Friday, June 17, 2011

Guru Arjan Dev radically changed the entire character of Sikhism.....

Middle of June every year since 1606, the Sikh Sangat has been observing the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru. He was the first Martyr in Sikh saga.....It is a fact, that before the arrest, torture and Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the ‘Sikhi’  conceptually had nothing to do with weapons or bloodshed or violence of any kind....., as all the Sikh Gurus were spiritual  beings and had taught the message of compassion, love, dedication, hard work, worship of one God... ’Ek Onkaar’ and at all times the commitment was to peace and harmony for all the people.
Guru Arjan Dev laid the foundation of the Golden Temple.... Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. He envisaged and deliberately incorporated in design the four doors in the Gurdwara.....  With a vision that "My faith is for the people of all castes and all creeds from whichever direction they come and to whichever direction they bow." This was to counteract the Muslim belief that God's House is in the west and the Hindu belief that it is in the east where the sun rises.
The Harmandir Sahib had entrances on all four sides.

To help raise money for these monumental public works projects, the Guru declared that all Sikhs should donate 1/10th of their earnings to charity and community service.
But his greatest contribution to the Sikh faith was to compile all of the past Gurus' prose and verse into one book of holy scripture: The Guru Granth Sahib.
Paradoxically it was this holy book that made him a martyr.
Guru Arjan Dev was the youngest son of Guru Ram Das and Mata Bhani. the daughter of Guru Amar Das .....He was born at Goindwal on April 15, 1563. Guru Arjan was eventually married to Ganga Devi in 1579.
The Guruship of the Sikhs was passed on to him on 1 September 1581 after the death of his father Guru Ram Das.
 Guru Arjan Dev then left Goindwal for Ramdaspur (Amritsar) to complete the work started there by his father and to get away from his jealous older brother Prithi Chand. Guru Arjan Dev completed the two tanks of Santoksar and Amritsar and undertook the expansion of Ramdaspur.
It was round 1590 that Guru Arjan Dev decided to go on an far-reaching tour of Punjab accompanied by such trusted Sikhs as Bhai Gurdas and Bidhi Chand.

Guru Arjan Dev was a great instrumentalist and vocal singer ....On his return he would daily hold a ‘dewan’ of devotional music at the Harmandir Sahib and himself sing hymns in the praise of the Divine ONE. That apart he kept quite busy attending to the spiritual needs of the large masses of Sikhs who came to see him daily.

As days slipped by, a situation now arose which had the potential to create trouble  and dichotomy of interests  and  this  required the Guru's undivided and serious attention.
 Reports trickled down to Guru Sahib that Prithi Chand , his older brother was composing his own hymns and was passing them to the visiting Sikh sangat as the compositions of Guru Nanak as well as other Guru's. ...If that was not be bad enough, others were also passing of their own compositions as the works of the Sikh Guru's. ....Guru Arjan Dev was very disturbed by this religious deception and thought that if this situation be allowed to continue it would be able to destabilise the young faith and create conflict in minds of a Sikh devotees.

 Having given the Sikhs a central place of worship- The Harmandir sahib.... The critical need of the hour was a need for an authentic compilation of the hymns of the Guru's.
The task was arduous ...the sources had to be non-doubt-able credibility and the seekers had to be honourable men .

 He sent trusted Sikhs such as Bhai Piara, Bhai Gurdas and Baba Buddha across the country in search of original manuscripts. He himself made trips to Goindwal, Khadur and Kartarpur to visit the families of the previous Guru's.
 Guru Arjan Dev collected original manuscripts of the Guru's from their families:

Mohan.....son of Guru Amar Das),

Datu.....son of Guru Angad

As well as Sri Chand.....son of Guru Nanak.

Positioning Baba Buddha in charge of the spiritual needs of the large number of pilgrims visiting Harmandir Sahib, Guru Arjan then pitched a tent by the side of Ramsar tank and started painstakingly, the time-consuming  and labourious task of compiling the first edition of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib.

