What’s Better Than One Harmandar Sahib?

Harmandar SahibFor some Sikhs in Punjab, apparently two Harmandar Sahibs. Or at least that’s the argument between the SGPC and a group of Sikhs. The SGPC argues that a group of Sikhs are building a replica of Harmandar Sahib, and that they stridently oppose any “imitation” gurdwaras (my phrase, not theirs).

The Sikhs, who are definitely building a gurdwara (but whether or not it is intended to be a replica is contested), argue that the SGPC is trying to stir up trouble and adopting wedge politics tactics to scramble for power.

At first I read this story and thought to myself, “Wow, that is wacky.” But the longer I’ve reflected on it, the more I have to ask — REALLY???

Honestly, this whole story is ridiculous. If folks are trying to build a replica of Harmandar Sahib, then the attempt is ridiculous, and if they aren’t, then the accusation is ridiculous. But it did make me wonder two things: 1. What is the obsession with replication instead of creation, and 2. Is this really the most important battle the SGPC has to fight right now (i.e., is this the best use of its limited resources)?

The cynic in me says that the SGPC’s opposition is not rooted in a sense of propriety, but rather, in a sense of property — that they control the gurdwaras, including any replication of the famous image of Harmandar Sahib. This is, of course, not a particularly charitable representation of the SGPC, but I don’t put any stock in its common sense or conflict resolution skills.

But let’s say that this group of Sikhs really is building a replica, and the opposition is legitimate. I understand the keeping up with the jones’s mentality that we have critiqued and discussed here before. But it makes me wonder, will our sense of what makes a gurdwara a gurdwara always be locked into some materialistic, narrow vision of what a “proper” gurdwara looks like?

I have mentioned before that every Sikh’s home is, to an extent, a gurdwara, and that this artificial division of spiritual/non-spiritual space doesn’t really reflect the ethos or goals of Sikhs as a community. Similarly, how can building life-sized replicas of Harmandar Sahib further the goals of religious education/learning, or uplift our community? Could we invest in perhaps building a life-sized replica of the clinic the fourth Guruji founded, or a multi-religious community school?

The backwards-facing attachment to replicating Sikh historical buildings creates strange and sometimes inappropriate results without really getting to the core values, principles or goals underlying these (literal) structures. I would much prefer that folks used their time and energy — on both sides of this — investing in initiatives that further social equity or community health/development than spending hours arguing about, or investing in, this strange enterprise.

I also think it’s a waste of community energy not to pick our battles. It is unclear how close this project hopes to approximate Harmandar Sahib, but for all we know, it is built in the historic style of other gurdwaras that also house a sarovar. Maybe there is legitimate cause for objection, and maybe the SGPC is not jumping the gun. Nonetheless, this seems like a strange battle to pick in the wake of several other recent unsettling and violent exchanges.


bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark
tabs-top


27 Responses to “What’s Better Than One Harmandar Sahib?”

  1. Dalsher Singh says:

    While this doesn't necessarily reflect upon your article, and in no way am I attempting to be critical or picky, but when you mentioned that the SGPC has limited resources, I felt obligated to state that in terms of economical resources, the SGPC is well set – they currently bring in more revenue then the Punjab sarkar.

    In terms of the article itself, it just disgusts me when I hear of such stories in which Sikhi is in some shape being stretched out or furth seperating from it's fundamental roots and simplicity. There are so many groups which claim they derive from Sikhism, yet preach mixed ideologies, but then somehow get mixed in as 'branches' of Sikhism, which only further confuses those not aware of Sikhi. I am not only bashing these groups (ie Radaswami, mastuana, etc), as SGPC certainly needs to be held accountable for not playing their role in managing these situations.

  2. Dalsher Singh says:

    While this doesn’t necessarily reflect upon your article, and in no way am I attempting to be critical or picky, but when you mentioned that the SGPC has limited resources, I felt obligated to state that in terms of economical resources, the SGPC is well set – they currently bring in more revenue then the Punjab sarkar.

