Sikh Free Press – Why Yogi Bhajan followers practice Hindu rituals

Antion Vikram Singh, originally named Vic Briggs, was the musical arranger and lead guitarist for the 1960s rock band, The Animals.

He became a Sikh and kirtanyaa in 1971, and has subsequently recited kirtan in gurdwaras in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and India. In 1979, he became the first non-South Asian Sikh to sing Gurbani Kirtan at Darbar Sahib, Amritsar.

He also is the author of the forthcoming book: “From Rock Star to Ragi, Volume 2 – The 3HO Years.”

Why Yogi Bhajan followers practice Hindu rituals

Antion Vikram Singh, New Zealand

When I look at Punjabi Sikhs discussing Bhajanism, as it so often happens these days, it’s obvious that they cannot comprehend how anyone who seems to have become a Sikh could possibly be interested in things Hindu.

I suspect this is because, for them, having been born a Sikh, the abhorrence of Hindu practices has been taught to them since birth. It’s second nature. That is not true for the Westerners who turn to Bhajanism.

In 1969, I was looking to live a more spiritual lifestyle and had been experimenting with psychedelic drugs, such as LSD, for more than two years. Then, I decided I had had enough.

The ecstatic states of mind I had originally experienced through these chemicals had long since faded, and I was looking for a way of recreating these feelings through a healthy, spiritually-oriented lifestyle.

I came across a book, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” by Paramahansa Yogananda, a Hindu yogi who came to the US in the early 1920’s and founded a spiritual organization, part Hindu, part Christian, that still thrives today.

The book was first published in 1948 and is more popular today than ever. It has been translated into dozens of languages and is considered a hugely inspiring book.

I read it again and again. This book had a very powerful effect on me, making me determined to live a spiritual lifestyle, in some kind of Hindu way. I just had no idea where to start.

Just before Christmas of that same year I went to hear a man called Baba Ram Dass. His birth name was Richard Alpert. He had been famous a few years earlier as one of the cohorts of LSD-guru, Timothy Leary. He also had been an active promoter, and user, of LSD and other psychedelic drugs.

Alpert, like myself, had grown tired of the bad effects of these drugs. Looking for enlightenment, he went to India where he found a Hindu guru in the foothills of the Himalayas, known as Neem Karoli Baba. He became his guru, and gave Alpert a new name, Baba Ram Dass. He told him to go back to the U.S. and spread his teachings and inspire people.

Baba Ram Dass was inspiring, and funny. He was an excellent speaker. He presented his guru’s very Hindu teachings in a way that made them attainable, logical and practical.

I had finally found the key to change my own lifestyle. I became a vegetarian and gave up alcohol. I had already given up drugs. I also tried to meditate, and made a commitment to myself to live a spiritual lifestyle.

Less than a month later, I began attending Yogi Bhajan’s yoga classes and totally committed myself to practicing and sharing his yogic teachings.

Yogananda died in 1951. Baba Ram Dass, who is now known as Ram Dass, is in his 80’s, somewhat incapacitated because of a stroke, and rarely appears in public. These men are gone from the public eye, but their teachings still have a tremendous effect.

Why do I mention these names? What do these essentially Hindu teachers have to do with Bhajanism?


After I joined 3HO, I talked to my fellow Bhajanists and I discovered that – almost without exception – they had read and been inspired by “Autobiography of a Yogi.” They all knew who Baba Ram Dass was and had either heard him speak or read his very popular book, “Be Here Now.” That was true in 1970 and I suspect it is still true today.

Most of Yogi Bhajan’s students came to his teachings after being inspired by Hindu teachers, just like I was. I was looking for a Hindu practice. Instead, I happened upon Yogi Bhajan’s Kundalini Yoga which, while it was not wholly Hindu, it was close enough.

Initially, I could not tell the difference. Although, being aware and well read, I soon figured it out. Many Bhajanists never do. And why should they? If they understood that the yoga they were practicing was intended to lead them into a cult, they would run a mile in the opposite direction.

