image caption: Gurmukh Singh

Vaisakhi Reminder of the State of the Panth

  • As Sikhs Prepare to Celebrate Vaisakhi 2022

In the Republic of India Sikh Case Still a Running Sore, was the heading of an article by Bhai Hari Singh in the September, 1973 issue of The Sikh Review (Kolakatta). Today, as we approach Vaisakhi 2022, the Sikh case is still a running sore in India. The Indian Panjab, a much truncated original Panjab of Five Rivers, was created, in effect, as a Sikh homeland. It is hardly even that now and is facing almost unsurmountable agro-economics and environmental challenges. It is way down in the league table of Indian states.

The Akali Party, which was traditionally looked upon as a political party safeguarding Panjabi (including Sikh) interests and also contributed to the independence movement of the Indian sub-continent, has ended up becoming a tool in the hands of one family promoting own interests while weakening Panthic processes, organisation and institutions. The Party has been almost wiped out in recent state elections. Yet, on the positive side, the global Sikh community is regarded as one of the most enterprising and prosperous not least due to Sikh tradition, ideology and institutions.

So, while the above challenges and current issues continue to be discussed by theo-political analysts, we remind ourselves of the Sikh heritage during this 2022 Vaisakhi season, to understand why we are where we are. Hopefully, by understanding the root causes we can seek guidance for the recovery of the Sikh theo-political position to be able to pursue the complementary twin objectives of Panth di Chardhi Kalaa and Sarbatt da Bhalaa as envisaged by the Guru Nanak Jot-Jugat.

Remembering the continuity and evolution of Sikh ideology and institutions is essential to Sikh cohesion as a distinct people or a nation. The French historian Ernest Renan defined a nation (distinct people as political entity) as a living soul, a spiritual principle, the past and the present and a rich heritage of memories, the desire to live together and the will to preserve the undivided inheritance.

As such, one is reminded of the first part of daily Sikh Ardaas (supplication) which also summarises Sikh nationhood as above. Clearly, the state of the Panth refers to the clarity with which Sikhs understand and remember the essential continuity from the past, to be projected to the future, of their Miri-Piri ideology, history and aspirations as recited in the Ardas.

That continuity has to be seen from Guru Nanak Sahib, through His Jot-Jugat working through the nine succeeding Guru-persons to finally reside in the twin-institution of Guru Granth and Panth. As a synopsis of Sikh tradition, earnest recitation of daily Ardas with clear understanding, strengthens the Sikh resolve to work towards corporate Panthic theo-political objectives also stated in the second part of the Sikh Reht Maryada.

Vaisakhi, regarded as the high point of Sikh tradition, is the time when we take stock of the state of the Khalsa Panth, the Sikh theo-political nation. The seed of the sovereign Nirmal Panth was sowed by Guru Nanak Sahib (1469-1539). Kartarpur Sahib was established in the last 18 years of His life as a theo-social of self-rule for the human society. Such a regime was not imposed by an external authority but derived from the inner spiritual evolution facilitated by the Guru in Sangat (congregation). Kartarpur represented the embryonic Khalsa Raj. (Continued next week)

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant Retd.