 Bhai Gurdas was entrusted to be the Guru's scribe for the master copy.
Unlike any other religious book in history, Guru Arjan Dev included the compositions of Hindu and Muslim saints which he considered consistent with the teachings of Sikhism and the all the preceding Guru's writings  ......the works  and verse included were of such Hindu Bhaktas as Kabir, Jaidev, Namdev, Dahnna, Ravidas, Pipa and Ramanand.

The Guru integrated the works of Muslim divines ..... Farid, Mardana, Satta and Balwand, the Guru's minstrels, as well as several bards –the the Granth.

Bhai Gurdas was invited by the Guru to include his own verses, but declined as an act of humility.

The enormous task was finally completed. This first edition of the Guru Granth Sahib known at that time as ‘Pothi Sahib’ was installed on a lofty podium within the Harmandir Sahib in August 1604.

Such was his humility that Guru Arjan Dev seated himself at a lower level and inculcated the habit in all Sikhs to bow before it.....No ,No!!!... Not as an idol, but as the manuscript of divine inspiration which instructed living men in the ways of God and dedicated secular life. The revered Baba Buddha was appointed the first ‘Granthi’ ....a custodian of the book. It was Guru Arjan Dev’s  desire that unlike the Hindu scriptures, the Pothi Sahib could be open to be 
read by anyone of any caste, creed or sex.

This original copy is still in existence today. 

According to a number of  historians and scholars, the Guru Granth Sahib is the most modern and scientific of all the world’s religious texts and promotes equality and the Divine oneness of God.

Having accomplished the primary mission of his holy life – the compilation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and its momentous installation in Sri Harimandir Sahib  that is the Golden Temple – Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji then set the pace for a unique heaven blessed and perhaps pre-ordained sacrifice. ....
Was this the Divine destiny... The cornerstone of martyrdom in Sikh psyche?

As we mentioned at the very onset.... the martyrdom day is honoured in June  since 1606........
  What are the events that led to Guru Arjan Dev’s martyrdom? 
·         Why did  he take the course  to martyrdom?
·         Did he have options?

It would be interesting to take you to beginning...

North India of early 17th century under the aegis of Mughal Emperor Akbar ....and there lived Chandu Shah, a rich and had haughty banker from Delhi  with an extremely overbearing attitude.... Whetted further because of his royal connections at the court...some say that he was one of the exofficio Diwans  .He sent a marriage proposal of  his daughter  for  Hargobind. ....Guru Arjan Dev’s son.... But knowing his conceit and ego Guru Arjan Dev thought it best to decline the match very graciously.

 But as it happens sometimes .....even simplest of issues get embroiled in family politics.....  Prithi Chand  Guru sahib’s elder brother had his own axe to grind ...He knew that Chandu Shah manipulated some influence at the imperial court, thus he used Chandu Shah's bruised ego at being rejected to instigated trouble.
Prithi Chand with ulterior motives in his mind conspired with Chandu Shah to complain to Emperor Akbar that the Guru had compiled a book which was derogatory in nature to Muslim's and Hindu's faiths.

Emperor Akbar  ...was an astute man of principles and just in his dealings.... 

Upon hearing this he gave a royal summon, that the Guru to be presented before him along with the contentious Granth . Guru Arjan Dev sent the revered Baba Buddha and Bhai Gurdas to the Mughal court along with a copy of the Holy Granth.

Akbar opened the Holy Book and the first hymn read out was;

