Holi

Holi
Holi

I have written about many Indian festivals, but never about Holi. It is the Hindu festival of colours, much like Diwali being the festival of lights.

For Sikhism, colours are strong depictions of mental state. There is no physical relevance to colours. A Sikh is expected to wear ordinary clothes that do not attract attention. Neither is playing with colours encouraged.

A key ingredient used during holi is called Gulal. Its a deep red coloured powder which is used to colour others. The Guru says this about Gulal:

ਚੀਤਿ ਆਵੈ ਤਾਂ ਰੰਗਿ ਗੁਲਾਲ ॥
When my mind is attached to Him, I am dyed in the deep crimson of His Love.

In the daily Sikh prayer, the first reference to the word colour appears in Japuji Sahib.

ਭਰੀਐ ਮਤਿ ਪਾਪਾ ਕੈ ਸੰਗਿ ॥
But when the intellect is stained and polluted by sins committed by us,

ਓਹੁ ਧੋਪੈ ਨਾਵੈ ਕੈ ਰੰਗਿ ॥
it can only be cleansed by the colour (Love) of His Name.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib recognises two colours: Kusumbh and Majith. Kusumbh is light orange in colour, while Majith is dark red, even crimson. Kusumbh is the color of a flower (Butea monosperma) called “flame of the forest” (called FF henceforth in this post). When its immersed in water for a few hours, the flower looses its colour, and the water becomes coloured.

When Guru Nanak was visiting Mecca, he was asked whether Hinduism was the greater religion or Islam. His reply was as under:

ਕਚਾ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਦਾ ਪਾਣੀ ਧੋਤੈ ਥਿਰ ਨ ਰਹੋਈ।
As the colour of FF flower is impermanent and is washed away in water, likewise the colours of religiosity are also temporary.

To the contrary, majith is permanent. Its effects are not physical, rather its colouring is for the soul:

ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭੁ ਹੈ ਕਚੂਆ ਜਿਉ ਕੁਸਮ ਚਾਰਿ ਦਿਨ ਚਾਗਾ ॥
The self-willed manmukh is like the false color of the FF flower, which fades away; its color lasts for only a few days.

ਖਿਨ ਮਹਿ ਬਿਨਸਿ ਜਾਇ ਪਰਤਾਪੈ ਡੰਡੁ ਧਰਮ ਰਾਇ ਕਾ ਲਾਗਾ ॥੨॥
He perishes in an instant; he is tormented, and punished by the Righteous Judge of Dharma. ||2||

ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਸਾਧ ਅਤਿ ਗੂੜੀ ਜਿਉ ਰੰਗੁ ਮਜੀਠ ਬਹੁ ਲਾਗਾ ॥
The Lord’s Love, found in the Sat Sangat, the True Congregation, is absolutely permanent, and colorfast.

ਕਾਇਆ ਕਾਪਰੁ ਚੀਰ ਬਹੁ ਫਾਰੇ ਹਰਿ ਰੰਗੁ ਨ ਲਹੈ ਸਭਾਗਾ ॥੩॥
The cloth of the body may be torn to shreds, but still, this beautiful color of the Lord’s Love does not fade away. ||3||

ਹਰਿ ਚਾਰ੍ਹਿਓ ਰੰਗੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਗੁਰੁ ਸੋਭਾ ਹਰਿ ਰੰਗਿ ਚਲੂਲੈ ਰਾਂਗਾ ॥
Meeting with the Blessed Guru, one is dyed in the color of the Lord’s Love, imbued with this deep crimson color.

So how does the Guru celebrate Holi. The answer is obvious:

ਹੋਲੀ ਕੀਨੀ ਸੰਤ ਸੇਵ ॥
Holī kīnī sanṯ sev.
I celebrate the festival of Holi by serving the Saints.

ਰੰਗੁ ਲਾਗਾ ਅਤਿ ਲਾਲ ਦੇਵ ॥੨॥
Rang lāgā aṯ lāl ḏev. ||2||
I am imbued with the deep crimson color of the Lord’s Divine Love. ||2|

Finally I want to share another related hymn:

ਲਾਲ ਰੰਗੁ ਤਿਸ ਕਉ ਲਗਾ ਜਿਸ ਕੇ ਵਡਭਾਗਾ ॥
One is dyed in the (red) color of the Lord’s Love, by great good fortune.

