All you need to know about Nishan Sahib, the flag hoisted by farmers on Red Fort
Farmers' tractor march on Tuesday took an unexpected turn when a group of agitators entered the Red Fort and unfurled a religious flag 'Nishan Sahib' on the monument causing a major stir. Many farmers leaders and unions have disassociated themselves from the turn of events that took place on the 72nd Republic Day of India. Actor Deep Sidhu has been accused of instigating the farmers for the deviation in the route as well as for hoisting the flag over the Mughal monument that drew flak from politicians across all parties.
Regarding the flag that they hoisted, fake news spread like wildfire that the flag was a 'Khalistani flag', which is associated with separatists' demand of Khalistan.
Amid all the chaos, what is Nishan Sahib?
1. The triangular saffron coloured flag furling outside a Gurdwara on a steel pole covered with saffron-colored cloth is most popularly associated with Guru Hargobind.
2. The flag also has an insignia called Khanda in the middle. The Khanda includes two swords and a chakra. The two swords are considered to represent miri-piri.
3. The flag and the insignia have appeared to have undergone various changes under Guru Hargobind. The Guru's standard was saffron, 'a colour perhaps borrowed from the Rajputs and one that became identified with self-sacrifice and martyrdom, particularly in the Khalsa panth,' as per the Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies.
4. Miri-piri resembles the relation of Akal Takht with the Harmandir. Akal Takht was developed under the supervision of Guru Hargobind. In the early seventeenth century, the Akal Takht was the site where the Guru and his courtiers would meet to discuss issues of justice as well as strategic response to the Mughals. "The Akal Takht was the locus of miri (temporal authority); the Harmandir the epicentre of piri (spiritual authority)". The flag hence resembled the authority of the Guru and marked the place of dharamshala/Gurudwara.
5. While the flag has undergone significant changes through the Sikh history, the essential 'Ik Onkar', the opening of 'Mul Mantar', declaring the unity of the Eternal Guru remained intact.
6. The nishan sahib transformed into the symbol of sikh sovereignty and identity. The religious flag underwent more changes in the nineteenth century as the flag started resonating the Khalsa slogan degh, tegh and fateh (cooking pot, sword and victory.)
7. The nishan sahib often commands the respect and reverence of the Sikhs as the marker of gurudwara, "the sign which leads them towards the Darbar of the historical Gurus and of the Eternal Guru’ in which truth, justice, and sovereignty have been established".
(Inputs from Oxford handbook of Sikh Studies by Pashaura Singh and Louis E. Fenech)
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