Cradle 2 the Grave
I must declare that I am in love with this wonderful community of people called Sikhs. Many being the contributing factors, I can’t precisely figure out what triggered this love. It might be the countless (and outrageously hilarious) jokes penned about Sardars and the way these get celebrated by them. It could be the purity of the language they communicate with and very dearly own. It might be the manners typically simple and carefree by which they conduct themselves. I may very well be in love with the beats of their instruments coupled with these “suchhal” (simple and true) vocals that cause a stir in my blood. It might have been the melodious and stunningly insightful Gurubanis or Shabads that get played in Gurdwaras. If put to the logic of ancestry (a vague estimate at best) it might be the fact that my forefathers descended from this community decades before embracing the new faith. It might be the similarity in the syllabi and dialect of the language we communicate with in the Central Punjab, more precisely Faisalabad. Let’s move a bit away from discovering a reason for my inspiration, and I must mention a few things that make Sardars stand out from the crowd. Borrowing the idea of nationhood from Iqbal (being based on religion) and coupling it with that typical statement from Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi, ‘great nations are blessed with the ability of laughing out their own self’; once measured by this scale, Sikhs are one great nation. They are simple, straightforward and courageous souls and these characteristics are what make them so adorable, and dear readers, (along with the few declared loves of my life) I admit to be in love with them.
Sikhism is one youngest religion in the world that took its shape around 5 centuries ago. The typicality of Sikhism lies in the monotheistic concept that evolved in a society with diverse concepts about God primarily governed by the notion of polytheism. Another significant thing is the concept of Guru (the teacher) in getting the disciples to the true wisdom and knowledge. The sacred book Granth Sahib, that is based on the teachings (in rhyming poetry) of the founder Guru Nanak and contributions by the subsequent 9 Gurus, in itself is regarded as the living 11th Guru in Sikhism. The worship places for Sikhs, the Gurdwaras, are also based on the events related to their Gurus. A lot many sites of significance exist in Pakistan and are being maintained by Pakistan Board for Evacuee (Trust) Properties in collaboration with Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. I had the honour of meeting and sharing a short time in conversation with the President of the Committee, Bhai Sham Singh Ji (a pleasant and welcoming personality) during my visit to Ranjeet Singh’s Smadh in Lahore this year.
Gurudwara Janam Asthan
Of well above 150 major Sikh religious places and Gurdwaras in Pakistan, this post, dear reader, covers a brief pilgrimage to the birthplace and place of death of Guru Nanak, the founding Guru of Sikh Religion. Gurdwara Janam Asthan marks the birthplace of the Guru and is situated in Nankana Sahib (a city named after Guru Nanak). It was a place on our ‘to visit’ list and sat there dormant for quite sometime. Had we not tried an escape from Lahore that day, the trip would have not been realized. Dodo, Rashid Minhas and me got together and attempted the ‘prison break’ to shed away the gallows of routine and such was the exuberance that we found ourselves quite outside of Lahore and eventually landed at Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib. The Gurdwara marks the site of the parental home of Guru Nanak at a place that once was known as Rai Bhoi Ki Talvandi. The on site attractions include a well that has been preserved from the days of the founding Guru and a monument based on a tree to commemorate the martyrdom of Sardar Lachman Singh along with a group of around 200 Sikhs by the hands of Hindu Mahants occupying the Gurdwara during the British Raj in Punjab. They also have a Shaheedi Asthan to pray in commemoration of the above said Sikh Martyrdom to free the Gurdwara Janam Asthan. The other integral places of Darbar Sahib or Diwan Hall (a place where Guru Granth Sahib is present), Langar Hall (free dining), Nishan Sahib (the flagpole) and the Sarovar (water pond) were the bonus being part of the package. It was there in the premises that the three pilgrims discovered the scandalous intentions of one out of them. The culprit, as it was later discovered, was in fact there to pray for finding a (reportedly beautiful) bride for himself. Though tempted to disclose the ID, I must hold myself here and keep this tale for narration at some other suitable time.
The Gurdwara to commemorate the death place of Guru Nanak, is in fact the first ever Gurdwara built in the Sikh Religion by Guru Nanak himself. Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib was built beside the banks of River Ravi (a place near Narowal in Punjab, Pakistan) in the year 1521 CE (some sources also claim 1522 CE) shortly after the Fourth Udasi (Udasis being the five journeys undertook by Guru Nanak to preach the Sikh Religion). My trip to the place was a blessing from an acquaintence (who now I strongly believe is my spiritual guide to places). I got deviated from a journey initially intended towards Zafarwal and surroundings, and plied on Narowal Shakargarh Road to reach the village of Kartarpur. The Gurdwara is a sombre edifice painted in white, and the view as one approaches the site appears quite majestic surrounded by low lying crops in the fields. Apart from being the first Gurdwara built by the First Guru himself, the significance of Kartar Sahib is that it’s the place where Guru Nanak Ji passed away. There is an interesting account that covers the mysterious circumstances of the Guru’s Death. Guru Nanak was a sacred figure for all religious believers of which there was Muslim community as well, who respected him on preaching the worship of nothing but one God. As Guru Nanak Dev Ji breathed his last, a dispute is reported to have arised between the Sikh/Hindu and Muslim communities regarding the performance of the final rites of the body. It was decided that both the communities should lay fresh flowers on either side of the Guru’s body and cover the body with a sheet of cloth. The next morning, the community whose flowers are found withered would lose the claim over the body allowing other community to peform the final rites as per their faith. The next morning upon raising the cloth, Guru Nank’s body was not found, and the flowers placed on both the sides were found evenly fresh. It was decided that the shawl placed over the Guru’s body to be torn in half and a part be given to Muslims and the other to Hindus / Sikhs for perfroming the final rites. The Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib bears two burial sites, a Muslim grave where one half of the shawl was buried in line with Muslim beliefs, and a Smadh where the remnants of the shawl having cremated as per Hindu / Sikh faith are buried. Both the smadh and grave of Guru Nanak Dev are visited by Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims alike. The day I was at the Gurdwara there was a group of Hindu Pilgrims who had travelled from Interior Sind to pay homage to the first Guru of the Sikh Religion.
This pilgrimage, dear readers, covered a journey from cradle to the grave, of the first Guru of Sikhs and in doing so we talked about the community that has got so much good to talk about, and we shall talk more about them in other posts to come …..