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Punjabi Language and Sikhism in the history and education of California (Punjabi)
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SCCC member's meeting with Sikh Coalition (English)
California Punjabi Language Effort (Punjabi)
California Sikhs not yet in textbooks (English)
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Adoption of Recommendations and Declarations (English)
Efforts to save Punjabi Language ( English) (Punjabi)

Brief Sikh History and 'Vaisakhi' Message
from the
Sikh Council of Central California
By: S. Pashaura Singh Dhillon

Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru J i ki Fateh!

The Sikh Council of Central California (SCCC) is an organization of Sikh Temples in and around Fresno, representing approx. 50,000 Sikhs living in the Fresno area. The SCCC heartily extends good wishes to all fellow Americans.

Vaisakhi coincides with Easter time and is very important in the Sikh culture. It is the first day of the month of Vaisakh, the second month of the East Indian calendar. This is the harvest time of wheat crop, a staple-food crop for the Punjab State, located in the northwest of India. The Vaisakhi has been celebrated by the Punjabi peasants for hundreds of years, just as 'Thanksgiving' is celebrated here. Big fairs called ,i>'Melaas' in Punjabi are held throughout Punjab, where farmers rejoice with the Bhangra dance. Apart from being the harvest festival, Vaisakhi has a special significance for the Sikhs. On this day in 1699, an historic event took place at Annand Pur Sahib in Punjab. As he made preparations for the formal introduction of the Sikh identity and brotherhood for organizational strength, common direction and purpose, the tenth Guru Gobind Rai, invited all followers of the first Guru Nanak Dev, to Annand Pur Sahib. Testing their ultimate commitment by unsheathing his sword, he asked for volunteers. He baptized the Panj Piyare (the five beloved ones) belonging to different casts and different places, who stepped forward. This ceremony cut across caste distinctions in the cast ridden Indian society of the time. He gave them a common name, Singh (Lion) signifying a fearless spirit to all men and Kaur (Princess) to all women after they drank Amrit (baptismal water) from the same iron bowl. Thus a Khalsa Panth, a new Sikh Nation emerged, adding to the world family of nations on this Vaisakhi day in 1699. With folded hands, the Guru himself asked the Five Beloved Ones, representing the Khalsa to baptize him. That day he too became Khalsa, Guru Gobind Singh from Guru Gobind Rai. In that era of autocratic rulers and religious pursuits of personal salvation, a remarkable democratic tradition was set some 3 12 years ago.

The Sikh Religion was founded by Guru Nanak, born in 1469 in Punjab, India. The word Sikh means disciple or student. Guru Nanak and the nine Gurus (Religious teachers) who succeeded him, contributed in different ways to the development of the Sikh Faith. They set an example of living spiritually yet taking an active part in the secular world. Contemporaries of Luther and Calvin, the Sikh Gurus were reformers who rejected the caste system of Hinduism and much of the apparatus of injustices prevalent at that time. They raised voice against the excesses of Muslim rulers. The Sikh Gurus never wavered from promoting religious tolerance and the equality of women.

It is worth pointing out here that by exposing the established decadent social, religious and political order of the day in the 1 5th century India, the founder of the Sikh religion Guru Nanak (1469-1 539) in Punjab had a similar message for people here in the East, as about the same time Martin Luther and Calvin had it in the west. By awakening people against the norms of Religion and Rulers, crushing the poor, Martin Luther's Reformation took half the world with him as he decided to go against the religious authority in Rome. How could one know that the Sikhs of Guru Nanak one day would also form the fifth largest religion of the world, as it has become today! The awakening that Guru Nanak's vision brought in the Indian sub-continent, by freeing the human soul from the clutches of a bad dream was no less historic than the Reformation in the West. Yet it does not get the same importance in the World History books, which might explain why Sikhs and Sikhi are still relatively unknown.

The Sikh religion proclaims that there is only one God and the entire universe is his creation. The Sikh Gurus showed the path of love and brotherhood, thereby establishing a progressive and tolerant society, the Kingdom of God (Truth) here on Earth. The Sikh religion is not about individual salvation alone. Each Sikh Prayer ends with a recitation meaning, 'Well being of all mankind'. Guru Nanak's vision of the modern society had no place for person Gurus, ordained clergy or any institution that smacked off aggrandizement. Right from his time, the personalized Guru had been in the process of removing himself amidst the shabad (Word) and the Sikh Sangat (Congregation). The tenth Guru Gobind Singh by his unequivocal injunction transferred the Guru ship in the union between the Shabad and the Sikh Sangat, the collective body of the Khalsa Panth. His final instruction was, "The Guru's spirit is in the 'Granth' (Sikh's Holly Scripture), body in the 'Panth'(Sikh Nation), message in the Shabad (Gurbani), image in the 'Khalsa'and protection of Akal (The Timeless Creator).

The Guru Granth Sahib has poetic contributions of six Gurus and 30 others. Representing a cross section of the Indian society, it spans over a period of five centuries from the 12"' to the 17'" century. It can be called a truly nonsectarian compilation of human value and the underlying truth behind apparently different religious ideologies. Nowhere in the entire Guru Granth, does it belittle the true message underlying any religion. The strict instruction to the Sikh is: "Call not Vedas and Quran false, those who do not contemplate them are false." (Guru Granth, Page 1350)

In spite of being a tiny minority comprising only 2% of the Indian population, the Sikhs made a huge contribution during the freedom fight against the British. In the post independence India, Sikhs earned the name by making Punjab State the bread-basket of India. The current Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh is a Sikh. By serving in the defense forces, the Sikhs play an important role in defending India. There Sikhs are a common sight in the armed forces. They have a martial tradition and formed approx. 20% of the British forces during the WWl. Because of their unique appearance, they stand out whether they are in India, U.K.or anywhere else in the world. Here in the USA, no Sikh with uncut hair was recruited in the armed forces since 1984. Recently, two Sikhs have been accepted as a special case. The United States has now allowed Sikhs in the Army with turban and full beard without sacrificing the articles of faith. With a relentless effort led by Dr. Onkar S. Bindra of Sacramento, Sikhs have been included in the draft updated History-Social Science Framework. As soon as this draft is adopted by the State Education Board, the teachers across the State will be able to start teaching according to the updated framework. Legislation like SB 1278 (Wyland) and AB 2069 (Carter), are needed to ensure its early adoption. The Sikh Council of Central California has fully participated in these efforts and is actively supporting these Bills.

Finally on behalf of our community, the Sikh Council extends felicitations and best wishes on this auspicious Vaisakhi day to all.

For more information please contact:
Dr.Ranjit Singh Rajpal
(559) 706 8393
General Secretary
Sikh Council of Central California

Pashaura Singh Dhillon
(559)708 4399
In Charge Education
Sikh Council of Central California

©Jas Singh