By Dya Singh | OPINION |
Some of us Sikhs have a ‘haj-like’ attitude where our holy places are concerned especially in India and also Pakistan. Some who can afford it go very regularly like as if just going to these places will save their souls or perhaps cleanse their bad karma. ‘Yatra to Hem Kunt’ or ’25-stop one-month yatra of our most famous holy Sikh shrines including Keshgarh Sahib, Hazoor Sahib and also Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib’. Ask Leo Travels and Baldave will give you a cheap price! He has it down to a fine art and provides a great service.
Let me tell you of my ‘yatra’ in Malaysia because ‘jithay jaye behay mera Satguru, so than suhava …’. In this brief visit to Malaysia three weeks after ‘Barsi’, I was able to pay my respects at Malacca gurdwara for obvious reasons. The gurdwara, for me, always carries the aura of Sant Baba Sohan Singh because I had the privilege of doing kirtan in his presence there in the 1960’s. A visit there brings back some very fond memories of days gone by.
I prefer going to Malacca outside of the ‘Barsi’ which has now been given a more formal name like ‘Salana Yaadgar Smagam’ or is it ‘Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji Salana Yaadgar Smagam’ or something to that effect to move away from the word ‘Barsi’ which to some is considered a sacrilege. Let me assure you, it will always be referred to as ‘Barsi’ by all Malaysians into the future too.
To me, as to most Malaysian Sikhs, ‘barsi’ is just short of ‘anniversary’ or as I call it ‘anibarsi’. It does not have any deep dark insidious Hindu-based raising of dead spirits rituals as some make it out to be. I like to think that we Sikhs have outgrown all that mumbo jumbo. We remember our beloved Sant Baba Sohan Singh on a yearly basis with great affection. (And believe me, some come for Barsi to have a good time and especially get drunk while their wives, children and female folks attend gurdwara. They too raise spirits and definitely not the dead kind! Apparently beer runs out in Malacca during Barsi!) Each to one’s own.
I prefer lesser crowds these days. Must be age! The gurdwara has beautiful rooms for which there is only a nominal charge of RM50 per night. They can sleep up to 6 in some rooms. Hire a room and stay a few days.
There is always some ‘path’ or an Akhand path going on and there is always langar and cha. What more can one ask for? Spend time listening to path, have langar and as I like, go for long walks. The boardwalk along the river is absolutely magnificent and Malacca’s Chinese chicken rice is world famous. I also discovered good pork satay in Malacca – the one meat you can be assured, is not halal!
Try spending a whole night just listening to path during an ‘Akhand Path’. Take a pillow and a thin blanket, make yourself comfortable and just listen to the magic of path. And when you feel sleepy just lie down in a corner and let the paath create an aura of well-being throughout your whole ‘being’. It is truly a magical and rejuvenating experience. There is always sewa of some kind to be done too.
We travelled there via Mantin and the beautiful gurdwara there and a refreshing well water bath which is reportedly has curative properties. To me it is an invigorating shower!
We returned via Kuala Pilah. Another beautiful scenic drive, away from major roads.
A few days later my dear friend Menjit suggested Khalsa Land and Gurpuri Land. My ‘yatra’ was beginning!
Malaysian born Sarjit Singh and his good wife have dedicated the rest of their lives to looking after this beautiful ‘Sikh Retreat’ belonging to Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM). Nestled in secondary jungle and large orchards just off the trunk road south-bound from Rawang and the turn off is just before the junction to Kuala Kubu Bharu. It is now a location for the annual Sikh youth samelan held in late December every year and there are also numerous ‘mini-samelans’. This is large acreage with purpose-built facilities for spiritual gatherings with accommodation in air-conditioned containers. At the time of writing this, it can ‘sleep’ almost 200!
I have been visiting this beautiful place over the last ten odd years and this year, it felt like it has attained its tranquility. There is peace and a sense of calm here. The stress just melts away.
Now the vegetation is starting to grow. Shady trees, a large playing field, and also fruit trees and vegetable plots. This year, besides rambutans, papayas and mangoes mainly, there was also the first yield of durians!
I also met an enterprising young man who is into a project to nurture bees in the hope of making honey. He told me that they needed to grow more flowers and other flowering plants, but it was a viable project. So, more vegetation and hopefully pure honey into the future.