Back in the early 70’s, Yogi Bhajan would invite Hindu swamis to his Los Angeles ashram to speak. I also remember him having a Vedic astrologer there to perform a Hom, a Hindu fire ceremony. There was no formal kirtan in those days, just a lot of songs that people made up and sang.

If someone’s song included names of Hindu gods and goddesses, there was no sense of disapproval from Yogi Bhajan. The idea of Adi Shakti, worshipping the primal female power, was a big part of his teachings – as it still is. Perhaps his teachings of that time could best be described as quasi-Hindu, with various Sikh topics mentioned here and there.

That is how Yogi Bhajan’s 3HO started. It was NOT in any way started as a Sikh organization.

Recently I saw a quote on Facebook that I want to share here to help Sikhs of Punjabi origin understand just how prevalent Hindu ideas are amongst Westerners who aspire to embrace a spiritual lifestyle.

I have often said in Internet discussions that there is a strong tendency towards Hinduism and its practices amongst the “New Age” people, the kind of people who make up the majority of 3HO yoga students. Perhaps this quote will help people understand just how strong it is:

“I lean towards Hinduism. Reincarnation, karma, celebrations, Bikram yoga, chanting, devotional singing, conscious sexuality, vegetarianism, meditation, flowers, incense, dance, slowing down, reconnecting, love, light, laughter and leisure. All good, good things, and even better because there are millions of kind, open loving souls who lean in too. Hare Krishna.”

Notice how many of the things that seem to inspire her are either not found in Sikhi or are frowned upon.

I know the lady who wrote this. She is a good and well-meaning person. She is typical of millions of Westerners who find no satisfaction in their religions of birth, mostly Christianity and Judaism, and are looking for another spiritual path.

She is NOT a Bhajanist. In fact, she may never have even heard of 3HO. But her attitude and feelings are typical of the type of people who start taking Kundalini Yoga classes and eventually get involved with Bhajanism. That is why I used her words.

I believe this turning towards Hindu practices in Yogi Bhajan’s 3HO/Sikh-Dharma-International is happening because most of the people who come into his organizations, then and now, are oriented towards Hinduism and are looking for a Hindu lifestyle. Plus, since Yogi Bhajan’s death, there is no one with the authority to keep a lid on this kind of behavior.

These innocents don’t see anything wrong with Hindu practices because no one has given them any education about Sikhi, particularly about Sikh history. No one has told them about the many brave souls who sacrificed so much to maintain Sikhi as a separate entity from Hindutva.

Yogi Bhajan operated on a “bait-and-switch” principle, which is a term used in retail sales. It means: To offer goods at an impossibly low price and then, when the subject shows up, to switch them to buying something much more expensive.

Yogi Bhajan used his intoxicating and trance-like form of yoga to pull young people in, and then coerced them into his Sikhi-ness. Many, many of his students rebelled at that point and left the organization. During my time in 3HO, the turnover rate was very high.

In my case, in 1970, less than a year after studying Kundalini Yoga, I went to London to teach yoga. I wanted to learn Gurbani Kirtan and so began to study with a giani in Southall. As soon as I did, Sikhi took me over. I found that I loved it. Kundalini Yoga faded from my life, although I still taught it for income, and practiced it to keep fit and for health reasons.

In 1972, I returned to the USA, a very committed Sikh. Yogi Bhajan was not happy with me. He told me I had come too far, too fast. He was only just beginning to introduce Sikh practices into his teachings. I didn’t care. I wanted Sikhi. That was enough for me.

I also encountered negativity from many of my fellow Bhajanists who felt threatened by my reciting Gurbani and singing Gurbani Kirtan. It was very obvious that they were there for the yoga, and yoga alone.

In 1979 Antion Vikram Singh became the first non-South Asian Sikh to sing Gurbani Kirtan at Darbar Sahib.