"My God has breathed His Light into the dust.
 And so brought the world into being.
He it is who created the sky, the earth, the waters and all vegetation.
O man, whatever one sees, passes away.
 But the world usurps anothers due and is forgetful of God.
It is the world of the animal, nay, of ghosts and goblins.
It eats the forbidden fruit, usurping what belongs to another.
Hold thy mind, O man, or God will burn thee in the fire of Hell.
Thy benefactors, thy brothers, thy courts and kingdoms and thy homes.
 Are of no avil to thee, when seized thee the Angel of Death.
 My Lord, purest of the pure, knows all that is within thee. Nanak:
 Pray thou to His Saints that they lead thee on the Truth Path." (Tilang)
Upon hearing this Akbar pondered and was pleased to ordain his satisfaction as he had always looked upon the Sikh Gurus as social reformers and believed in the unity of God and the brotherhood of man.
However Chandu Shah accused Bhai Gurdas of not really read the text but recited a hymn from memory. Akbar therefore got one Sahib Dyal who could read Gurmukhi to appear before the court and opened a page at random for him to read, and this what he read;
"You don't see God who dwells in your heart.
 And you carry about an idol around your neck.
 A nonbeliever, you wander about churning water, And you die harassed in delusion.
 The idol you call God will drown with you.
 The ungrateful sinner. The boat will not ferry you across.
Says Nanak, I met the Guru who led me to God.
He who lives in water, earth, nether region, and firmament. " (Sulhi)
The Emperor now exclaimed; "Excepting love and devotion to God, I so far find neither praise nor blame to anyone or any faith in this Granth. It is a volume worthy of reverence." Not only had this but Akbar wanted to offer Guru Arjan a suitable gift.

Guru Arjan asked the Emperor to instead exempt the people of Punjab from the annual land revenue that year since there was a severe drought. Akbar graciously complied with the Guru's wishes; this greatly increased the Guru's popularity with the peasants.

On October 17, 1605 Akbar died and was succeeded by Jahangir as Emperor. Jahangir  was a person of  malleable integrity  and stature..... Pleasure loving and fond of drinking. Nor did he have the tolerant attitude that his father Akbar had previously displayed to other religions.He left much of the administration duties of running his kingdom to others. Because of his lax morals Jahangir set out to please the orthodox Muslim clergy which he knew did not approve of his actions.

Unfortunately, soon after Akbar’s demise  the struggle for the Delhi throne began between his son, Jahangir, and grandson, Khusro. Jahangir’s son, Khusro, had a lot of respect for the Guru. When he was defeated in the battle, he left for Punjab and sought refuge with the Guru in Amritsar. 

The Guru told Khusro clearly that his house gave shelter to people of all faiths and castes, but since his case involved a royal battle he could not shelter him as it was against his norms. Khusro understood the Guru’s statement clearly and respectfully took his leave. However, his forces had not even crossed Jhelum when the royal Mughal forces surrounded them. Khusro was taken prisoner to Lahore, where he was put to death. The royal forces then began looking for those people who had lent a helping hand to Khusro.

Jahangir wrote the following in his memoirs called Tuzak-i-Jehangiri; "At Goindwal on the banks of the river Beas, lived a Hindu, Arjan by name, in the garb of a Pir or Sheikh. Thus, many innocent Hindus and even foolish and ignorant Muslims he brought into his fold who beat the drum noisily of his self-appointed prophethood. He was called Guru. From all sides, worshippers came to offer their homage to him and put full trust in his word. For three or four generations, they had warmed up this shop. For a long time I had harbored the wish that I should set aside this shop of falsehood or I should bring him into the fold of Islam." Jahangir further writes; "In these days, Khusro (Jahangir's rebel son) passed through this way. The foolish person resolved to call on him. Khusro halted for a time at this place and this man came to see him and discoursed with him on many matters and also applied with saffron on his forehead what the Hindus call kashkeh (tilak) and consider a good omen. When I heard this account personally, I knew about his false pretences. So I ordered that he be brought into my presence, that his property be confiscated and his sons and other possessions be made over to Murtaza Khan and he be dealt with in accordance with the political and common law of the land."

Chandu Shah, who was still bitter with the Guru, saw this as a golden opportunity and began to incite Emperor Jahangir against him. He told the emperor that Guru Arjan had tried to help Khusro and that he had proof of it.
 Jahangir, meanwhile, had developed a strong hatred for the Guru since he attracted a large number of followers from all sections of the society. Sometimes the entire village bowed to him and this aroused Jahangir’s jealousy due to which he became vindictive. 
And so, even though he knew that the Guru had tried to explain to Khusro his policy of non-interference, he saw this as a good pretext for putting an end to the Guru’s activities. Thus he immediately ordered the Guru to be arrested, and brought before him.

