I started writing this on Christmas morning so Merry Christmas to my Christian friends. For Sikhs the date is not nearly as happy. I’ll post about that on the Born A Sikh site at some point though not today. Today, we’re going to talk about Kartarpur, weird anti-Sikh elements in and around India and the creator of untruths, the Orwellian revisionists of history, the Hindu nationalist (aka we will convert you by hook or crook) R.S.S. and the Hindutva movement. Why is this important? Because so many Sikhs have no idea… I had no idea how bad the lack of knowledge and information was until I took a trip to Chandigarh and back with the host unit, the little sister and the worst driver ever. Our last two destinations – both chosen between the WDE and the host unit, were in Kartarpur and Beas and despite what my host unit and the WDE tried to convince me of – neither was Sikh.
This post will be followed up by a post listing ways to spot a fake gurdwara. Entirely inspired by this trip… well almost entirely.
Kartarpur is historically significant to the Sikhs. It’s name means City of God and this one was founded by our fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. This is not to be confused with Kartarpur, Pakistan which was established by Guru Nanak Dev Ji earlier.
Kartarpur, India has a number of gurdwaras worth visiting. We saw one. The one you see on the left (whose name I wasn’t told at the time but found out later it is Gangsar Sahib). We saw this one only after a very bad experience with a non-Sikh ‘gurdwara’ and the filthiest ‘sarovar’ you could ever see.
We were dropped off at the end of the road leading to this gurdwara. We were then told by the driver that the gurdwara was on the right near the market at the end of the road. Wrong. Whatever that place was, it was no Sikh gurwara. Had I only looked up, I would have known right away. Instead, I followed the host unit into the place… at the instruction of the WDE… should have known better.
The place was filthy, filthy, filthy without any place to wash your feet before entering. To the right was a sink were you could was your hands. To the left was the shoe house… and the langar on a filthy floor right in the shoe house… wth? I thought Sikh gurdwaras and langars are much cleaner… what is happening here? Then I assumed they were under renovation and the place was dirty as a result. Because you try to assume the best… yeah, should have looked up…
Before going further in the host unit wanted to take a holy dip in the sarovar. The sarovar in this place was, we were told, down the street a ways… so we left and followed the directions of the WDE and some people in the market. The directions took us 300m up the road and then left onto a small, pitted road to a second market area and the “sarovar”.
This is when I began to know that something was seriously wrong. Let me paint a picture. The “sarovar” was not a tank but a river and the cattle watering tub. There was a woman there, wearing a kara, with her two children, who had just taken a dip in this place. She explained to the host unit that you take a dip in the river first and pointed to the shore and then in the ‘tank’ and pointed to the cattle watering tub.
Host unit started to get ready for her dip as did little sister. The myth goes that bathing in these waters will cure you of any and all disease. Ummm… No and here’s why… The place reeked of urine and the river where you were supposed to bath was stuffed with old, discarded clothes and other human debris (broken bracelets, plastic bags…). The host unit insisted that a leper was cured here. I explained to her that I thought the leper was healed at the pond that became the Amritsar Sarovar, in Amritsar… I told them they were welcome to take their dip but I was not going near the water. Even if at some point these waters were important to Sikhs, or were holy waters… God had long abandoned the area, probably because human beings insisted on fouling the clean river waters with urine and garbage… God definitely was nowhere near that shoreline.
The host unit agreed that humans had destroyed the place so we turned to leave. Thankfully they hadn’t had their bath yet. When we looked up… there was an archway with painted tiles on it. Guru Nanak on one, Guru Gobind Singh on one, some one who looked like a Guru with an aura of light but who was not one of the ten Sikh Gurus… Krishna on one… what? Back up a second? A non-Sikh ‘Guru’ and Krishna? What? Yeah, this place was definitely not Sikh. When I pointed out the tiles to the host unit, she thought the tiled entryway must belong to something else and not the soiled ‘sarovar’… because you still want to think the best of people… ???!!!??? So we walked back to the ‘gurdwara’
When we went inside this time, I tried to ignore the filth… it’s under construction, I said. I can hear workers banging away somewhere… that must be it.
