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Basics Of Sikhi - Anand Karaj (Addressing The Controversy)


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You will probably believe Amrit isn't necessary for Sikhs. You'll say, "just be a good person".

Not at all. I passionately believe in the Khalsa Panth. I believe Amritdhari numbers will only increase via more Sikhs.

I keep my kes, I don't drink and I don't eat meat so I am not a supporter of Hundal.

Thus please do not put words into my mouth that I haven't said.

Jacfsing2 Ji you know that 99.9% of Americans are non-Sikhs.

Do you realistically think that all the Sikhs of your generation in your state will all marry Sikh spouses?

If you do believe that a high percentage of Sikhs in America are likely to marry someone from the 99.9% majority, does it not make sense to you that we accept the ever increasing reality that we see increasing year after year and look to engage, interact and educate the couples (and indeed all couples) so that the children of all such marriages are raised as Sikhs and feel part of the Sikh Panth.

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The only people making noise about Sikhs standing up for the rehit are those hippies who never attend a Gurdwara anyway unless it is someone's wedding. While they are they way they are, but what is su

Please, please, please watch this entire video. Not because you don't know the who, what and why of the Anand Karaj, but because of the way Bhai Jagraj Singh addresses the issue in a very diplomatic a

whats amazing is this type of topic somehow manages to get 500-600+ comments on fb posts, from mostly coconut/hippy fake sikhs, who come out from under their rocks, yet they are NOWHERE to be seen, wh

"Ranjeet Ji isn't blocking a Sikh who wishes to marry by Anand Karaj a de facto alienation of that person and their future generations of children away from Sikhi?

I myself wholeheartedly support the ejection of the Hindu Mahants by the Akali Singh Sabha Lehar so I don't agree with your analogy being relevant to the point. As the Hindu Mahants that worked for the British actively excluded people from entering Gurdwara's whereas the Akali Singh Lehar freed entry to all people in tandem with everything Sikhi stands for.

If around 20% of marriages denied an Anand Karaj each generation won't lead to our Panth's demographic decline in the long term then I don't know what will."

DTF

I do not agree with your premise. We need to uphold the standards here and not bend to the whims of a few people.

If we accommodate too much all you will be doing is creating a far more potent problem greater than some hypothetical demographic scenario.

It would be interesting to see what the percentage of Sikhs who marry out would be.

But there needs to be far more education of what the Anand Karaj is and what has happened in Southall has opened a lot of people of what Anand Karaj entails.

I place more emphasis to the sanctity of our Maharaj than to some perceived reduction in Sikh population. If those people decide to leave Sikhi because they did not want to follow the rules then I wish them well in the future.

From a Sikh perspective, they would be self-willed Manmukh.

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Sikhi is shown via our actions which align with Gurmat brother. It is not an ethnic birthright.

Sikhi is a universal faith for all brother. Regardless of the race or religion they were born into.

Let's say you have a 1000 ml bottle of water which is losing 200ml of water every hour (akin to 20% marrying those whose both parents are not Sikhs) then after a few generations the bottle of water will be empty. We cannot stop such marriages taking place when Sikhs are just over a 1% minority in Canada, a 0.7% minority in the UK and a 0.1% minority in the USA. The only way Sikhi can flourish in the Diaspora is by accepting these inevitable marriages and then ensuring that via positive engagement from Gurdwara staff and more importantly Sangat we ensure that the children of such marriages comprise new Sikhs of the future.

It is also not for you to decide who is a Sikh and who isn't. That is surely not your 'birthright' either.

Sorry, I beg to differ. IMHO you're mistaken. There are a sizable number of Sikhs living in Asia ie Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong....their number rarely make it above 0.5%. Yet, there are 3rd generation Sikhs largely who did not have to have marriage with other faiths in order to maintain their numbers. Going by your logic, they should have 'died out' by now. However I have seen many inter race marriages as well. They're usually between a Sikh and a Buddhist or Christian and usually one party converts or they don't have anad karaj ceremony.