    In terms of the article itself, it just disgusts me when I hear of such stories in which Sikhi is in some shape being stretched out or furth seperating from it’s fundamental roots and simplicity. There are so many groups which claim they derive from Sikhism, yet preach mixed ideologies, but then somehow get mixed in as ‘branches’ of Sikhism, which only further confuses those not aware of Sikhi. I am not only bashing these groups (ie Radaswami, mastuana, etc), as SGPC certainly needs to be held accountable for not playing their role in managing these situations.

  3. Teg says:

    The writer of this article perhaps is perhaps ignorant of the circumstances and the forces who are behind this mischief.

    The same forces were responsible responsible for massive propaganda against the Sikhs leading to deliberate and premeditated attack on Harmandir Sahib, destruction of Akal Takhat and the killing of hubdreds of thousand of innocent Sikhs. The same forces were responsible for the murder,rape and burning of tens of thousands of innocent Sikhs in New Delhi and the rest of India after the killing of Indira. These forces had decided before 1984 to divide and totally finish Sikhs and have been working furiously in creating hundreds of Deras with real and fake Sadhs many of them on payrolls of Hindu agencies, police and administration. Most of the Punjab districts are now controlled by para military forces and the civilian administration is completely controlled by New Delhi. This latest outrage is very deliberate attempt. Just 100 yards away from the main building, another building called the Akal Bunga is being built. The previous name of Akal Takhat was Akal Bunga.

  4. Teg says:

    The writer of this article perhaps is perhaps ignorant of the circumstances and the forces who are behind this mischief.
    The same forces were responsible responsible for massive propaganda against the Sikhs leading to deliberate and premeditated attack on Harmandir Sahib, destruction of Akal Takhat and the killing of hubdreds of thousand of innocent Sikhs. The same forces were responsible for the murder,rape and burning of tens of thousands of innocent Sikhs in New Delhi and the rest of India after the killing of Indira. These forces had decided before 1984 to divide and totally finish Sikhs and have been working furiously in creating hundreds of Deras with real and fake Sadhs many of them on payrolls of Hindu agencies, police and administration. Most of the Punjab districts are now controlled by para military forces and the civilian administration is completely controlled by New Delhi. This latest outrage is very deliberate attempt. Just 100 yards away from the main building, another building called the Akal Bunga is being built. The previous name of Akal Takhat was Akal Bunga.

  5. Tajinder says:

    Although I am not in support of another Haramandar Sahib especially since I am sure the group who ever it is can not be more intellectual then the present SGPC when it comes to Sikh community affairs, if they are trying to divide the community at such a major level. But where was this group in 1984 when I personally believe we needed a second Haramandar Sahib constructed so generations to come, could see the torn down original, showing what the Indian government had inflicted on the Sikhs for being Sikhs.

  6. Tajinder says:

    Although I am not in support of another Haramandar Sahib especially since I am sure the group who ever it is can not be more intellectual then the present SGPC when it comes to Sikh community affairs, if they are trying to divide the community at such a major level. But where was this group in 1984 when I personally believe we needed a second Haramandar Sahib constructed so generations to come, could see the torn down original, showing what the Indian government had inflicted on the Sikhs for being Sikhs.

  7. Venki says:

    Isn't it said that Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Why would the SGPC get upset over another Gurdwara built like the Harmandir Sahib? Is it because they prefer to keep it unique? Is the structure more important than the spirit of the temple? Are they so insecure? In the US, many Hindus from Andhra build temples to Venkateshwara (Balaji) modeled on the lines of the Tirupati temple. Aurangazeb tried to build Bibi ka Maqbara (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibi_Ka_Maqbara) to rival the Taj Mahal, but it ended up being a poor imitation.

  8. Venki says:

    Isn’t it said that Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Why would the SGPC get upset over another Gurdwara built like the Harmandir Sahib? Is it because they prefer to keep it unique? Is the structure more important than the spirit of the temple? Are they so insecure? In the US, many Hindus from Andhra build temples to Venkateshwara (Balaji) modeled on the lines of the Tirupati temple. Aurangazeb tried to build Bibi ka Maqbara (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibi_Ka_Maqbara) to rival the Taj Mahal, but it ended up being a poor imitation.

