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White House celebrates Guru Nanak birth anniversary

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Washington: The White House celebrated the birth anniversary of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak on Tuesday with top aides of President Barack Obama assuring the community of his full support.

“President Obama stands with, he stands behind you and he stands in solidarity with you. And we all have a responsibility to remind Americans what makes us great” Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told a gathering of the Sikh community from across the US.

The programme opened with Jesse Moore, Associate Director of Public Engagement, welcoming the guests. This was followed by a Sikh hymn performed by Manpreet Singh and Raghubir Singh from New Jersey on classical instruments like taus, dilruba and Jodi.

When Jarrett greeted the gathering saying “Happy Gurpurab” a room full of Sikh men, women, and children cheered and clapped, according to a media release.

Dr Rajwant Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, said, “The Sikh community is grateful for the powerful and supportive words of President Obama’s team today.”

“This sends an assuring signal to the entire community that this nation stands behind it,” he said.

Valerie Jarrett was given a Phulkari shawl, a typical Punjabi speciality, and a book on Sikh heritage and ethos as she was honoured by Sikh representatives from Sikh Coalition, Sikh Council on Religion and Education and United Sikhs.

Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general, said: “We at the Justice department continue to use all of the tools available to combat any violence or hate against the Sikh community.”

In his keynote address, Amritjit Singh of Ohio University discussed “Guru Nanak: Equality and Social Justice”.

“Guru Nanak’s message has special resonance for us today where fear and ignorance are giving rise to hatred, violence, and intolerance,” he said. “The Guru had a sharp eye for the patterns of hypocrisy, intolerance and exploitation.”

Nikki-Gurinder Kaur Singh of Colby College said the legacy of Guru Nanak empowered young Sikhs “with an identity which is equally American and Sikh.”

“It is a profound symbol of our being together and it expresses that we are Americans no matter what complexion or religion we may be.”(IANS)

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Sikhism in Pakistan: Recalling the Forgotten Treasures of Sikh Heritage

In the Sikh religion, any place where a guru resides or stops by is said to become a sacred place

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Shikh pilgrims arriving in Pakistan. (Representational Image). Image source: dawn.com
  • In the Sikh religion, any place where a guru resides or stops by is said to become a sacred place
  • The religious and cultural history of all gurudwaras around the world are believed to be constructs of miracles or preachings of the Gurus
  • Gurudwaras Chota Nankiana, Patshahi Panjvin, and others have been disastrous results of either continuous exploitation by emperors or national tensions

Sikhism is one delicate bond that holds the two nation- India and Pakistan together, with nearly the same amount of followers on both sides of the border and across the world. While Pakistan is the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev and holds one of the holiest pilgrimage of Sikhism- Sri Nankana Sahib, the article throws light upon some of the gurudwaras that hold immense significance for the community, yet are forgotten treasures of the Sikh heritage.

Gurudwara Chota Nankiana, Distt Lahore Source: www.sikhiwiki.org
Gurudwara Chota Nankiana, Distt Lahore. Source: www.sikhiwiki.org

Manga (Pakistan) is a centuries-old town and is the last district of Lahore on the way to Multan. In Lahore’s district of Manga lies a Gurudwara (the Sikh place of worship), burnt down to rubble with only its outer structure still intact. This is the Gurudwara associated with Guru Nanak, the founder and first Guru of Sikhism, said the Scroll.in article.

Around 35 km from the city of Lahore is Gurudwara Chota Nankiana Sahib, which also holds the significance of Guru Hargobind Ji staying here on his return from Nankana Sahib. While 50 acres of this area is land revenue exempted, the building itself is a hollow for it was burnt down during the Partition. It is believed that a few Sikh believers refused to come out of the Gurudwara, and as a result, it was burnt down by the mob.

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However, the building area is now in possession of Late Justice Maulvi Mushtaq who built Aligarh Public school here, and the pond of this gurudwara is now with Pakistan’s Department of Fisheries.

In the Sikh religion, any place where a guru resides or stops by is said to become a sacred place. One of the most significant transboundary is river Ravi, once used to flow through the western boundary of Manga.

The first Sikh Guru, along with his companions Mardana and Bhai Bala, once crossed river Ravi and took a halt at Manga for a while. He would preach wherever he stayed and this is how Gurudwara Chota Nankiana Sahib was later built. The religious and cultural history of all gurudwaras around the world are believed to be constructs of miracles or preachings of the Gurus.

Gurudwara Patshahi Panjvin, Beherwal Source: www.worldgurudwaras.com
Gurudwara Patshahi Panjvin, Beherwal
Source: www.worldgurudwaras.com

Few kilometres farther Manga is the village of Beherwal, which is home to Gurudwara Patshahi Panjvin (Panjvin means ‘fifth’ and Patshah refers to Guru). This was immortalised in the name of the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev.

Legend has it that Guru Arjan Dev stopped by this small village on the Lahore-Multan road and requested a disciple to get him some water. The disciple said that the well’s water was brackish and he needed to go to the village to bring water for him. Then the guru performed a miracle that is now a government institute. He turned the well’s water from brackish to sweet by miracle and still exists in Beherwal.