Lets go by your logic. In the name of inclusiveness, why don't we allow alcohol, meat in our langar halls? Maybe even Gay marriage? Maybe some nice disco music with a dance floor? Think about how 'inclusive' that would be. :p

When an organization is willing to break it's own principles, it is the beginning of the end of that organization. Take the Boy Scout Association of America. They're now allowing gay instructors. People are leaving by large numbers and soon it will over for them. You're overlooking the fact that IMHO that the majority of the 'panth' will not accept this and there will be a split among Sikhs.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all condone slavery. Should we follow suit as we are doing in this instance?

Please prove this and provide scripture that backs your assertion.

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You misunderstood my point DTF. The Southall Gurdwara President Mr Sumra, Bobby Friction and Sunny Hundal etc are the Terrorists for they are trying to intimidate Sikhs into standing in front Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji and blatantly lying. Their intimidation / terrorism modus operandi is to de-humanise the Sikhs by calling them names such as "thugs" and "taliban". Such a tactic is the very definition of terrorism. Thus, Bobby Friction and Sunny Hundal are by very definition terrorists, and you are supporting terrorists.

I agree that those labelling the protestors as terrorists perhaps need to study the atrocities of Islamic State or al Qeada a bit more.

It is not human beings that can decide whether a person is lying in front of Maharaj. Only Akaal Purakh can really know the Truth.

I don't support Hundal or Friction ideologically in any way so lol on your humourous reference to me supporting terrorists.

"Ranjeet Ji isn't blocking a Sikh who wishes to marry by Anand Karaj a de facto alienation of that person and their future generations of children away from Sikhi?

I myself wholeheartedly support the ejection of the Hindu Mahants by the Akali Singh Sabha Lehar so I don't agree with your analogy being relevant to the point. As the Hindu Mahants that worked for the British actively excluded people from entering Gurdwara's whereas the Akali Singh Lehar freed entry to all people in tandem with everything Sikhi stands for.

If around 20% of marriages denied an Anand Karaj each generation won't lead to our Panth's demographic decline in the long term then I don't know what will."

DTF

I do not agree with your premise. We need to uphold the standards here and not bend to the whims of a few people.

Ranjeet Ji i don't think it is about bending to the whims of a few but rather a case of dealing with an ever growing reality (as a consequence of assimilation over time) in the most practical way possible.

Whatever the percentage marrying across backgrounds today you can be pretty sure that the percentage will increase year after the longer that time goes on - I am sure we agree on that. We have seen the demographic projections for what it has done and is doing to the Jewish community in America. Indeed all microscopic minorities end up being assimilated if they do not replenish or increase their population via parchar. Anand Karaj is an ideal opportunity to re-integrate people back into or newly into the Panth.

By denying a genuine couple the blessing of Maharaj it is us ourselves who are desecrating the sanctity of Jagat Guru, Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj. Increasing numbers of the Sikh Panth is fundamental to ensuring that Khalsa Raj occurs globally. It won't occur so long as only 1 in 300 people globally are Sikhs and we seek to estrange first sehajdhari Sikhs and now those that marry others from a different background in countries where 99 to 99.9% of the surrounding population are non Sikhs.

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DTF,

IMHO, you're basically asking for Sikhism to compromise on it's principles all in the name of inclusiveness and by doing so you're going to turn it into nothing more then a social club. If it becomes nothing more then a social club, why bother going? Just walk down to your local pub, right?

People join an organization because they 'believe' in something. If you're willing to compromise on your principles, then that 'belief' will wane and people will start leaving. This is just my take.

As for Sikh numbers disappearing. Let it be. Sikhism was not created so that Punjabis can flourish in numbers. LOL! You got it wrong. It's strictly for your spiritual journey, nothing more.

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It is also not for you to decide who is a Sikh and who isn't. That is surely not your 'birthright' either.

Sorry, I beg to differ. IMHO you're mistaken. There are a sizable number of Sikhs living in Asia ie Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong....their number rarely make it above 0.5%.

Quantavius Ji i think the puratan definition of who is a Sikh (one who bows down before Maharaj) is correct. But if you wish to exclude those that bow down before Maharaj or those that are sehajdhari, I would ask you how does that benefit the Sikh Panth going forward?

