Punjab: The Khalsa Museum and Learning Punjabi

Good morning everyone,

While Bhai Anoopji, his cousin and I were in Anandpur Sahib, we visited the Khalsa Heritage Museum.  I also returned there a few weeks later with the host unit, little sister and her cousin.  It’s beautiful!

I wish I could show you pictures from inside but cameras are forbidden in there.  The complex is huge and set on several acres which include man made lakes drawn from the river nearby.  The entire place uses solar power from the roof, which is entirely covered in solar panels.  Soon, it will also house a large library.

The grounds are impressive and in pristine condition.  Admission is free but they time limit your admission and ask that you complete your tour in roughly two hours.  This is to keep the flow of visitors moving.  It was quite busy while I was there (both times).

Inside, you can get a headset that automatically knows where you are and will explain the exhibits in English, Punjabi or Hindi.

The first exhibit you will see, even before you get to the headset area is a three story rendering of Punjabi village and city life.  The time changes from day through night to morning again.  The lights in the little shops and houses come on appropriately based on the “time of day” you are watching.  The whole thing even has a wind storm and a thunder storm.  The display is set to music as well, and has special aspects to show things like the Diwali festival.  In the centre is a representation of Darbar Sahib on a screen.  When the thunderstorm is playing, it rains in the Pool of Nectar; in the morning, they bring Sri Guru Granth Sahib into the temple, and people are seen walking around doing seva, taking a holy bath or praying.  It’s insanely impressive how much work went in to this first display.

In the next room, you can collect a headset and learn about conditions in India at the time just before our first Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji came on the scene.  They were dark times indeed.  The Punjab faced invasions by Babar and eventually, the rule of the Mughals.  The untouchables were living in terribly oppressive conditions, as were women.  Women were sometimes veiled and sometimes subjected to sati, burning on the funeral pyres of their husbands.  All around, regular people were subject to the oppression of rulers who were often butchers.  Life was very cheap in those days.

Then came the light in the darkness, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.  His story is painted on two story tall walls and described well on the headset program.   From his birth, through important events as a child, through his three days communing with God, through spreading his message during his Udassis, much of his story is there.

Then our next Guru, Guru Angad Dev Ji, and our next Guru Amar Das Ji, Guru Ram Das Ji, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, and so on until we get to our final living Guru, Nanak X – Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the creation of the Khalsa.

And yes, there were more stairs here…  my brother Anoopji made me take them too.  Well, he didn’t make me so much as he challenged me and I can’t turn down a challenge.  There was a lift we could have used but no… I climbed another 50 or so stairs that day in addition to the other several hundred.  Luckily when I went back with the host unit, she has a bad leg so… yeap, the lift.  I feel only a little bad for taking advantage of her limp but there it is.  

If you make it to Anandpur Sahib and want to learn about the Sikhs – who we are, why we are, and why the Khalsa was formed, this is an excellent place to stop.  It is more than just a museum for us – it’s for everyone.  Stop in and check it out.  The museum is just a very short walk away from Anandpur Sahib and Anandgarh Fort.  In fact, the white building you see peeking out from under a bridge in some of the pictures is Anandgarh Fort.

As you can see it was a beautiful day, though it was still winter in Punjab when we went to Anandpur Sahib.  It actually got to about 22C and without the Fog o’ Death, so that was great!

Also, I really enjoyed spending the day with these two friends.  They are really good people.

Bhai Anoopji’s cousin does not speak English, so it was that was a challenge but we got along just fine.  He’s a very nice man.  He’s also able to sleep soundly while we risk life and limb driving through the Fog o’ Death, so you know I was impressed.

That brings us to the second subject of today’s post – learning Punjabi (or Panjabi).  I’m not going to lie to you all.  I speak a lot of languages.  Never really had a problem learning a language until now.  Panjabi is difficult and it is kicking my ass on a regular basis.

First, I’m hard of hearing and Panjabi has a lot of sounds that sound exactly alike to me but are actually different.  They sound alike because I cannot hear the subtle variations in the sound.  Or I hear a ghost ‘r’ sound when really it’s just a curl of the tongue when making a sound completely unrelated to ‘r’.  So learning by speaking and listening is proving extremely challenging.

Second, I have a great translator in the little sister, so it’s kind of easy to rely on her and just speak English.  Sort of defeats the purpose really but it happens more often than it should.

Third, people here are super polite and super helpful so when they sense me struggling, even a tiny bit, they try hard to speak English.  Again, sort of defeats the purpose.  The one exception to this rule is my new driver.  I know he speaks some English and he definitely understands English somewhat but he refuses to use any of it with me.  It’s Punjabi all the way.  In fact, I overheard him telling the host unit that she should just quit trying to speak any English because I will not learn Punjabi otherwise.  I pretend that he’s being mean to me but really… seriously, God bless that man.  He’s right.

Fourth, in order to speak Punjabi correctly you really do have to be able to read the script used to write it – Gurmukhi.  Another ass kicker until recently.  Bhai Anoopji found me an excellent Gurmukhi primer.  Using it, I’m finally starting to feel slightly more confident in using the language.  Yay.

Fifth is the confidence.  I’ve become shy over here in India.  Seriously.  Not shy by Indian standards at all but shy by my usual standards, so I’m not speaking as often as I should.  I just stand there and let others speak for me.  What the frack?!?

Gurmukhi is also difficult.  Here’s what it looks like –
ਤੁਹਾਨੂੰ ਕਿਸ ਜੀ ਰਹੇ ਹੋ?

There are 36 letters in the alphabet and then a number of other characters that represent vowel sounds.  36.  I write Chinese and I can’t seem to properly commit 36 characters and a handful of vowel diacritical marks to memory.  Frustrating to say the least but I think it will get much better with practice.  I hope.  Maybe… or maybe, as I sometimes think, you only get to learn so many languages then… no more.  You’re full up.  Sorry.  Get rid of one or two and get back to us.  Or maybe I’m just getting too old to learn a new language.  Hmmm?  Come on help me out, I need more excuses for why I’m not getting this?

Anyway, short post today because I’m planning a trip to Jaipur and Agra and that has all my attention right now.  Until next time, I hope you are all living blessed lives.

Peace and love all
– Himmatpreet


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