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On Sikh Identity - Book By Birendra Kaur
The Sikhs as a people are in a pitiable plight today. There is hardly anything alright with them. Their history is in shambles; a sheaf of hearsay stories that do not stand scientific scrutiny, a large volume of it. Their tradition is losing its grip on the new generations, one after the other. Their faith, one of the most modern and most scientific religions in the world, is getting more and more unrevealed. Their way of life is becoming out-of-fashion. Their art lies uncared for. Their music is neglected. Their literature has narrowed itself to the confines of a truncated Suba divided and subdivided time and again. They can no more claim heroes like Banda Singh Bahadur and Bhagat Singh, scholars of the eminence of Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha and Bhai Vir Singh, freedom fighters of the grit of Baba Kharak Singh and Master Tara Singh, poets like Puran Singh and artists like Amrita Shergill.
A welcome opportunity came their way in the celebration of the tercentenary of the Khalsa. They could realign themselves. It has gone utter waste in drum beating. Crores of rupees have been washed down the drain. The Sikh people are where they were.
However, it has stirred some souls here and there to have a close look at the dismal scenario to find out where we have gone wrong. Dr Birendra Kaur's volume of essays, On Sikh Identity, is one such valiant endeavour. I welcome it, more because it comes from a generation given to the dilemma to be or not to be.
Daughter of Dr Kharak Singh,a Sikh scholar of undisputed credentials, the young author has the advantage of speaking in the idiom of the Sikh youth of today. She relentlessly touches the raw nerves and smoothens them with the paste of truth and plain-speak. And when it comes from a person who saw the light of the day about a decade after India became independent, it carries conviction.
There is hardly a live issue relating to the Sikh faith and the Sikh way of life today which has escaped her scrutiny. Every topic she takes up, whether it is Sikh religion, Sikh tradition, Sikh identity, Gurdwara legislation, or Operation Bluestar, she brings fresh thinking to bear upon it and supports her argument with the impeccable candour of a student of science.
A no non-sense writer, her convictions are revealed in stray observations. To quote only two :
|"The reason that Sikhs often cut a sorry figure today|
|is that the majority of us are Sikhs by birth only. We|
|are actually doing more harm than good to Sikhism.|
|Sikhism is not a faith that you can lay claim to by birth|
|It is a faith that requires commitment and conversion|
|"No doubt, the hukamnama on langar was a hasty|
|decision. Wisdom is not in issuing the right verdict; it|
|is in achieving the right goal."|
Be that as it may, as I write these lines, I am reminded again and again that I was, perhaps, the last fellow-writer to have been asked to introduce this highly enlightening work. I would fail the learned author in more than one aspects in my personal life. And yet I must say that her arguments leave me convinced, that what she says is nearer the truth than my postulates and practices.
I welcome the new entrant in the gallery of meaningful writers on Sikh faith and the Sikh way of life.
The present volume is a compilation of articles, which relate, directly or indirectly, to Sikh identity. While internal identity has seldom been questioned, it is the external Sikh form that attracts attacks from critics. Unshorn hair and beard being the most visible features are the special targets. So long as the Sikhs retain their external form, there is no danger to their identity. There are vested interests, however, that have never relished the Sikh movement and want to see this brave community, created by the Gurus, assimilated into the anonymity of the barefaced majority. They bring out from time to time articles ridiculing the bearded man in the press which can mislead Sikhs as well as non-Sikhs. It is necessary, therefore, to respond to such attacks to keep the record straight. Hence some of the articles in this book.
The guiding principle of the Sikh religion is to follow the Divine Will, or to live in tune with the laws of nature. Human body is the greatest gift of God to man, and, therefore, sacred. No part of the body designed by God is superfluous. Biology tell us that human hair is as much a part of the body as any other organ. Tampering with it is a violation of its sancity, and can be done only at the cost of functions associated with it.
It is ironic that it should at all be necessary to plead the case of human hair. But living in an environment of irrationality, as we do, this exercise appears unavoidable.
Some of these articles, particularly those relating to human hair, have appeared earlier, but are currently out of print. Because of the earlier enthusiastic response, and the keen demand for them, these are being included in this volume.
Other articles relate to current issues facing the Panth. The main thrust in these is on introspection.
Although the foundation of Sikh identity is spiritual, science also offers ample justification. A research study undertaken by Dr Ujagar Singh Dhaliwal, Prof. of Surgery, Government Medical College, Amritsar, proves unequivocally the uselessness of the ritual of pre-operative shaving and its blind following by surgeons. His conclusions appear in brief as an appendix.
|Rabindra Nath Tagore observes :|
|Guru Nanak's noble religious ideology|
|Gave birth to a great Nation of Sikhs|
|Whose greatness is reflected in their|
|Character and face.|
Let us not throw away the identity bequeathed to us by Gurus.
|1.||Where Freedom is||9|
|2.||Khalsa : The Universal Being||10|
|3.||Insight and Foresight||18|
|4.||Mirror, Mirror on the Wall||27|
|5.||Where the Environment Begins||30|
|6.||Grow Grey Gracefully||39|
|7.||What's in a Word||44|
|8.||Just Don't Do It !||50|
|9.||Long Live Langar||57|
|10.||What's in a Surname ?||61|
|11.||Human Hair : A Biological Necessity||67|
|12.||Do We Need Facial Hair ?||75|
|13.||A Hairy Tale||82|
|14.||Beard Tickles Vanity||89|
|15.||5Ks : Not Mere Symbols||93|
|16.||Strike a Balance||105|
|18.||On Operation Bluestar||116|
|19.||History Beckons Us||121|
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