Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

 

24th November

 

1271 Bhagat Nam Dev Ji was born at Nursi Bahamani, district Sitara (Maharashtra). His verses have been included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. He died in 1349 at Pandarpur.

==> Bhagat NAMDEV (1270-1350)

RAG SORATH

The neighboring woman asketh Nam Deva:
Pray, who hath built thy tenement?
I will pay him double the wages if thou tellest me of that mason.
Sayeth Nam Dev: O woman I can tell not of the mason.
For, Seeest thou not that He Pervadeth all?
That Mason is the mainstay of my vital breath.
The Mason demands the wages of Love if one wants
Him to put up one's tenement.
Yea, if one breaks with the people,
even one's kindred, then the Mason cometh of His own.
I can describe Him not, for He abideth in the hearts of all, all over.
And, pray, how can the dumb one describe the Taste of Nectar?
Hear thou the merits of the Mason who hath bounded
the seas and made Dhruva eternal,
And rescued Sita from the cluthes of Ravana, and
handed over Lanka to Blbhlkshan,
Yea, such is my Lord, the God

Nam Dev was a celebrated saint whose name was a household word for the people of Maharashtra. They chanted his hymns amidst their families.

He was born in the village of Narsi Bamni in the Satara District of Maharashtra. His father was Dam Seti and mother Gona Bai. He was inspired to bhakti by his father and later became a disciple of Vishoba Khechar. They say, that once, when his maternal grandfather was to go out somewhere, he instructed Nam Dev to offer milk to God. Following the instructions literally, he placed a cup of milk before the image of the Lord. With a child's unquestioning faith and unflattering devotion he created such an atmosphere that God drank the proffered milk. Another time, when Nam Dev was absorbed in meditation, the proud Brahmans, jealous of his spiritual attainments, threw him out of the temple, saying that being a Shudra, he had no business to be in a holy place. Nam Dev bore the humiliation calmly and sat outside the back wall of the temple and plunged into deep meditation. Moved by his love and devotion, God performed a miracle and the temple gate moved to where Nam Dev was sitting. Seeing this, the Brahmans recognized his greatness and besought him for forgiveness. Nam Dev himself described the event thus:

Cheerfully I entered Thy Temple
But while I was worshipping Thee the Priests
drove me out saying that I was a low-caste.
0 King of Yadvas, Why didst Thou give me birth in a low-caste family?
Holding my blanket I rushed out
And sat at the back of the Temple.
As I dwelt on Thy Praises, 0 Lord!
The facade of the Temple turned around to me.

There are numerous other parables of this kind which would convince anyone that Nam Dev was an enlightened soul. Once under the orders of the Muslim king Mohammad Tughlak or Feroz Shah Tughlak, Nam Dev was arrested and asked to embrace Islam. Though subjected to coercion and cruelty, he did not give up his faith. He was then ordered to prove that he was as a real bhakt of God possessing spiritual powers. He was asked to revive a dead cow failing which he would be done to death. Nam Dev said that it was for God and not for him to bestow life on a dead creature, and, that he had no business to thwart the will of God. The king was adamant and inflicted cruelties on Nam Dev. Ultimately, God came to the rescue of his devotee and breathed life into the dead cow. The king was pleased with the bhakt and set him free. Nam Dev, however, made it clear that the miracle simply showed that man should follow truth and Justice, and, that it did not become a king to be unjust to any one. The Kaazi and the Mullah were humbled, and, they requested the bhakt to forgive them. The bhakt bade the king abide by the principles of truth and justice.

It is a historical fact that during his pilgrimage, Nam Dev came to the Punjab also. Local tradition has it that he spent a number of years in the village of Ghuman in Gurdaspur and died here at Traudsi, in the month of Asso. Every year a fair is held at his shrine as a mark of homage to his spirit.

It is common knowledge that prior to Swami Rama Nand and bhakt Kabir, the credit for spreading the gospel of bhakti from Maharashtra to Punjab goes to Nam Dev. He wrote in Marathi as well as in Saint Bhasha. Marathi Abhangas included in the Nam Dev Gatha are sung throughout Maharashtra. For the Maharashtrians they are evocative of the same spiritual ecstasy that the people of Uttar Pradesh find in the hymns of Surdas and Mira Bal. Sixty-one of Nam Dev's verses have been incorporated in the Adi Guru Granth Sahib under different ragas. The themes of these hymns are the varied spiritual experiences of Nam Dev.