Whilst arranged marriages were the norm in the early 20th century, the Sikh community as a small minority has managed to maintain numbers in the ASEAN bloc nations. However, brother if you are not aware that intermarriage is increasing even in those Asian countries as a result of our low numbers increasing that likelihood, then I sincerely advise that you speak to family members you might have there and ask them. In Malaysia and Singapore and Thailand the percentages intermarrying are begining to become significant and we should use such marriages to project Sikhi into Chinese and Tamil and other communities. Particularly since one of the Panj Piare was a Dravidian (yet we consistently fail to educate others of such facts).

The alcohol and meat point holds no water as it directly contradicts Gurmat. We have the ultimate role model of Gurmat, Dhan Dhan Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj exemplifying that a spouse who bows down before Ik Onkar (or Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji nowadays) becomes a new Sikh should they be sincere in so doing and Sangat work to educate them on the Truth of Sikhi and how collectively we can work for the betterment of society globally.

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Quantavius Ji i think the puratan definition of who is a Sikh (one who bows down before Maharaj) is correct. But if you wish to exclude those that bow down before Maharaj or those that are sehajdhari, I would ask you how does that benefit the Sikh Panth going forward?

I always thought you had to take amrit to become a Sikh? So, a Christian who refuses to leave his religion and bows down to Guruji Maharaj is now a Sikh? I've never heard this. BTW I'm a 'mona'.

Whilst arranged marriages were the norm in the early 20th century, the Sikh community as a small minority has managed to maintain numbers in the ASEAN bloc nations. However, brother if you are not aware that intermarriage is increasing even in those Asian countries as a result of our low numbers increasing that likelihood, then I sincerely advise that you speak to family members you might have there and ask them. In Malaysia and Singapore and Thailand the percentages intermarrying are begining to become significant and we should use such marriages to project Sikhi into Chinese and Tamil and other communities. Particularly since one of the Panj Piare was a Dravidian (yet we consistently fail to educate others of such facts).

Sorry but I disagree. There may be many inter race marriages but the numbers are not that significant. If you disagree, please provide hard numbers and cite your source. You obviously have never traveled to these countries.

Nobody is a pure Dravidian or Aryan from the Indian subcontinent. We're all mutts.

The alcohol and meat point holds no water as it directly contradicts Gurmat. We have the ultimate role model of Gurmat, Dhan Dhan Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj exemplifying that a spouse who bows down before Ik Onkar (or Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji nowadays) becomes a new Sikhs should they be sincere in so doing and Sangat work to educate them on the Truth of Sikhi and how collectively we can work for the betterment of society globally.

I'm no Sikh scholar but isn't a Non Sikh not wanting to take amrit and wanting to get married with a Sikh in a Gurdwara contradicts Gurmat as well? Did not Guru Nanak Dev Ji initiate Sikhs with 'charan phul' amrit?

I'm not aware that by simply bowing to Guruji Maharaj, one becomes a Sikh. Please tell me where is this stated.

From SikhiWiki

Amrit Sanskar or Amrit Sanchar or the Amrit ceremony is the Sikh ceremony of initiation or baptism. This practice has been in existence since the times of Guru Nanak Dev (1469 - 1539). During that time-period, this ceremony was known as Charan Amritor Charan Phul or the Pag Pahul, the words Charan and Pag both signifying the foot of the teacher. During that time-period, the neophytes poured water over Guru's toe to be initiated into the fold. When the Guru was not present, the masands or the local sangat leaders officiated. A reference to initiation by Charan Amrit occurs in Bhai Gurdas, Varan, I.23, born 12 years after the passing away of Guru Nanak. The water was poured on Guru's toe and then the devotees would drink it and seek blessings of the Guru. The Guru would guide the Sikhs about the Sikh teachings and instruct them to adopt them as a way of life.

http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Amrit_Sanchar

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DTF,

IMHO, you're basically asking for Sikhism to compromise on it's principles all in the name of inclusiveness and by doing so you're going to turn it into nothing more then a social club. If it becomes nothing more then a social club, why bother going? Just walk down to your local pub, right?

People join an organization because they 'believe' in something. If you're willing to compromise on your principles, then that 'belief' will wane and people will start leaving. This is just my take.

As for Sikh numbers disappearing. Let it be.

