The speech that did not happen
Vahiguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vahiguru Ji Ki Fateh
I am Harjinder Singh, a Sikh from the Netherlands, and I am going to give you a short outline of the history of the Sikhs from 1469 till 1699.
Sikhism, one of the world religions, has its origins in Punjab, the state that in 1947 was divided between India and Pakistan.
Sikhs often call their tradition the Sikh Dharm, or Sikh way of life. This way of life was founded by Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469. Guru means teacher, Sikh means student.
We say that Guru Nanak received God’s Light and that this light was passed on to the nine Gurus that came after him.
The Sikh Guru’s teachings emphasise a positive way of life, in which bad or useless behaviour is replaced by good behaviour. A Sikh should not be ruled by lust or anger, or by the desire for ever more, ever bigger, ever more expensive possessions.
Sikhs should definitely not follow : Me, Me, Me and sod the others.
A Sikh should earn an honest living, should share with others and keep God in mind with all she or he does.
A well-known quote from the Guru Granth, our holy book, is: ‘Truth is high, but higher still is truthful living’.
From Guru Nanak till the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan, the community of those that followed the teachings and the example of the Gurus grew.
Guru Arjan and his Sikhs were noticed by the then Indian emperor Jahangir. The Guru was seen as a threat to the Mughal Empire en in 1606 he was tortured to death in a most horrible way.
De ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur, was asked by Hindus from Kashmir to go to the emperor in Delhi on their behalf, to ask him to allow them to peacefully follow their tradition, without being put under pressure to convert to Islam.
The Emperor in the days of the ninth and the tenth Guru was Aurangzeb, somebody who you can compare with the Spanish king Philips II. Aurangzeb was intolerant and did not understand that he could only keep his big empire together by compromising with the majority of the population that was not Muslim.
Aurangzeb was the wrong person to discuss tolerance with. First Guru’s companions were one by one tortured to death, and finally the Guru was beheaded.
This happened in 1675 in the centre of Old Delhi, near the Red Fort, the seat of the Emperors government.
Here is now a beautiful big Gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship, which if you ever visit Delhi, is well worth a visit.
Guru Teg Bahadur was succeeded by the last human Guru of the Sikhs, who then was still known as Gobind Rai.
The new Guru considered what had happened to his predecessor, and decided that the Sikhs should make a stand, and oppose the intolerant and violent rule of Aurengzeb.
The Sikhs are and were a peaceful community. But there are situations under intolerant regimes like that of Emperor Aurangzeb, or that of the Libyan Gadaffi or the Syrian al-Assad, where one has to fight oppression and injustice.
The Guru understood that the use of violence could undermine the ethical principles of Sikhism.
I think that because of this he decided in 1699 to ask his Sikhs to gather in Anandpur Sahib, in the north of Panjab, in order to found the Khalsa. This happened on the first day of the month of Vaisakh, which coincides with the 13th or the 14th of April, the Vaisakhi day.
Guru Gobind Rai stood with his sword in his hand before the Sikhs and asked : ‘who wants to give his head ?’ After some hesitation the first five came forward. These were initiated into the Khalsa by Guru, and then they initiated the Guru.
The first five Khalsas are known as the Panj Piaré, the Five Beloved. They came from different parts of India and were from different social groups.
Both the Guru and the first five Khalsas were given the name Singh. Guru Gobind Rai became Gobind Singh. From then on they wore the five Sikh symbols and the turban.
The five symbols are :
Kesh : Uncut, unshorn hair
Kangha : Wooden comb, often worn in the top-knot
Kara : Steel bangle
Kacchera : Cotton Panjabi style ‘boxer’
Kirpan : Small Sword
The Kirpan stands for the fight against injustice, against oppression. In a democratic society we will ‘fight’ using democratic means, under a dictatorship violence can be used.
By the adoption of a common name the caste differences were done away with, by wearing the turban Sikhs became equal to turban wearing worldly and spiritual leaders.
After the first five many more Sikh men and women were initiated into the Khalsa, and the call of Guru is still heard today.
Even now Sikhs offer their head to Guru, commit themselves to the Sikh way of life and to standing up against injustice and oppression.
The Guru said to his Khalsa that they should not fight out of anger or greed, and not to conquer other’s land. The Guru wanted his Sikhs to have courage, self-confidence and self-respect.
He emphasised that his Khalsa had to look differently and to behave differently, i. e. better. The Khalsas are the Saint-Soldiers, who always strive to serve all, not just the Sikh community.
A good example is the story about Bhai Ghanaya. This soldier of Guru Gobind Singh gave water to all wounded soldiers left on the battlefield, regardless whether they were soldiers of the Guru or of the Emperor.
Many Muslims supported Guru Gobind Singh in spite of the fact that he fought against a Muslim emperor. Throughout the history of the Sikhs there have been Hindus and Muslims who supported the Gurus.
After the death of Guru Gobind Singh in 1708 followed a period of about 100 years of struggle, which resulted in 1799 in a Sikh kingdom under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In the government of Ranjit Singh were Hindu, Muslim en Sikh ministers, and the three communities lived together peacefully.
Today Sikhs walk through Vilvoorde in the Vaisakhí Nagar Kirtan, the annual Sikh parade commemorating Vaisakhí 1699.
Nagar Kirtan means ‘singing in the town’ and the texts that we sing are from our holy book, the Guru Granth.
The five men in orange robes carrying swords that precede the parade represent the first five initiated Sikhs, the Panj Piaré.
We are taught to see all humanity as one family. We want to practice this also here in Belgium.
The singers on the truck with the Guru Granth, the five men with their swords that walk in front of the truck and the whole Sikh community, want to share Guru’s ideals with you.
These ideals are not ‘exotic’, these ideals are not anti-western or anti-Belgian. What the Guru was trying to achieve comes very close to the slogan of the French revolution : Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood.
We believe that there is no Christian God, Hindu God, Muslim God or Sikh God, there is One God for all, regardless what name we give Her/Him. All mankind, regardless of skin colour, nationality or faith are brothers and sisters, of one humanity.
Religion, spirituality should unite people, not divide them.
Vahiguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vahiguru Ji Ki Fateh