  9. Dalsher Singh says:

    Venki,

    The implications are beyond simply imitation in this situation; the problem at hand is deception. Much of Punjab's Sikhs that reside in rural areas are extremely impressionable; this is what has caused the recent success of the likes of Dera Sacha Sauda and some Christian organizations. For many of these people, they are simply born into Sikhism, yet due to their unfortunate circumstances, they are willing to follow whatever path that brings them some solace – organizations such as Dera Sacha Sauda, which disguise themselves as some fusion of Sikhism, are able to take advantage of these people. The same can potentially occur in this situation, with an imitation Darbar Sahib being built, where innocent Sikhs will be mislead into this Mastuana organization, simply because it is advertised as part of Sikhi, when it is not Sikhi at all. So, while on an external level, this construction may just seem to be nothing more then love through imitation, don't let that fool you; the intentions behind this move by this organization are deep. And as a last thought; have you considered how much revenue this "gurdwara" will generate simply by having people visit it and treat it as if it's the Darbar Sahib? This is going to be a money-generating machine for the Mastuanas.

  10. Dalsher Singh says:

    Venki,

    The implications are beyond simply imitation in this situation; the problem at hand is deception. Much of Punjab’s Sikhs that reside in rural areas are extremely impressionable; this is what has caused the recent success of the likes of Dera Sacha Sauda and some Christian organizations. For many of these people, they are simply born into Sikhism, yet due to their unfortunate circumstances, they are willing to follow whatever path that brings them some solace – organizations such as Dera Sacha Sauda, which disguise themselves as some fusion of Sikhism, are able to take advantage of these people. The same can potentially occur in this situation, with an imitation Darbar Sahib being built, where innocent Sikhs will be mislead into this Mastuana organization, simply because it is advertised as part of Sikhi, when it is not Sikhi at all. So, while on an external level, this construction may just seem to be nothing more then love through imitation, don’t let that fool you; the intentions behind this move by this organization are deep. And as a last thought; have you considered how much revenue this “gurdwara” will generate simply by having people visit it and treat it as if it’s the Darbar Sahib? This is going to be a money-generating machine for the Mastuanas.

  11. Venki says:

    Dalsher,

    Are you telling me that rural Punjabis cannot tell the difference between the Harmandir Sahib and any other Gurdwara built like it? This is what I don't like about organized religion, where someone tells you what is right and what should be done or not done. It then becomes all about politics and who has the right to control things including money and revenue coming into a gurdwara rather than about the spiritual quest. Is Sikhi not strong enough to nurture pluralism within it's bounds, where every individual can interpret for oneself rather than being force fed an 'official' version? People are different and come from different circumstances and hence pluralism is the human nature. When Sikhi is very narrowly interpreted by an 'official', then those who don't like that version will leave Sikhi and you will have diminishing numbers which is not what one wants, I hope. Let a thousand flowers bloom under the bounds of Sikhi.

  12. Dalsher Singh says:

    Let's hold off on that notion of letting a thousand flowers bloom under the bounds of Sikhi. Sikhism is Sikhism – period. Any other group that claims that it's a derivative of Sikhi is claiming that they have something to offer that Sikhi doesn't, therefore, it is not following the ideals of Sikhism. Now, I am by NO means claiming that Sikhi can't be interpreted in various ways – every human has a unique understanding of it. The problem is when groups emerge out of this which claim they are Sikhi….but just a bit different.

  13. Venki says:

    Dalsher,

    Are you telling me that rural Punjabis cannot tell the difference between the Harmandir Sahib and any other Gurdwara built like it? This is what I don’t like about organized religion, where someone tells you what is right and what should be done or not done. It then becomes all about politics and who has the right to control things including money and revenue coming into a gurdwara rather than about the spiritual quest. Is Sikhi not strong enough to nurture pluralism within it’s bounds, where every individual can interpret for oneself rather than being force fed an ‘official’ version? People are different and come from different circumstances and hence pluralism is the human nature. When Sikhi is very narrowly interpreted by an ‘official’, then those who don’t like that version will leave Sikhi and you will have diminishing numbers which is not what one wants, I hope. Let a thousand flowers bloom under the bounds of Sikhi.

