Wait list of devotees growing by the day

Wait list of devotees growing by the day

Name and fame make no difference here

The resplendent Golden Temple at Amritsar at night.

For devotees cherishing a special “rendezvous with god” at World’s holiest Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the wait could stretch up to 10 long years. Those who have booked well in advance for the special prayers, chances are they would get a call from the shrine priests somewhere in 2020.

Among the wait list are Bollywood celebrities, country’s top businessmen, Army Generals, NRIs and politicians. Until recently, Amitabh Bachchan, his wife Jaya, son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai, cash-rich non-resident Indian Sant Singh Chattwal and Bollywood star Akshay Kumar were in the waiting list since early this millennium.

That’s how it has been at the Golden Temple’s most revered “Dukh Bhanjani Beri” site.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, the local Member of Parliament from Amritsar, Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa are also in the waiting list and will perhaps perform this special Path (prayers) at Dukh Bhanjini Beri sometime at the end of this decade. Actors, including Rishi Kapoor, Reliance’s Ambani brothers, Bharti Mittals of Airtel, had already sought blessings through path after a long wait. Temple sources say the devotees lined up for all these prayers at the Golden Temple are over 1.20 lakh, and still counting. The rush is getting unmanageable and the shrine management feels it is hard for them to maintain records of people on paper sans computerisation.

For now, the bookings for path (prayers) at Dukh Bhanjini Beri have been stopped. Only those who were booked earlier will be the privileged ones whenever their turn comes. The wait may look endless, but the path at this tree site has a special significance. This is the site which existed before the construction of the sacred Golden Temple or Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. In the early 17th century, the compilation of the holy Guru Granth Sahib was done under the tree site called Dukh Bhanjini Beri.

A loosely bound legend among the Sikhs also gives an account of the discovery of this tree site. It cites a girl named Rajni who was a daughter of a very proud and egotistical King. Once having displeased her father, she was married off to a leper. The couple had heard of a miraculous place where black crows bathe in a pool of water and emerge as white doves. After many years searching they came to a jungle and saw the sight of black birds turning to white doves. The husband rolled down the slope into the water and was cured of his illness.

Talking to Deccan Herald, temple officials said the booking of Paths at the rear of the Akal Takht are still on, but Dukh Bhanjani Beri and har Ki Pauri considered most pious have been discontinued for now.  Here is how the ritual is carried out. The Akhand path continues for 48 hours by Granthis (Sikh priests) in the name of the person who has booked the path. A Bhog ceremony is held on third day. A nominal Rs 4,100 is charged for the entire ceremony.

While offering obeisance through special prayers at Dukh Bhanjini Beri look like a distant dream, prayers at the Golden Temple other three sacred area, the Har-Ki Pauri, Gumbad Path and at the Akal Takht, have relatively shorter waiting list. Devotees will have to wait for the next two-three years for their turn for pooja at these three places. For once, commoners, bigwigs, celebrities and the powers that be all are queued up in one line for these special prayers.

No  exception Dalmegh Singh, Secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the Sikh body that manages majority of Sikh shrines in the country, said, “ It is believed to be the most pious of places within the temple and so everyone wants to invoke blessings of the god at this place. Therefore, it’s a long wait. We don’t make any exception for the rich, famous or the celebrities.  All are regarded the same here.” Devotees seeking blessings through path here usually avoid their ranks and designations. Off late, a path was carried out in the name of one PS Gill, sources said. It was only on the date of the prayers that it was learnt by staff members of SGPC that PS Gill happen to be the Punjab DGP, now retired. That too came to light given the paraphernalia that tagged along with Gill.   

Like in the case of actor Akshay Kumar, there’s a possibility that the devotee who had booked these prayers is unable to reach on the given date. There are even cases when devotees have died even as their “date with God” at the shrine is pending.  The SGPC says the path is held irrespective of the devotees reaching the site or failing to reach. The blessings of the prayers for him and his family are sent to through these special prayers, the SGPC said.

Satinder Pal Singh, who is  in charge of the prayer bookings, said, “Bookings of Paths at Dukh Banjani Beri, a site that existed even before Harmandar Sahib, have been discontinued for now because of the long waiting list of devotees, in many cases up to 10 years. The shrine is on a mission now to clear the heavy backlog. For this, its been planned that everyday 40 paths are held. Other sacred places in the backside of Akal Takht are available with a waiting period that may stretch up to 2014-15, he said.

The practice of path at Dukh Bhanjini Beri has been there since very long, however, a formal structure where devotees had to book the ritual well in advance, started sometime after the SGPC was formed way back in 1925. One such Path is performed by one Sikh priest at a time. It’s a nonstop recitation of the holy script. Priests keep rotating the task for the next 48-hours.

The devotee has to give the name of the person for whom the prayers need to be performed. The entire Path is performed in his or her name and can be participated by family members. At least four Paths continue simultaneously just at the Dukh Bhanjini Beri site. Together at all sites within the holy Sikh shine, at least 30 special prayers are performed every day. The plan is to increase this devotional space by at least 10 paths a day. 

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