ਮੈਲਾ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਨਹ ਲਾਗੈ ਦਾਗਾ ॥੧॥
This color is never muddied; no stain ever sticks to it. ||1||

ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਸੁਖਦਾਈਆ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਸੁਖ ਭਾਇ ॥
He finds God, the Giver of peace, with feelings of joy.

ਸਹਜਿ ਸਮਾਨਾ ਭੀਤਰੇ ਛੋਡਿਆ ਨਹ ਜਾਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
The Celestial Lord blends into his soul, and he can never leave Him. ||1||Pause||

ਜਰਾ ਮਰਾ ਨਹ ਵਿਆਪਈ ਫਿਰਿ ਦੂਖੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ॥
Old age and death cannot touch him, and he shall not suffer pain again.

ਪੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਆਘਾਨਿਆ ਗੁਰਿ ਅਮਰੁ ਕਰਾਇਆ ॥੨॥
Drinking in the Ambrosial Nectar, he is satisfied; the Guru makes him immortal. ||2||

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Bandi Chhor Diwas

Bandi Chhor Diwas
Bandi Chhor Diwas

Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, sixth Sikh Guru emerging from Gwalior Fort where he was imprisoned by Emperor Jahangir. Along with him, 52 Hindu chieftains were also released, on request from the Guru. Sikhs celebrate Diwali festival as “Bandi Chhor Diwas” because the Guru reached Amritsar back on the Diwali day. For the full story visit http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Bandi_Chhorh_Divas

Very few people know that this day is also important for Sikhs because of martyrdom of Bhai Mani Singh. He transcribed the final version of Guru Granth Sahib dictated to him by Guru Gobind Singh in 1704.

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Diwali night

Diwali
Diwali
Diwali was celebrated in India a few days back. Diwali means differently to different religions – for sikhs it marks the return of Guru Hargobindji to Amritsar.

The first copy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib was scribed by Bhai Gurdaas, who was a devoted sikh of Guru Arjan Devji. He completed the Adi Granth in 1604. It took him nearly 19 years to complete this task. Bhai Gurdas not only wrote the Adi Granth as dictated by Guru Arjan Dev but also supervised four other scribes, Bhai Haria, Bhai Sant Das, Bhai Sukha and Bhai Manasa Ram, in the writing of various scriptures. Bhai Gurdaas’ own writings are collectively known as ‘Varan Bhai Gurdaas – and from these I bring the following hymn. This is normally sung during Diwali, because of the reference to Diwali in the first line. Many people believe this to be an implicit instruction by the Guru to lite candles. However, this is not true – the Guru never believes in completing physical rituals. The meaning of the hymn is more sublime:

੬ : ਚੱਲਣ ਜੁਗਤ
ਦੀਵਾਲੀ ਦੀ ਰਾਤਿ ਦੀਵੇ ਬਾਲੀਅਨਿ।
Lamps are lighted in the night of diwali festival;

ਤਾਰੇ ਜਾਤਿ ਸਨਾਤਿ ਅੰਬਰਿ ਭਾਲੀਅਨਿ।
Stars of different variety appear in the sky;

ਫੁਲਾਂ ਦੀ ਬਾਗਾਤਿ ਚੁਣਿ ਚੁਣਿ ਚਾਲੀਅਨਿ।
Flowers blossom in the garden; but are plucked;

ਤੀਰਥਿ ਜਾਤੀ ਜਾਤਿ ਨੈਣ ਨਿਹਾਲੀਅਨਿ।
The pilgrims are seen visiting the places of pilgrimage;

ਹਰਿਚੰਦਉਰੀ ਝਾਤਿ ਵਸਾਇ ਉਚਾਲੀਅਨਿ।
Temporary habitats have been seen coming into being and vanishing.

ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੁਖ ਫਲ ਦਾਤਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਸਮ੍ਹਾਲੀਅਨਿ ॥੬॥
All these are momentary, but the gurmukhs with the help of the Word nourish the gift of the pleasure fruit.

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Vaisakhi

Vaisakhi
Vaisakhi

Can’t believe I haven’t written about Vaisakhi before – its one of the most important events in Sikh history. Also known as Baisakhi, this is a harvest festival that marks the beginning of a new year as per the local calendar. More important, for Sikhism it also marks the birth of the Khalsa – the pure. In 1699, the Tenth Guru converted Sikhism which so far was just a way of life, into a more disciplined religion with rules and a code of conduct – with a democratic way of functioning.

