Sikh Missionary Society
Sikh Missionary Society U.K. (Regd.)
10, Featherstone Road. Southall, Middx, U.K. UB2 5AA
Tel: +44 020 8574 1902
Fax: +44 020 8574 1912
Email: info@sikhmissionarysociety.org
Reg. Charity No: 262404
 
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Sikh “Divali”: The harbinger of Enlightenment and Freedom
Sri Harmandir Sahib
"(When) the lamp is lit, darkness is dispelled…

… Where there is light of knowledge, ignorance is dispelled."
(Guru Granth Sahib Ang.791)

When it comes to celebrating popular festivals like Divali or Christmas, the colourful and socially vibrant Sikhs are renowned for outdoing their neighbours. For them, relevance of such festivals to their religion is of little consequence. Divali is one such festival; although, the day, celebrated by the Sikhs as the “Bandi Chhor Divas” (The Day of Liberation) in the Nanakshahi Calendar, also marks some important and highly significant events in Sikh history.

The story of Divali for the Sikhs is a story of the Sikh struggle for freedom.  From the time of Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539), the founder of Sikhism, popular seasonal or folk festivals like the harvest festival of Vaisakhi, or ancient mythological festivals like Holi and Divali, or worship rituals like Aarti, began to take on a new significance for the Guru’s students, the Sikhs. The “Guru” as the Light of Guru Nanak passing through 10 Guru Personalities and now residing in the Sikh Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, used these festivals and special days e.g. first day of each lunar month called Sangraand, as occasions for promoting His teaching themes. And so the Sikhs were slowly diverted from  darkness of superstitious ritualism based on fear and ignorance to an enlightened ideology based on reason and belief in One Creator. The enlightened ideology of Guru Nanak gave new significance to ancient festivals like Divali and Vaisakhi. Thus, “(When) the lamp is lit, darkness is dispelled… Where there is light of knowledge, ignorance is dispelled.”  (Guru Granth Sahib p.791)

So what about Divali, the festival of lights.  According to Indian lore, Lord Rama returned home from 14 years in exile after destroying the demon god Ravana who had taken away Rama’s wife, Sita. The story, of course, has no significance in the Sikh tradition.  However, in the Sikh struggle for freedom from the oppressive Mughal regime, the festival of Divali did become the second most important day after the Vaisakhi festival in April. 

Guru Hargobind Sahib released
                                from PrisonThe Sixth Guru Hargobind, was freed from imprisonment in the famous fort of Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir in October, 1619. The reason for the young Guru’s imprisonment was no more than religious bigotry on the part of Jahangir. The Guru’s father, Guru Arjan, had been martyred for the same reason. The new egalitarian Sikh ideology was seen as a threat by both, Islam and Hinduism for different reasons.
 
Following pleas from some moderate leading figures of both religions who understood the universal teachings of Guru Nanak, Emperor Jehangir agreed to release young Guru Hargobind. According to Sikh tradition, Guru Hargobind agreed to be freed only if the other Indian chiefs (rajahs) imprisoned with him were freed also. Jahangir was under pressure from moderate but influential Muslim religious leaders like Hajrat Mian Mir, a friend of the Guru. So he relented grudgingly and ordained, “Let those rajahs be freed who can hold on to the Guru’s coat tails and walk out of prison”. He had in mind no more than four or five being freed with the Guru. However, the Guru was not to be outmanoeuvred in this way. He asked for a special coat to be made with 52 coat tails  - same number as the rajahs in prison with him! And so the rajahs were freed and the Guru became known popularly as the “Bandi Chhor” (Deliverer from prison).

The Guru arrived at Amritsar on the Divali day and the Har Mandar (also known as the “Golden Temple”) was lit with hundreds of lamps i.e. he was received in the same way as the Lord Rama and the day came to be known as the “Bandi Chhor Divas” (the day of freedom).

