457.The Man in Blue – Anand Karaj in India

I went to New Delhi to attend the wedding of Dildeep Singh, son of Amrik Singh (Heathrow) with Jaspreet Kaur of Moti Nagar. The wedding took place on 16 January and I did not leave till the early morning of the 22nd and therefore I noticed how much time and money goes into registering the marriage.

The first step was to get a certificate from the Gurdwara stating that the marriage took place. Instead of having to go back to the Gurdwara the next day it would have been helpful if a witnessed certificate was made up on the day. 

The next step was to get a ‘no objection certificate’ from the British High Commission. Without this certificate you cannot register the marriage between a UK and an Indian citizen. The High Commission issues these certificates without checking if the UK citizen is already married. The text on the certificate says, in a polite way, that it is meaningless, but you are charged Rs 3500 regardless.   

Step three was a day excursion to Tis Hazare. Tis Hazare is both a notorious jail and a court complex surrounded by lawyer’s offices. These lawyers might do your work for a modest fee or for a fee that for ordinary Indians is astronomical, and the quality of their work is not necessarily related to the amount you pay.

Via local contacts Amrik Singh and family managed to find somebody who did the work for a fairly reasonable amount. And what is the result ? Dildeep Singh and Jaspreet Kaur are now registered as man and wife under the Hindu marriage act !

After all this effort and expenditure you get what you do not really want … 

UK Gurdwaré and other places of worship can conduct a marriage according to their own tradition and at the same time act as a registry office. Under the British Raj the Anand Karaj was recognised as a legal form of marriage and even Pakistan has now recognised the Sikh marriage ceremony.

While India and Pakistan kept a lot of the colonial legislation, neither country kept the Anand Karaj Act on the statute book. India adopted article 25 of the constitution which treats Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs as Hindus. Seen from article 25 it is ‘logical’ that followers of these three Dharmic traditions come under the Hindu marriage act. Whether the Anand Karaj Act was taken off the statute book immediately in 1947 or only after the adoption of the constitution I do not know.

Maybe stimulated by the activities of the Dal Khalsa and non-Indian Sikh organisations the SGPC is actively lobbying Pardhan Mantri Manmohan Singh on the issue. But will Madam Sonia allow him to recognise the Anand Karaj ? If Badal & son were to support the Anand Karaj would that damage their pact with the BJP ?

If Maharaja Amarinder Singh, the leader of the Panjabi Congress, came out in support of a new Anand Karaj Act without waiting for permission from Madam, that would be very helpful. Whatever happens, any change in India will take time.

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Sikhí in one Picture

I think I found this image on Sikhnet. It sums up most of what you will find in this Section on Sikhí, plus the 5 ‘thiefs’ the five qualities that steal your spiritual balance : Lust, Anger,  Attachment, Greed and Ego.

Inside the circle are positive qualities :  Love, Humility, Compassion, Contentment, Truth

Underneath that the ‘pillars’ of a good, positive life style :  Kirt Karo (honest work), Nám Japo (meditate, think about God), Vand Shako (share with others)

Read the articles below to get a good understanding of Sikhí

Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 8:46 am  Comments (1)  
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Sikhí is :

A spiritual way of life

Many Sikhs do not like to talk about the Sikh religion, because we are not like the three well known religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Sikhí has a number of core principles, but it does not have a comprehensive system of doctrines. The emphasis is much more on our way of life. In the Sikh principles article we try to explain the core principles of Sikhí, and even that goes quickly from ‘what to believe’ to ‘what to do’. Most Sikhs believe that the soul travels through various existences and when it reaches the human stage it will strive to be reunited with God. But in whatever way you look on these matters, if you do not seriously try to live a ‘Godly’ life, it is all rather irrelevant. 

A religion

Sikhí is a religion, but the emphasis is on the way of life, and not on doctrines.

An ethnic group or a nation

Sikhs, regardless whether they are of Panjabi background or not, have been recognised by the UK Law Lords as a separate ethnic group. Many Sikhs consider themselves to be a nation. But the Sikh Nation, or the Sikh Ethnic Group is part of the one Humanity, as we are all God’s children, regardless of our religion, ethnicity or nationality. And regardless of our ethnicity or nationality, according to Guru’s teachings Sikhs should make a contribution to the countries they live in. They should be loyal but critical citizens of their countries of residence.

Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 8:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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The 5 Ks, pictorial

01.Topknot, Kangha
Kesh – Uncut hair
Tied in topknot
Kangha – Wooden Comb


Kara – Steel Bracelet
Kirpan – Small Sword
Kachhera – Cotton ‘Boxershort’


Khalsa woman
Pag ~ Pagri ~ Dastar = Turban
Kirpan  – Small Sword

08.Singh
Khalsa Man
Pag ~ Pagri ~ Dastar = Turban
Kirpan  – Small Sword

Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 8:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Khalsa and the 5 Ks

Vaisakhi 1699

In 1699 Guru Gobind Rai the tenth Sikh Guru, called his Sikhs together in Anandpur Sahib in the north of Panjab. He stood before the meeting, holding a sword, and asked for people to come forward who were willing to give their head.

The first five who did so are called the Panj Piaré, the five beloved ones. They were the first members of the Khalsa, the order of initiated Sikhs, those who are totally committed to the Sikh way of life, to doing God’s work. They then in their turn initiated Guru Gobind Rai into the Khalsa, and many others followed. From then on all Khalsa men were known as Singh (=Lion) and Khalsa women as Kaur (=Prince). Thus Guru Gobind Rai became Guru Gobind Singh.

This took place under the rule of one of the more intolerant Mughal Emperors, who then ruled most of the north of India. Being a Khalsa involved physical fighting against the oppressors, to achieve freedom of worship for all.

Guru did stipulate that the sword was only to be used as a last resort, after all other means had failed. Guru wanted his Khalsa to be Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldier), who would not fight for material gain or out of anger, but who would defend the defenceless and fight against injustice.

As visible signs of their commitment the members of the Khalsa were to wear five outward signs, the so called Five Ks, and this practice is followed to this day.

Do realise that initiated Sikhs or Khalsas are only a relatively small group within the wider Sikh community or Panth. Many people of Sikh background wear a Kara, and more committed ones also keep uncut hair and wear a turban. It is unlikely that Sikhs who are not initiated wear a Kachhera, while only initiated Sikhs will wear the Kirpan.

The 5 Ks 

The 5 Ks are :

  • Kesh (uncut hair, no cutting, trimming or shaving)
  • Kara (a steel bracelet)
  • Kangha (a wooden comb)
  • Kacchera (cotton boxer short)
  • Kirpan (small steel sword)
    The kirpan stands for this fight against injustice referred to above  

The Five Ks symbolise dedication to a life of devotion and submission to the Guru. For an initiated Sikh or Khalsa the fact that the Guru has asked the Sikhs to wear the Five Ks is sufficient reason and no more needs be said.

The Khalsa cannot be anonymous. Her/His religion is known to all. She/He stands out among people, and any unseemly behaviour on her/his part would be noted as unbecoming of a follower of the Gurus.

Anybody seeing somebody wearing the Khalsa uniform (the Five Ks) should know that they can go to her/him for help. Regardless whether they wear western or Panjabi style clothes, they are visible Sikhs. Unfortunately many Sikh ladies, even initiated ones, choose not to wear a turban, and are therefore not easily recognisable as Sikhs.

Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 8:12 am  Comments (1)  
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Principles of Sikhism

A short definition of a Sikh is somebody who follows the teachings of the Sikh Gurus, as found in the Guru Granth Sahib. Underneath I will try and sum up the most important aspects of these teachings.

One God & One Humanity

There is only One God, there is no Sikh God, Christian God or Muslim God, there is only One God. God is the Creator, the Nurturer, the Destroyer, all the qualities of the various Hindu gods are united in the One God.

All humans, regardless of their gender, caste, ethnicity, faith, nationality are members of the same human race. Guru says that all can find the way to God, Guru only recognises the high caste of being near God and the low caste of being away from God.

Simran & Seva

Simran = Meditation, which means think about God, keep God in your mind. You can do simran by repeating a special word (Vahiguru), or by reading, singing the hymns from Guru Granth Sahib. All this should lead to a state where God is always with you (whether you are sitting or standing, awake or sleeping), a state where you see Her/His presence in all and everything.

Seva = Selfless Service. A lot of Sikhs do voluntary service in the Gurdwara, like cooking or serving the free food supplied there, or keeping the Gurdwara clean. In big Gurdwaras the reading and singing from Guru Granth Sahib is mostly done by ‘professionals’ but in smaller ones the sangat (congregation) performs part of or all of this seva.

