By Sushma Lobo
London, Nov 13 (BAN): Celebrations have taken place all over the world including the UK, India and Pakistan to mark the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev ji - the founder of Sikhism.
In London, the streets of Southall home to one of UKs largest Sikh populations were congregated with people making their way to the many Gurdwaras in Southall, traffic blocked roads due to the number of visitors coming in to celebrate a special day, and ‘Langar’ (a full meal) was being given out on the streets to all.
Tuesday, 12th November celebrates the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of the Sikh religion Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji, thousands of Sikhs from across London came together to celebrate peacefully in a prayer.
The message that they gave throughout the day and echoed in everyone’s speeches was that Hindus Pakistanis and Punjabi’s are all one. British Asia News visited Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall (SGSSS) on Havelock Road, London.It started early - while most were still in bed, when food for worshippers and visitors was being prepared for thousands of people who would be visiting throughout the day.
Celebrations started at the Park Avenue Gurdwara at 3.30am early morning the President of SGSSS Gurmail Singh Malhi said that “there was a congregation of around 5000 people early hours of the morning at 3.30am to attend the prayers and this is celebrated around the world today celebrating 550 years of Guru Nanak”.
Seema Malhotra MP, Labour Candidate Feltham and Heston in her speech at the Gurdwara said “The teachings and values of Guru Nanak Devji however you describe them, equality, faith, service to our community and to humanity these are the values that have truly stood the test of time, there is no Hindu there is no Muslim we are all one, these messages that continue to stand the test of time. It is with great pride we celebrate and so many of our friends,colleagues and family members will be in India and Pakistan making that very historic visit to Nankana Sahib, one community one world a message of peace a message of humanity”. She thanked everyone for being there and helping with all that they do for the community.
Making it a double celebration is that the festival also marks the opening of Kartarpur border crossing between India and Pakistan. Notwithstanding a chill in bilateral ties over Kashmir, Pakistan and India after tough negotiations signed a landmark agreement last week, to operationalize the corridor to allow Indian pilgrims to visit the holy Sikh shrine in Pakistan. The three-day event was held from November 10th – 12th in Nankana Sahib District -- the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak- located 49 miles from provincial capital Lahore.
At The Havelock Road Gurdwara people came in nonstop all day sat in the prayer room and listened to the prayers, langar was being given in the Langar hall downstairs and the Vice President Councillor Sohan Singh Sumra told British Asia News that the Langar is available and open to all regardless of colour or faith as long as they respect the rules of the Gurdwara – “cover your head and take off your shoes”.
He said “it is Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th Birthday today, all Sikhs all over the world are celebrating today, Guru Nanak gave us good teachings, you must remember god all the time, share with the neediest and you must do an honest day’s work. This is the main teachings of Guru Nanak ji, where ever you see a Gurdwara you will see free food being served, anyone white black yellow regardless of colour and caste they are welcomed to come and eat, have tea or have full meal Langar”
He added “Guru Nanak’s teaching we would like to take that forward and we follow because he says human race is one, we are all one god’s children; yes, follow your own religion but do not hate anyone, it does not matter what others do what we do matters”.
Navraj Singh joint secretary at the SGSSS tells us about the Sikh faith “Sikh faith originated 550 years ago today with the birth of first Guru Nanak Dev ji who’s birth we are celebrating this special occasion, one of his simple messages was god is one, one universal god personified maybe different names of god but there is only one and everyone has the right to believe what they like, the ultimate aim of Guru Nanak was to unit humanity, how they conduct themselves every day, always be truthful, without corruptions and wrong doings living a strong life”.
Here at the Gurdwara we have a prayer room where we believe in our holy scriptures and we have eternal giving; a langar room, which is what we call a free kitchen, in this free kitchen we served thousands of people each day,it’s all free and open to the community regardless of background regardless of belief as long as you come in respectfully you are entitled to come in for a free meal no strings attached, no small print. The ideology was given to us by Guru Nanak Dev ji again where we should be giving our time and wealth to the less fortunate then us – we have homeless population who come to our Gurdwara in Havelock Road and have a free meal which helps them survive the everyday life, that is one of the functions of the Gurdwara”.
A special week for Sikhism celebrating Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th Birthday and doing their bit for the community and believing in humanity, what a beautiful celebration.