BBC News – Guru Nanak: Sikh founder’s 550th birthday celebrated

Celebrations have taken place in India and Pakistan to mark the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak – the founder of Sikhism.

The anniversary comes just a few days after the historic opening of the Kartarpur corridor, which allows Indians access to one of Sikhism’s holiest shrines in Pakistan without having to apply for a visa.

Tensions between the neighbours have made it difficult for Indian pilgrims to visit the site in Pakistan in recent years. But an agreement reached last month allows Indians to make the 4km (2.5-mile) crossing to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life.

On Tuesday, Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan gathered at Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak, which is about 80km (50 miles) from the city of Lahore.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the nation on the occasion, saying it was “a day to rededicate ourselves” to Guru Nanak’s “dream of a just, inclusive and harmonious society”.

Though Guru Nanak’s anniversary is an important event for Sikhs annually, this time the celebrations were more special due to the opening of the Kartarpur corridor.

Devotees from across the world visit the Kartarpur shrine every year to commemorate his birth. Indian Sikhs will now be able to visit with just their passports, but they will not be allowed to leave the site or stay overnight.

The Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib] in Amritsar, in north-western India, is the holiest Gurdwara (where Sikhs worship). On the eve of the anniversary, it was lit up to host processions as Sikh worshippers took part in the three-day celebration of Guru Nanak’s birth.

On the first day of the celebrations, Sikhs read the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, from beginning to end*.

As is the tradition on the second day, the holy book was paraded through the streets of Amritsar on Monday in a hand-held carriage [palki sahib].

The procession was led by five people representing the original Panj Pyare, the Five Beloved Ones, who helped shape the religion.

*The non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib takes 48 hours. The reporting is misleading (due to ignorance), the author also shows that she/he does not quite know what the Panj Piare are about.

The Belfast Telegraph – Prince Charles praises contribution of Sikhs to life in UK

The Prince of Wales will visit a Sikh temple [Gurdwara] in New Delhi. He praised the contribution Sikhs have made to life in the UK on the eve of a two-day visit to India.

Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent

London – UK, 12 November 2019. Charles will commemorate the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, when he visits a major temple [Gurdwara] in the capital New Delhi on Wednesday.

His comments are likely to be interpreted as further evidence of his reported desire to take the title defender of faith, rather than “the faith” when he becomes king, to reflect multi-cultural Britain.

In a message to Britain’s Sikh community, and others in the Commonwealth, to mark the 550th anniversary of the birth of the religion’s founder, Charles said: “The principles on which Guru Nanak founded the Sikh religion, and which guide your lives to this day, are ones which can inspire us all, hard work, fairness, respect and selfless service to others.”

Charles added in the message, posted on his official Twitter account: “In embodying these values, Sikhs have made the most profound contribution to the life of this country, and continue to do so.

“This week, as Sikhs everywhere honour the founder of your faith, my wife and I wanted you to know just how much your community is valued and admired by us all, and that our thoughts are with you at this very special time.”

In the UK the prince has visited the places of worship of many faiths and religions, from Hinduism and Judaism to Orthodox Christians and Middle East Catholics, and regularly holds interfaith dialogue events when on official overseas trips.

He recently attended the canonisation of Saint John Henry Newman, the 19th century Catholic cardinal, at the Vatican, where he met Pope Francis before the ceremony.

Charles has a busy schedule in the Indian capital on Wednesday and will sit down for bilateral talks with India’s President Ram Nath Kovind.

The British High Commission in New Delhi said Charles’ 10th official visit to the country would “celebrate enduring British-Indian ties, with a focus on shared global challenges such as sustainability and climate change”.

Charles will also take part in a discussion on how to strengthen disaster resilience and tackle the effects of climate change at the Indian Meteorological Department.

He will later attend a military service to commemorate the sacrifices of soldiers from India, the UK and across the Commonwealth in the two World Wars.

British High Commissioner to India, Sir Dominic Asquith, said about the prince: “His many visits to India and his enduring interest in promoting our common interests is another example of the living bridge between the United Kingdom and India.

“His Royal Highness will witness how India makes use of innovation to respond to natural disasters and how its clean technology is helping deal with the challenges of climate change.

“He will celebrate our strong cultural links and experience the warm hospitality that diverse religious communities in India have to offer.”

During the day Charles will also present a Commonwealth Points of Light award to an Indian woman for her exemplary contribution to the field of social development.

The prince will celebrate his 71st birthday on Thursday, and will be in Mumbai for a meeting about sustainability.