When Yoga Bhajan was alive, he would make sure that the organization sufficiently appeared to be oriented towards Sikhi to keep the Punjabis happy, or at least in the dark. Now that he is gone, there is no need for anyone to suppress their Hindu leanings. And we are seeing the results.

For me, the situation is tragic. Yes, Kundalini Yoga is expanding rapidly across the world. And within that movement there are some who are taking to Bhajan’s version of Sikhi, known as Bhajanism.

But remember though, the Bhajanism movement has always been wide but not deep. Out of the perhaps 5,000 Westerners who embraced Bhajanism over the last 45 years, the number who turned to Sikhi after leaving Bhajanism can be counted on the fingers of two hands.

Even the number committed to Bhajanism within the organization is hardly overwhelming, by some estimates 2,000 to 3,000 followers.

When Yogi Bhajan was alive, most of those who became Sikh-like did so because he told them to. When they became disenchanted with him, which a huge percentage did, they dropped his Sikhi-ness as fast as they could. For many, his Sikhi-ness was an awkward and uncomfortable fit, a burden on their lifestyle.

A great opportunity had been lost: To spread Sikhism amongst Westerners.

Unfortunately, Bhajanist Sikhi-ness still has to be taught today, by legal definition, according to the “teachings of Yogi Bhajan.” The settlement for the recent bitterly fought court cases in Oregon contained the following as part of the instructions for those who were to administer the settlement:

“(They shall be) working in the best interest of the entity and in service of such related entity’s mission to support and advance the practice of the Sikh Religion or the technology of Kundalini Yoga, as both were taught, by the Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, aka Yogi Bhajan.”

What about Sikhi according to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Kakkars and Amarit Sanchaar of Guru Gobind Singh ji, and the Sikh Rehit Maryada?

We now have an organization that is essentially schizophrenic. Are they Sikhs or are they Hindus? Do they want to embrace ideas such as naked yoga, gay yoga or yoga as an aid to sexuality? These ideas have all recently appeared on the Internet. They were promoted by people who are apparently part of 3HO, some even wearing turbans.

All this has come to pass since Yogi Bhajan’s death. It would have been unthinkable when he was alive. He would have put a stop to these perverted forms of his yoga, instantly.

But now the cat is out of the bag. And no one is in charge. It is for this reason that the ever-present under current of Hinduism has now come to the surface and is being allowed to proliferate.

Article posted to Sikh News Discussion by Kamalla Rose Kaur

Stars & Stripes – More bearded, turbaned Sikhs join Army as Pentagon reviews religious articles ban

Corey Dickstein

Washington DC, 24 February 2017. Eight Sikh Army recruits have received waivers this year allowing them to maintain their religiously mandated beards and turbans in uniform, nearly doubling the number of observant Sikhs in the Army despite a decades-old policy barring visual symbols of faith.

The most recent religious appearance accommodations were granted in January and February, according to records reviewed by Stars and Stripes, just weeks after then-Army Secretary Eric Fanning simplified the process observant Sikhs and Muslims must follow to receive a waiver.

This could signal a relaxing of the Pentagon’s ban instituted in 1981 on outward symbols of faith in uniform, which is being reviewed by the Defense Department and each of the military services, three defense officials said.

The Army has approved at least 17 exemptions for Sikh soldiers to maintain their unshorn beards and turban-covered hair since 2009, when it granted the first such request to Kamal Kalsi, a medical doctor who is now a lieutenant colonel.

Kalsi, who has partnered with the Sikh Coalition and other groups to advocate for Sikhs, said military service is a natural fit for many religious Sikhs.

For Kalsi, a native of India who grew up in New Jersey, the military is also a family tradition. His father and grandfather served in the Indian air force and his great-grandfather served in the Royal British Army.

“Military service and service in general is such a big part of the Sikh community,” Kalsi said in a recent interview. “In taking my oath as an officer in the Army, the things that I swore an oath to are the same things that I was taught as a Sikh growing up, honesty, integrity, courage.

These things are all part and parcel of being a Sikh and of being a good soldier in the USA Army”.