When Guru Arjan received the summons to appear before Jahangir, he knew that it was an ominous precursor of days to come . The Guru declared that his son Hargobind should be pronounced  the next Guru. Prominent Sikhs gathered and revered Baba Buddha performed the tilak ceremony on Hargobind's forehead proclaimed him as Guru Hargobind.

Accordingly in late May 1606, Guru Arjan Dev was arrested and brought to Lahore. Upon reaching Lahore, Jahangir demanded that Guru Arjan Dev revise the Holy Granth, removing all references to Islam and Hinduism.

 This, the Guru refused to do.

Since Jahangir was on his way to Kashmir, he asked Murtaza Khan to deal with the Guru.Murtaza Khan immediately jailed the Guru, and ordered the Guru Arjan Dev to be tortured to death if he did not agree to remove the alleged disparaging references in the Holy Granth.

The Guru was cruelly tortured. He was made to sit on a red hot iron ‘tawa’ ...a sheet of metal. They poured burning hot sand on his body. The Guru was dipped in boiling water. ....He bore all of these brutalities with calm serenity.

First day was not so tortuous ....Guru Arjan Dev was not given anything to eat or drink and was  kept awake through the night. Guru Sahib bore all this calmly. He remained immersed in simran and repeated from his lips, "WaaheGuroo, WaaheGuroo, WaaheGuroo..." and sang shabads.

On the following day, Chandu Shah made the Guru sit in a red-hot caldron. He had the vessel filled with water. He ordered his men to light a fire under the copper vessel. 
On the third day, Chandu ordered his men, “Take some sand and heat it till it is red hot in iron pans. Seat the Guru in boiling Water and then pour the red hot sand on his head and body".
Guru Arjan Dev with singular devotion and effort kept thinking of the divine .and repeated chanted..:
            Teraa kee-aa meethaa laagai.
Har naam padaarath naanak maaNgai

O Waheguru! Your actions seem so sweet to me.
Nanak begs for the treasure of the Naam, the Name of the Lord.

His friend and devotee, Mian Mir a Muslim saint, rushed to see him. When Mian Mir saw the ghastly scene, he cried out and said, "O Master! I cannot bear to see these horrors inflicted on thee. If you permit me, I would demolish this tyrant rule ...Mian Mir is said to have possessed supernatural powers at that time." 
Guru Sahib said, "All is happening in accordance with waheguru's will. Men who stand for Truth have often to suffer. Their sufferings give strength to the cause of Truth. Go, brother. Pray for me. Pray for the success of my cause. Pray for victory to truth."
Mian Mir asked, why was he enduring the suffering at the hands of his vile sinners when he possesseth superpowers?
The Guru replied,.....“I bear all this torture to set an example to the Teachers of True Name, that they may not lose patience or rail at God in affliction. The true test of faith is the hour of misery. Without examples to guide them, ordinary persons' minds quail in the midst of suffering." .....Upon this Mian Mir departed commending the Guru's fortitude and singing his praises.
For five long days he was tortured. ...When the torturers found the Guru resolute and impassive to their torture...they did not know what to do.... they were perplexed, no human could endure the anguish and suffering .
Now what??
After several days, Guru Arjan Dev was allowed to take a cooling bath in the nearby river, Ravi, by the side of the Mughal Fort. Thousands watched with tears in their eyes as the Guru, who could barely walk ,make his way unsteadily to the river. His bare body was covered with blisters, Guru Arjan Dev repeated over and over;
 "Sweet is Your will, O God; the gift of your Name alone I seek."
Thus bidding his farewell to his followers Guru  Dev then calmly walked into the river bank and it seemed he was gliding in step by step into deep waters and was gone forever.... His body carried away by the currents. This act of brutality in ending such a saintly life with such cruelty was to forever change the course of Sikhism. 
 Thus Guru Sahib embraced martyrdom on Jeth Sudi 4th (1st Harh) Samvat 1663, (May 16, 1606).
The martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Sahib radically changed the entire character of Sikhism from a passive people to courageous saint soldiers.
Having presented the immortal GURU in the form of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, to adherents of the faith, he now passed on another  unique concept of faith.... martyrdom to the followers of Guru Nanak. It was an inspiring beginning, an exemplary commencement, a signal for life eternal. 