LOL! You got it wrong. It's strictly for your spiritual journey, nothing more.

Hardly so Quantavius Ji. I strongly believe we need to increase Sikh numbers from present levels to hundreds of millions so that Sikhi can have a direct positive impact on billions of people. If we accept sehajdhari Sikhs as equals that does not prevent the Khalsa Panth from remaining niyara. If we permit those that wish to blessed by Anand Karaj to be so, I believe Sikhi can strengthen demographically instead of weaken.

Sikhi is not a social club or accident of birth. I passionately believe the primary raison d'etre behind Sikhi is Sarbat da Bhala globally so that no child is starving from malnutrition, nobody is subjected to Genocide, all children get access to clean water and education and that we build a just society for all globally (Khalsa Raj). That will never happen so long as we de facto seek to decrease Sikh numbers. Sikhi is amazing. It is the Truth. It is our duty that this Truth is projected worldwide for the betterment of all humanity rather than restricted to as few people as possible who happen to be born into a 0.3% minority globally.

If you believe Sikhi is strictly an individual spiritual journey then why worry about who has an Anand Karaj?

The duty of all Sikhs is to help those less fortunate. But whilst we remain small in numbers our ability to help globally is limited.

I passionately believe the Khalsa Panth should be a global fauj preventing Genocides, providing relief after natural disasters, combatting Ebola or child slavery or global illiteracy. But due to our low numbers we can barely help our own in Punjab and it sincerely pains me that via the protest and blocking of Anand Karaj's such a pristine Truth is becoming irrelevant to more and more young people's lives instead of spreading like wildfire as Sikhi should.

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Not at all. I passionately believe in the Khalsa Panth. I believe Amritdhari numbers will only increase via more Sikhs.

I keep my kes, I don't drink and I don't eat meat so I am not a supporter of Hundal.

Thus please do not put words into my mouth that I haven't said.

Jacfsing2 Ji you know that 99.9% of Americans are non-Sikhs.

Do you realistically think that all the Sikhs of your generation in your state will all marry Sikh spouses?

If you do believe that a high percentage of Sikhs in America are likely to marry someone from the 99.9% majority, does it not make sense to you that we accept the ever increasing reality that we see increasing year after year and look to engage, interact and educate the couples (and indeed all couples) so that the children of all such marriages are raised as Sikhs and feel part of the Sikh Panth.

Sikhs only come through Guru Sahib himself. Your not separating people that call themselves Sikhs and those who are Gurmukhs. I don't care what manmukhs do as long as they don't disgrace the Satguru and his Hukam.
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Hardly so Quantavius Ji. I strongly believe we need to increase Sikh numbers from present levels to hundreds of millions so that Sikhi can have a direct positive impact on billions of people. If we accept sehajdhari Sikhs as equals that does not prevent the Khalsa Panth from remaining niyara. If we permit those that wish to blessed by Anand Karaj to be so, I believe Sikhi can strengthen demographically instead of weaken.

By compromising it's principles you're weakening it. Sikhism then becomes meaningless.

Sikhi is not a social club or accident of birth. I passionately believe the primary raison d'etre behind Sikhi is Sarbat da Bhala globally so that no child is starving from malnutrition, nobody is subjected to Genocide, all children get access to clean water and education and that we build a just society for all globally (Khalsa Raj). That will never happen so long as we de facto seek to decrease Sikh numbers. Sikhi is amazing. It is the Truth. It is our duty that this Truth is projected worldwide for the betterment of all humanity rather than restricted to as few people as possible who happen to be born into a 0.3% minority globally.

IMHO, by compromising on it's principles, you are effectively turning it into a social club. IMHO Sikhism was not created so that we can boast large numbers. That is not it's purpose. As for wanting to spread Sikhism through marriage, how does it happen when a Non Sikh refuses to convert wants to marry a Sikh in a Gurdwara? Secondly, if you're willing to compromise, even the would be convert would have no respect for you or your religion, just my take.

If Sikhi is an strictly an individual spiritual journey then why worry about who has an Anand Karaj.

IMHO,

Because that spiritual journey starts or ignited in a Gurdwara, thats why. And that Gurdwara should not compromise on it's principles.