For many service members, the process to receive a policy exemption to wear a simple symbol of their faith, such as a yarmulke for Jewish service members, can be approved by their direct commanding officers, but for observant Sikhs, and for some devout Muslims who must wear beards or hijabs, the longstanding Pentagon policy requires a formal waiver to the military appearance standards.

Until recently, those exemptions were rarely granted.

That appears to have changed, at least in the Army.

The eight accommodations approved by the Army this year follow six exemptions that the service granted to recruits in 2016, according to the non-profit Sikh Coalition.

Army Lt. Colonel Jennifer Johnson, a spokeswoman for the service, said she could not confirm the number of soldiers or recruits who have received a religious appearance exemption because the process has been “decentralized” and records are maintained at various installations.

Before last year, only three Sikh soldiers had been granted similar accommodations since 1981, according to the coalition. Sikh Coalition spokespersons said they were unaware of any observant Sikhs serving in the other military branches.

Spokespersons for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps said they were not aware of any Sikhs serving in those branches with an accommodation to wear an unshorn beard and turban in uniform.

The policy change

On 4 January just days before he left office with the President Barack Obama administration, Fanning issued a memorandum that mandated brigade commanders grant accommodations to soldiers or recruits seeking to wear religiously required beards or headwear in uniform with only a few exceptions.

Previously, such decisions were made by the secretary. They remain decisions relegated to senior officials in the other military branches.

Fanning’s order instructed commanders to deny requested religious exemptions only if they are “not based on a sincerely held religious belief” or they would cause “a specific, concrete hazard … that cannot be mitigated by reasonable measures.”

The Sikh Coalition, which brought lawsuits last year against the Army backing four Sikhs in their pursuits of religious accommodations, welcomed Fanning’s decision. But the group has not finished its fight, said Harsimran Kaur, the coalition’s legal director.

Ultimately, she said, the coalition wants to see an end to “all religious discrimination” and seeks a Pentagon-wide policy change to allow persons of any religion to maintain their visual articles of faith in uniform without requiring an accommodation.

“The USA is the strongest democracy in the world, and it has the strongest military in the world,” Kaur said. “For the United States to take in people from different religions and different backgrounds that’s only going to strengthen that democracy and that military.”

The Pentagon has long pointed to two primary reasons for retaining its ban on visible religious articles, the need for uniform appearance to maintain good order and discipline and the potential impact such articles could have on servicemembers’ safety equipment.

Beards, especially, Pentagon officials have said, can interfere with the effectiveness of protective masks.

Kalsi rejects both arguments. He and other bearded Sikhs have been able to properly seal Army-issued protective masks to their face and pass standard gas chamber testing, he said.

Furthermore, Kalsi said he has never had issues with other servicemembers because of his visible tenets of faith.

“They have always sort of found it fascinating, or found it really cool,” he said. “The military always argues that the turban and beard may affect espirit de corps or unit cohesion. My experience and the experience of other Sikh soldiers who have deployed has always been the same – that we’ve never had any problems getting along with our units.”

The Indian Express – Pink Shirt Day observed: Sikhs in UK, Canada fight bullying, racism; Canadian PM, defence minister back campaign

Gurdwaras also support the campaign to spread message of kindness and tolerance

Divya Goyal

London-UK, 24 February 2017. Fighting against the racism, bullying, hate crimes and discrimination, Sikhs across the United Kingdom and Canada observed ‘Pink Shirt Day’ on Wednesday, coming out in pink shirts and turbans to give message of kindness and tolerance.

The pink shirts and T-shirts with the message ‘Kindness is One Size Fits All’ were distributed in huge numbers and Pink Shirt Day rallies held across Canada, the UK and in some other countries.

The campaign has also found support from Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and National Defence Minister of Canada Harjit Sajjan, a Sikh who too sporting a pink shirt gave out a message Wednesday.

“I’m wearing pink because we should celebrate our differences, stand up for each other, and work together to end bullying and discrimination.