Guru Arjan Dev’s sacrifices in the history of Sikhs stand unparalleled to this day.
Immensity, depth and unlimited magnitude of Guru Arjan’s grace, compassion, mercy and sacrifice is yet to be befittingly acknowledged in the modern world. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Wild Encounters... Smarty Pants ... Eli-Phants

Agreed..!!!! Elephant sightings are less glamorous than the Tiger...But they can turn out to be far more dangerous.....

We were on casual drive around on the hills of area called Sita Bani..It was not a safari....more  a meandering drive through the   green lush vegetation  to the temple on the hill top .Suddenly  the quiet  of the jungle noises was broken by excited cacophony of a bunch of  excited young city slickers .... Haathi...Haathi ...we could clearly hear....They had stopped and were enamoured by a big evidently angry raging bull, a tusker..And in their foolishness were out of their Jeeps trying to make acquaintance with him and videographing the encounter..

Providentially...for them we swung by before the Tusker decided to say hello to them. Our instinctive reaction first to stop....but then thought not.... and asked them to scramble out  as well super fast...
Split seconds was all we had to gain a lead and ...then the chase began...We were chased by an angry infuriated full grown bull with  long white glistening tusks.
What a chase?

What an adrenaline rush.....but thank god all were safe!!...That night the entire camp and surrounding areas were abuzz with  wild encounter
Elephants are the largest land animals. They can weigh over 6000 kg, or more than the weight of four cars! The one feature that makes an elephant unmistakable is its long trunk. A trunk is an elephant's best tool for sucking up water, digging, grabbing, lifting, sniffing, and breathing. The trunk even has a finger like tip that can flick dirt from an elephant’s eye or pick up a single blade of grass.
There are two species of African elephants.  And the Asian elephant

Elephants live in social groups called herds. Herds usually have about 10 to 20 members. Sometimes many herds will meet and form “super herds” of 100 or more elephants. Herds consist mainly of females that are related to each other. A typical herd might include mothers, daughters, aunts, and grandmothers, and a few young males. The oldest female is the herd’s matriarch. She leads the herd to water and finds food and a place to rest.
There are also smaller bachelor  herds that are made up of adult males.
 Elephants are herbivores. They eat grasses and shrubs as well as the roots, fruit, bark, twigs, and leaves from trees. Because they are such large animals, elephants need to eat and drink a lot. Each day, a full-grown elephant eats at least 100 kg  of food and drinks as much200 litres  of water.And they have move great distances to find  this food and water. A herd can travel 30 kms or more in one day and a landscape never looks quite the same after a herd of elephants has passed through it

Did you know that Elephants also use body language to communicate? For example, when two elephants meet, they may grasp each other’s trunks, this is just like a  we do a handshake.
Elephants use it as a way of saying “hello” to each other or to test each other’s strength.

Smarty-pants Elephants......Elephants are one of the most intelligent animals on Earth. They also have very good memories. Scientists believe that a herd’s matriarch remembers the location of water sources and feeding grounds and passes this information on to younger female elephants. When one of these young elephants becomes the herd’s new matriarch, she will pass on what she’s learned as well.

Talking of passes and corridors on our way to the camp on the day of the chase...we were in an animated discussion on the conservation ....of how man was destroying all that he could lay his hands name of development and construction.

And how even elephants need road less migration corridors....They need their passes open  ...Our driver  Bali Chand  a youngish  city born and bred  taking in the conversation  with tremendous awe asked.....Sir ji...Kya Haathi ko bhi Pass  lena padta hai?.( does an elephant have to  apply for pases ?)

We thought to play along and replied ...Hmmm!!! yes ...Hahnn !! lena padta hai...

Bali Chand was now quiet  and our  humm drummm  soft talk continued... after about 2minutes and a  distinct clearing of throat  a number of times  Bali Chand asked tentatively.....Sir ji  Yeh Haathi Log apna Pass rakhte  kidhar hain... ina a perplexed tone .. It was with effort that we somehow  suppressed our mirth which was almost exploding and my grand daughter with a straight face said ..Bhaiya woh   laminate karke Gale mein taangte hain.