The duty of all Sikhs is to help those less fortunate. But whilst we remain small in numbers our ability to help globally is limited.

I passionately believe the Khalsa Panth should be a global fauj preventing Genocides, providing relief after natural disasters, combatting Ebola or chil slavery or global illiteracy. But due to our low numbers we can barely help our own in Punjab and it sincerely pains me that via the protest and blocking of Anand Karaj's such a pristine Truth is becoming irrelevant to more and more young people's lives instead of spreading like wildfire as Sikhi should.

And what has this got to do with Non Sikhs wanting to marry Sikhs in a Gurdwara?

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I always thought you had to take amrit to become a Sikh? So, a Christian who refuses to leave his religion and bows down to Guruji Maharaj is now a Sikh? I've never heard this. BTW I'm a 'mona'.

Sorry but I disagree. There may be many inter race marriages but the numbers are not that significant. If you disagree, please provide hard numbers and cite your source. You obviously have never traveled to these countries.

Nobody is a pure Dravidian or Aryan from the Indian subcontinent. We're all mutts.

I'm no Sikh scholar but isn't a Non Sikh not wanting to take amrit and wanting to get married with a Sikh in a Gurdwara contradicts Gurmat as well? Did not Guru Nana Dev Ji initiate Sikhs with 'charan phul' amrit?

Brother I believe that all sehajdhari's are Sikhs if they accept Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj as the embodiment of Truth.

I don't have statistics for intermarriage in ASEAN bloc nations but from memory I do recall that Malaysia has the highest percentage of Sikhs there at around 0.3% ... ie 99.7% of the population are non-Sikhs. If you foresee that all marriages in Malaysia and other countries in this century will be Sikhs marrying those of Sikh parentage in the face of such overwheming statistics then I believe you are underestimating the effects of globalisation and assimilation upon the Sikh Diaspora as the arranged marriage model becomes a relic of history.

The point was not that one of our Panj Piare was of pure Dravidian ancestry but more so that we fail to educate the significant Tamil population in countries like Malaysia and Singapore of such facts and then complain about girls marrying Hindu's (when if we educate the said so-called Hindu's about Sikhi logically they ought to orientate towards the undeniable Truth of Sikhi).

Do you really think that Dhan Dhan Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj dribbled water over their toes that Mata Sulakhani Ji drank at the point of their marriage?

Charan pahul is academically contested as the method of administering Amrit prior to 1699 (as the water over toes thing is pure Hinduism).

Why is it so hard to believe that Mata Sulakhani Ji became Sikh by virtue of bowing down before Shabad Guru (Ik Onkar)?

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Sikhs only come through Guru Sahib himself. Your not separating people that call themselves Sikhs and those who are Gurmukhs.

I don't care what manmukhs do as long as they don't disgrace the Satguru and his Hukam.

Yes i believe that Amritdhari, Kesdhari and Sehajdhari are all members of the Sikh Panth.

We all bow down to Maharaj. That alone defines us all as members of the Sikh Panth (though not all Gurmukhs).

DTF, Isn't there one of guru gobind singh jees 52 hukamnamas that sikh should marry sikh.

Agreed Bhai Sahib and that is exactly what occurs when an erstwhile non-Sikh becomes a new Sikh by bowing down before Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj during Anand Karaj (if they do so in sincerity without aims to convert the Sikh spouse after marriage).

By compromising it's principles you're weakening it. Sikhism then becomes meaningless.

IMHO, by compromising on it's principles, you are effectively turning it into a social club. IMHO Sikhism was not created so that we can boast large numbers. That is not it's purpose. As for wanting to spread Sikhism through marriage, how does it happen when a Non Sikh refuses to convert wants to marry a Sikh in a Gurdwara? Secondly, if you're willing to compromise, even the would be convert would have no respect for you or your religion, just my take.

IMHO,

Because that spiritual journey starts or ignited in a Gurdwara, thats why. And that Gurdwara should not compromise on it's principles.

And what has this got to do with Non Sikhs wanting to marry Sikhs in a Gurdwara?

I agree with you. By making Anand Karaj something only those supposedly born into Sikh families can partake in I believe we are veering from the principles of Gurmat (Sikhi).