I am wearing my pink shirt today because bullying is never okay,” said Sajjan in his message. “Our caucus is sporting its finest colours for #PinkShirtDay today, let’s stand up to bullying and lift each other up, today & every day,” (sic) said message from Canadian PM Trudeau.

Various Sikh organizations and gurdwaras across Canada and the UK requested people to “practise kindness, and wear a Pink Shirt, button, or pin to symbolise you do not tolerate bullying”. People were also requested to flash message ‘Bullying stops here’ on their T-shirts.

Jagmeet Singh, an engineer settled in Vancouver, told The Indian Express, “This Pink Shirt Day movement basically started from Nova Scotia where two school children were bullied for wearing pink shirts on day one of their school.

Since then, pink shirt has become a symbol against racism, bullying and discrimination. As Sikhs too have been facing these issues and have been victims of hate crimes due to turbans and beard, we decided to observe Pink Shirt Day for cause of Sikhs too.”

The Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar at New Westminster of Canada also observed the day with anti-bullying programme for the youths and requested people to wear pink.

“Bullying is a major problem for students, employees and almost everyone faces it once in life. So Sikh community settled abroad is hugely supporting this campaign,” said Prithpal Sekhon from Toronto.

Pink Shirt Day observed: Sikhs in UK, Canada fight bullying, racism; Canadian PM, defence minister back campaign – American Sikhs Combat a “Climate of Fear” with Food

United Sikhs

Norwich – Connecticut – USA, 22 February 2017. Since 9/11, Sikhs have unfairly become targets of religious-based attacks. Hate crime reports from previous years have shown a troubling trend towards hate-motivated violence against Sikhs mistaken for Muslims.

Many Sikhs are now living in fear that the current perceived anti-immigrant and anti-muslim rhetoric in the US (and other Western countries) could lead to another uptick in bigoted attacks.

“After the Quebec attack in Canada we asked our members to be vigilant, but today we’re asking them to be proactive. Let’s combat this growing climate of fear and xenophobia with compassion,” Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, organizer of United Sikhs Connecticut Chapter said.

That’s one of the thoughts behind the United Sikhs Connecticut Community Food Drive. As part of this quarterly event, a dozen or more volunteers (usually Sikhs) will prepare and distribute food to residents in need in Norwich, Connecticut.

The first food drive was held February 12th at Lee Memorial Chapel in Norwich. Up to 75 people in need received a home-cooked meal, complete with rice, beans, salad and a dessert.

“Food is one thing which connects people and I believe this is one way we can reach out to fellow Americans and initiate the dialog that may otherwise never be had. We hope that by increasing community engagement we can decrease the likelihood of hate-motivated crime towards us, and other marginalized groups,” Swaranjit Singh said.

United Sikhs, an international UN-affiliated NGO that offers humanitarian relief and legal assistance to Sikhs and others in need, hopes that by taking more proactive steps towards community building, it can ensure less discrimination cases comes through its doors.

“Sikhs have been living in the United State for more than 100 years but are still victims of ongoing hate and racial profiling. Being an organization that works for human rights and civil rights, I think it’s very important we take these kind of outreach programs to every city,” Swaranjit Singh said.

Swaranjit Singh says the mission behind the foot outreach is in line with what Sikhism teaches. “The message of Guru Nanak (Founder of Sikhism) which is love, compassion, sharing equality needs to go door to door and we believe this is good way to start.

Every month United Sikhs will plan something in a different town and different city to reach out to people and share message of Guru Gobind Singh ji which is ‘Recognize All Human Race as one,” Swaranjit Singh said. United Sikhs as a part of their Humanitarian Aid chapter conducts similar drives in Los Angeles, Toronto and in New York City.

February has been an active month for United Sikhs. The organization had a major presence in Yuba City last week as it (along with CEMA) provided food and shelter to the families who evacuated during the flood threat. A video of one grateful volunteer, went viral last week.

