Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A Vaisakhi message to share with non-Sikhs...

I always think that Gurpurbs are a wonderful opportunity to share about Sikhi and who we are with the people we work with and the wider community. Below is a short write about Vaisakhi that I shared at work. I found some nice things written on the Internet but nothing that totally satisfied me. So, I took some of the nice things from various articles, added some other things, and put it together. Most people don't want to read too much and are not interested in knowing the full detail, so it is an attempt to give a very brief perspective on what Vaisakhi is about and the key message of Vaisakhi. Please feel free to copy and use or adapt for schools, universities, workplace or local mainstream media. Happy Vaisakhi to everyone!

Happy Vaisaakhi  to everyone! 

Vaisaakh is the second month in the Sikh Calendar. This month coincides with April and May in the Gregorian or Julian calendar that are used in the West.  Vaisaakhi, one of the high holidays on the Sikh calendar, takes place on the first of the lunar month of Vaisaakh, which falls usually 13th or 14th April each year. This year it falls on Monday 14th April, however celebrations take place throughout the whole month.  

What is the Sikh festival of Vaisaakhi all about? 
 Historically a harvest festival in Panjab (northern India), Vaisaakhi also marks the day that in 1699, the “Khalsa” movement - a collective body of initiated Sikhs who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity - was inaugurated by the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. 

The inauguration of the Khalsa was a pivotal event in Sikh history which gave the Sikh faith its final form.  The Khalsa are those Sikhs who have accepted the Sikh initiation or “khande kee paahul” and commit to live to their lives in the service of God and his creation through seva (selfless community work), simran (meditation and prayer), and living a life of higher consciousness that promotes inner happiness, good health and holiness.    

Initiated Sikhs take on a common name, “Singh” (meaning ‘lion’) for men and “Kaur” (meaning “Princess”) for women. Initiated Sikhs also commit to the maintaining a distinct identity and the five Sikh articles of faith or “kakkaars”

On the Vaisaakhi of 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji formalized the call to all Sikhs to stand up against injustice, caste discrimination, sexism and oppression. Throughout the Khalsa, has helped the down trodden and fought against injustices, not only against Sikhs but other faiths and communities. 

Although Sikhs are a minority in India, making up less than 2% of the total population, the Sikhs formed a sizeable portion of the Indian Voluntary Army that volunteered to fight, defend and sacrifice their lives for Europe and Britain’s freedom during both World Wars. Approximately quarter of a million Sikh men fought and died in these Wars, which illustrates the Khalsa’s philosophy and ethos. In this tradition, Vaisaakhi celebrations are an opportunity for Sikhs to revitalize their commitment to break down prejudice and hostility, and to join with others to work collaboratively towards healthier local and global communities. 

Vaisaakhi celebrations are more than a celebration of the Khalsa movement; it is also celebration of community, friendship and generosity. Vaisaakhi celebrations include: large colourful processions in cities with large Sikh populations; display of Gatka (Sikh martial arts); setting up Langars (The Guru’s Holy Kitchens) inside and outside of Gurdwaras, which offer free vegetarian meals to the whole community irrespective of religion, colour or gender; and Keertan, sessions dedicated to singing joyful hymns from the Guru’s Holy Writings.


Saturday, April 05, 2014

A modern day 'Sarwan Put'...

Bhai Gurdaas Ji mentions a person named 'Sarwan' as a role model for being a son and serving one's parents.

ਹੋਵੈ ਸਰਵਣ ਵਿਰਲਾ ਕੋਈ ||੧੧||
"Rare is any obedient son like Sarwan of mythology who was most obedient to his blind parents.(11)"
(Bhai Gurdaas Jee: Vaar 37, Pauri 11)

In ancient India, there once lived a sage named Shantunu and his wife. Both were very old and blind. The couple had a young son named Sarwan. Sarwan had devoted his life to serving his blind parents. He took care of each and every wish of his parents. Sarwan's whole life centred around serving his parents.  Once his parents said to him, "Son, we are old and do not have much time to live. Before we die we wish to go on a pilgrimage to Bharat's holy places." Sarwan agreed at once to fulfill their wish. He made a kavad, a special carrier, for his parents. He carried the kavad on his shoulder and they left on the pilgrimage. Sarwan was so devoted to his parents that he did not feel their weight.

A few months later, they reached the outskirts of Ayodhya.  Sarwan's parents were very thirsty. He went to the nearby river to get some water for his parents who he had left behind at a spot. As he went to get the water, King Dashrath, who had gone hunting for a deer in the forest, mistakenly fired at Sarwan thinking it was deer. When he cried out, the King came and asked for forgiveness. However, Sarwan was more concerned about his parents than his injuries. "My old parents, are very thirsty. Please take this water to them and quench their thirst." After saying this he died. Dashrath took the water to the blind couple. He told them about his mistake and about their dear son's accidental death. The parents were very sad to hear this and wished to be taken to Sarwan. Dashrath carried the kavad and took them to the body. The old couple grieved at their son's death. Dashrath bowed at their feet and begged for forgiveness.  Sarwan's Father said, "King, we do not want to curse you, as the power to curse is only in God's hands. But we can see your future. As we shall die shortly longing for our son, you too shall die longing for your son." Soon they died, longing for their dear son. Dashrath, too died, longing for his son Ram Chandar when he went to exile.

In Panjabi folklore and across India, a good son is called "Sarwan Putt". As Sarwan stood for sincere service, duty and devotion to his parents.     