- Dr. D.S. Mani, Sardar Bakhshish Singh, and Dr. Gurdit Singh Guru Granth Ratnavali, page 90

1598 Akbar visted Guru Arjan Dev Ji at Goindwal. Guru Arjan's perception of the times to come was not withstanding Akbar's high regrads for him. According to the Court historian, Abdul Fazal's Akbar Namah, Guru Arjan accorded a produse reception to Akbar on this day at Goindwal. Akbar was really impressed by Guru Arjan's bewitching and handsome appearance, sweet and melodious voice and fascinating and charming manners, his princely style of living, his warm reception and his singing of hymns in praise of God. At Guru Arjan's instance, Akbar issued orders to remit the revenue by one-sixth.

-Ref. "The Sikhs in History," by Sangat Singh, 1995.

1675 Martyrdom, Ninth Patshah, Guru Tegh Bahadhur Ji.

==> GURU ARJAN DEV (1563-1606) Guru Arjan, the 'Prince of Martyrs' and the 'Prophet of Peace', proffered his precious life to nurture the glory that was to be the Sikh Panth. The Fifth Master's life was marked by divine bliss and sublime sacrifices, born of a sweet acceptance of God's Will. Gifted with a quintessential poetic afflatus, and immeasurable imaginative sympathies, the Guru gave the movement of Sikhism a definite direction, perspective and program. He made the new faith coeval or coextensive with the whole gamut of existence and raised its exquisite edifice on values for which there is neither death nor change.

Guru Arjan Dev adorned the sacred throne of Guru Nanak from Sept. 1, 1581 to May 30, 1606. Born at Goindwal on April 15, 1563, he was the youngest and noblest son of Guru Ram Das and Mata Bibi Bhani. On 23 Hadh sunmat 1636, he married Ganga Devi, daughter of Krishan Chand of Mau village. He had an innate poetic sensibility which was exquisitely displayed in the epistles that he sent to his father from Lahore. They are deeply expressive of the pangs of separation and the exuberance of Love. The Fourth Master's decision to make Guru Arjan his spiritual heir was bitterly opposed by Prithvi Chand who contended that being the eldest son, he alone was entitled to the Guruship. Thus, he could never reconcile himself to his younger brother's installation as Guru.

Under Guru Arjan Dev the Sikh movement registered great progress. In sunmat 1645, he cemented the Santokhsar sarovar. Further, the Guru not only completed the construction of the Sarovars started at 'Guru Ka Chak' by his predecessor but also constructed two more Sarovars. He had the Harmandar built in the middle of Amritsar Sarovar and invited a celebrated Muslim divine, Mian Mir, to lay its foundation stone in sunmat 1645. Remarkable for its architectural and aesthetic beauty and unique in its conception, the temple with its four doors symbolizes the inborn equality of all mankind.

Indeed, it is open to all the four castes without any discrimination. Thus, the Guru sought a dissolution of all castes and creed distinctions. Unlike the Hindu shrines that are built on a high plinth, the Harmandar (the Temple of God) was built on a level lower than that of the surrounding areas, thereby making it imperative for the devotees to go down the steps in a spirit of true humility. In addition, the towns of Tarn Taran and Kartarpur flourished under the Guru's tutelage. He had a magnificent tank built at Tarn Taran (pool of salvation) in sunmat 1647 and a Bavalli constructed at Lahore. in sunmat 1651, he established the town of Kartarpur Nagar (Dist. Jullander) and Ramsar in sunmat 1659-60.

Guru Arjan undertook a tour of the Punjab to preach Sikhism. He rationalized the institution of the masands and ordained that every Sikh should voluntarily donate a tenth of his income raised by the sweat of his brow for religious purposes. The masands collected the offerings thus made and deposited them in the Guru's treasury. Again, when the Punjab was in the grip of drought and famine, Guru Arjan persuaded the Emperor Akbar to remit the land revenue for that year.