Thenceforth, the Sikh struggle for freedom, which intensified in the 18th Century, came to be centred around this day. In addition to the Vaisakhi day (now in April), when Khalsa, the Sikh nation was formally established by the Tenth Guru Gobind Singh, Divali became the second day in the years when the Khalsa met and planned their freedom strategy.

Another important Sikh event associated with Divali is the martyrdom in 1734 of the elderly Sikh scholar and strategist Bhai Mani Singh, the Granthi (priest) of Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple). He had refused to pay a special tax on a religious meeting of the Khalsa on the Divali day. Bhai Mani Singh’s and other Sikh martyrdoms gave further momentum to the Khalsa struggle for freedom and eventually success in establishing  the Khalsa rule north of Delhi.

Further reading -



Sikh Students 37th Annual Gurmat Camp - 2014

The 37th Sikh Students Gurmat Camp was held from Sunday 27th July to Sunday 3rd August 2014 at Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College, Roding Lane, Chigwell, Essex, IG7 6BQ

Special Features of the camp included:Sikh
                                  Children

  • Community Living: The Gurmat Way
  • Gurmat Essay & Painting Competition
  • Introduction to Kirtan
  • Indoor and Outdoor Games
  • Lectures from Sikh Scholars about Sikhism
  • Encourage Children to live according to Sikh Rehat Maryada
  • Workshops/Seminars & Discussions on Sikh Religion
  • Camp Fire and Special Martial Arts Display
  • Tie up Dastar (Sajauna) – preferably in Punjabi Style
  • Encouragement & Prizes to the children who learn Gurbani Path by heart

Thanks for all that attended.
 



Remembering Delhi Pogrom 1984
The bodies of butchered Sikhs being
                                quickly desposed off by the Indian
                                Government.Sikhs worldwide remember the 1984 pogrom in which, according to official figures, at least 3,000 Sikhs were killed by organized mobs in Delhi in the first 3 days of November 1984. Thousands of Sikhs were also killed in other cities of India. While the terror of the human slaughter within such a short time was horrifying, the contrived completeness of the failure of the Indian administrative system was inexcusable.

Those killed, the widows, and their children who grew up without much support or succor, are the direct victims of the pogrom. The world Sikh community suffering from the collective trauma and remembering the pogrom, is the second victim. It may be argued that the Indian democracy, which failed to protect own citizens and continues to deny justice to the victims, is the third “victim” of this tragedy.

Pogroms, genocides and human tragedies, should unite all right thinking, fair-minded people above communal and religio-ethnic divides so that lessons are learnt, and history does not repeat itself. The politics of forgetfulness must not be allowed to suppress the traditional Sikhi spirit of remembrance expressed in the daily Ardaas (supplication).

In an ever shrinking world, no one can remain immune from large scale selective massacre of one community and prolonged delay in the delivery of justice. We remember those who lost their lives in the Sikh genocide of November 1984 and their families who continue to be denied justice to this day.

Further Reading


Sikh Dastaar (Turban) Victory at United Nations
Sikh TurbanThe Sikh Missionary Society UK, welcomes the news that the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has ruled against France in the case of Bhai. Ranjit Singh of France. 

Since 2005, seventy-six years old, Bhai Ranjit Singh has been denied access to public health care system and to social benefits, because he believes that the Guru’s sacred gift, the turban, cannot be surrendered to any secular authority.

This success, led by United Sikhs, will add vigour to the efforts of many Sikh organisations to secure Sikh religious rights in Western countries.  What United Sikhs, who led the case, have shown is that cases like that of Bahi Ranjit Singh can be successfully taken to the UN. 

The onus of proof is on the state to show that there are defensible reasons for placing restriction on religious freedoms.  Otherwise, Sikhs have always shown a willingness to co-operate with governments to find joint solutions to any problems.

Further reading -


Sikh Missionary Society (U.K.) & Sikh Council UK
Sikh Council U.K.The Sikh Missionary Society (U.K.) is now affiliated to the Sikh Council UK supporting the principle of Sikh unity to pursue Sikhi miri-piri objectives in the UK & Europe (following the Paris Sikh Summit of 26 November.