If numbers are not relevant then why do you worry as to who marries who in an Anand Karaj?

If Sikh were a 99.7% majority in India instead of a 1.7% minority do you think any Indian government would have attacked Sri Darbar Sahib?

Had we been more significant than only 13% of Punjabi's in 1947 do you think we would have suffered the Pakistani Genocide of Sikhs?

The estrangement and alienation of Sikhs and their future generations away from Sikhi is central to what the Panth can achieve globally. The more Sikhs there are the more we can achieve for the global good. The less Sikhs there are the more vulnerable a minority we become.

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I don't have statistics for intermarriage in ASEAN bloc nations but I do not that Malaysia has the highest percentage of Sikhs there at around 0.3% ie 99.7% of the population are non-Sikhs. If you foresee that all marriages in this century will be Sikhs marrying those of Sikh parentage then I believe you are underestimating the effects of globalisation and assimilation upon Diaspora as the arranged marriage model become a relic of history.

The Sikhs living in Malaysia and all neighboring asian countries are already mostly 3rd generation or 4th. If what you say is true, it should have happened by now. So why don't you provide proof to your assertion? Why don't you provide census data that confirms this? You don't have statistics but that is surely not stopping you from making tall claims.

Truth is not ascertained to what you and i 'believe' in. If I believe the moon is made out of cheese, will this make it true?

The point was not that one of our Panj Piare was of pure Dravidian ancestry but more so that we fail to educate the significant Tamil population in countries like Malaysia and Singapore and then complain about girls marrying Hindu's (when if we educate the said so-called Hindu's about Sikhi logically they ought to orientate towards Sikhi).

Nobody is stopping you from spreading the teachings of Sikhism. However IMHO our Gurdwara should not have to compromise on it's principles. Do you think a person will have respect for you if you're willing to compromise your principles?

Do you really think that Dhan Dhan Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj dribbled water over their toes that Mata Sulakhani Ji drank?

Charan pahul is academically contested as the method of administering Amrit prior to 1699 (as the water over toes thing is pure Hinduism).

Why is it so hard to believe that Mata Sulakhani Ji became Sikh by virtue of bowing down before Shabad Guru (Ik Onkar).

That is what my Sikh source states and I've read this elsewhere. I believe it's based on Sakhias. I don;t know what to believe as I'm still learning.

If by simply bowing in front of Guruji makes one a Sikh, what about all those Muslims in ancient times who bowed to Guruji in the Gurdwara? Did they becomes Sikhs after that?

If you disagree, why don't you provide proof to your counter argument? You're making a lot of claims but you're providing no proof at all.

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The Sikhs living in Malaysia and all neighboring asian countries are already mostly 3rd generation or 4th.

If you disagree, why don't you provide proof to your counter argument?

As I already explained to you brother, the 3rd or so generations have remained broadly in tact so long as arranged marriages were the norm within our community. If you believe that these Malaysian Sikhs will magically avoid increasing rates of intermarriage with a 99.7% majority in this century then I respectfully believe you are mistaken.

I don't believe Gurmat is being compromised by two people who will marry anyway being allowed an Anand Karaj and thus encouraged to raise their children as Sikhs rather than ensuring that they will not by blocking them from Anand Karaj.

Yes those former Muslims that bowed down before Guru Sahib (instead of to Mecca) did indeed become new Sikhs.

The proof is pretty obvious Quantavius Ji. If you have a bottle of Coca-Cola that is losing some liquid every day (as Sikhs every day choose to marry partners of an erstwhile non-Sikh background) then the bottle will be 50% full as time progresses if we continue to alienate and estrange such couples their future generations away from Sikhi.

Think about it logically brother. Think of the Amish community that already do exactly what you advocate. Unlike Sikhs their fertility rate is above replacement level. How will the Sikh Panth with a low fetility rate and losing adherents blocked from Anand Karaj flourish demographically if we do not do everything we can to accept and encourage new blood into the Panth?

It's a no brainer to me.

