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February - March 2005


Spotlight

London celebrates the 400th Anniversary Reading of the Guru Granth Sahibji

by Indya Singh


The prestigious Royal Albert Hall, in London, UK, played host to the mammoth celebration, which took place to mark the 400th anniversary of the first reading of the Guru Granth Sahibji.
The Chief guest HRH Prince Charles, who had flown in specially from his break in Scotland, led the audience. He joined a list of luminaries including the Right Hon Michael Howard, Simon Hughes, Trevor Philips, as well as Church Representatives, International Interfaith academics, and major Business and Community Leaders.

Brimming to its capacity, as thousands of people arrived from all corners of the British Isles, the ceremony sprung into action to the opening words of the Shabad Kirtan, “Amrit Bani, Har Har Teri, Sun Sun Hove Param Ghat Meri.”

Then the refined acoustics of the venue shook to a loud and vibrant “ Bole so nihal!” replied by a thunderous “ Sat Siri Akal.” From my view point, a box just above the side of the stage, the audience and proceedings were a truly majestic site to behold.

Large projection screens displayed the stage and relayed translations of the Shabads in English, thus allowing full participation, and facilitating understanding by all members of the audience/sangat.

The programme continued with musical contributions by a variety of participants both orthodox, and contemporary. Amongst the contemporary contigents were Sardar Deya Singh and Party from Australia. Their ensemble of five members included the playing of non traditional Kirtan instruments, such as the Spanish guitar, and the Didgery Doo. Their group also marks the universal openness of the Sikh religion, by the fact that they have included among them members of non asian background and appropriately sang, ”If you do not see God in all, You do not see God at all”

The involvement of young children in the afternoon programme was particularly enjoyable. The group from the Sikh college in Hayes, did a wonderful drama rendition of Dr Who. They climbed into a timecapsule which took them back to the way life was 400 years ago . With its elements of humour it was the perfect way of teaching our young, the elements of our history. They compared the futility of an argument between two men regardomg ‘whose religion is better’, to two kids fighting over whose Dad’s car is better! A simple but powerful analogy.

The Guest of Honour, HRH Prince Charles, in his address commented how similar the values are of the great Sages of all major world religions. He commented on the similarity of the teachings of the Granth to those of Jesus, as he repeated “ Thou shall Love God with all thy Love, Thou shall Love thy neighbour as thyself.” He went on to comment “It is a thing of wonder and comfort that Sages of all religions have spoken about caring for one another. We all share within us a wisdom of the heart which should draw us together.” He reminded us how a Muslim not a Sikh, was asked to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple. And then went on to voice his concerns that, “the contemporary world has lost, because our ego has outgrown the values of time and harmony. Manmukh and Gurmukh living, In a world of clamour, sometimes the consequences are minor, and simply an irritation, but otherwise the discordance results in global catastrophe” He concluded his heartfelt message to loud applause, and was presented with a special Tapestery marking the auspicious celebrations of the 400th Anniversary.

Video messages were received from the Her Majesty the Queen, as well as from the Prime Minister The Right Hon Mr Tony Blair. Mr Blair apologised for his absence on account of being in Conference at Bournemouth.

In his address The Rt. Hon Michael Howard leader of the opposition, continued the positive theme. He went onto comment on how the vibrant and energetic community of the Sikhs is creating miracles within inner cities and, how they are helping change the life of disadvantaged people.
The event was the brainchild of Dr Inderjit Singh an unassuming and affable man who speaks with wisdom and eloquence. In his address he cited the values of Sikhism. Through sheer effort and determination Dr Inderjit Singh managed to bring to fruition a major event, In doing so he enlisted the help of a multitude of Sikh Organisations and individuals across the country, under a communal banner. Included amongst them was International Punjabi Society and WPO (World Punjabi Organisation) and its vice President Mr Ranjit Baxi.

This was a hugely successful event worthy of our progress to date within the indigenous community, marked by the attendance of key luminaries from the host country. It was successful, as Sikhs were able to share the message of our Gurus with a huge audience, in ambient environs, with aplomb and grandeur, in such distance corners of the world, from the originating seat of Sikhism.

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Vinoo Wadher, a research scholar on Sikhism, writes....

Last year, in 2004 the Sikhs celebrated the 400th anniversary of the installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. It was first installed at the Hari Mandir (Golden Temple) in Amritsar on 30 August 1604. In the Sikh religion, the Guru Granth Sahib is the most sacred and holy scripture, which is considered as the 11th ‘Guru’. The word Guru is made up of two words derived from our ancient Sanskrit language, which is considered to be the mother of all languages. ‘GU’ means darkness and ‘RU’ meaning light, i.e. that leads us from darkness to light. It contains the Gurubani meaning revealed work of God as the Sikh Gurus wrote the Guru Granth Sahib themselves.

The first holy book of Sri Granth Sahib was compiled by fifth Guru, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji. The work was started in 1601 and completed in 1604. This compiled work is ‘Pothi Sahib’ and was called Kartarpuri Bir. The original scripture contained the teachings of the first five Gurus and later, the tenth Guru, Sri Gobind Singh added the teachings of his father Sri Guru Teg Bahadur who was the ninth Guru.

In 1708, Sri Guru Gobind Singh gave Guruship to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and said that he would be the final living Sikh Guru and there after no more Sikh human Gurus.

From a linguistic point of view, it is a treasury of old Hindi dialect. Music forms the basis of classification of the hymns. They follow a definite metric system. The hymns are arranged under 31 different Ragas. It is written in Punjabi Gurumukhi script.

The Guru Granth Sahib contains 5894 hymns written in 1430 pages. Sri Guru Arjan Dev contributed the largest number of hymns (2216). In all, it contains ‘Bani’ (spoken words) of six Gurus and fifteen Hindu Bhagats (devotees) namely Kabir, Ravidas, Jaidev, Namdev, Trilochan, Parmanand, Ramanand,etc. and other 11 devotees from various castes, creeds and occupational background.

The writings of the Gurus appear chronologically. Each of the Gurus signed their hymns as Guru Nanak. Their compositions are identified by the numerals of each hymn, i.e. Mahalla 1 is Guru Nanak, Mahala 2 is Guru Angad and so on.

God has been named 15025 times in the holy Guru Granth Sahib. The Almighty has been named as Hari 8344 times, as Ram 2533 times, as Prabhu 1371 times, as Gopal 1370 times and as Govind 475 times. References to Ram and Ravana from Ramayana and to Kauravas and Pandavas from Mahabharata have also been mentioned in many places.

Respect for the Guru Grath Sahib
Guru Granth Sahib is treated with utmost respect by Sikhs. It is not merely a holy book, it is their Guru from whom they should seek guidance. Therefore, the respect shown to one’s guru is the respect shown to the Guru Granth Sahib. A special place is provided to keep it. In a gurudwara (temple), when a congregation is held, it is kept under specially decorated canopy called ‘chanani’, and during the rest period it is moved to its rest room called ‘Nishkasan’. It is always carried on head. Such is the respect and care shown by Sikhs that when it is open, a whisk (chauri) is gently waved over it. This comes from an old Indian practice of waving a whisk to keep it cool and at the same time keep away insects. All Sikhs devotees pay their respect to the Guru Granth Sahib by kneeling in front of it and touching their forehead to the ground. This expresses their humility and devotion to their guru.

Sat Sri Akal.

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