EDITORIAL: Sikhs don’t do kavadi as it contrary to their religious teachings. That should be clear enough for Sikhs to understand.
But you cannot stop Sikhs from participating in kavadi during the Thaipusam festival. That is a personal choice.
Yesterday, photos making their way around the social media groups like WhatsApp showed people who look like Punjabi Sikhs participating in kavadi. One photo even showed a kavadi being prepared with a khanda, the Sikh insignia, as one of its props.
First, what is kavadi?
Kavadi is a dance performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Lord Murugan. It is often performed during the festival of Thaipusam and emphasises debt bondage. The kavadi itself is a physical burden through which the devotees implore for help from Murugan, according to Wikipedia.
The person taking kavadi usually observes certain austerities, like going on a vegetarian diet, avoiding liquor and other intoxicants.
Now, if you comb the Sikh Rehat Maryada (SRM) – the Sikh guide to life – you will not find sanction for the above.
But some Sikhs in Malaysia have participated in kavadi. Why? Some due to a wow. Some because they are told that offering kavadi to Lord Muruga will bring them peace and good luck.
Now, we will be hard pressed to find one who shuns peace and good luck. We can all make do with a dose each. But the Sikh path to life is through, among others, naam, baani and sevaa. Not kavadi.
Now, onto the other matter of using the khanda in kavadis. Some friends have reported that it has been done before, with one source saying that his Sikh friend had been doing kavadi for more than two decades, always displaying Sikh symbols prominently on the kavadi.
Is this practice acceptable? Can a Christian insist on the cross being part of his kavadi decoration? In the same light, can a Sikh insist his religious symbols to dorn the kavadi?
Local online newspaper, The Ant Daily, yesterday (3 Feb 2015) ran an article entitled ‘Do we need to be told how to behave during Thaipusam?’. The article centred on a Thaipussam guideline from a so-called Thaipusam Task Force comprising 118 Hindu non-governmental organisations and temples nationwide.
Among the items banned are knives, tridents, and parangs as well as durian, chilies and apples that are pierced on the kavadi bearer’s body, the article says. It adds: “Kavadis that disrespect and mock the religious festival by having logos of soccer clubs and companies deemed inappropriate are also banned.”
They are looking from the inside – stuff that would show disrespect to the Hindu faith. In the same breath, usage of the khanda and other Sikh insignias on kavadi shows disrespect to the Sikh faith. It should be stopped.
It is time Sikh organisations and gurdwaras nationwide write to the Hindu organisations managing the Thaipusam programmes to ensure that Sikh symbols like khanda are not used as kavadi decorations. – ASIA SAMACHAR (4 Feb 2015)
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. Go to www.asiasamachar.com]