Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib
(Gurudwara Patna Sahib)
Sikhism is comparatively a young faith. Its founder, Guru Nanak, was born nearly five centuries ago in 1469. He was a great teacher who raised his voice against the malpractices and abuses that had crept into the religious and social customs then prevalent in India, and laid special emphasis in the fundamentals of abiding faith in God, good conduct and a harmonious, happy society. He expressed himself clear and forthright on God and His creations, man and his place in the universe and how one can seek enlightenment and salvation. It is his precepts, reiterated by the successor Gurus, that form the basis of Sikh thought. It was a century later, in 1604, that the fifth Guru, Arjan Dev, compiled the hymns composed by Guru Nanak, the next three Gurus and himself, and provided the Sikhs, literally meaning the disciples, the learners, with a scripture of their own. In this volume, the ADI GRANTH, he included the compositioins of sixteen other Indian saints, Hindu, Muslim and Harijan, such as Jaidev, Surdas, Farid, Namdev, Kabir and Ravidas.
The next stage, a revolutionary one, came another century later when Guru Govind Singh, the tenth Guru (who was born in PATNA - Bihar), organised the community into a distinct well-knit group the KHALSA- the pure. Infusing a new spirit ito his followers, he wanted them to be soldiers and saints at the same time. He asked them to wear long hair (KESH, denoting saintly appearance); underwear ( KACHHA, meant for self-control); iron bangle (KARA, for abstaining from the use of the hand for immoral acts); comb ( KANGHA, ldenoting cleanliness of mind and body); and sword (KIRPAN, for self defence, for use in an emergency and for a right and just cause). The men among te Sikhs are easily recognised by their beard and turban covering their unshorn hair. Deeply religious and courageous, the community has had to make heavy sacrifices for cherished causes and has known many ups and downs - severe and barbarous persecution on the one hand and a rule over Punjab and beyond n the other. For historical reasns, having had to continuously fight for their own and their faiths survival, soldiering has become an important profession with them.
Guru Nanak's advent on the Indian scene coincided with the Bhakti movement and the appearance of sufism , and he preached oneness of God, brotherhood of man and service of humanity. Raising his voice against ritualism, superstitions, meaningless ceremonials, caste distinctions and injustice, he travelled widely, with a Muslim musician, Mardana, and a Hindu, Bala, as his constant companions, spreading the gospel of love. " Before the Lord, there is no one high or low."
When his sojourn in this world was drawing to a close, he selected a disciple, Lehna , later known as Guru Angad, to succeed him. The subsequent Gurus carrid on the spiritual mission of Guru Nanak and gained more and more following. They are, in fact considered as Nanak II , Nanak III, and so on. Guru Arjan with whom Jahangir was much annoyed, was tortured to death at Lahore in 1606. This impelled his successor, Guru Har Gobind, to pick up the sword, and to call upon the community to fight for justice and righteousness, even while leading a life of piety and devotion. The ninth Guru, Teg Bahadur, was beheaded at Delhi in 1675 when he refused to be converted to Islam. His son, Guru Gobind Singh, consequently spent years in the battlefield where he lost all his four sons and thousands of ldevotees. It was at Anandpur Sahib in 1699 that he performed the epoch-making ceremony of administering Amrit, the nectar, to the Sikhs, and welded them into Khalsa brotherhood. He first baptised five persons, belonging to different castes, high and low, according to prevalent concepts, as Panj Piyaras, the Five Beloved Ones, and then asked them to give him the Amrit and, in turn, to baptise him, thus signifying that his own disciples were his equals. And among the Sikhs, there was to be no compartmentalisation on the basis of caste, worldly wealth or status. Thousands of other took the Amrit, and soon a community of pacifists, devoted to a life of lreligiion, was transformed into a band of crusaders, everyone being prepard to make the supreme sacrifice for the defence of liberty, justice and religion. It is in keeping with their traditions that the Sikhs have always been in the forefront of the struggle for lIndia's independence and, later, for preserving it.
Just before his demise, Guru Gobind Singh laid down that, with him, the line of Gurus, in flesh and blood, would come to a close, and henceforth the holy book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib would be the Guru incarnate. He added to it some hymns composed by Guru Teg Bahadur as well as his own. The Sikhs now revere the Granth Sahib implicitly as the Guru. They seek peace, guidance and enlightenment through Gurbani, the word of the Guru as enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The basic teachings of the Sikh Gurus are simple enough even for laymen to grasp, and their sacred compositions are language which is, by and large, easily comprehensible. Sikhism is a monotheistic faith, absolutely against all forms of Idol worship.
