Sikhs join 800th anniversary of Myanmar’s famed Land of the Rubies

Mogok has been home to Sikhs since their arrival with the Indian army some 150 years ago. It still has an functioning gurdwara

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Mogok celebration: Sikhs holding ‘Sikh Familiy’ sign taking part in a procession on 24 March 2018 – Photo: Rajeev Singh

Sikhs are taking an active part in the 800th anniversary celebration of Mogok, a small Myanmar town famed for rubies, with prayer, Guru Ka Langgar and get-togethers in the works.

This morning (24 March), Sikh youth wearing Punjabi dresses joined a procession in the town located 200 kilometres north of Mandalay, proudly holding the sign ‘Sikh Family’.

Sikhs have been present in Mogok for more than 150 years through the Indian army. Today, there are less than a dozen families in the town, a Mogok-born Sikh entrepreneur Rajeev Singh tells Asia Samachar.

Sikhs formerly from Mogok and other parts of the country have started converging in Mogok for the grand celebration. A sehaj path (slow, intermittent, full reading of the Guru Granth Sahib) was started on Jan 5 and the path da bhog (concluding prayers) are planned at Gurdwara Sahib Mogok on Wednesday (28 March)

“We will also be distributing some 2,000 langgar boxes per day on March 30 and 31,” said Rajeev, who runs a tyre business in Mandalay.

The mythical city of Mogok has excited many imaginations since French writer and traveller Joseph Kessel’s adventure novel Mogok, the Valley of Rubies was first published in 1955, according to an article in Myanmar Times.

For centuries emperors, kings and warlords have vied for control over the valley of Mogok, north of Mandalay, once known as the “land of rubies” for its extraordinary treasure trove of jewels. Its unique “pigeon-blood” stones are the most expensive coloured gems in the world. In 2016, the so-called Sunrise Ruby sold for a record US$30.3 million (RM136.12 million), over US$1 million a carat, reported AFP.

It is nestled in a valley between a number of large mountains where, due to its altitude (1,170 metres), a cool temperate climate can found all year round.

“Most youths from this town went outside to set up businesses or for job in cities like Mandalay Yangon and Taunggyi due to the poor economic condition. Some of them are back for this celebration,” he said.

Like many other traditions preserved in Myanmar, mining in Mogok today involves little to no mechanisation and is based on intensive use of manual labour, concentrated on hillside deposits, through open trenches, deep pits, or through excavating tunnels directly into the limestone. A number of bustling ruby markets, including Panchan and Aungchanthar markets, can be found in the centre of town (note that gems sold in markets in Mogok can only be purchased at government licensed dealers), according to a Go-Myanmar.com, a website promoting the country to foreign tourists.

Located in Mandalay Division and bordering Shan State, the Mogok area hosts a diverse ethnic population, including Bamar, Shan, Lisu, Palaung, and Karen ethnic groups, as well as Chinese, Indians and Gurkhas (descendants of a Nepalese group).

Mogok celebration: Sikhs holding ‘Sikh Familiy’ sign taking part in a procession on 24 March 2018 – Photo: Rajeev Singh

[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com] 18376

 

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