Sometimes the Orang Asli (aborigines) children come and work especially gardening. I enquired whether they are given any langgar. Veer Sarjit told me an amusing story. One of the youngsters kept stirring the dhal for some time. Veer Ji asked him why he kept doing that and he said, “satu pun kechi punya ikan ta-ada kah?”. (Is there not even one small fish inside?)
Nestled within this tranquillity is the beautiful Darbar Sahib. Kirtan, satsang, simran and ‘path’ happens quite regularly and growing. The local sangat from nearby towns like Ulu Yam, Rasa and Kuala Kubu Bharu has started frequenting. Larger groups of youth come regularly to hold ‘simrans’ and for other spiritual pursuits.
It was a moving experience just spending a few hours here. We even got langar, rambutans and a juicy papaya. I recommend it. Next time I want to spend a few days just ‘being’ here.
Someone asked me today for a ‘location’ Anand Karaj – the spiritually moving kind. Not the noise and colourful affair that we are now used to. My suggestion was – ‘Khalsa land’!
A day later, Menjit suggested that we visit Gurpuri Land – the ‘retreat’ for the Gurpuri Organisaton which nurtures Sikh orphans and children from poorer homes in Malaysia. A vision and mission of another dear friend, Giani Sukdaiv Singh, Gurpuri is now an established Sikh ‘institution’ of Malaysia.
It is on acreage fairly similar to Khalsa Land just across from Bentong off the Karak Highway in Pahang state.
Giani Ji takes all his kids from the big ‘smoke’ KL to this tranquil ‘retreat’ once a month for the weekend where they do their own cooking, they garden, they play and also receive some inspirational talks, motivation and kirtan. We happened to turn up as the older kids were practising archery and the younger ones were involved in painting and other craft work.
After a hearty ‘langgar’ of Hokkian mee and kway teao (vegetarian of course) with air bandung I had the honour of doing some inspirational kirtan and a discourse on the true ‘soorma’ after a quick briefing from inspirational professional motivator who I only know as ‘Sukhdev Success’. He was running this retreat with Tarlochan Singh, one of the band masters of the famous Sikh Sri Dasmesh Marching Band. There was also a very dynamic Chinese lady to further inspire the participants. I was most touched when she told me that it was her honour to finally meet the person who had come up with the globally famous Mool Mantr melody! A good massage to my ego!
It goes without saying that there was a lusty rendition of our Mool Mantr and our ‘Game of Love’ – ‘Jo thao prem khelan ka chao’. Gurpuri kids know our melodies pretty well and sing them very often. My wish for kirtan hajri was fulfilled.
Gurpuri is well into a project to grow organic foodstuff on a commercial basis and for the consumption of the children besides other promising projects.
We drove back from a very fulfilling and spiritually uplifting morning along the old road to Janda Baik, then Gombak to Kuala Lumpur. There is a hot spring on the road but we ran out of time and were not able to have a soak and also because there was threat of a heavy thunderstorm.
To be just in the presence of Giani Ji is very uplifting. Waheguru bless him, Gurpuri and especially the children.
I truly believe that Giani ji is not only giving lesser fortunate Sikh kids a chance in life but also raising future leaders of the Sikh ‘quom’ with well-rounded secular education with a spiritual base. The kind of education every child needs.
In conclusion I remember the words of the late Joginder Singh, one of the original founders of SNSM. He ‘never’ went for teerath yatra to India, yet a most pious upright Sikh. “Sikhs should realise that ‘teerath yatra’ is an inward journey, not necessarily to supposedly sacred shrines of our religion. Teerath brt ar dan kar, mun mai dherai guman. Nanak nehphal jaat the, jeo kunchar ishnan. Go and ‘metha tek’ at your local gurdwara or have parkash of Guru Ji at home and journey inwards. That is teerath yatra.”
Well, I also like to go to non-local gurdwaras in my beloved Malaysia while I can.
I commend those who have dreamt and built and nurtured Khalsa Lland and Gurpuri Land. Jithay jaye behay mera Satguru, so than suhava.
Malaysian-born Dya Singh, who now resides in Australia, is an accomplished musician and a roving Sikh preacher. The Dya Singh World Music Group performs full scale concerts on ‘music for the soul’ based on North Indian classical and semi-classical styles of music with hymns from mainly the Sikh, Hindu and Sufi ‘faiths’. He is also the author of SIKH-ING: Success and Happiness. He can be contacted at email@example.com
* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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