone wanted to behold him for whatever reason, he or she must first sit with the common people to eat food in his Langar. Emperor Akbar was humble enough to abide by the Guru’s dictate. After eating he said, “Never have I ever tasted such a simple and delicious food from my royal kitchen where 36 different dishes are made everyday.”
The largest Langar system in the world is run at Harmandir Sahib meaning ‘the abode of God’ also called the Golden Temple complex of the Sikhs at Amritsar in the Punjab.
The sublime beauty of Harmandir Sahib or the Golden Temple
Before I write about the largest Langer system in the world, let me put a few facts in the right historical perspective. Most poorly informed people often mistake the Sikhs for Hindus because of their similar sounding names, which they are not. And others mistake the Sikhs for Muslims because of their turban, which they are not. Turban is an honorable headwear for all men from South and Central Asia. While Hindus and Muslims may not be wearing the turban now for personal reasons, but all practicing Sikhs will wear it forever. And it’s important for my readers to understand why the Harmandir Sahib is called Golden Temple and why the Sikhs are not Hindus? The reason has a historical background.
When Maharaja Ranjit Singh got the Harmandir Sahib gold-plated in 1815 English travelers began calling it the Golden Temple. The word ‘temple’ gives a false impression that the Harmandir Sahib is like the temple of the Hindus, which it is not. The Sikhs do not worship statues and the Harmandir Sahib does not have any statues of gods and goddesses. Sikhism is monotheism and the Holy Scripture of the Sikhs -called Guru Granth Sahib- is the fountain of Gods’ Word. Installed in the Harmandir Sahib on a prominent pedestal the ‘Holy Scriptural Guru’ is read and venerated through out the day as devotees carry out obeisance to it. A team of Kirtanias -professional singers of devotional hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib- sing the praises of God Almighty accompanied by musical instrument: each team performing for a two hours stretch starting at 3 in the predawn hour and carrying on through out the day well into the night.
The Guru Granth Sahib is a compilation of devotional hymns to the formless God. The hymns were composed by the Gurus themselves as well as by other Saints from the full spectrum of the Indian society: from the highest to the lowest castes of the Hindus as well as by a Muslim Saint of Punjab. The fifth Guru collected such devotional hymns and compiled them according to their Hindustani Ragas –a complex musical system of melodious notes, rhythms and their meters.
The Guru Granth Sahib, the eternal Guru
Having briefly informed my readers about the Harmandir Sahib and its devotees, let us come back to the Langar which is located in a building on the southern edge of the Holy Sarovar, the water tank which surrounds the Harmandir Sahib or the Golden Temple.
At a time over 3,000 people are served vegetarian food on the two floors of the Langar building. On an average, 40 to 50,000 people eat free food every day all the year round. The number exceeds 100,000 on Sundays and special religious days. And despite all the free food, even if people of non-Sikh origion come to eat -which happens everyday- they are most welcome. And there is no coercion or compulsion or proselytizing to influence them to join Sikhism. That is because all the Gurus have stipulated, “Sikhs must live an exemplary life themselves and if others feel motivated on seeing their conduct they may come into their fold if their Karma (deeds of past lives) earns them salvation through the Guru.” All the ancient Indian scriptures stipulate that it is only your true Guru who will adjudicate on your behalf so that God may consider setting you free from the cycle of reincarnation.
People being served free-food and Langar of the earliest times
For a moment, if we can leave aside our personal religious beliefs and differences, it’s indeed amazing to see the devotion and selfless service of the Sewadars –the permanently employed service-hands as well as a large number of men and women volunteers. They work to knead dough, cook food, serve people, wash and wipe the used utensils and swap the floor before the gates are opened for the next batch to sit and eat.
Roties being stacked away before serving
With the passage of time an elaborate arrangement has come up to cook and serve food for such a large consumption. There are two kitchens which have eleven large sized Tawis -hot-plates, several gas burners, machines for sieving and kneading dough and several utensils for cooking. On one Tawi 15 people can work at a time. It is a chain process: some make Pedas -balls of dough; others roll them into rotis -Indian flat bread; a few put them on the hotplates; others work with long iron rods to toss them over till they are done and then they are stacked away to be served.
On one Tawi, over 20 kgs (44 pounds) of flour is used in two hours. The kitchen also has a Roti-making machine donated by a Lebanon-based Sikh which is used only when large crowds was expected. The Roti-making machine uses 20 kgs flour in half an hour. To feed dough to the machine, two kneading-machines knead one quintal (100 kilograms) of flour in 5 minutes.
The Roti making machine donating by a Labanon-based Sikh
With the donated cash, the Management buys raw material in bulk for a two months requirement besides a large voluntary contribution by devotees.
A normal thali (Indian plate) of Langar food Langar of Sikhs living out of India
The daily consumption is about 50 quintals wheat, 18 quintals Daal -lentil, 14 quintals rice, seven quintals milk, 6 quintals sugar, 20 kgs tea leaves, 50 kgs Desi Ghee -purified butter, 10 kgs of condiments and over 100 gas cylinders.
A documentary titled “Golden Kitchen” was made by Belgian film makers, Valerie Berteau and Philippe Witjes. The film impressed audiences at numerous film festivals in Europe. On June 6 2009, it was adjudged ’Outstanding’ at the Festival of Short Films organized at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Critics have praised the film for bringing out the beauty of “an endeavour that is remarkable in scale, the clockwork efficiency with which the kitchen is organized and the fact that all the people manning the kitchen are volunteers who are inspired to undertake the heavy labor by their religious conviction.” It wouldn’t be possible without people who look for no other return except Wahegurus’ –Gods’- blessings.
And the Sewadars keep offering a second and a third helping while at the same time telling people not to waste any food, being a gift from God for our sustenance.
The Great Gurus had coined several maxims to motivate the Sikhs into dynamic action. These maxims are part of the daily prayer and devotees recite them as they go about working in the Langar thus blending the power of prayer into the food. No wonder Emperor Akbar said, “Never have I ever tasted such a simple and delicious food from my royal kitchen ……..” The maxims go, “Loh langar tapde rahin” (May the hot plates of the Langar remain ever hot) “Khavo kharcho rall mil bhai, Totth na aawaey vadhdo jayee” (Eat and share with others, oh brothers! It will always increase, never runs short)
The Gurus had personally set the example of selfless service
How I wish the misguided Islamist and those oil rich countries which give them money to kill innocent people in the name of Allah, could see the documentary titled “Golden Kitchen”. And if they divert the money to run free kitchens instead, I am sure they will go to heaven on the day of Kayamat (the doomsday).
Since other major religions of the world don’t have the Langar system built into their faith, perhaps they may consider diverting money to the Sikhs for free food for everyone. If they do so then Guru Nanak would put in a word to God or Allah -whatever you want to call Him- to send them all to heaven. After all Guru Nanak is revered as Peer Baba Nanak by many Muslims and his wooden sandals are preserved in Mecca. He preached all over West Asia 500 years ago, including Jerusalem, Lebanon, Sytia and Turkey.
If everyone can cooperate with the Sikhs to make the world a happy and content place, Gods’ cause would be better served. And if God Almighty so desires, it shall happen as the Sikh Saint had once predicted.