From Sunday, Charles will begin a tour of the South Pacific, lasting more than a week, and will spend the majority of his time in New Zealand with wife Camilla before making solo trips to the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

The Asian Age – Mystic Mantra: Nankana Sahib has a special place in Sikh history

Kulbir Kaur

New Delhi – India, 19 August 2019. Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, was born in 1469 at Talwandi of Rai Bhoe, now known as Nankana Sahib, a town in Sheikhpura district of Pakistan. Guru Nanak had spent the first 15 years of his life at Talwandi Sahib.

Rai Buler, the chief of Talwandi, was a contemporary of Guru Nanak and in fact, one of the first people to recognise the light of the divine in Guru Nanak. Once while he was tending a herd of cattle, the Guru lay down to rest under a tree and fell asleep. Rai Buler was surprised to see that the shadows of other trees had moved with the movement of the sun but not of the tree under which Nanak slept.

Similarly, on another occasion, Rai Buler received a complaint that the cattle Guru Nanak was in charge of had entered and damaged the crop of a farmer. Guru Nanak’s father was asked to pay for the damage but when they went there to calculate the losses, they found everything intact and there was no damage.

Rai Buler became a devotee of Guru Nanak and declared that the Guru was a saint and the honour of the village. The village was renamed as Nankana Sahib and the gurdwara built at the site where Guru Nanak was born is known as Gurdwara Janam Asthan or Gurdwara Nankana Sahib.

The place is dotted with sacred shrines associated with Guru Nanak. In addition to the main shrine, Gurdwara Janam Asthan, there is Gurdwara Patti Sahib, marking the place of Guru Nanak’s school. Gurdwara Bal Lila is the place where the Guru as a child used to play. Gurdwara Kiara Sahib marks the field which was reported as damaged by a farmer and no damage was discovered.

The place where the tree with the shade was found by Rai Buler is called Gurdwara Mal Ji Sahib. There is another important site where Guru Nanak had spent all the money given by his father to feed hungry sadhus, terming it as a sachha sauda, and to escape his father’s wrath, he had hidden himself under the tent (tambu) like tree, hence the name of the site as Gurdwara Tambu Sahib.

Gurdwara Nankana Sahib has a special place in Sikh history and on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee has organised an international nagarkirtan called “Kaal Taran Guru Nanak Aiya”.

A jatha (group) of 550 sangats was especially sent to Pakistan for this purpose. The nagarkirtan started from Gurdwara Nankana Sahib on July 25 and not only Sikh and Hindu followers participated in the procession, but even Muslim devotees followed it till the Wagah border.

The flower-decked palanquin of the Guru Granth Sahib was led by panj-piarias and it passed through the areas used to be populated by the Sikhs in pre-Partition India. To mark this historic moment, the foundation stone of Baba Guru Nanak University (BGNU) at Nankana Sahib was laid by Sardar Usman Buzdar, Pakistani Punjab’s chief minister, who also planted saplings dedicated to Guru Nanak Dev.

The nagarkirtan, starting from Nankana Sahib, would pass through around 65 cities of India, covering almost 17 states and conclude after about 100 days at Gurdwara Ber Sahib, Sultanpur Lodhi. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee will also organise an international seminar at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

Kulbir Kaur teaches sociology at Shyama Prasad Mukherji College, Delhi University

The Hindustan Times – A little-known story of Nepal’s Sikh connection

The story of Sikh transporters is legendary in Nepal. In the early 1950s, hailing from the Jammu region, many of them personally navigated the newly laid tracks of the Tribhuvan Highway, and crossed rivers to haul their trucks to Kathmandu.  They also started the first public bus service in the country, and have been active in the setting up of modern schools in the country.

Manjeev Singh Puri

Kathmandu metropolitan – Nepal, 20 July 2019. Nepal has a small but a vibrant Sikh community that is best known for its role as transporters, who opened Nepal to the modern world. Not many, though, know that Nepal’s Sikh heritage dates to Guru Nanak Dev, who travelled through Nepal during his third udasi.

Marking his sojourn in Kathmandu is Nanak Math, which has a peepul tree marking the exact spot where Guru Saheb meditated. The math, like a few other shrines in Kathmandu, is linked to the Udasi tradition and has a mahant presiding over it.

The shrine is not well-known and remains neglected; this prompted author Desmond Doig to call it the “forgotten shrine of the Sikhs”. Nepal also boasts several handwritten copies of the Guru Granth Sahib, including a couple in the Pashupatinath Temple complex.

