By Bobinec, Greg on November 18, 2019.
Over the weekend, members of the Sikh community in Lethbridge gathered to celebrate and honour the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, founder of Sikh religion.
Guru Nanak, also referred to as Baba Nanak, was the founder of Sikhism and the first of the 10 Sikh Gurus. Guru Nanak set up a unique spiritual, social, and political platform which was based on equality of everyone, fraternal love, goodness, and virtue. As his birth anniversary arrived, Sikh community members around the world celebrated all he has taught them.
“Today we are celebrating the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, which is Guru Nanak,” says Anup Randhawa, member of the Sikh community.
“His most prominent message that he taught us is selfless service to humanity, along with equality. In India at the time of founding of our faith, women and minorities were oppressed and Guru Nanak was this divine light that came into this chaos and wondered why people would degrade women, because women are your friends, from women you are born, and a woman you seek as your friend, so why would you hold them to anything less in society.”
Randhawa says that being a woman in Sikhism is empowering as she is seen as equally important and valuable as her husband and other men. Women in Sikhism are able to commence traditional ceremonies, have jobs, an education, and freedom to live their lives.
“It is very liberating being a woman of Sikh,” says Randhawa. “Nanak said that women are held to be equal in the eyes of God and that we are not less than. There are multiple faiths where women are oppressed, one of the main things that Guru Nanak taught was to love all, you are not to sit there and slam one person or faith. As a woman I am fully capable of making any decisions in my household.”
Equality is one of the strongest traits that Guru Nanak taught the people of Sikhism as the idea of hierarchy was nonexistent. One of the concepts Guru Nanak taught people was one of a communal meal, made by volunteers and shared by everyone, no matter their social standing.
“One of the other things that Guru Nanak started was the concept of Langar, which is a free communal meal which is made by a group of volunteers,” says Randhawa. “India at the time of Nanak’s birth was heavily involved with the caste system where certain members of society were considered untouchable, and Guru Nanak said that everyone can come, everyone can prepare this meal and everyone should partake, we all sit as equals on the ground and consume the meal that is prepared, you are not to ask who prepared it and why.”
Guru Nanak’s ideologies of equality, love, and compassion are spread throughout not only Sikhism, but also Judaism and Muslim faiths, as he is considered a holy man. With many misconceptions about Sikhism and Indian culture, the Sikh community invited the community of Lethbridge to partake in the celebrations to learn more about the culture and what it really represents.
“We want people to come and see that our women are equally participating in everything because the problem is when you see an Indian culture, you automatically associate it with some misconceptions such as oppression or silence,” said Randhawa.
“You will see that our women are taking part in everything, we encourage people to come to our ceremonies, our faith doesn’t exclude anyone. The only way that we are going to learn about each other and dispel any misconceptions is to be asking each other questions.”
Throughout the day, Sikh community members celebrated with their Langar meal, as well as partaking in the singing of hymns from the scripture and showing their respects to Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
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