Pakistan Today – Sikhs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) continue to live without basic amenities

Peshawar, 21 February 2017. Approximately 10,000 members of the Sikh community in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are deprived of fundamental necessities such as education and health.

Brimming with gurdwaras from before partition, the Peshawar’s Sikh community can currently use only two worship places.

“Plazas have been constructed in place of some gurdwaras. The ones not sold have been taken over by the land grabbing mafia,” alleged Pakistan Sikh community Chairman Radesh Singh Tony.

“The community does not have a shamshan ghat (cremation ground) to perform the last rites of the dead,” he added. Instead, the community has to make cremation arrangements in Attock in case of a death, which costs around Rs 65,000 per person.

Members of the Sikh community had to move to Peshawar’s Muhalla Jogan Shah and Saddar Bazaar localities after the law and order situation posed threats to their security. Children were pulled out of schools due to safety concerns.

“We are renting property to create makeshift schools. It is difficult to bear the expenses. We request the government to provide us with a building and funds for education,” said school headmaster Baba Jugerpaal Singh.

Despite the tough living conditions, the Sikh community remains fairly positive that its issues will be resolved by the government. “The prime minister is taking a lot of interest in resolving minority issues. Recently Pakistan has passed a bill against forced conversion,” MNA Asfan Yar Bhandara said during his visit to a gurdwara. – Sikh Council Issues Statement on “Internal Panthik Issues in UK”

Sikh24 Editors

London, UK, 16 February 2017. In a press statement shared with Sikh24, Sikh Council UK media chair Jagjit Singh has stated that several issues were brought to its attention in the past few weeks, including beadbi at Woolwich, animal slaughter at Singh Sabha London and several other cases in the UK.

Sikh Council has stated that while it was willing to resolve such issues, it cannot mediate as such differences have existed within the community historically. The press release further mentions that mediation is only possible when both sides are willing to come together.

“Taken collectively these are matters of significant concern due to their adverse impact on community cohesion and reputation within the mainstream society,” said Jagjit Singh in the press release.

“There have been reports of violence within Gurdwaras, the police entering Gurdwara premises, contentious programmes, inflammatory speeches, threats of self-immolation, threats of violence, the raising of differences in doctrinal views in provocative terms, fake news social media postings, footage of ritual slaughter of animals and other such matters bringing the community into disrepute, exposing internal differences for others to exploit and endangering community cohesion.”

The Sikh Council stated that the reason behind these issues was differences over Maryada within the Sikh community. “The Sikh Council UK is constitutionally mandated to mediate in cases of disputes where all parties are agreeable to such intervention and we remain willing always to seek to bring parties together.

We are appealing to all Sikhs to resist undertaking those activities or raising those matters of doctrinal difference or dispute in a manner which heighten tensions and lead to divisions and instead to focus on those activities which will lead to unity, progress and the betterment of the community.”

CBC News – Kaur Project explores diverse identities of Sikh women in the Lower Mainland

Many Sikh women have taken the name Kaur as a statement of independence from their male family members

Anna Dimoff

Vancouver, 19 February 2017. Two Vancouver women are harnessing the feminist origins of the traditional surname Kaur to give voice to Sikh women in the Lower Mainland.

The Kaur Project profiles Sikh women through portraits and first person narratives.

The creators, photographer Saji Kaur Sahota and writer Jessie Kaur Lehail, developed the website to share the untold stories of power and resilience from women who have accepted the name Kaur.

“We wanted to do something that was creative but had a theoretical framework behind it and really to showcase the diversity of Kaur and Sikhism in general,” Lehail told On The Coast guest host Belle Puri.

The name was meant to be an equalizer, allowing women to live their lives without the influence of their fathers or husbands, explained Lehail.

Mapping untold stories

Sixty women have shared their stories with the pair so far, but Lehail says that it wasn’t easy to get there. Many of the women they asked were puzzled at first and didn’t quite understand why they were being asked about the name they adopted.

“I believe it’s because no Kaur has ever been asked, ‘what’s your story?’ Then to have your picture taken and your story told, it’s a little intimidating.”