  14. Dalsher Singh says:

    Let’s hold off on that notion of letting a thousand flowers bloom under the bounds of Sikhi. Sikhism is Sikhism – period. Any other group that claims that it’s a derivative of Sikhi is claiming that they have something to offer that Sikhi doesn’t, therefore, it is not following the ideals of Sikhism. Now, I am by NO means claiming that Sikhi can’t be interpreted in various ways – every human has a unique understanding of it. The problem is when groups emerge out of this which claim they are Sikhi….but just a bit different.

  15. Venki says:

    Dalsher,

    You say "The problem is when groups emerge out of this which claim they are Sikhi….but just a bit different." Why is this a problem and for whom? I presume you live in a western country. If so, you have an example in another organized religion called Christianity which comes in multiple flavors namely Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal, Methodist, Orthodox, Presbytarian, Unitarian, Mormon, Evangelical and so on and so forth. They all are sects (like the deras) if you please, that have learned to live among themselves without violence while subsuming themselves under the broader rubric of Christianity. Is something like this not possible within Sikhi? If it is not possible then these sects will start calling themselves Hindu (where sab kuch chalta hai) creating more existential angst among the Sikhs.

  16. Venki says:

    Dalsher,

    You say “The problem is when groups emerge out of this which claim they are Sikhi.but just a bit different.” Why is this a problem and for whom? I presume you live in a western country. If so, you have an example in another organized religion called Christianity which comes in multiple flavors namely Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal, Methodist, Orthodox, Presbytarian, Unitarian, Mormon, Evangelical and so on and so forth. They all are sects (like the deras) if you please, that have learned to live among themselves without violence while subsuming themselves under the broader rubric of Christianity. Is something like this not possible within Sikhi? If it is not possible then these sects will start calling themselves Hindu (where sab kuch chalta hai) creating more existential angst among the Sikhs.

  17. Dalsher Singh says:

    Venki,

    Congratulations: you have just won the award for the most unintelligent comment made on the internet.

    that have learned to live among themselves without violence while subsuming themselves under the broader rubric of Christianity.

    1.) It is unfortunate that you missed out on a brief chunk of recent Irish history

    2.) It is even more unfortunate that you utilized that statement as your main claim as to why Sikhi should be infested with many branch groups

    Let me suggest that you start by googling the IRA (Irish Republican Army) – one of the most well known terrorist groups outside of the Middle East. Norther Ireland has been the grounds of a bloodbath between the Catholic and Protestant community in recent years. The same can be said for other denominations; why were the Quakers (another sect of Christianity that was actually formed due to their dissatisfaction with the other sects) forced to find an escape for religious persecution in England, when at the time, King James, a fellow Christian, was ruling the nation?

    Long story short, your claim is utterly absurd. I don't know if you are simply posting on this blog to rile things up and cause a disturbance but understand me when I say this: Sikhi is one of the simplest religions in the world; while there is much room for various interpretations, Sikhi is not some branch religion in which thirty or forty other sects can inhabit. One of the fundamentals of Sikhism is to steer clear of brahmanistic ideals.

  18. Dalsher Singh says:

    Venki,

    Congratulations: you have just won the award for the most unintelligent comment made on the internet.

    that have learned to live among themselves without violence while subsuming themselves under the broader rubric of Christianity.

    1.) It is unfortunate that you missed out on a brief chunk of recent Irish history
    2.) It is even more unfortunate that you utilized that statement as your main claim as to why Sikhi should be infested with many branch groups

    Let me suggest that you start by googling the IRA (Irish Republican Army) – one of the most well known terrorist groups outside of the Middle East. Norther Ireland has been the grounds of a bloodbath between the Catholic and Protestant community in recent years. The same can be said for other denominations; why were the Quakers (another sect of Christianity that was actually formed due to their dissatisfaction with the other sects) forced to find an escape for religious persecution in England, when at the time, King James, a fellow Christian, was ruling the nation?