The most epochal achievement, however, of Guru Arjan was the compilation of the Adi Granth. The Guru devoted three years from 1601 to 1604 to the completion of the sublime project. He studied thoroughly the entire treasure of Gurbani, collected the hymns and psalms of the previous Gurus, and screened the utterances of the bhakts collected by the previous Gurus. He not only put the entire Bani together but also compiled it systematically under different ragas. Guru Arjan's genius for compilation is eminently projected by the vars included in the Adi Granth. He has added shlokas to the Bani of all the earlier Gurus in order to elucidate the deeper meanings. To compile the outpourings of his predecessors and the, Bhakts under various ragas (musical measures) obviously demanded an unflattering grasp of the musical measures. Besides being a notable compiler, Guru Arjan was also a gifted poet. More than half of the holy Granth consists of his own utterances. They comprise 2218 verses. Thus his work exceeds that of the other 35 inspired poets whose compositions are enshrined in the Guru Granth.

The essential message of Guru Arjan's hymns is meditation on Nam. The Guru has lucidly expatiated on the concept of brahmgiani (the enlightened soul). According to him, this enlightenment can be attained only through meditation on the Lord and the Guru's grace. In depicting the attributes of the brahmgiani, he has compared him to a lotus flower which immersed in mud and water is yet pure and beautiful. Without ill-will or enmity he is forever courageous and calm.

Guru Arjan set a fine personal example by living up to his own concept of a brahmgiani. All his holy compositions are characterized by humility and tenderness. He seeks the grace of God for the fulfillment of all kinds of human needs. With the compilation of the first volume of the Adi Granth, the Sikh religion registered greater unity and identity. The Sikhs now owned a unique Book or Granth of their own, and thus acquired a distinct and separate entity. Guru Arjan installed the holy Granth at the Harmandar and appointed Baba Budha Ji as the first Granthi of Harmandar Sahib. Thus, Amritsar became the most significant centre of the Sikh faith and the Sikhs emerged as a new and powerful community.

During the period between Guru Nanak and Guru Arjan, there was no conflict between the Sikhs and the Mughal Kings. Emperor Akbar was in particular a man of liberal views and he respected the ideals of the Sikh movement. But, with his death and the following enthronement of Jehangir, there was a total reversal of policy and change of attitude.

Jehangir's own writings reveal that he considered the spread of Sikhism as a positive threat to Islam. In a moment of fanatic frenzy, he characterized Sikhism as a 'shop of falsehood' and declared that he would extirpate it at the earliest opportunity. Thus he set about with a fanatical zeal to carry out his threat: and he trumped up the charge of treason against the Guru. With the complicity of the officials, Jehangir had the Guru soon imprisoned and tortured to death at Lahore in 1606. The martyrdom of Guru Arjan engendered a wave of shock and indignation among the Sikhs. No single event till then had so profoundly brought home to them the necessity of the sword. It is therefore not surprising that under the Sixth Master, Guru Hargobind they were militarized and prepared to face the Mugal might squarely. Thus emerged a new epoch in the history of Sikhism which led to a synthesis between Bhakti and Shakti (wordly power). Guru Arjan was the first Sikh Guru, who by his martyrdom lent to Sikhism a strength and solidarity that it had never known before. As desired by the Fifth Master, Guru Hargobind was ordained Guru in 1606, and, he guided and shaped the destiny of the Sikh community until 1645.

-Ref. Mahan Kosh (pp. 80) Dr. D.S. Mani, Sardar Bakhshish Singh, and Dr. Gurdit Singh Guru Granth Ratnavali, page 90

1969 Fateh Singh announced another fast unto death for transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab. The fast was to begin on Jan. 26, 1970, to be followed by self-immolation on Feb. 1, 1970.
1979 "Maerath Morcha" announced on behalf of All India Sikh Student Federation.
1990 and Nov. 25, a International Conference on Sikh Studies was held at the University of Toronto. Dr. K.S. Mann, secretary of the Sikh Studies Institute, Chandigarh, travelled to Tonronto four months prior to the conference to organize a series of Sikh Academic Conferences in North america. It was a huge task undertaken to lay down the ground work for 7 major conferences. Apart from the education of the Sikh community, these conferences emphasized the participation of Western scholars. Topics covered includedDDistinguished scholars from India, United Kingdom, and United States took part andpresented papers on diverse topivs concerning "Dasam Granth, a critiques of Two Views; Arjan Dev, Apostle of Peace; Sikhism a Faith Misunderstood; Sikh World View - Its Eternal Relevance; Concept of Chardi Kala in Sikhism; Origin and Debelopment of Sikh Studies; Gurbilas Patshai 10, An 18th Century Mosaic; Concept of Miri Piri; The Sikhs and the British; Context of World Religions; and World Centre of Sikh Studies. About 350 people attended this conference.
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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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