Each woman’s name is followed by a quick description using identifiers like “warrior,” “survivor and mom,” “poetess” and “healer.”

“It’s kind of interesting the titles that we give these Kaurs. We don’t identify them, when I interview them over the phone that’s the first question I ask; how do you identify yourself?

“Usually they don’t have an answer and as we go through our 20-minute interview session. I ask them the same question again and they are usually able to identify themselves, which is such a beautiful and empowering ability to have.”

Inspiration in diversity

Lehail has been inspired by many of these stories but also feels the weight of the task that she and her partner are taking on. Every story she hears reminds her that there are ten more waiting to be told.

One recent interview that has stuck with her was with a woman who had lost her mother to cancer. She told Lehail that it took two years to even talk about her mother after she passed.

“So this girl, last fall, did a beautiful cancer memorial shaving of her head*. It was there she discovered how her features look like her mother,” said Lehail.

The experience of interviewing this diverse intersection of women has been a cathartic experience for Lehail and she says it has allowed her to discover more about her own identity as a Kaur.

“I think as a South Asian woman, as a Canadian, as a Sikh. As someone who works, who has her own business, I have so many identities. And I think as a daughter of immigrants you kind of grapple, and you’re supposed to have these hyphenated identities but really you could be anything and everyone.

“It’s been very interesting to see that you can have all these multilayers and identify on so many levels.”

The encouraging words of her mother, “you can learn something from every person you speak to,” ring in her mind as she continues to grow this project.

* Patients undergoing chemotherapy against cancer often lose their hair, Man in Blue

The Tribune – Seechewal model to be replicated in Bihar

Aparna Banerji, Tribune News Service

Sultanpur Lodhi, 19 February 2017. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said today that the Seechewal model to use sewage water for irrigation would be replicated across villages in his state.

He said environmentalist Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal’s efforts to restore the flow of the once-choked Kali Bein would also be emulated in the case of the Ganga in Bihar.

Visiting Sultanpur Lodhi with a team of irrigation experts from his state, Nitish said the Centre’s “swachhta” push alone wouldn’t be enough to ensure silt-free flow of the Ganga.

“Silt deposits in the Ganga are a major cause of concern, especially after the construction of a barrage recently,” he added. Nitish is the fourth CM to bat for the Seechewal model.

He has invited the environmentalist for an international conference to be held in Bihar on February 26. Experts will dwell upon the restoration of the Ganga’s flow and water conservation. – Sikh employee granted permission to wear kirpan at work in London

Sikh Council UK

London, UK, 19 February 2017. A Sikh employee has been permitted to wear the Kirpan in the workplace of an international telecommunications company based in the City in London following initially being refused to right to wear it on ostensible security grounds.

The individual had taken the momentous decision to become an Amritdhari (an initiated) Sikh and as such he was following the mandatory Sikh code of conduct requiring him to carry the five articles of Sikh faith on his person at all times.

He informed his employer of the circumstances following which his employer initially refused consent.

Sikh Council UK along with other member organisations intervened and provided details concerning Sikh articles of faith following which the employer conceded and has since adopted a policy permitting the individual to wear his kirpan in the workplace.

This is the second such case recently where the Sikh Council UK has successfully intervened in connection with the wearing the kirpan in the workplace.

The other case involved two Sikhs employees initially being stopped for wearing kirpans at a large international airport based in the South-east.

The airport has now adopted a policy around the wearing of the kirpan by employees in the workplace in consultation with the Sikh Council UK.

Jagtar Singh, Secretary General Elect of Sikh Council UK, said: “It is unfortunate that cases such as these still occur too often for our liking, especially in large multi-national organisations. However, we are pleased with the outcomes in these cases, which has meant these Sikhs are now able to practice their faith whilst at work”.

He added “Casework like this is a regular feature of the work of Sikh Council UK and we frequently receive queries seeking our assistance in such matters.

