By Sukhbir Singh


Some of the examples described are “popular” with Sikhs even though they are not sanctioned by Sikh Maryada These are engaged in by the Sikhs more in private than in public gathering as: but are abhorant nonetheless.



Some years ago I witnessed in India quite a prevalence of likenesses of Guru Nanak — his popular portraits, in the form of Moortis displayed in front of main doorways or used as corner stones in arches. Hindus love it all. They don’t mind displaying a few Guru Moortis in the interest of Bhai Chaara — customs signifying brotherly love. I thought Sikhs graced their homes only with symbols of Khandas and Chakar, and/or Ik Onkaar.


Sikh Maryada expressly forbids the practice of burning of Agarbati or Dhoop — incense, in the Guru Da Darbar. Yet Sikhs continue to bum holes in the carpets! Some people justify the practice as “the incense cleanses the atmosphere” or “it helps to concentrate”. If it is not a ritual then which odors are we trying to mask? If it is to create an “atmosphere” the why not place the Agarbati among the audience? Why place them next to Baba Ji De Gadi, unless these are meant as an offering — in the Hindu style, to propitiate the gods!


We are told that the Brahmins of the pas had their “command and mastery” of the Vedas — Hindu scriptures, reduced to such levels, that they referred to and recognized the Vedas only by the color of their binding (Red, Black, Yellow, and White)! To conserve paper, the words, letters, and punctuation marks and all, of Sanskrit written in Davnagari script, were arranged in a continuous pritn. The reader unfamiliar with the text, recited it by rote and mechanically.

Is it not that punctuation is meant to organize the words into groups so as to convey ideas or thoughts? Punctuation facilitates an arrangement of words into sentences; it sequences ideas, reinforces arguments, and presents words in a logical orer. The style of punctuation in the Guru Granth Sahib is on the lines of Sanskrit grammar. The compilers of Granth Sahib, included punctuation, elaborate instructions, prologues, abstracts, headings and “specifications on the musical measures, to facilitate recitation, interpretation and singing. Most Granthis — persons entrusted with the recitation of Guru Granth Sahib, faithfully recite the title of composition, name of the author, instructions on the musical measures, punctuation marks — Shlok, Ashtpadi, Pauri, Rahaao, Shudh, etc., without any pause, and with the same devotion and fervor as the text! We seem to have achieved the distinction of Brahminic scholarship! I thought when a speaker throws “chapter and verse” at the audience, it conotates demagoguery and not piety!


These days, in a popular form of Keertan — rendering of spiritual music, a Ragi — singer of the spirituals, while singing a hymn,

Suddenly breaks into a monotonous and ecstatic repetition of Wahegur, Wahegur,                             and Wahegur…..; or requests the audience to join in the practice by saying japo payaaro — “please meditate and repeat”. The Sangat — religious assembly, is urged to follow and repeat the word Wahegur five times; and then in groups of fives, etc., am sure, some devotees enjoy it, are impressed and are spellbound at Bhai Sahib’s — revered brother’s, somewhat longish Samadhi — meditational posture of a Yogi. But to some it sounds like the equivalent of Hindu chant of RAMRAMRAMRAM….., and a phoney display of piety. It is akin to Mantra Jaap — repetition of sounds and words with mystical signficance. In fact it is nothing short of the trancelike singing of Qawalis by the Sufis; or the famed Hindu Jagrataas — night long ritual of chanting of Mantras and Bhajans, where the whole night is spent in an uninterrupted and repetitious “singing” of the name of some popular deity. The whole ritual is accompanied by a noisy ensemble of Dholkis, Chainaas, and Kartaals — Drums, Symbols, and Bells. The Sikh piety these days is hoodwinking itself by justifying the practice as practice of Guru Mantar recommended by Bhai Gurdas.

Even a fraction of time spent on the repetitions of Mantras, if devoted to Vyakhyaa — commentary on Gurbani, would probably be more rewarding and a useful lesson on Sikhism. A benefit of participation in Sangat is a renewed dose of indoctrination through sharing of Sikh ideals, listening to His praises being talked and sung about. The great Kavi Darbars of the past, or Sakhiann ate Vyakhyaa — spiritual tales inter spread with appropriate Shabads for illustration, are now a thing of the past. Our Ragis — with their sights on electronic media, have essentially become court singers: There is more affectations “music” and musical instruments than what is being sung about! Gurdwaras, these days, resound with a vigorous beatings of Tablaas, and jingling of Kartaals! AAPJI NOON BHOG LAGE ATE. AAPPDE KHAANE LAIK HGWE Ardasias — readers in prayer, conclude the Ardaas — prayer, with a rejoinder: Karaah Parsaad didegh haajir eh; Aapjinoon bhog lage — Karaah Parshaad is presented, Oh Guru; be it be food for you! The Sikhs do believe in the presence of Sachaa Paadshah a in the Guru Da Dewan. But He is not present in the manner of a But or Moorti! Hindu Pujaris — priests, do engage in the practice of Bhoglagana. In this the Pujari stages a make believe: For the benefit of the devotees, he ritually “shows” the food and goodness to the Moorti and then gobbles it himself. It is a practice or concept where a Jootha — left over from the plate, or a touch of the holy is considered to bless the food. I am certain if Guru ji were present, rather than touching the food and having everyone eat it as a Parshaad, he would be standing with everyone else in Ardaas and then would join the Pangat to partake the Langar. With the “moderates” or Hinduised Sikhs the Granth Sahib has replaced what was the Moorti for a Hindu. The Granth Sahib has continued to get the same treatment as meted out to an idol: Agarbati, offerings of food, etc. —— some Sikhs continue to set aside portions of Karaah Parshaad and Langar by the side of Guru Granth Sahib. Some Ardasi as even go to the extent of invoking in 4rdaas: Aapjide khaane laik howe — may the food be appropriate for thy holiness! May be they do see the likenesses of Hanuman, Krishan or Shiv instead of Sachaa Paadshah, sitting there!


When the Karaah Prashaad is being distributed one witnesses such requests as: garam garam deo ji — please give me piping hot Parshaad; or “give me from such and such container,” O degh jiyadaah swaadi eh — that one is more delicious. Such occasions do call for the intervention of some Jathedars — leaders, to remind the Sangat to maintain some semblance of traditions and sanctity of Guru Da Dewan,


The highly symbolic concept of Sangat and Pangat has given way to picnic or buffet style of partaking of the Guru Da Langar. The great institution of Langar —free kitchen, where everyone partook food from the same kitchen, joined in Pangat — shared table, if you will, irrespective of his status in society.

 This practice in the light of the prevailing customs of the Hindu society where a great section of the twice born Hindus, was nothing short of revolutionary. These days partaking of langar has become more like a picnic or a party: Here the langar is predisposed in plates at the “food counter”; then there is great stampede to grab the food; then people stand around eating and talking to “President Sahib”; and then pitch the left overs. Only a few moments earlier the Sangat had invoked His grace to bless the food as a Parshaad — blessed food, and now they are trampling it and throwing it around in trash cans! Why not volunteers serve or distribute the Langar — as much as the participants

want to eat, and only when they join the Pangat, Remember that proud moment in Sikh history, when Guru Amar Das refused Sangat with Akbar — the emperor of India, until he partook the Langar and joined the Pangat.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 6, 1988