Both Asian and African elephants migrate and generally follow the same migratory routes annually. Migration distances vary considerably depending on environmental conditions. During a prolonged dry season in Africa, elephant migration distances were recorded to extend over 100 km (62 mi.). 
Interesting situations arise sometimes when animals do not obey the man laws and his new rules...  read on  as to how the bend  and adapt these layouts ...

Mfuwe Lagoon, a huge ox-bow lake, has always been one of the Luangwa's most popular areas for game. The lagoon is overlooked by Mfuwe Lodge, which is larger and more luxurious than most other lodges in the valley. Its open dining area, bar and lounge shelter under a vast thatched roof, outside of which is a large wooden deck over the lagoon
 The elephants at Mfuwe Lodge in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia give new meaning to the word ‘close-up’ game viewing. Their visits to the wild mango trees on the property seem to be a regular occasion twice a day for about 4 weeks and then again for another 3 weeks to feed on the nutritious mango trees. Apparently Mfuwe Lodge was built, without knowing, on the elephant’s traditional path and in return offers frequent close up encounters with these fascinating animals. No incidents have been reported to date! 

Mfuwe Lodge was constructed on an elephant corridor between Minneriya National Park and Sigiriya National Park, the Elephant Corridor Hotel captures the essence of nature, history and wildlife. Built with minimal disruption to the ecosystem, wild elephants find it natural to walk up to the hotel lobby or through the pathways of the hotel while monitors and wild peacocks roam our immaculately groomed lawns at sunset.

These amazing pictures show why you shouldn't get between an African elephant and its favourite food.  Mfuwe Lodge in  Zambia  happens to have been built next to a mango tree that one family of pachyderms have always visited when the fruit ripens.  When they returned one year and found the luxury accommodation in the way, they simply walked through reception.
An elephant wanders through Mfuwe Lodge, in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
 The animals came in two-by-two: Hotel staff and visitors have got used to the elephants' impromptu strolls through reception.

Now the family group, headed by matriarch Wonky Tusk, return every November to gorge on mangos - up to four times a day.
Andy Hogg, 44, director at the Bushcamp Company that runs the Lodge, has lived in  South   Luangwa   National Park  since 1982.
But in all his years of dealing with wild animals he has never seen such intimate interaction between man and beast.
'This is the only place in the world where elephants freely get so close to humans,' says the 44-year-old.  
'The elephants start coming through base camp in late November of each year to eat the mangos from our trees.
'When they are ripe they come through and they stand about for four to six weeks coming back each day or second day to eat the mangos.'

Living in the 5,000 square mile national park, the ten-strong elephant herd are led to the lodge each day by Wonky Tusk.
'The most interesting thing about this is that they are wild animals and are certainly not tame,' explains Andy.
'They come through the lodge to eat the fruit.  'There are ten in that herd and it is only that herd that comes through. It is a strange thing.  
'The matriarchal in the herd is Wonky Tusk, and she brings the nine others through and they come and go as they please.' 

'The elephants do get reasonably close to the staff as you can see with the pictures of the elephants near the reception,' he explains. 'But we do not allow the guests to get too close.'  
'Guests can stand in the lounge are but as long as there is a barrier between the elephants and the guests that is okay,' he added.
The elephants are not aggressive but you don't want to tempt anything as they are wild animals. 'It is the elephants choice to come into base camp and they have been doing it for the last ten years.  'There are other wild mango trees around and they seem to prefer this one.'
And even thought the lodge was unwittingly built upon the path, Andy says they had no idea the elephants would insist on returning.
'It wasn't a design mistake - no-one really knew they were going to come through,' he says. 'The lodge was built and then the elephants started coming through afterwards.

Naturally, the lodge becomes a busier attraction for both elephants and guests during November time.  'We find that we get more people visiting us during the elephant migration because of the unique experience of being so close to wild animals in an unusual environment,' says Andy.
'But as I said this is a totally natural phenomenon, the elephants come here of their own accord and it is certainly a rare but magnificent sight.'