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    • For a decade. Mainly here, a bit in Japan. It's called being Uchi Deshi, and as far as I know I'm the longest serving one. In a traditional program.  It's the Budo equivalent of being a Dharamsali mixed with being a Nihang. 
    • This. It's a lot more than this as well, military strategies, intel networks, manipulating narratives, decision making -  just for a start.   If you can perceive some of these things you're blessed more than most people who read it all the time on a surface literal level. 
    • Afghanistan’s last Sikhs in a dilemma: To stay or leave Community leaders estimate just 140 Sikhs remain in the Taliban-ruled country, mostly in the eastern city of Jalalabad and capital Kabul. An Afghan Sikh priest praying at the Karte Parwan Gurdwara temple in Kabul [Mohd Rasfan/AFP] Published On 20 Jan 202220 Jan 2022   The caretaker of Kabul’s last Sikh temple stands looking at the cavernous hall where throngs once gathered in worship. Only a handful are left now. “Afghanistan is our country, our homeland,” said Gurnam Singh. “But we are leaving out of sheer hopelessness.” In the 1970s, Afghanistan’s Sikh population numbered 100,000, but decades of conflict, poverty and intolerance have driven almost all of them into exile. The Soviet occupation, subsequent Taliban regime and bloody military intervention by the United States winnowed their numbers to just 240 last year, according to figures kept by the community. After the Taliban returned to power in August, opening the newest chapter in Afghanistan’s dark history, a fresh wave of Sikhs fled the country. Today, Gurnam Singh estimates just 140 remain, mostly in the eastern city of Jalalabad and in Kabul. An Afghan Sikh priest carrying the Guru Granth Sahib at the Karte Parwan Gurdwara in Kabul [Mohd Rasfan/AFP] Some of the remaining devotees trickle into the Karte Parwan Gurdwara temple to pray on a recent wintry morning. Men stand to one side, women to the other – about 15 people in total. Sitting barefoot on a floor covered with thick red rugs, they warm themselves around stoves and listen to a recitation from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. In November, the temple had three copies, but two have since been sent to New Delhi for “safekeeping”. Poverty is rife among Afghan Sikhs, and attacks by the Afghan chapter of the ISIL (ISIS) armed group are a real threat. The overwhelming majority of Sikhs fleeing Afghanistan have landed in India, where 90 percent of the religion’s 25 million global adherents live, mainly in the northwest region of Punjab. Since the Taliban takeover, India has offered exiled Sikhs priority visas and the opportunity to apply for long-term residency. There is no sign yet that citizenship is on the table. Pharmacist Manjit Singh, 40, is among those who turned down the offer, despite his daughter having emigrated there with her new husband last year. “What would I do in India?” he asked. “There is no job or house there.” Among the remaining holdouts, the prospect of leaving is particularly wrenching: it would mean abandoning their spiritual home. “When this gurdwara was built 60 years ago, the whole area was full of Sikhs,” said 60-year-old community elder Manmohan Singh. “Whatever joy or sorrow we felt, we shared it here.” A priest praying at the Karte Parwan Gurdwara temple in Kabul [Mohd Rasfan/AFP] From the outside, the temple is largely indistinguishable from other buildings on the street. But security here is markedly high, with body searches, ID checks and two fortified doors. In early October, unidentified gunmen forced their way inside and vandalised the sacred space. The incident had ugly echoes of the most scarring attack on the Afghan Sikh community. In March 2020, members of ISIL assaulted the Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Shor Bazar, a former enclave of Kabul’s Sikh community, killing 25. Since the attack, that temple – and the nearby Dharamshala Gurdwara, the capital’s oldest Sikh house of worship at an estimated 500 years – have been abandoned. Parmajeet Kaur was struck by shrapnel in her left eye during the attack, and her sister was among those killed. In the weeks that followed, Kaur packed her bags and headed for New Delhi, but “we had no work and it was expensive, so we came back”, she said. That was in July, a few weeks before the Taliban returned to power. Now Kaur, her husband and three children are fed and housed by Karte Parwan Gurdwara. Her children do not go to school, and Kaur never ventures beyond the walls of the temple, the only place where she feels safe. She thinks about leaving again, this time for Canada or the US. “My son and daughters are still small,” she said. “If we leave, we can make something of our lives.”
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