It was Khushwant Singh’s interest in religions, despite not being a religious person himself that gave birth to the idea of having a discussion on the topic during the ongoing literature festival at this scenic town where the late author would spend significant time, especially during the summer.
“When Rahul (Khushwant’s son) asked me to have a talk on one of my heroes, I told him I would talk of a 15th century poet who is more contemporary than Shakespeare. And that is Guru Nanak Dev,” said film producer Bobby Bedi, who moderated the session “Nanak: The Poet Guru, five centuries on” on Saturday.
“We (Sikhs) are only 500-odd years old as compared to Christianity, Islam or Buddhism,” he said.
Bedi said he found it difficult to talk of a man who is recalled as the founder of Sikhism and then make people understand that this is not where it ends.
“A very few people look beyond this description and try and understand the man and his writings. Nanak’s work must be looked upon as a writer, singer, musician and not merely a spiritual leader,” he said.
Joined by Kamla Kapur, an author on Sikhism whose book ‘The Singing Guru’ is based on Nanak’s captivating journey and artist-cum-sculptor Siddhartha, the panel threw light on Nanak as one with an overarching presence which makes him more contemporary than any one other literary figure.
“My hero was Shakespeare but he was superseded by Nanak as the latter embodied the Sikh as well as the soldier,” said Kapur, adding that “this understanding allows one to be all of oneself rather than me limited to a single identity”.
“Nanak was a son, father and brother and he never taught us to be held back by restrictions and by dividing people into Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs,” she said.
Referring to the Guru Granth Sahib, Bedi added that even in Nanak’s writings he clearly spread a clear message of being human.
“Nanak acknowledges a supreme power but not the concept of God in his writings,” said Bedi. For artist Sidhartha, this is linked to a larger purpose of “synchronisation of frequencies which refers to sound (energy) which is at play every minute as we talk”.
Kamla Kapur summed this by saying that “the only pilgrimage you make is the pilgrimage to yourself”. “While doing research on my book, I understood that for Nanak there was no religion other than wind and fire,” she said.
Referring to Nanak as an inimitable and mysterious energy, Bobby Bedi left the panelists, especially his Sikh friends, with a thought to ponder over.
Museum for spreading awareness among youth
Talking about the need to sensitise the youth about the core values of Sikhism after the session, Bobby Bedi said, “We get so caught up by ritualistic parts of our religions that we lose the sense of what faith is all about.”
Bedi said he has been closely working on the Mool Project which is aimed at acquainting the Sikh youth and the international community with the history and values of the Sikh faith. The foundation stone was laid earlier this year at the Sikh Centre for International Studies at Rakab Ganj, New Delhi.
“Since I have seen very little Sikh art within India, I want that our own people have access to Sikh art from across the world through audio-visuals we are putting together in the digital space,” said the film producer, who hopes to have it all ready in the next 18 months or so.