VoW 2019 / Sessions / November 16 / A tribute to Guru Nanak Dev ji R I Singh, Rahul Singh, Robin Gupta & Narinder S Bindra
Understand Nanak : The Literary Way
“Why confine your prayer to a small tray (for aarti)?” questioned Guru Nakak. “The forests’ incense is being propelled by the breeze already (when all the nature is offering its prayers)” he then wrote in his poem, “Gagan Mein Aarti”.
While a lot of us know of Guru Nanak Ji as the first Sikh guru and the founder of Sikhism, the session, ‘A Tribute to Guru Nanak Dev Ji’, explored Guru Nanak as a pioneer in literature, a poet and a musician, and as a philosopher than just a religious name.
The historical context of Nanak was delved into by Rahul Singh, which substantiated the saying that circumstances create great men. Atrocities of the Lodhi dynasty, ill practices of Hinduism, exploitation by the Qazis, the Sufi and Bhakti reform movements – all must’ve shaped Guru Nanak and inspired him to come forth and spread light.
R I Singh, took the audience deeper into the life and teachings of Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak was a Man of His Word, he wrote over a thousand verses – and also composed them into ragas – he also lived upto them. He wrote, “Manas ki jaat, Sab ik hi pehchaan, Na koi hindh, Na koi musalmaan”, and set an example for all people by never asking his two companions, Maradana – a Muslim – and Bala – a Hindu – to convert to any other faith. Guru Nanak was shown not as a religious propagater, but as a philosopher. He set forth his philosophy and traveled for over 34,000 miles, propagating the word of Truth. As highlighted by Narinder S Bindra, all of Nanak’s teachings and his philosophy has its crux in ‘Ik’ (One) – One Truth, One God, Oneness of people regardless of caste, faith or gender, etc.
Guru Nanak spoke highly of Truth, as much as equating Truth to God. He conceptualized “Sat-naam”, Truthfulness is Godliness and “Sachh Khand”, God is where Truth is, “Ik Onkar” meaning there’s but one supreme Almighty, and many more in his songs and poetry. Rightly said by Narinder S Bindra, Nanak can only be understood through his ‘bani’ (words/voice).
Nanak wrote on, reformed and revolutionized the society and all its aspects, including but not limited to the caste system (Sabko acha sajiye, neech na hove koi), ritualistic worship (gagan mein aarti), the ills of Islam and Hinduism, the subjugation of women, the environment (pawan guru, paani pita, dharti mata hoye, etc. He preached through his life, the tennets of compassion, oneness, truth and karma, and said Jaisa kije vaisa paave, aap pije aap hi khaave (You shall reap what you sow).
Guru Nanak never preached a religion, he preached a way of life; his teachings aren’t, and never were, confined to any religion. He propagated a humanitarian philosophy vouching for equality, fraternity and freedom to follow one’s own religion with compassion at heart. A lot of incidents from Nanak’s travels were discussed in the session and his poetry on his observations (Udaasiyaan) were shared with the audience in this enlightening session. One such observational poetry is, in translation, “The Qazis tell un-truth, the Brahmin kills and takes baths holy, the blind Yogi knows not the way” and how Mankind blindly followed(s?) these corrupt men.
“Why and how did the pacifist attitude of Sikhism under Nanak transitioned into a militant attitude under the later Sikh Gurus?” asked Robin Gupta, the chair to the panelists. To this, an important clarification/distinction was made by R I Singh as he emphasized that “Sikhism has been a non-violent philosophy, and not a pacifist philosophy”. Sikhism teaches the freedom of following one’s own religion and protecting another’s religion if need be. To quote Guru Gobind Singh ji, “When all other means have failed, it is righteous to use the sword.”
The session had an apt conclusion as the discussion moved to talking about the later years of Nanak at Qartarpur, now in Pakistan, which has only recently been opened to Indians. Nanak’s death makes a great anecdote because on his death, there was a conflict among his Muslim and Hindu followers as to what was to be done with his holy body. The next day of his passing, it was discovered that in place of his body, were just flowers. Nanak didn’t let anyone be divided even in death, or after. A playback of ‘Gagan Aarti’, a song by Nanak, composed in raga, brought the enlightening session to an end. The session was well received by the audience and the panelists thanked the cursor, Sanjeev Chopra, for organizing this tributary session.
Agrima Nidhi Sharma, St.Stephens, New Delhi