The Sikh scripture lays great emphasis on the role of the Guru who imparts knowledge, initiates his disciples in the ways of God and guides them on the path to salvation. This union with God can be achieved best with the help of a Guru, a religious preceptor. The true Guru is himself in communion with God; he is charged with divine light.
While the Sikh faith accords a very high status to the Guru, worship is due only to God. Guru Nanak would accept for himself only the role a teacher and a guide; he constantly referred to himself as the slave or servant of God. The first and foremost Guru is God himself. Enlightened souls, through whom the gospel of God or His Name spreads in the world, are also Gurus. Since the Granth Sahib contains the message of exalted souls, their compositions or Bani, Guru Gobind Singh gave it the status of Guru. " The Bani is Guru, Gurus is the Bani."
Sikhism lays down that, whatever one might be engaged in , God should always be in one's thoughts. One must concentrate on His Name all the time, for it is through devotion to God that He can be realised.
Sikhism believes in the theory of Karma or action and its consequences. Sikh religion does not advocate renunciation of the world or a life of asceticism, though ascetic virtues are extolled. It believes neither in renunciation nor in over indulgence. In fact, it is incumbent on man to fulfil his obligations to the family and the society and to seek his salvation through a life of discipline, piety and charity, love of all mankind and devotion to the almighty. A Sikh temple or shrine is called a Gurdwara, that is, the House of God, the House of the Guru, where the Guru dwells. Its most essential element is the presence of the Guru. According to the Sikh faith, while prayers to God can be offered any time and anywhere, a Gurdwara is build particularly for congregational worship. It is expected of every Sikh that lhe would go to the Gurdwara daily and join the congregation or sangat for prayers.
In the Gurdwaras, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, draped in fine raiment, is placed on a palanquin, often flower-bedecked, and under a canopy. The devotees, as they come, kneel before the Granth Sahib, the forehead touching the ground, place a small offering, generally some coin, and take their seat on the carpeted floor. The morning service begins before dawn, with kirtan, the singing of hymns from Granth Sahib to the accompaniment of instrumental music, recitations from the holy book and katha, exposition of the scripture, forming part of the programme. At the end, the entire congregation stands with hands folded and the priest recites, the Ardas, literally meaning a humble petiontion or prayer, concluding with a supplication to God, seeking His grace for the good of all mankind.
The Gurdwaras are open to all communities and castes and no purdah is observed. In the House of the Lord, all are equal, irrespective of their status in the world outside. On a visit to the temple, the head is to be kept covered as a mark of respect to the Granth Sahib, and shoes are not allowed inside. Smoking is taboo, and so also are liquor and other intoxicants. Important Gurdwaras run a langar or a free community kitchen for pilgrims, travellers and others.These generally also have provision of the lodging of pilgrims.
Gurudwara Patna Sahib
( Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib)
Takht Patna Sahib enjoys the privilege of being the birthplace of the Tenth Guru Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He was born here on December 22, 1666. There stands, at the sacred place a magnificent holy shrine, called Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib. It is situated in one of the old quarters of Patna city, once known as Kucha Farrukh Khan, now known as Harmandir Gali.
This sacred place has the honour of being visited by the first Guru Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji and the ninth Guru Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur ji. It is from this place that the commandment of valiance and fearlessness was issued to the Sikh fraternity. The ninth Guru waxed eloquent about this to justify ways of God to men. "This is why I was born and set Patna Sahib as my place of work". This very line indicates that Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji was born at this sacred place. After bidding an adieu to his promising childhood at Sri Patna Sahib, Guru Sahib stepped into the holy land of Sri Anandpur Sahib.
Some relics of the tenth Guru are also preserved in Patna Sahib. Among them is a pangura (cradle) with four stands covered with Golden plates. Guruji during his childhood used to sleep in this cradle. Moreover, four iron arrows, sacred sword of the Master and a pair of his sandals are also preserved. Hukamnamas of Guru Gobind Singh and Guru Tegh Bahadur contained in a book are also kept in this holy Gurudwara.