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Half a million Sikhs mark 350th birthday of Guru Govind Singh Ji | Coastweek

NEW DELHI India -- [Clockwise from top left]: Lighting shrine. Gurudwara. Devotees. Tent City Night View. PHOTOS AMIT KUMAR


Half a million Sikhs mark 350th birthday of Guru Govind Singh Ji

NEW DELHI India -- More than half a million Sikhs converged at Patna, the capital of India’s Bihar state, on 6 January 2017 to celebrate the 350th birthday of Guru Govind Singh Ji, the tenth guru of the Sikhs, writes Swami Anand Kul Bhushan.

The famous Takht Sri Patna Sahib Gurudwara, also known as Harmandir Sahib, is the birthplace of the great guru and the second most important Sikh shrine.

Patna Sahib is considered to be the second most important Takhat (holy throne) after the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Gobind Rai Sodhi was born to the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, and Mata Gujri on 22 December 1666, at this site in Patna.

He was anointed Guru Gobind Singh Ji as the supreme leader of Sikhs when he was nine years old, becoming the tenth and the last of the Sikh Gurus.

On the site of the house at Patna in which Gobind Rai was born and where he spent his early childhood now stands a sacred shrine, Takht Sri Harimandar Sahib.

In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, formed the Khalsa, by choosing the five Pyaras (beloved ones) from different castes, different locations and different vocations.

This act reinforces the Guru’s much needed vision of creating a unity amongst all peoples beyond caste, vocation and ethnicity.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji promoted ‘Sarbat da Bhalla’ (the good and welfare of all) and championed universal solidarity by proclaiming that the whole human race as one family.

Thousands of Sikh NRIs from UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Italy, Germany, France, Malaysia, Thailand and many other countries celebrated 350 birthday of Guru Govind Singh Ji in Patna, Bihar, India in January 2017.

Many NRIs were professionals and felt lucky to be part of this historic event addressed by India’s Prime Minister, Modi, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kuamr and Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, among other dignitaries.

One of biggest groups of 350 Sikhs was from UK-based Guru Nanak Nishkam Sevak Jatha including g 60 women.

Most NRIs enthusiastically served as volunteers during the mega celebrations and felt blessed at this opportunity.

Jaipal Kaur and Kiran Kaur, both NRIs from the United Kingdom, said they were quite happy and considered themselves fortunate to serve as ‘sevadars’ or volunteers at the ‘langar’ (community kitchens) at Takht Sri Harimandir Ji Patna Sahib, about 10 km from state capital Patna, during the celebration of the ‘Prakash Utsav’ or birth anniversary, according to IANS.

"This is the first time I am visiting the birthplace of Guru Maharaj.

"I consider myself lucky to do service at the ‘langar’," said Jaipal, a consultant with IBM in the UK.

"Kiran, settled in the United Kingdom, said nearly 150 NRI Sikh women from that country were serving as ‘sevadars’ to take care of the dietary needs of the devotees.

"I am really the lucky one to get to perform ‘seva’.

"My life has got some meaning now," Kiran said in the IANS report.

"We have taken leave from our respective offices to spend nearly two weeks here to serve the devotees," she added.

Mandip Singh from Canada said he was serving at a ‘langar’ in the tented city near here for the last three days.

"It is a matter of immense satisfaction for me.

"I will continue to serve at the community kitchen till January 5."

Surjit Singh from California pointed out that community service was an essential part of the Sikh religion.

"I can say no more than that I feel privileged to work as a ‘sevadar’ here," Surjit said.

Makhan Singh from New York said:

"It is a rare privilege to serve at the Patna Sahib Gurdwara.

"There is no work bigger than this to offer your services at the community kitchen here."

Baba Maan Singh, based in Birmingham in the UK, said most NRI devotees were well aware that it was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"NRI devotees are helping with cooking, cleaning utensils, mopping floors and serving food to the devotees," he said.

"It is a matter of pride for us that we got a chance to attend the ‘Prakash Utsav’ and work as ‘sevadars’," London-based Omkar Singh said in an interview with IANS.

These NRI devotees were all praise for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar for making the celebrations a mega event.

"I never imagined that such amazing arrangements will be made for the celebrations in Patna and the Patna Sahib Gurdwara," US-based Gurcharan Singh said.

About 350 members, including 60 women from UK-based Guru Nanak Nishkam Sevak Jatha led by Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahulwalia, have also arrived here to offer voluntary service at different community kitchens.

"It is a big moment for all of us," said Parbinder Singh, one of the members of the UK-based Guru Nanak Nishkam Sevak Jatha led by Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahulwalia.

The main function of special prayers and ‘kirtan’ (singing of hymns set to music) was held on January 5, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and a large number of Sikh dignitaries from India and abroad took part.

India declared a public holiday on 6 January and all Sikh temples across the world and in India were decorated and crowded with devotees.

The Bihar government went all out to welcome devotees from all over India and many other countries.

The capital city was spruced up, roads widened; three massive tent cities built, a nearby railway station reopened, renovated and illuminated the holy shrines and declared three public holidays from 3 to 5 January for an international conclave and continue until 8 January.

Over 300 CCTV cameras installed at critical locations for security.

Tourist information centres set up.

Billed as the biggest and the grandest event organized by the government of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the event was attended by Prime Minister Modi.

More than 300 special buses and 10 special trains transported devotees to Patna from Punjab and elsewhere.

Besides the tent cities, visitors were offered free accommodation at schools and hotels. Nine ‘langars’ serving free meals, spread over different locations, were serving about 300,000 believers every day and 10,000 volunteers landed in Patna to help in the distribution of food at these locations.

All these celebrations will focus on the dynamic saint soldier and his legacy of Khalsa, the pure ones.

Khalsa is the name given by Guru Gobind Singh ji to all Sikhs who have been initiated by taking Amrit and have to live by Five Ks:

• Kesh – uncut hair to represent the natural appearance of sainthood.

Kanga – a small comb.

• Kaccha – warrior short trousers, also denotes chastity.

• Kara – steel bangle as a sign of restraint and bondage, and a symbol of dedication to the Guru.

Guru Gobind Singh proclaimed that by wearing Kara all fears will be removed.

• Kirpan – a sword for defence, a symbol of dignity, power and courage.

A Khalsa is to lead his life according to the Guru’s teaching and treat everyone as equal without considerations of caste, profession or religion.

The Guru’s spirit lives in Guru Granth Sahib or the holy book and the Khalsa.



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