Like every year, Vaisakhi is being celebrated by large gatherings in the Sikh temples (gurdwara). I want to encourage people to get baptized: the Guru will guide you – it’s not as difficult to follow as it seems initially. For those who have been baptized but do not follow the code of conduct on a daily basis, this is what I suggest: start with a shorter regimen, and build it at your pace. Japuji Sahib in the mornings, and Benti Chaupai in the evenings to begin with for example.

Today the religious world is divided: different religions, each disfavouring the other; various sects etc. If people understood the distinction between Prem (love) and Moh (attachment) there would be less fighting between the various groups.

  1. Moh is temporary, Prem is permanent. Moh is what a father feels for a son – if the son disobeys the father the weak thread of Moh breaks.
  2. Also, Moh is about saying “God belongs to me“. If the God belongs to me, someone else needs to invent a different God for himself. Prem is about saying “I belong to the God“. It is about giving up oneself.

Prem is like a fish in water – Only death can separate them. Indeed, Guru Tegh Bahadur wants us to love God like a fish in water:

ਗੁਨ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਗਾਇਓ ਨਹੀ ਜਨਮੁ ਅਕਾਰਥ ਕੀਨੁ ॥
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਭਜੁ ਮਨਾ ਜਿਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਜਲ ਕਉ ਮੀਨੁ ॥੧॥
If we do not sing the praises of the Lord, we are wasting our life in vain. Says Nanak, meditate on God, like the way, the fish loves water.

A worshiper goes one step further beautifully talking about Moh and Prem:

ਜਉ ਹਮ ਬਾਂਧੇ ਮੋਹ ਫਾਸ ਹਮ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਬਧਨਿ ਤੁਮ ਬਾਧੇ ॥
You (God) sent me to this world, and bound me with attachment to treasures and people. I have, in return, bound you with the bonds of love.
ਅਪਨੇ ਛੂਟਨ ਕੋ ਜਤਨੁ ਕਰਹੁ ਹਮ ਛੂਟੇ ਤੁਮ ਆਰਾਧੇ ॥੧॥
I have broken free from the binds of attachment by meditating on You. How shall you liberate yourself now from the binds of my Love?

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The festival of Lohri

Lohri is a major North Indian festival, which to us non-farmers means the start of the decline of the winter season.

The first Lohri after marriage or after a newborn baby is cause of celebration: this includes family and friends in the evening, lighting a bonfire, eating rewri, peanuts, popcorn etc and singing Lohri ‘carols’. One of the carols is about a person called ‘Dulla’ who, in a Robin Hood fashion looted the landowners (zamindars) and distributed the loot among the poor.

Below a photograph of our very own bonfire (from yesterday evening), the first one I lit in my life:

Bonfire
Bonfire

Once we setup the pile of wood ready to light, the children playing around ‘damaged’ it. There after they tried to build it back with no luck, so we had to do it all over again. 🙂

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Gurpurab Celebrations

Gurpurab is a celebration or commemoration based on the lives of one of the Sikh spiritual gurus. They tend to be either birthdays or celebrations of Sikh martyrdom.
The Gurpurab of Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji is coming up, on 5th January. Tomorrow there is a procession in Delhi to mark the occasion. Many other initiatives are on to mark the occasion. Following photos show the decoration that is done daily at our local Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship):

The quote on the first one says “The moment is blessed, which is used to recite the name of the True Lord”. At the center of the flower is “Ik Onkar” which means “God is one”, or rather “Recite the name of the True Lord, One Who is the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer (all in One), and like Whom there is no other.
The second one says “No Deva (gods and goddesses) can equal the Guru. The one who has blessing on his forehead falls in selfless service to the Guru”.

I was at the Gurdwara Sahib on the New Year eve, and the thought that struck me was:

ਸਬਦਿ ਮਰਹੁ ਫਿਰਿ ਜੀਵਹੁ ਸਦ ਹੀ ਤਾ ਫਿਰਿ ਮਰਣੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥
ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਦਾ ਮਨਿ ਮੀਠਾ ਸਬਦੇ ਪਾਵੈ ਕੋਈ ॥੩॥


Through understanding and absorbing the Shabad, you will forget ‘yourself’ and became ‘dead’. Dying in the Word of the Shabad, you shall live forever, and you shall never die again (because you will not need to be born again). The Ambrosial Nectar of the Lord’s Name is ever-sweet to the mind; but how few are those who obtain the Shabad.

‘Shabad’ refers to the Word of the Guru, the hymns.

Have a Happy New Year 2009.

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