Nope. We went inside the temple only to see a picture of the same non-Sikh Guru image in a picture with a woman and a small horned demon… what? Turns out, I found out much later than this was Baba Wadbagh. Not a Guru, though some would purport that he was and they worship him. He is NOT a Sikh Guru. He was a follower of Sri Chand, also not a Sikh Guru. We have 10 and only 10 living Gurus. The Guruship then passed to the Khalsa and to the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. No others.
Then I looked around and saw a long haired baba seated at the bottom of the flag pole with no cover on his head. People were lining up to worship this man under the flag pole by putting their head in his lap.
I looked up and notice the flag pole… no Nishan Sahib on the top, no Khanda, but peacock feathers. The whole pole was lined with dirty, discarded clothing. Just what? I was done at that point. Giving any sort of worship here would be contrary to my faith so we had to go. Walked right out at that point.
Thankfully, we then walked into Gangsar Sahib and there were two men who were collecting money for seva (like building the langar hall, offering langar, parshad, hospitals, etc). I told the little sister to ask them about the place next door… the fake gurdwara. They didn’t have to listen to me – they should also seek information from others. These men kindly, very kindly reminded them who we are to worship, what is expected of us as Sikhs. They explained that these anti-Sikh elements, including the RSS and worshippers of Sri Chand and his followers, were everywhere and while they can believe whatever they like, it is not Sikhi. If we are true Sikhs, we must not worship in these places or consider them holy. That includes the urine filled, ‘healing sarovar’.
I have no issue with what these people want to believe. They can try to find God in any way that they wish. However, this is not the way of Sikhs and we cannot follow their way or consider their ways holy.
It made me sad that after 52 years, the host unit had no idea. It made me sadder still that no-one had taken the time to give her the information earlier. That she was mired in believing that something is Sikh because others say it is or because the ‘old’ people do it. Not her fault, she was raised to believe anything and everything an older person might pass on to her. But it is a problem. With so many elements that are anti-Sikh out there, including the RSS who would have us believe we are actually Hindus… believing anything without careful thought and consultation is what is washing down Sikhi.
We need to be careful of the books we read, because the RSS will publish books about Sikhi that contain false information that is against Sikhi. We need to be careful about where we worship because the RSS and followers of Sri Chand and Prithi Chand and others will throw up buildings that in some ways look like gurdwaras. We need to be careful about believing superstitions just because the ‘old’ people say they are real. Sikhs do not believe in superstition. We need to be careful that we are not worshipping some ‘leader’. Our Guru is the Khalsa and the Guru Granth Sahib Ji and no others. Even our own leaders can at times
act in ways that are politically motivated, so we need to be careful to question them and hold them to the high standards of Sikhi – never follow them blindly.
If you have any doubts, read the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. If it doesn’t provide the answer to your questions, ask a member of the Khalsa who you trust and respect. This is the way to get Sikhi back to strength, the way forward, the way back to the path that so many of us have strayed from.
|NOT a Sikh Guru, NOT Sikhi|
We spent quite a bit of time in Gangsar Sahib, mostly because I felt the need to bathe off the filth of the previous place in the holy waters of the sarovar there but also because I wanted the host unit and little sister to hear what the Sikh sevadars had to say, and to ensure they asked all the questions that they had.
Our next stop was a compound in Beas. Called the Beas Dera. This group at least does not blaim to be Sikh, though its founders were originally born to Sikh families. They no longer allow any cameras into the compound, so I can’t show you any pictures. They use a metal detector and hand held wands to be sure you are not carrying a cell phone or other camera.
In any event, the host unit believed this place to be a Sikh place because it has a langar and it has a building that looks like a gurdwara. The RSSB, which is the group that runs the place says they are focussed on spirituality through yoga and meditation and getting rid of all the other aspects of religion to connect directly with God. Okay. They may believe as they wish again, but this place is not Sikh and it is not Sikhi. The fact that the host unit believed it was because they have a ‘gurdwara’ and serve ‘langar’ is another way in which we get off the track. Just because someone uses the same words, doesn’t make them Sikh. Doesn’t make them bad but doesn’t make them Sikh.
This trip just set in for me the poor job we do as Sikhs to provide education about ourselves, especially to people of our own faith but also to the outside world. Why? Why are we so bad at this?
We will do what we can on the Born A Sikh sites to provide good information. I think this trip is renewing our commitment to that idea. Any other suggestions are welcome. So welcome. Trust me,