“Without dates, history changes into mythology.”Pal Singh Purewal
I am not a scholar in Sikh studies nor one on Sikh history. I am an average person/consumer who is interested in learning and teaching accurate Sikh history so that its integrity overtime is not diluted and that Sikhi does not become an amalgamation of cultural or social influence. Rather, it should maintain it’s distinct identity in the purest form. For example, if a person chooses to celebrate Vaisakhi or Easter or Christmas or Id or Hanukkah or Diwali, that is a personal choice.
Mere celebration of these events does not indoctrinate the festivals into Sikh celebrations and the Sikh history. Sikhi was given a distinct identity to stand out and not to blend in. We do this while celebrating humanity, celebrating diversity and wishing for peace and Sarbat Da Bhala (welfare of all beings). A Sikh stands for loving all while not forgetting themselves. We stand up for others who haven’t a voice. We stand out. We believe in justice for all. We believe in equality for all. How can we harness these qualities and principles if we forget who we are? Then we will soon forget why we are… who we are.
Many people, South Asians and Punjabis in the western world celebrate Christmas. So a child born into that family will always think that a “Gurpurab tree” is a Sikh tradition and will continue to carry it on so. Over time – if they come to believe that Christmas (birth of Christ) is a Sikh Gurpurab then we have done harm by introducing inaccurate references and hence altering the course of history. Christmas is a beautiful time of the year, the music, the ambiance…who doesn’t love it? Enjoy all holidays and traditions, but know yourself first and where you come from.
Similarly, Diwali has been celebrated in India since it marks the return of Rama from exile after defeating Raavan. What does Diwali have to do with Sikh history? Nothing! We cannot alter facts to suit our needs. Bandhi Chorr Divas is a distinct and a separate event (months apart from Divali). Diwali and its symbolism are beautiful. The lights, the celebrations, the sweets…it calls to all of us. Celebrate Diwali if you wish and wish your friends who celebrate Diwali, a Happy Diwali, but know where you come from and your own history first. Only then we can learn to appreciate others and their traditions.
Halloween is my favorite time of the year. Regardless of it’s religious or cultural history, it’s a fun time to dress up and eat pumpkin pie! However, I won’t be claiming it a Sikh holiday just because I need to justify my need to partake in it. None of us need to prove anything to anyone. Love all, celebrate all. Enjoy the laughter and joy which comes with celebrating variety in our diverse world, and don’t forget where you came from.
Keeping It Real
Do you know your date of birth? I know mine. I celebrate my birthday on that date, every year. Can you imagine have a birthday on a different date each year? For all practical purposes, my friends and family wouldn’t know when to wish me or throw me that surprise milestone birthday party. No one would know my age. My kids and grandkids, and g.g. kids (you get the picture) wouldn’t really know if my account of the Coronavirus-19 pandemic is real or a myth. Was I really there? Did I really survive it? What were the lessons learned? How did these impact future generations? No one would know…
If I can have a true date of birth because I was born on that date, then why make such a big deal about keeping Sikh history accounts consistent and accurate? Let’s simplify life – not because our history is true, but also because our people’s story needs to be told. Our Guru’s stories need to be told so they are not forgotten.