S African Sikhs celebrate 550 yrs of Guru Nanak, lauded

Representative image. (PTI file photo)

The South-African Sikh community was lauded for its support to other communities as Gurdwara Sahib Johannesburg culminated a four-month celebration of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev's 550th birth anniversary with three days of festivities over the weekend.

The celebrations started in July with the distribution of blankets to the needy in Johannesburg and continued with food parcel distribution and other community activities.

"This was our way of spreading the message of Sikhism and our unique identity to other communities in South Africa, and it was very well received by them," said Balvinder Kalra, vice-president of Gurdwara Sahib Johannesburg.

"Many locals regularly visit the Gurdwara to assist in seva work such as cleaning and preparing langar (meals served to anyone who walks in at the temple)," Kalra said.

India's High Commissioner to South Africa Jaideep Sarkar, the keynote speaker, complimented the Sikh community, which comprises exclusively Indian expatriates and Sikhs who have made South Africa their home after 1994, when the apartheid-era ban on emigration from India of more than four decades ended.

Until then, there were no known Sikhs within the 1.2 million South Africans of Indian origin.

Sarkar said it was a matter of pride that they had constructed such a beautiful Gurdwara right in the heart of South Africa's commercial hub of Sandton in Johannesburg.

The diplomat said in the hierarchical society that exists in India, it is a marvel that in the Sikh community, from the highest to the lowest work together in unison to do seva towards all communities.

"Guru Nanak said that you should live a normal and spiritual life, but not become an ascetic; not become a monk. That is why the Sikh culture of noise, of gaiety, of dance, bhangra and the dhol is so much a part not only of your culture but of all Indians," he said.

Commenting on the fact that Sikhs are renowned for their courage and bravery, Sarkar said it was not surprising that so many of India's decorated heroes come from that community.

"It is hardly surprising also that the Green Revolution in India, started in the fields of Punjab before it went elsewhere in India. It is the blood, sweat and tears of Punjabi farmers who gave India food security," he said.

"Everywhere in the world you find Sikhs working peacefully in different communities. They are people of enterprise," Sarkar concluded.

Kalra said the projects initiated to celebrate 550 years of Guru Nanak would continue at the Gurdwara. 

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