The Sikh connection with Nepal developed during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh when the armies of the Sikh and Gorkha courts fought inconclusively in the Kangra region. The valour of the Gorkhas led the Lahore Court to recruit them. Even today, Nepalese serving in the Indian Army are colloquially referred to as “Lahureys”.

Later, when Maharani Jind Kaur escaped from the British, she came to Nepal and lived in the country for several years. Accompanying her was a large body of Sikhs. When she left Nepal, many of them settled down in the area around Nepalgunj, bordering Uttar Pradesh.
Retaining their Sikh identity, including wearing unshorn hair and maintaining gurdwaras in the villages of their concentration, they are a community largely missing in the annals of the Sikh diaspora.

In modern times, Sikhs have played pioneering roles in Nepal not only as transporters but also as engineers, doctors, police officers, teachers, educationists, pilots, and even as fashion designers.

Indeed, the person credited with laying the first drinking water pipes in Kathmandu was a Sikh, Manohar Singh. And, of course, by setting up the first restaurants, they paved the way for popularising Punjabi cuisine in Nepal.

The story of Sikh transporters is legendary in Nepal. In the early 1950s, hailing from the Jammu region, many of them personally navigated the newly laid tracks of the Tribhuvan Highway, and crossed rivers to haul their trucks to Kathmandu. They also started the first public bus service in the country, and have been active in the setting up of modern schools in the country.

The Sikh community in Nepal in the 1980s totaled more than a few thousand and built a grand gurdwara in Kathmandu’s Kupondole neighbourhood, apart from smaller gurdwaras in Birgunj, Nepalgunj and Krishnanagar. It is further enriched by Nepalis like Sardar Gurbaksh Singh embracing Sikhism.

India’s diplomatic ties with Nepal also have a strong Sikh connection with Sardar Surjit Singh Majithia being the first ambassador and establishing the embassy in 1947. His arrival and departure, by air, saw the first uses of the landing strip that is now the runway at Tribhuvan International Airport.

As we celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the Sikh connection of Nepal will be further strengthened as Nepal has started minting three commemorative coins, two in silver with denomination of Nepali Rupees 2,500 and 1,000 and a cupronickel coin with a face value of Nepali Rupees 100, to be launched on this auspicious occasion. Nepal is one of few countries issuing legal tender featuring a Sikh connection.

Manjeev Singh Puri is India’s ambassador to Nepal and is a former ambassador to the EU, Belgium and Luxemburg

429.The Man in Blue – Once upon a Time …..

Once upon a time there was a rich man who lived near Chandigarh. He owned a big mango plantation and every year when the fruit was ready for harvesting he needed a lot of people to pick the mangos.

He offered a very low rate for the work and the only people that took the job were migrants from states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, living in the jhuggi colonies on the verges of Chandigarh.

By paying low wages and exploiting poor people he made big profits, and was able to buy very expensive cars and a huge house with a big garden. He was a Sikh and he knew about the teaching of Guru Nanak, but he did not realise that there was blood in his roti.

Once upon a time there was a man who ran a ‘sweatshop’ in Southall, where people stitched clothes. As he liked to maximise his profits he only employed a few people officially, paying tax and national insurance. His other workers were illegals who worked long hours for very low pay.

By paying low wages and exploiting poor people he made big profits, and was able to buy very expensive cars and a huge house with a big garden. He was a Sikh and he knew about the teaching of Guru Nanak, but he did not realise that there was blood in his roti.

I have made up these stories, but they are based on what I have seen around me, both in India and in Europe. The behaviour of the rich men in the stories is against the teachings of all ‘dharms’, all faiths.

People of all dharms, of all religions ignore these teachings, they forget that these also apply to life in 2010, that these are teachings for all times.

Whether it is Jesus’ Good Samaritan or Guru Nanak’s Bhai Lalo, they both show us the way to the sort of behaviour that will start us off on our journey to Sach Khand, the Realm of Truth, where we will find unity with God.

Respect all, pay a fair wage and if you want others to work hard for you, you should work hard too. Simple principles based on universal values. The world would become a much better place if more people would understand that these are practical teachings, not theoretical philosophy.

Some UK politicians say that we have a broken society. We can only mend that society by seeing God in all. Some people make fabulous profits on the stock and commodity exchanges, some families have been unemployed for generations, or are exploited doing degrading work for very low wages. The philosophy of ‘More, More, More’ and ‘Me, Me, Me’ breaks our link with The One All Pervading and All Powerful and breaks our link with All Creation.