We should also do seva outside the Gurdwara, help your elderly neighbour or the single parent family, the homeless, or people outside the UK who are victims of famines, natural disasters, wars etc. I came across a good example of Sikh seva at a Gurdwara in Himachal Pradesh, where a local Hindu man who had lost his arm in an accident was employed as watchman. Instead of giving him a handout, they enabled him to make an honest living.

Honest Work

Guru Granth Sahib does teach us that we should not be so-called ‘holy beggars’. We are to live in society and make a living by doing honest work. A Sikh in business is fine, but it should be honest business, giving the customers a good deal, and the Sikh businessman should share any surplus monies with those that are in need, which brings us back to seva.

What is our aim in life

We believe that the soul originates from God, and after travelling through various existences, wants to return to God. It is only as a human that you can achieve this ‘liberation’ from the cycle of birth and death.

It is by God’s grace only that this liberation will be achieved.

Love

We should open ourselves to the love that God showers upon us, always, without limit and without conditions. We should develop our love for God, so that the ‘soul-bride’ will be able to merge in the ‘God-Groom’  

Caste Hereditary social group within Indian society
Gurdwara Guru’s Door = Sikh place of worship
Guru ‘Bringer of Light into Darkness’ = Teacher
Guru Granth Sahib Teacher Book Respected = Sikh holy book
Nám Name = Key concept for Sikhs : Godly Essence, present in all and everything
Sádh Sangat True Congregation
Sangat Congregation 
Seva Selfless service
Sikh Pupil, student = follower of Sikh way of life / religion
Vahiguru Wonderful Teacher = God
Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 8:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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456.The Man in Blue – Curtains for Belgium

Belgium is the home of Dutch, French and German speakers. Other languages are also spoken here, but these three are the ‘native’ tongues. The Dutch speakers are in the majority and their part of the country is economically stronger. Brussel or Bruxelles is within the Dutch speaking area, but has become majority French speaking and is a separate region.

The Dutch speaking provinces are West and East Flanders, Vlaams Brabant, Antwerpen en Limburg. French is spoken in Brabant Walonne, Namur, Hainaut, Liège and Luxembourg, not to be confused with country of Luxemburg. Then there are the German speaking Ost-Kantons, along the border with Germany, which are small and thinly populated.

The fundamental problem that faces modern Belgium is that Flemish (Dutch speaking) nationalists either want to change the country into a loose confederation or want to go all the way to an independent ‘Flanders’.

These sentiments are caused by the dominance that French speakers used to have in this country, when the south and south-east was industrialised and the Dutch speaking area mostly agrarian. In those days Dutch (Flemish) was considered to be a farmer’s language, which even the Flemish bourgeoisie did not like to speak.

These days the industrial areas of Wallonia are ailing, they have higher unemployment then in the north and west and the nationalist Flemish politicians complain that they have to subsidise the French speaking region.

Most French speakers are in favour of a strong Belgium, while the Dutch speakers want a weaker federal government and more power to the regional governments. Many people hope or fear that the main party in the Dutch speaking area is actually pushing so hard for more reforms, more power, more money for the regions because they want to go all the way and become independent.

Where that leaves Brussel/Bruxelles, the federal and European capital and the Ost-Kantons nobody knows. Who will inherit which assets and which liabilities is anybody’s guess. The divorce will be even messier than the present attempt to get parties with opposite agendas to form a government with a sound economic programme and a division of powers on the various levels that all can live with.

Federal governments need to have a majority in both sides of the country, and if you want constitutional change you need a ¾ majority in the Houses of Parliament. The biggest party in the south is the PS, left-wing and pro Belgium, the biggest party in the north is the NVA, which is right-wing and wants autonomy or independence for the Dutch speaking provinces. To get the required majority for constitutional reforms the attempt to form a government involves seven parties, including the two big antagonists. Is it going to be curtains for Belgium in 2011, a country that only came into being in 1830 ?

Published in: on January 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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455.The Man in Blue – Dillí

On 13 January I am flying to the capital of the Indian Union, which since the HQ of the British Raj moved there from Calcutta is known as New Delhi. I will be leaving from Brussel airport at 10.05 and should/might arrive at 22.30. I will stay in Delhi till 03.05 on 22 January, and after that will be unlikely to go travelling till June.