Further reading -

 
Guidance on the wearing of Sikh Articles of Faith in the workplace and public spaces
The Five Sikh Articles of FaithAchieving this Guidance on the wearing of Sikh Articles of Faith in the workplace and public spaces by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is an important step forward in recognition of the Sikh religious identity in the UK. The Sikh Missionary Society UK was represented by Gurmukh Singh (UK) in the drafting of the Equality and Human Rights Commission guidelines.

You should read this guidance if you require:
  • clarification on how the law currently applies to the wearing of Sikh articles of faith
  • examples of best practice in dealing sensitively and fairly with observers of the Sikh faith
  • a tool to strengthen good relations by promoting greater understanding between Sikhs and others
  • a guide for private and public sector organisations in terms of dignity and fairness at work, and service delivery with regards to the Sikh community, and in promoting good relations, and
  • links to other guidance on this topic
For further reading -

 
Aim and Activities
The Aim of the Sikh Missionary Society is the "Advancement of the Sikh faith in the U.K and abroad" which is brought about by various activities:Guru
                              Nanak Dev
  • To Produce and distribute books on the Sikh Faith in English and Panjabi, and other languages to enlighten the younger generation of Sikhs as well as non-Sikhs.
  • To Advise and support young students in schools, colleges and universities on Sikh issues and Sikh traditions. If you belong to an educational institution and would like more information on Sikhism please contact the Resource Centre
  • To Arrange Classes, Lectures, Seminars, Conferences, Gurmat camps and the celebration of Holy Sikh Events.
  • To award prizes to children on the basis of their achievement and interest in the field of Sikh Faith and Panjabi Language.
  • To make available all Sikh Artefacts, Posters, Literature, Music, Educational Video's, DVD's and Multimedia CD-ROMs
Sikh Girl
Latest:
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Guidance on the wearing of Sikh articles of faith in the workplace and public spaces
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Many Sikhism eBooks added to the eBook Publications section.
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Information available on Various Health Issues in Punjabi.
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You can check for Important Upcoming Dates on the Sikh Calendar
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You can also participate in our online discussion forum...
Online Discussion Forum

Today in Sikh History:
(1506) : Birth Date of Great GurSikh Baba Budha Ji

The Sikh Missionary Society U.K seeks financial and other help from Sikh Sangats and Gurdwaras to meet the objectives of the Society. The Society also acts as a Sikh Resource Centre and has over 1000 life and ordinary members from all over the U.K and abroad. 


 
Departments
The Sikh Missionary
                                          Society (U.K.)
The Resource Centre
Hall Hire Service
 Read about the Sikh Missionary Society, its background History, activities and the managing committee
Browse our Book, Audio and Video library and read publications and articles in our Resource Centre
Find out more about hiring the Mata Sahib Hall for Birth, Engagement, Marriage, Akhand Path, Sehaj Path and more

 
Ongoing Classes and Courses
Punjabi Classes - learn to read, write and speak Panjabi. To find out more about Punjabi Classes at the Sikh Missionary Society call (020) 8574 1902. 
Times: Wednesdays 6.00 - 7.30 PM

Kirtan Classes - learn to play and sing Kirtans - You can bring your own instruments for practice and accompaniement. To find out more about Kirtan Classes at the Sikh Missionary Society call (020) 8574 1902.
Times: Wednesdays 6.00 - 8.00 pm 

Raj Academy Classes - learn to play traditional instruments in raag.
Times: Fridays 6.00 - 8.00 pm 

Yoga Classes - learn how to build a healthy body and develop a balanced mind. To find out more about Yoga Classes at the Sikh Missionary Society call Gurmail Singh on 07931252155.
Times: Mondays to Fridays  6.30 - 8.00 pm 

Contact us to find out more about our classes 


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