An aged grandmother sitting in the courtyard glowing in the grandeur of her white clothes, milky hair, a loving gaze holding a Gutka (religious book having banis and verses) and reciting verses from the Banis (compiled verses) the whole day.
A father who appeared to be an atheist but would never miss chanting the mool mantra and a ‘Thir ghar baiso harjan pyarey’ while going through his morning chores in his high pitched voice.
A mother who never stuck to any daily rituals but ensured an ardaas and karah parshad on Gurupurabs, our birthdays, and other special days.
These were some early introductions to the religion I was born into. Nothing was overtly taught, told or hammered. It was a way of life followed in the most casual manner. For a naïve little child, occasional visits to Gurudwaras meant tugging on to the mother or ‘choti bhua’s’ chunni or dupatta and pretending to be knowing and humming along the ‘Anand Sahib’ and ’Chaupai Sahib’. The primary motive as fathomed was to thank that Supreme lord ‘Waheguru’ for all the blessings and perhaps secretly seek more too.
Teenage and beyond, as I dug deep into the Sakhis and Sikh history, some out of curiosity and some as part of a curriculum, it was like waking up amazed at the wonders of the religion I was born into. The heart would gush with pride at the thought that the torchbearers of my religion were so forward looking centuries back that they incorporated Banis of 15 Bhagats (Muslims and Hindus), 17 ordinary Bhatts (Chamars and Marasees, those belonging to lower castes) and of ordinary Sikhs. In doing so, an example was set that anything that is meaningful and can inspire mankind should be imbibed without putting it through the religious and social fire of caste, creed or profession.
Nothing brings you closer to the tenets of your faith than visiting the historical Gurudwaras and trying to relate to the Sakhis and importance around each one of them. Each time that I’ve visited the Golden Temple, it has been nothing short of a divine experience. I have bowed out of reverence at the magnificent gates of Darshani Deori and my eyes have welled up remembering the Sakhis of faith and gratitude around the Dukhbhanjani Beri. The head holds itself high thinking of the fact that Guru Arjan Dev Ji got the foundation stone of the Golden Temple laid by Mian-Mir- a muslim Sufi saint.
As I experienced the most beautiful Aartis of my life at Hazoor Sahib midst the display of Shashtra (Gurus’ weapons), the heart and soul gushed with immense pride. Words fail when you see with your eyes what belonged to the Guru who wrote,
‘Chun kar az hameh heelate dar guzasht halal ast burdan bi – shamsher dast’
meaning when all has been tried, yet justice is not in sight; It is then right to pick up the sword. It is then right to fight. (quote from Zafarnama)
When I count my blessings, one that comes on the top is having started my married life in the city that was the birthplace of the founder of Khalsa Panth, our Dasvi Patshai (tenth Guru), Shri. Guru Gobind Singh ji. The Guru, whose life and teachings have had a lasting impression on the Sikh ideology. A leader, a warrior, a poet, a philosopher and one of the finest and generous human beings that history has witnessed.
As you pass by the byelanes of the Old Patna city to reach the sanctum Sanctorum, almost on the banks of Ganga, what stays with you for life as an enriching experience is the darshan of the Gurus’ sandals and many other relics. Midst this divinity, the soulful rendition of;
‘Tahi Parkash Hamara Bhayo,
Patna Shehar Bikhey Bhav Layo.’
These chants donot just fill up the nooks and corners of Sri Harmandar Sahib but your soul as well.
Every visit to Keshgarh Sahib leaves you with goose bumps and no Sikh can escape getting transformed back in history and relive for sometime the magic moments when Guru Gobind Singh ji addressed a huge congregation which saw Five men from humble backgrounds volunteer themselves for that supreme sacrifice and were later baptized and christened as ‘Panj Pyaaras’ (Five beloveds).
The ceremony did not just signify the birth of Khalsa Panth (1699 AD) but heralded the equality of all before the Supreme Lord. A Khatri (shopkeeper), Jat (farmer), Chhimba (calico printer), Ghumar (water carrier) and a Nai (barber) became the first Singhs of the Khalsa Panth. Hereon the Sikhs were bestowed with the unique identity and directed to sport the 5 Ks as part of their attire.
No wonder that one of the most enriching journeys of my life has been the one I have travelled with my faith. Also the one, that I love to look back at as it brings along warm emotions that are as beautiful as the journey of seeing ones’ child grow out of your arms, to become a pillar you can lean on, and a well from which one could keep drawing strength and wisdom from.
Whilst braving the roughest of storms or riding high on the wave of blessings or even while going through the mundane routines, when verses from the ‘Banis’ keep echoing in your ears and your feet nudge you to walk towards a Gurudwara, at times you wonder what surreal energy eggs you and binds you to that Lord. The answer comes in one humble word and that is ‘Faith.’
Faith that follows no rulebooks but begets you the strength and courage, helping you to go beyond your mindset. Faith that keeps you grounded by not forgetting to be thankful. It also transcends borders, barriers and any bindings.
The heart brims over with mixed feelings of humility and pride in parts, as my pen walks me through my humble odyssey with my faith and I bow in reverence to the ‘Gurus’ who were far ahead of their times and to ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ which will remain a guiding light forever.