Saturday, June 03, 2006

Sikh History - Still a sealed book...

As I have mentioned before, all aspects of Sikhi can only be understood from a gurmat perspective. And gurmat is only understood if analyzed from a multi-dimensional point of view. Gurmat is the way of the Guru as manifested in bani (scripture), tavarikh (history) and rahit (discipline). It is difficult, rather impossible, to understand our gurmat principles without all these three spheres intertwined to make up the whole. The issue is that none of the three spheres of interpretation have been completely unfurled in an appreciable way to show the true beauty of Gurmat. Prof. Puran Singh, in the early 1900's, explains how our history was not properly understood. Such is the case today I am sure. He says, and I have annotated with footnotes (N):

"The history of the Sikh spirit, in which lies the true and only right interpretation of the Guru's Word, is still a sealed book. The secret love of the people for the Guru is buried in their bosoms, and so far it has been transmitted only as a holy passion from generation to generation (1). It is that invisible faith which flourishes in the shade. For the people the person of the Guru is the only fact of the soul. I love Him. I die for Him. Why ask me why? I love. He loves me. That is all. Our history? This much. How he was put in a cradle and and rocked, how he talked as a child and as a boy; what games he played; how he looked when young; how he looked sitting on the ground, or discoursed; what words fell from his lips; what replies he gave to questions; how his glances dispelled doubts; the stories of his inspiring faith, of sowing heroism in others, all little details of his life which our poets like Bhai Santokh Singh (2) and Bhai Vir Singh (3) have gathered for us, all this is our history. We are never tired of listening to its endless repetition, now laughing, now weeping, now longing to see him, to hear about him. This is what we call history, which whenever read, strikes sparks of love in our soul (4). Through a flood of tears of love we see our Gurus. The frail clay mounds and mud walls of our Gurudwaras encase immortal memories (5): perishable materials glow for us with imperishable visitors. We see them in our soul...."

This month (June or really Jeth and Harh according to the Nanakshahi calendar) is full of Sikh history (like all months). Which stories did we hear in our grandmother's lap? From across the study table from grandpa? What do we remember from the soothing tales our mothers would relate while combing our kes? Or when father came back from work and after reciting the evening Sodar? If we haven't experienced something like that...well its about time we create our own destiny, and live our living history.


(1) - sina basina - the traditional way of the propagation of Sikh history to progeny would be when the children rested in the lap of grandparents and parents. The sakhis were sort of imbibed in them almost via osmosis (as was bani and the discpline of the Khalsa primarily of Uncut Hair).
(2) - Kavi Santokh Singh's Suraj Prakash Granth was discussed and elaborated on within our Gurduaras. A more enhanced discourse mechanism of this treasure of Sikh history is needed today.
(3) - Bhai Vir Singh was really the inspiration which was the deciding factor for Prof. Puran Singh to commit to Sikhi and become a member of the Khalsa. It was also Bhai Vir Singh's literary works which reinvigorated the relationship of Sikhs to their history in the heydays of the Singh Sabha movement.
(4) - Indeed if Sikh history is read with keeping bani in mind as the interpretative tool and applied to our daily rahit, then mere reading of our history will make our heart beat faster and raise our spirits such that no power on earth can stop our progress and men and women ready to serve humankind.
(5) - Alas, our simple and rugged Gurduaras in the land of the Gurus as well as in the Diaspora are becoming elaborate palaces where the humility and sanctity of historical events are being transformed into parades of false materialistic glory. We surely must be making some mistake if today we visit Fatehgarh Sahib and have no clue or idea of the actual location where the chote sahibzade were bricked alive!

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