Friday, September 12, 2008
With the historic day less than two months away, massive preparations are afoot to prepare for the multitudes of Sikhs that would throng this historic religious town for the Tercentenary celebrations of the Guruship of Guru Granth Sahib. Situated on the banks of the Godavri, the fourth Takht of the Sikh nation at Nanded is gradually sprucing up to welcome the sea of humanity that is likely to reach here on or around October 20 to celebrate a concept unparalleled in the religious history of the world. All religions have their scriptures and all are sacred. The Sikhs are blessed with having their Guru – their World Teacher – with them all the time. Sikhs will celebrate the unique bestowing of Guruship to the Word of the Gurus by the tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, in 1708 at Nanded, before he passed away.
Around the main Gurdwara and the famous Baba Nidhan Singh Langar, cleanliness on the streets and in the inn and the outer façade of the Langar Sahib is noteworthy.
Though there is no sarovar surrounding the main Gurdwara like Darbar Sahib Amritsar, the new periphery of Huzur Sahib now has some architectural resemblance to the housing complexes that surround the Golden Temple. The resplendence and glory of the neighbourhood is gradually getting a sheen though the roads and other infrastructure leading to the main sanctum sanctorum, the road outside the railway station and the airport are still to be completed. The Takht management committee expects all preparations to be finalized before the D-day.
In twenty villages around Nanded, tents with basic hygiene and sanitation facilities are being set up by the Maharashtra government. The Takht Management Committee has also built more inns and rest houses for visitors from India and foreign countries.
Around the historic Gurdwaras of Nanded, all efforts and activities are by the Sikh Sangat. The organization of tours and travels is also by the Sangat themselves. Except for some roads which are being rebuilt, which in any case is the responsibility of the state, there was no visible evidence of any significant expenditure by the state or central government, the SGPC or DSGMC. As in the case of all centennial celebrations of the Sikhs over the last decade, as far as these organizations are concerned, Sikhs largely feel there will be some uproar for a week and then it will be back to mundane basics.
Kar Sewa Babas are making military style preparations for the Langar as they expect to feed lakhs of people during the course of the celebrations. Langar utensils are being purchased in thousands and a fleet of volunteers are being pressed into the gigantic task.
Guru Gobind Singh’s clarion call in 1708 was unmistakably clear: “Agya Payi Akal Ki, Tabe Chalayo Panth, Sabh Sikhan Ko Hukam Hai, Guru Manyo Granth.” – By order of the God Almighty, the Khalsa Panth was formed. It is a diktat to all Sikhs that henceforth your Guru is only the Granth. This call and its deeper meaning have rattled many religious thinkers and the concept of the Word as the Guru has still to be appropriately explained by the Sikhs to the world.
The last days of the tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh was spent at Nanded and when the Sikh world would celebrate the Guruship of Guru Granth Sahib, it would also recall the anniversary of the passing away of the Tenth Master. The consciousness of the Sikh people to revere the teachings as enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib and which teachings are not only that of the Sikh Gurus but also other religious leaders of the Bhakti movement and even before has brought them in confrontation with many pseudo-movements within the Sikh fold and outside it -which do not adhere to this doctrine. Forces attempting to undermine the distinctness of Guru Granth Sahib abound but a very large section of the community continues to have abiding faith in it as a living embodiment.
As usual and as expected, I could not find any literature in Punjabi, English, Hindi or the local language Marathi inviting the Sangat to the Takht or telling the visitor the significance of the coming occasion. The 300-Saal–Guru de Naal T shirt was omnipresent everywhere in the stalls all along the promenade outside the Takht.
Abchalnagar incorporates the land of some forty villages donated two centuries ago by the Nizam of Hyderabad -Sikhandar Jah to the Sikhs in gratitude of the support given to him by the Sikh armies of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Very little of that land remains as a majority of it has been frittered away by a lackadaisical and short-sighted management committee whose custodians have invariably failed to protect the interests of the Sikhs under temptation of pecuniary gain and leadership and political pressure of the local government.
The destruction of the heritage sites-the Ramgharia Bunga and the Baradari alongside the Takht Sahib Gurdwara, the need for upkeep and maintenance of all the historic Gurdwaras in around fifty kilometer radius of Takht Apchalnagar Huzur Sahib, the complete rehabilitation of those families who have been uprooted from their home and hearth to make way for expansion plans, the democratization of the management set-up of the Takht and the poverty of the local Sikhs were stark realities one finds difficult to ignore. One also hopes that with such huge focus on the celebrations, the various management committees and voluntary organizations the world over would not continue to ignore this aspect once the celebrations are over.
After 300 years with the Guru, there should be no need left for the community or any of its individuals to indulge in self-pity. The community needs to stand tall, capable and strong and be counted amongst the comity of nations. If the Sikh nation does succeed, the objective of spending millions at Nanded would have been achieved.