Are our Gurdwaras Dysfunctional? – Part I

PART ONE: The Roles and Functions of a Gurdwara.
Karminder Singh Dhillon, PhD (Boston).

There perhaps is no place on earth where a group of Sikhs reside but have not constructed a Gurdwara. From gold plated structures, sprawling marble-adorned complexes and modern architectural constructs to a variety of humble variants – our Gurdwaras have become the core institution of the Sikh way of life.  

But fair minded Sikhs would agree that constructing magnificent Gurdwaras and THEN ensuring they function in accordance with their intended roles are two starkly different things. 

Thinking Sikhs would also agree that a Gurdwara has to do more than merely organizing Sunday diwans that constitute kirtan by professional ragis, akhand path readings by professional pathis, the occasional katha or sermon also by a professional and conclude with the serving of langar.

 As an institution a Gurdwara has to be more than a place for the conduct of Anand Karajs, Antim Ardas and other functions where the sangat has no role other than staggered,  passive and casual attendance.  

Put plainly, given the investments of money, time and our collective energies that we Sikhs have put into our Gurdwaras, do we get adequate Returns of Investments (ROI) in terms of spiritual, social, and gurmat measures?

This question becomes critical as our Gurdwaras begin to steadily empty out of Generation Y and Z Sikhs; as our youth become increasingly alienated from our Gurdwaras; and as our children begin to disconnect from Sikhi.

The question posed above can only be answered with a full appreciation of the intended roles and functions of our Gurdwaras.

Continue reading “Are our Gurdwaras Dysfunctional? – Part I”

The Sikh Nishan Sahib Demystified

Karminder Singh Dhillon,
PhD (Boston), Kuala Lumpur.

The Kesri (Xanthic) coloured flag that Sikhs respectfully call the Nishan Sahib and seen flying at Gurdwaras is to the Sikh place of worship as Sikh Dastaar or Turban is to Sikh identity.

A few points on its origin, function and manner of respect may be as useful to the reader as much of some commentary on worship-like rituals that have sprung up in recent times in relation to the Sikh flag.

Sikh scholar cum historian Kahn Singh Nabha writes that the Nishan Sahib was originally called Jhanda (flag) Sahib and that it was founded by Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.  Folks who get offended when someone refers to the Sikh flag as “Jhanda” can take note of this fact.

In the village of Fagwara in Punjab, there is a historic Gurdwara marking the transit of the seventh master Guru Har Rai Ji during one of his travels from Kartarpur to Kiratpur, called Gurdwara Jhanda Sahib, lending credence to the fact that the term “Jhanda Sahib” had come into existence then.

Continue reading “The Sikh Nishan Sahib Demystified”