Recently in the news I came across a modern example of a "Sarwan Putt" which was very humbling and moving to read about. Please read below:

Loving son takes his paralysed dad to Chinese university and rigs up special bed so he can stay the full term

  • Father is paralysed, mother is mentally disabled from battle with meningitis
  • Took care of his mother for most of his life, but still got into top university
  • Guo Shijun manages to take care of his father full time and earn top marks
  • He has since earned a scholarship to help him pay for school and care

Most people could forgive Guo Shijun if he gave up on his dream of a university education: because of his full time commitments to caring for his paralysed father and sick mother, he is spread incredibly thin.

Most people would forgive him, but it is possible Shijun wouldn't forgive himself, as instead of giving up his studies, he persuaded university officials to let his father to stay in his dorm for the full term, after he was paralysed in a building accident.

Shijun still managed to get a place at a top university, and, impressed with his dedication in the face of insurmountable odds, they let him bring his father to university with him to lighten his load.
Chinese student Guo Shijun (right) prepares a meal for his father in his dorm while his father (left), who is paralysed from the waist down, rests in the specially installed bed

Guo Shijun takes a picture with his father. For most of his life he has been a young carer, and his workload only doubled when his father became disabled

Shijun, now 20, came from a poor family and had a tough childhood, as his mother was left mentally disabled when he was younger following a battle with meningitis. She was cared for during his formative years by him and his father, and despite this responsibility, he still managed to get top grades at school.

His already tough workload got worse when his father was injured after falling 15 meters off of a bridge he was working on in the city of Liuan in the Anhui province in the centre of China, becoming paralysed from the waist down.

Shijun's grandparents took over care duties for his mother, but they couldn't look after his father as well, so he rented a small room near his university dormitory and moved his father in, so that he didn't have to keep rushing to check up on him between lessons and during lunch. 

Despite insurmountable odds, Guo Shijun has managed to earn top marks at university, and a scholarship for his good grades

Guo Shijun installed his father in his dorm room so that he wouldn't have to go far to check on him between lectures

To keep up his studies he paid for university by borrowing money from friends and relatives until he finished. These costs, amount to £2000 a year for tuition alone, not accounting for food, bills and the cost of care for his parents.

However, despite the huge handicap to his studies, he managed to earn a scholarship to help him on his way.

Talking about his experiences, Shijun said: 'I can't say life is easy but the only way out of the problem is through hard work so I'm not complaining.
'I think once I graduate things will get much better.'

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

"Sikh are lovely people..."

"Sikhs are lovely people...." How many times have you heard someone at work or you meet say this. It really makes me think how blessed we are to be Sikhs and how amazing Guru jee and Sikhi are. 

This week I had a Christian priest I work with me say, "Thank you for everything and being here." I asked, "Are you thanking God?" He replied, "No- I am talking to you." The conversation turned and he said, "Sikhs are lovely people." "All the Sikh people here (referring to work) are just lovely and peaceful people. They vibrate peace and tranquility and just get on with life..." I tried to turn the conversation in to saying people of all faiths are nice etc. However, the Christian priest said, "...No. Sikhs in particular have a wonderful vibration, feel, and they don't clash with anyone and get along with everyone. Sikhs have a wonderful presence about them..." 

Soon, after this conversation, another elderly Christian who came to visit us and I started talking. He said he was a retired Headteacher from a school in West Midlands. I said, "Did you have many Sikh students?" The man's face lit up and said, "Yes. Many. I must say I loved having Sikh children at my school. They were just wonderful. Sikhs are wonderful people. They have such a good work ethic and work with the school rather than working against us. They support their children and always want the best and are helpful to the school. I think Sikhs are wonderful.... I really mean that." 

It's amazing, how the world generally perceives Sikhs as a whole. It reminds me of another story when I first started my part time job whilst studying my Masters - but I will save that for another time. 

I went back to my Sikhi class and told the group about the compliments from the Christian priest and Christian volunteer and we reflected on how we such a huge responsibility when we represent Sikhi either in appearance, name, or association. As Sikhs we have such great expectations of behaviour to strive to keep and do our best to always give a positive impression which reflects the message of Guru Nanak Dev jee. We are not perfect and are 'bhulanhaar', but we can only daily pray that Guru jee gives us strength to strive to live the life he wants and shine Sikhi through our lives that the world feels the warmth, beauty and peace of Sikhi.

Dhan Hai Guru! Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Gursikh Marquee Hire Business...

COMMUNITY NOTICE: Please support this Gursikh business...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Modern Akhand Paatths...

A video of Rode Walian Kavishri Jatha singing about the reality of modern Akhand Paatths and the respect shown towards Sri Guru Granth Sahib jee...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Humbling photo...

The Panjab Police are known for being notorious, heartless and corrupt. However, it was humbling to see a photograph of a Sikh police officer sweeping the floor of Sri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar. We can only hope and pray that one day all of Panjab Police's officers would be like this man. Vaheguru.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

UK Vaisakhi Smaagam details...

Annual International Akhand Keertan Smaagam
14th to 20th April 2014
Commemorating Vaisakhi and Amritsar 1978 Shaheedi Saka
at Singh Sabha Gurdwara Derby DE23 8NT

Akhand Keertani jathe from all over the world and panthic katha-kaar Bhai Pinderpal Singh jee will be attending. UK's largest Rainasbaaee Keertan will be on Sunday 20th April and Amrit Sanchaar on 19th April. Visit for further details.