For many Sikhs the main concern after landing at ING Airport is how to get to Panjab. I am staying in Delhi and my concern is how to get to New Moti Nagar where Amrik Singh (airport) and his family are staying. Their son Dildíp Singh is to marry Jaspreet Kaur, who is from that part of Delhi.

I am supposed to be picked up from the airport, but in case that goes wrong my ‘plan b’ is to take the airport bus to New Delhi station and find a room in one of the many hotels in Pahar Ganj.     

The wedding is on the 16th of January, which means that I have time before and after the wedding to visit the main Gurdwaré of the city, like Rakáb Ganj, Bangla Sáhib and Sís Ganj. Those that know me and my funny ways will not be surprised to hear that I also plan to travel around on the new metro system of the city.

Wandering about in old Dillí is another of my priorities, as I love the old cities of the subcontinent. In their narrow, overcrowded and often dirty streets I feel most at home. Even in Peshawar and Lahore I was perfectly safe walking around on my own in the old bazaars. Lahore and Peshawar are very interesting and wonderfully diverse cities, where the people were surprised to see an ‘Angrezí’ Sikh. This did not stop them from making me feel very welcome.

If you read the first few chapters of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim you get a glimpse of how cosmopolitan Lahore was in those days. Lahore, Delhi and Amritsar all suffered because of the bloody exchange of populations in 1947. In areas like Tilak Nagar in Delhi, which was badly hit by the anti-Sikh pogroms of 1984, lived many Sikhs who had to leave their homes and land behind after partition.

The independence of countries like Turkmenistan, Kirgizstan and Uzbekistan brought back visitors from those parts of the world to both halves of Panjab. Let’s hope that there will be no new Moghul conquerors amongst them. The interaction between the sub-continental and the Moghul cultures enriched India, but present-day Muslim rulers would probably be more like Aurangzeb than like Akbar !

India is entering the 21st century, although even in the booming southern cities many people seem still not to have reached the 20th one.  Old man and amateur historian that I am, I love the old fashioned ways, the narrow streets, the donkeys, cows and buffaloes, the open sewers, the tiny shops and the streets jam-packed with rickshaws, autos and pedestrians. I love to be part of the colourful crowds of India, provided that ‘loose motion’ does not get me down.

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 9:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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454.The Man in Blue – Pakistan

We are of course also not without fools who think that political or religious differences should be solved through violence. So far the Sikh fools are less keen on murder then their Muslim counterparts. Both in the Sikh and the Muslim community there are not enough people who clearly denounce the use of violence.  

The reason that the governor of Panjab Salmaan Taseer has been murdered is that he was one of the very few high profile politicians who spoke out against the blasphemy law in Pakistan. If all politicians of what are supposed to be democratic parties, the PPP and the PML and their various split-offs, made a common front against the mad mullahs it would not be so easy to target one person.

If there was a credible democratic party in Pakistan, willing to face the military (and the ISI) and the mad mullahs they would have a very good chance to win election after election. If that party, or those parties, would also be seriously interested in the fate of the many poor to very poor people in the country, it or they could be assured of constant majorities in Parliament.

It would be even more wonderful if the parties would not be mainly interested in Sindh (PPP) or mainly interested in Panjab (PML). The PML was the party of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who always spoke about a Muslim majority country that was not ruled by mullahs (mad or not), which could be the homeland for all Muslims of the subcontinent and where non-Muslims would be equally respected.

The PML, dominated by the brothers Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif, is even less likely to establish real democracy and an open society than the PPP. This party is dominated by rich Sindhis, who do not much like the mad mullahs, but who first and foremost stand for the interest of the landed gentry of Sindh.

These are the same people who go to the west begging for money for victims of the floods that badly affected Pakistan last year, but who mostly gave very little themselves. I strongly suspect that the same is true for the Sharif brothers.

Many of the problems that face Pakistan are entirely solvable. Pakistan has no need of wizards with magic wands. The need of the hour are people who care, who care about the country as a whole, who do not think that all the ills of the country are caused by India and who take a long view of politics. 

It is in the interest of India to have a strong and stable neighbour to its east. I suspect that Manmohan Singh knows this, just like Inder Kumar Gujral did. But Indian politics is dominated by people who think that all evil comes from Pakistan, who do not understand that the only way for the subcontinent to peacefully prosper is if all nations on it work together for a better future of their citizens.

If India and Pakistan were truly democratic countries there would be no need for Khalistan either.

Published in: on January 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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