Subject to capacity we of course seek to assist any Sikh who faces any issues at work or elsewhere in connection with their articles of faith. If any Sikh is facing any such problems they are requested to get in touch with us without delay”.

Gulf News – Serving free meals to one and all three times a day

Gurdwara in Dubai gears up to give back more to the community this year. The Guru Nanak Darbar gurdwara in Jebel Ali prepares and serves meals from their community kitchen to hundreds

Sajila Saseendran, Senior Reporter

Dubai, 17 February 2017. Nestled beside a church and a mosque along the bylanes of Jebel Ali Village lies the UAE’s first official gurdwara, the Sikh community’s temple named Guru Nanak Darbar.

This house of prayer and community gathering of the 50,000 strong Sikh community in the country is one of the best examples of the UAE’s religious tolerance and communal harmony.

This Sikh temple, the land for which was donated by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, welcomes one and all, from all religions and nationalities.

Every visitor to the gurdwara is served a vegetarian meal prepared in the community kitchen, three times a day. The only condition is that the visitors need to respect the dress code at the temple, take their shoes off and use a headscarf.

The Sikh community’s free kitchen service without the distinction of faith, religion or background is called Langar. The Langar Hall in Dubai’s gurdwara has welcomed members of over 45 nationalities in the last five years since its inception.

French tourists Alexandre Mayaud and family from Paris were among the visitors who received a warm welcome from the volunteers at the gurdwara when Gulf News visited it on Thursday.

“We just arrived from Paris and we are happy to visit the Sikh community who welcomed us here. They serve food to everybody. Great people,” said Mayaud.

Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of the Gurunanak Darbar, said the langar serves food to about 1,500 people everyday.

“Friday being a holiday, we serve thousands of people, sometimes even up to 10,000 people. On festival days, it goes up to 40,000 to 50,000 people.”

The huge number of patrons requires an enormous volume of ingredients and labour as well. The weekly grocery list of the langar includes 1,500kg of wheat, 1,000kg rice, 1,000kg lentil, and 1,000kg vegetables.

“We have 10 stores in the basement for stocking the grocery. We usually have supplies enough to feed 40,000 to 50,000 people,” said Kandhari.

The total number of staff including the priests [Granthis are not priests], kitchen staff and cleaning personnel is 35. Some 200 volunteers join them to prepare the meals for the high number of visitors every weekend.

“Our kitchen opens at 4.30am everyday and runs till around 10.30pm,” said Kandhari.

It is the first temple in the UAE with a distinction of having received the ISO 9001, ISO 14,001, OHSAS 18001 and ISO 22000 certifications.

“We have to stick to various requirements of the ISO certification and keep high standards in hygiene and cleanliness because for us, cleanliness is next to godliness,” said Kahdhari.

“For food takeaways, we put a label that it is [safe for consumption] for only two hours [after purchase] because we don’t want anyone to get food poisoning [due to time and temperature abuse],” said Kandhari. “Every month, we send the food samples for lab tests.”

Year of Giving initiatives

The act of giving is an inbuilt principle in the Sikh religion, said Kandhari. “It is our duty and our pleasure to serve food to the community. So the Year of Giving initiative is all the more important for us.”

The gurdwara is gearing up to give more to the local community during the Year of Giving.

One initiative that will begin on February 24 will be organised in partnership with the Singh Motorcycle Club members. Two dozen riders from the Sikh community, who are also part of Dubai’s Harley Davidson Club, will distribute 1,000 food packets to blue-collar workers.

“They will ride to different labour accommodations and distribute the food. This will be done every last Friday of the month for the whole year,” said Kandhari.

Another initiative planned is to set a world record in giving. “In the month of April, we want to serve breakfast for over 100 nationalities and enter the Guinness Book of World Records.”

The gurdwara will continue with its blanket donation drive which last year saw 3,000 needy people receiving blankets.

“We will do community activities for Tolerance Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day also,” Kandhari added.

Published in: on February 18, 2017 at 7:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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