SIKHS THE SEEKERS
SIKHS THE SEEKERS
Sikhs are a very small but a distinct community in India, just about 1.5% of Indian population. Although they are scattered across the globe, but their homeland is Punjab, a region situated on the western border of north of India.
A province with the name of Punjab is also there in Pakistan. In 1947 AD when the British were leaving India, communal violence broke out which claimed one million lives and worst ever migration in human history. Punjab was then bifurcated into Sikh+ Hindu Punjab which went to India and Muslim majority Punjab to Pakistan. Each community migrated to their majority population areas. 26% of the total Sikh population had to migrate. About 300 of their holy places were left in Pakistan including the birth and last place of the founder of faith.
Sikhs are distinct in appearance with a turban on their heads. Turban is simply a cotton cloth of one metre by about 6 metres. Sikhs are prohibited to shave/cut hair of any part of body. Ideally, they have flowing beards but many fix it with glue in a smart way while some defiant young men have trimmed beards as well. But a Sikh would not in any case shave his moustache alone, unlike their Muslim brothers.
Male or female, a Sikh would invariably wear a steel bangle on the right wrist. Every Sikh male name has suffix of ‘Singh’ and the female ‘Kaur’.
A Sikh woman likes to wear salwar-kameej-chuni (salwar -baggy trousers, kameej-shirt, Chunni or dupatta – scarf to cover head and breast) Here the Sikh woman’s dress is very much like her Muslim sister’s but the Sikh woman would not hide her face unlike the Muslim woman.
Unlike her counterpart in Islam and Hinduism the Sikh woman enjoys equality in faith and society. In fact, the Founder of faith had raised a cry for woman rights and said, “how can you say woman is low when she gives birth to prophets and emperors.”
Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539 AD) who travelled far and wide (as far as Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and of course whole of India) to spread his concept (gospel). Nanak was followed by 9 more Gurus the teachers.
Interestingly the emblem of Sikhism is digit one (1) in Punjabi (their language) to symbolize that the source of creation of entire universe is one.
Further the concept of God in Sikhism is also very interesting. Sikhism believes that ‘Truth’ is the most appropriate name for God. It believes that consciousness of man (of course all living beings) is nothing but God minus man’s ego. It believes that ego (which means human weakness of sex, anger, greed, attachment and pride collectively known as haumen) separates man from God.
Perhaps to simplify we can give example of various electric gadgets and current. Like gadgets are nothing without electric current similarly living beings are nothing without God. But Master of the entire universe or cosmos is Only One. The God in Sikhism is immortal, all pervading, omnipresent, everlasting and beyond the concepts of time, space and matter.
Though some of the peripheral or superficial features of Sikhism are identical with Islam and Hinduism but the inner concept is very distinct. Since it believed that we (all living beings) sprouted from the same source, the Hindu concept of divisions of high and low (casteism) among the human beings stood repudiated in Sikhism.
Sikhism believes that world is like a drama and for different roles God deliberately created variety. Thus, we should not hate the unbelievers (unlike kafirs of Islam and so called low-castes of Hinduism) not even the evil doers (like scoundrels, thieves, murderers) as it is the God himself that created such characters in society. Sikhism repeatedly reminds the faithful to avoid egoistic actions in life as one day you will have to leave every thing behind.
Praises to God (Naam Japna), Labour (Kirrat karna), and Sharing (vand chhakna) are three pillars of Sikh thought. Sikhism promotes participation in life processes. It prohibits life of a recluse or asceticism. Every gurdwara (Sikh church) has a 24 hour free kitchen attached to it.
By Sikhism Guru’s aim is to create a human being who always remains in charhdi kala the high state of mind where worries can’t affect.
Guru Nanak’s teachings raised lot of curiosity and discussion in Indian system. He went on to say that the lowest of the low (of Hindu concept of casteism) if he keeps God in mind, is superior to the Brahmin the highest caste in Hinduism. Some of the complaints against founder were considered so serious that Nanak was arrested but later released on the orders from then Mughal Emperor Babur. So much so three successors of Guru, 5th, 9th and 10th in order were executed by the respective rulers of the day.
In 1704 AD, even the infant sons of 10th Guru were also brutally executed. A sympathy wave thus arose as a result of which Sikh state came into being with the support of downtrodden of society. The Sikhs roughly ruled over Punjab from 1865 to 1849 AD. Some British contemporary authors have written that the Sikh state never awarded capital punishment to any body and that female literacy rate was better in Sikh state than in Britain. Many Europeans were employed in the Sikh state. The British annexed Sikh state after 2-3 wars in 1849.
Interestingly, later however the Sikh relation with British became very cordial and the Sikhs supported the British to curb Indian mutiny that broke out in 1857 AD. As a result of which, later the colonial British relied heavily on Sikhs even during WW-1 and 2. Following this the British had to face criticism of Hindu and Muslim leaders, “The British are behaving like the 11th Guru of Sikhs,” alleged Mahatma Gandhi once. However, the British couldn’t help the Sikhs while leaving India because the Sikh leaders of the day, didn’t play their cards well as a result of which Punjab became a colony of India.
After India’s independence, unfortunately Sikh relations with the Indian state have mostly remained strained culminating in the unfortunate events of 1984 AD when Sikh centre the Golden Temple was stormed by army and thousands of Sikhs massacred in Delhi and elsewhere. Now holy scripture of Sikhs is being almost daily desecrated stealthily by the Govt secret agents to demoralise the Sikhs. Similarly building heritage of Sikhism is special target. Sikh authority the Akal Takhat and SGPC is now under the control of Indian Govt. Sikhs allege their persecution is worse than what the Mughals rulers did in medieval days. Govt is encouraging Hindu migration to Punjab to affect population balance.
Under these circumstances the Sikhs are virtually fleeing India to western countries like UK, Canada, Australia, USA, New Zealand etc.
Unfortunately the present position of this simple and naïve community is not very rosy. According to 2011 census the Sikh decadal growth rate has alarmingly come down to 8 per thousand against Indian average of 18. The Sikh percentage in Punjab population has come down by 6% in 20 years (1981 to 2011). Thinkers fear that Sikhs will soon become a minority in their homeland Punjab also (Author: B.S.Goraya. Grammer corrected by Mrs. Beverly Isdale)