Golden Temple offers hope for humanity in times of coronavirus
UPHOLDING MARYADA Devotees, in fewer numbers due to the curfew, join the keepers of the faith to ensure dawn-to-dusk rituals are carried out uninterrupted at the holiest shrine of the SikhsUpdated: Mar 30, 2020 17:59 IST
‘Tu kahe doleh parania, tudh rakhega sirjanhar (Don’t lose heart, O man, you will be defended and taken care of by God, the Creator of everything)’.
The reassuring shabad at the Golden Temple is apt in these troubled times of the coronavirus disease.
The holiest shrine of the Sikhs may be seeing far fewer devotees due to the curfew to ensure social distancing, but the age-old maryada and dawn-to-dusk rituals of parkash, kirtan and sukh asan – traditions that were interrupted only during Operations Bluestar (1984) and Black Thunder (1986) in living memory – are being followed religiously.
Hymns reverberate in the precincts, and far beyond, through the live telecast that is now providing spiritual solace to devotees holed up in their homes the world over.
Keepers of the faith, including raagis and sewadars, begin their day as early as 2am for the amrit vela (the pre-dawn) ceremony that starts with the opening of kiwars (doors of darshani deori). Despite the curfew, about 100 devotees recite prayers followed by kirtan of Asa di Vaar, a hymn by Guru Nanak.
“It is a daily ritual to be here, even in the curfew,” says Tarundeep Singh, a youngster who lives nearby, and is adept at blowing the narsinga (a traditional wind instrument) while the Palki Sahib (golden palanquin) carries the holy saroop of Guru Granth Sahib.
Normally, about 3,000 devotees watch the proceedings, says Giani Maan Singh, a granthi (priest). “Now the sangat comes daily but only in the required number so as to uphold the maryada,” he says.
FAITH COMES FIRST
The kirtan by hazoori raagis (regular Gurbani exponents) are telecast live throughout the day on social media ever since the curfew came into effect last week.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) sewadars and half the devotees wear masks in the parikarma of the shrine but not in the sanctum sanctorum.
“No devotee is prohibited from wearing masks inside the sanctum sanctorum, but it is against the maryada for granthis. They keep a ‘hajuria’ (a piece of cloth) around their neck to ensure cleanliness,” says Gobind Singh Lonogwal, the president of the SGPC that manages affairs of the shrine and has scaled down its staff to 30%.
The sangat continues to drink jal (water) from the holy sarovar, while the Akhand Path (48-hour, non-stop recitation of Guru Granth Sahib) continues as usual.
Devotees happily accept the karah parshad offered by the sewadar on their exit from Darbar Sahib. It is prepared according to the footfall of the sangat. “As usual, the first deg (offering) goes to the sanctum sanctorum at 1.30am. As a limited sangat comes, only five cans of 15-kg desi ghee is consumed to prepare the parshad in a day. During a normal day, 40 cans would be consumed, while on special days such as gurpurbs, the consumption goes up to 75 cans,” says Kulwant Singh, a cook at the shrine’s kitchen.
EAT, PRAY, SERVE
The coronavirus curfew has not been able to halt the operation of Guru Ram Das Langar Ghar, the largest community kitchen, where food is served free of cost. The service continues round the clock.
“The devotees come to do seva even when there is no relaxation in curfew,” says Harjit Singh, an SGPC employee overseeing the langar operation.
Gurmeet Singh, 25, from Koom Kalan in Ludhiana district who came along with a friend to do seva a week ago, says, “I recovered from an accident and wanted to express my gratitude by doing seva. The curfew has given us a golden opportunity to spend more time and serve in the Guru’s abode.”