    Long story short, your claim is utterly absurd. I don’t know if you are simply posting on this blog to rile things up and cause a disturbance but understand me when I say this: Sikhi is one of the simplest religions in the world; while there is much room for various interpretations, Sikhi is not some branch religion in which thirty or forty other sects can inhabit. One of the fundamentals of Sikhism is to steer clear of brahmanistic ideals.

  19. RAJINDER SINGH says:

    Gentlemen, Allow me to say a few words in primal terms:

    There is a difference between Fathers House and Uncles House. Uncles house can be nice, huge and wonderful, but cannot match Fathers House.

    Why do we need to run around here and there, in other "uncles" houses – so to speak – when the Guru is offering us a house open doors and keys ? (with history to backup) !!

  20. Venki says:

    Dalsher,

    I am arguing for a pluralist viewpoint within Sikhi. It would be ideal to have it at the individual level. But seeing how control of gurdwaras for power and money is such a big issue in an organized religion you are going to have groupism which is a natural human tendency. Sadly this has become the reality in Punjab and is spilling over into the diaspora. The question is how do you keep them all within Sikhi without letting their differences devolve into violence and fighting. The US and Canada were the examples I was thinking for Christianity. Ireland is an older conflict involving Irish nationalism and against British rule in Northern Ireland that uses religious schism. So that would be a bad example. So what would be your suggestion to keep them together within Sikhi? Should the SGPC take the initiative to talk to all the groups to come up with a unified view? What if there are differences still? Should they be excommunicated? I am not sure which group is building this replica of Harmandir Sahib and if it considers itself Sikh or not, but evidently it is negotiating with the SGPC in some fashion.

  21. RAJINDER SINGH says:

    Gentlemen, Allow me to say a few words in primal terms:

    There is a difference between Fathers House and Uncles House. Uncles house can be nice, huge and wonderful, but cannot match Fathers House.

    Why do we need to run around here and there, in other “uncles” houses – so to speak – when the Guru is offering us a house open doors and keys ? (with history to backup) !!

  22. Venki says:

    Dalsher,

    I am arguing for a pluralist viewpoint within Sikhi. It would be ideal to have it at the individual level. But seeing how control of gurdwaras for power and money is such a big issue in an organized religion you are going to have groupism which is a natural human tendency. Sadly this has become the reality in Punjab and is spilling over into the diaspora. The question is how do you keep them all within Sikhi without letting their differences devolve into violence and fighting. The US and Canada were the examples I was thinking for Christianity. Ireland is an older conflict involving Irish nationalism and against British rule in Northern Ireland that uses religious schism. So that would be a bad example. So what would be your suggestion to keep them together within Sikhi? Should the SGPC take the initiative to talk to all the groups to come up with a unified view? What if there are differences still? Should they be excommunicated? I am not sure which group is building this replica of Harmandir Sahib and if it considers itself Sikh or not, but evidently it is negotiating with the SGPC in some fashion.

  23. psychoasia says:

    The comment above is right, of course it is.

  24. psychoasia says:

    The comment above is right, of course it is.

  25. guransh says:

    Hindu, muslim, sikh, ishayi
    Aaps vich sab bhai bhai

    Paramata har ik tha te hai
    oh sirf ik harmindir sahib vich hi nhi sgo har ik tha hai
    te kan-kan vich hai…

    koi region mada nhi…

    Apne nu changaa te bakia nu mada kahnaa koi vadiya gal nahi hai…

    Sab dharma da satikar karo
    sare de guruya da satikar karo…
    ehi gurbani kahndi hai…

    Pehla gurbani pado pher dujeya nu sikhiya deyo…

    Nindiya na karo…

Leave a Reply


We love hearing from our visitors, so please do leave your comments! No profanity, name calling, or discrimination, please - we try to keep The Langar Hall a clean, open, and hate-free zone. We reserve the right to edit or remove inappropriate comments.