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Devotees Prevented from Entering the Golden Temple (a letter from Dya Singh)
Beverley & Tony Simpson from Tamworth, NSW, Australia firstname.lastname@example.org wrote to me, in part, as follows:
Dear Dya Singh,
I write with great sadness and I must admit, some frustration even anger. My wife and I, after hearing a number of your concerts and your views on your faith, decided to firstly research Sikhism and then decided, on impulse, to visit the Golden Temple on a pilgrimage last month. After a fairly traumatic journey which started on landing at Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi which I shall not go into, we reached this outwardly heavenly destination which you have often described as one of the great wonders of this world.
Well, I shall come to the point. Beverley suffers from weak veins in her legs and feet so much so, to go walking she has to bandage her feet otherwise there is a lack of blood flow leading to swollen feet and great pain. After a lovely walk around this wonderful and heavenly site we approached the inner sanctum of the Darbar Sahib in the middle of the 'sarovar', and Beverley was stopped from entering, because of the bandages on her feet. We explained in vain that Beverley only removes these bandages, which are supported by an ankle guard, when she gets to bed and when her feet are going to remain horizontal. We were told, in no uncertain terms, that that is impossible, for anyone to be allowed in, because it says so in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib that the Guru must be approached with bare feet.
This is probably only a small matter to you, but to us, it was like being cheated of paying our obeisance at one of the most sacred places on this planet - that too, after making such a long trip all the way from Australia.
We look forward to seeing you soon when you tour here next.
warmest regards to you and 'Cherdhi Kala', as you always say,
Dear Tony and Beverley,
it is with sadness that I read your email and decided to respond immediately. The so called custodians, or employees of the custodians, of the Golden Temple Complex, do not perhaps reflect the love that my faith radiates. This sad state is so with most faiths. 'They' consider themselves the caretakers and feel they have the right to dictate terms.They perhaps do not consider themselves as servants of the people - rather the 'owners' of this sacred place. Allow me to shed some light on the past history of this heavenly monument and its so called 'custodians'.
The monument was started by our fourth Guru Sahib, Guru Ram Das. The legend of this site is that a monarch of the region in times immemorial, condemned his daughter to be married to a leper because she refused to accept him as the most powerful being that lived. She believed in God as her guardian and saviour. As she started her new life as a beggar also fending for her invalid husband, she came across a pond in the jungle. She parked the trolley that her husband sat on beside this pond and told him that she will go and look for food as he rested there. While he sat in the trolley, he spied a black raven dive into the pond and come out a white swan! He dragged his badly disfigured and rotting body off his trolley and crawled into the pond. The waters cured his disease and he was whole again. His wife the princess on returning, found a handsome young man instead of a leprosy ridden invalid...
Guru Ram Das excavated this pond and built a lovely pool. The job of finishing the task of building the Darbar Sahib within the pool fell on his son and our fifth Guru, Guru Arjan around 1600AD.
So you can see that firstly, this sacred site should give special, privileged treatment to those who are incapacitated in any way. The Darbar Sahib precinct, you will notice, does not even have adequate wheel-chair access! I am not even sure whether 'they' allow a wheel-chair ridden person in!
After the sixth Guru, the son and grandson of the original founders of this monument, Guru HarGobind moved away and set up his centre in a place called Kiratpur. This sacred place was taken over by other relatives of the past Gurus. For their own selfish motives and greed they stopped recognising the following Gurus fearing that they might come back to claim their heritance. This reached such a state that the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was not allowed into the precinct when he visited. There is even a shrine to commemorate this rather shameful event in the history of this site. The tenth and last Guru in human form, Guru Gobind Singh Ji came nowhere near this sacred place all his life!
From time to time, the 'custodians' of this monument have displayed their high-handedness.
For example, womenfolk are not allowed in the early morning cleaning service of the inner sanctum. Women have launched an agitation against this un-Sikh practice of the custodians, especially American-Sikh women of the Western Sikh Dharma.The agitation is ongoing. Women are also not officially allowed to do kirtan in the Darbar Sahib - another very un-Sikh practice.
Last year, we had an interesting episode which further highlights their high-handedness. Guru Nanak, the founder of our faith, had one close companian who accompanied him on a number of his 'udasis' (spiritual journeys). He was a proficient musician and accompanied Guru Nanak's hymn-singing on the rebeck. He was a low-caste Muslim called Bhai Mardhana. We of course hold him in very high regard - not, it will appear, the custodians of the Darbar Sahib. His descendants. who are also proficient singers of 'gurbani' were not allowed to do kirtan in the Darbar Sahib because 'they' have an edict that non-Sikhs, in fact non-Amritdharies (those who have not partaken of the Khalsa baptism and are not practising Khalsas) are not allowed to do kirtan in the Darbar Sahib. So my friend, as you can see, even I, with my non-Sikh group members, will not be allowed to do kirtan at the Darbar Sahib.
As for their excuse that it says in the Guru Granth Sahib that one should approach the Guru with bare feet - that is a matter of intepretation. That is not an edict, just a reference to approaching the Guru in all humility. Other incapacitated devotees could come in wheel chairs, or even on hospital beds. It is rather high-handed that one is not allowed to pay their respects on such a flimsy excuse/reason.
Finally, to inform you of the double-standards of these custodians. A few years ago, the Queen of England, Elizabeth, was allowed to wear white socks when she visited the inner sanctum of the Darbar Sahib! She was, of course, in a privileged position being a queen! (Another un-Sikh practice - no one must be held higher than others).
Tony and Beverley, I feel your anger and sadness too. There are a great deal of things wrong with the so-called custodians of my faith, but in the end, it is the 'truth' of my faith that I prescribe to - not the way it is portrayed by some of my brothers and sisters.
As for the monument, remember, it is only a monument - bricks and mortar... and water. You have seen it. Keep it in your heart and drive away the anger. Spirituality is beyond human existence and its follies. Your trip was not wasted in any way. On my last visit to the Golden Temple I sat with my youngest daughter just inside the outer complex and gazed upon this wonder ship image, heard the 'kirtan' which wafted across the sacred waters of the 'sarovar', and left. That outer image is goods enough for me. I do not even have to go 'inside'. We are blessed with the ability of having our Guru in our homes - The Sri Guru Granth Sahib, or at the nearest Gurdwara. We do not need to go on pilgrimages to 'meet' Him and even pay our respects at the Golden Temple complex. He resides within us!
I look forward to meeting you folks when I am next in Tamworth. Meanwhile,
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