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Gurudwaras Chota Nankiana, Patshahi Panjvin, and many others like these have been disastrous results of either continuous exploitation by emperors or national tensions. It is indeed an alarming situation to rise up and preserve these precious and holy shrines and maintain Sikhism as a non-discriminatory non-institutionalised religion that it is.

-This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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1st Sikh Parade of Denver on May 22

Following the trend of Texas and New York, Colorado prepares for its first Sikh Parade.

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Sikh congregation, Wikimedia Commons

DENVER: The capital of Colorado, Denver city will be hosting its first ever Sikh parade on May 22, in celebration of the culture of the growing population of Sikhs in the area. Around 1,000 people are expected to attend the event, including 500 Sikh families in the Denver area, Christian and Jewish Pastors and seven other Sikh groups from the areas of Colorado Springs, Boulder, New Mexico, California and Utah.

Sponsored by the Colorado Singh Sabha temple in Commerce City, the celebrations for the Sikh parade would begin from 9:30 am and culminate at 4 pm at the Denver East High School while free vegetarian food will be available throughout the day. The morning would begin with prayers and music with the parade starting at 1:15 pm.

Organizers Paul and Gurpreet Juneja were inspired to increase awareness and celebrate their culture, specially after their kids faced bullying at school after being mistaken for Muslims.

“We hope it will bring more awareness and be well received,” Gurpeet Juneja said to Denver Post. “Our kids don’t feel different than other kids until they are treated badly at school.”

Related Article: Art exhibit spreads awareness of Sikh identity in US

Despite Gurpreet Juneja immigrating to the United States and Paul Juneja and their two children having been born in US itself, Gurpreet said she and her family had still faced circumstances where they were insulted and told to leave the country.

According to Paul, “This whole thing is being done because of our kids,” adding that “We’re through being a victim and want to take the lead.”

When the Junejas approached Denver city officials about holding an event to increase awareness about Sikhism, a parade seemed the best option.

A spokesperson of the city’s office of special events, said “We work closely with city agencies to promote events that bring greater awareness to cultures in our communities.”

In New York the Sikh Cultural Society celebrates the cultural identity of Sikhs through the annual Sikh Day Parade, bringing together believers from gurudwara congregations across the state. The largest procession of Sikhs outside India however, can be seen in Canada, during the annual Khalsa Day Parade.

Although the adherents of the Sikh faith are often identified as those wearing turbans, Sikhism is the 7th largest religion of the world with around 23 million followers, according to United Sikhs, an UN-affiliated international non-profit organization. The largest concentration of Sikhs is located in India, from where the religion originated, followed by United Kingdom and then United States.

Event Details
What: Denver’s first Sikh parade
When: 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday, May 22
Where: Denver East High School, 1600 City Park Esplanade

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Remembering Guru Nanak on his 546th birth anniversary

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Photo: blog.bedandchai.com

By Nithin Sridhar

Guru Nanak was one of the tallest spiritual teachers in the history of India. He showed the path towards God to thousands of people through his simple teachings that revolved around devotion to God and service to humankind.

Though he was born on April 15, 1469, his birth anniversary is celebrated according to the lunar calendar on the day of Kartika Poornima, which this year has fallen on this day i.e. November 25.

A brief outline of the life and teachings of this great spiritual master is given below.

Guru Nanak was born in what is today called as Nankana Sahib in Punjab, Pakistan. His father, Kalyan Chand Das Bedi, worked as an accountant in the Village administration and his mother was Mata Tripta. He was well versed in Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic. In 1485, at the age of 16, he started working under Daulat Khan Lodhi, the Muslim ruler of the area at Sultanpur.

In 1487, he married Mata Sulakkhani and they had two sons: Sri Chand and Lakshmi Chand. It is widely believed that Nanak attained enlightenment 1496. He went missing for three days and when he returned, he was full of divine love and expression.

It is held that, when he returned, the first thing Nanak uttered was: ‘There is neither Hindu nor Mussulman (Muslim), but only man. So whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God’s path. God is neither Hindu nor Mussulman and the path which I follow is God’s.’ This shows the enormous spiritual wisdom that he was able to manifest within himself.

For spreading the message of devotion and service and lifting the masses from confusion and misery, Guru Nanak undertook four journeys across India and beyond. His first journey was towards east and he covered areas like Bengal and Assam. His second journey was towards South India. In the third, he covered the northern areas of Kashmir and Tibet and in the fifth, he went till Baghdad and Mecca.

Through these extensive travels Guru Nanak spoke against various superstitions and the ills that were present in the society. He spoke against caste discrimination, as well as too much of the ritualism that was crippling the society. He also spoke about equality of all and the upliftment of women.

After returning from the travels, he settled down as a farmer in a village called Kartarpur, and taught for a few years. Many followers belonging to different religions and classes from various geographical locations came to learn from Guru Nanak. He also initiated the practice of common meal where everyone took food together. Guru Nanak finally passed away in 1539.

Guru Nanak taught that God is one, formless, all-powerful Truth and that people should meditate on the name of God to attain emancipation. The three pillars of his teachings are: Naam Japna (meditation on the name of God), Kirat Karni (earning livelihood by honest means), and Vand Chakna (sharing with others).

These teachings are as much relevant today as they were during Nanak’s times. People should internalize these teachings and start living an honest and devoted life.