By Hardev Singh Grewal | OPINION |
Some learned members of this forum* have felt that New South Wales, Australia ought to have struck a compromise before imposing a ban on baptized Sikh students as not to bring their kirpaans into schools. Nobody, however, has come forward as to how that compromise ought to look like.
By the way, here in California, US, some school districts had required, and the Sikh community complied, to that the kirpaan blade will stay secured in its sheath. This was to prohibit the kirpan-sporting person from ever using it as a weapon. This, in turn, has ended up depriving the kirpaan from fulfilling its designated function, i.e., to act as a weapon.
Kirpaan (also spelt as kirpan) is a weapon, has all along been intended to be a weapon, and when used it has worked as a weapon. Once converted it into a non-functional weapon, it simply turns into a ceremonial item, i.e., an ornament, for show (exteriority) only. It then has to be looked upon as a ‘Janeyu‘, though in a different form and shape. We all know well what Guru Nanak thought of a Janeyu. Let us not wear things just to look good and feel good.
If a baptized Sikh is religiously mandated as not to part with the kirpan at any time, why he then so readily and without any hesitation, takes off his kirpaan before boarding an international flight. The ‘takhat jathedars’ themselves do it all the time. They unceremoniously store their kirpaans in their checked-in baggage, only to collect them after several hours at the arrival end. Everyday people leave their kirpaans in their vehicles to avoid refusal to entry into secured buildings.
The only obvious solution for the baptized students seems to me that they should leave their kirpaans behind at home.
Let us not indoctrinate our children and load them with a weight for which they are too young and too immature to carry it forward. Let the children be children. I would go one step further that only adult Sikhs be bestowed with the honor and privilege to be baptized.
As we are already talking about Sikhism, forgive me if I now go little off the tangent.
We all have noticed that the current custodians of Sikhism have lately introduced several changes to the long-established religious protocols. An individual, unlike in the past, is no longer allowed to get a volume of our holy Granth. He is not supposed to take one such volume with him onto an aircraft to take it abroad. He can’t take it to his own home unless accompanied by five amritdhari Sikhs. If not baptized, one is not expected to sit behind the holy Granth to do ‘chaur’ at a religious function. One can’t celebrate a religious wedding at a place of his choice. The custodians have made it sacrilegious for anybody to pass out our holy material. They expect us to keep it firmly wrapped in several layers of expensive romalaas. They expect us to be able to read it, not necessarily comprehend it. For them hearing is as good as listening. They want us to keep the holy Granth cool or warm (depending upon the weather) by turning on the appropriate equipment.
They are introducing retrograde steps — no other way to look at them. They expect us to become Fundamental Sikhs — far removed from the Sikhi message.
Lastly, the Sikh religious leadership has been gradually adopting anything to everything, holy or unholy, to keep itself firmly in the saddle. We all know that it with the help of an overwhelming number of non-Sikh members of Indian parliament has gotten millions of non-traditional Sikhs — Sikhs none the less, barred from voting in the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) elections. To me, it is a gross violation of the Gurus’ message enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. For the last 300 plus years, the Sikhs have had one and only one guru — Guru Granth. Nowhere, it suggests that a Sikh is required to sport a certain outward appearance. It is to confuse religion with culture.
Sikhism is a beautiful, practical, scientific, and universal religion. Let us help take it to the farthest edges of the globe, and not dwindle it by imposing artificial un-Sikh barriers.
SOME SELECTED COMMENTS BY FORUM* MEMBERS:
Forum Member 1: I read a factual and enlightening post on the Learning Zone after a long time. You have hit the nail on the head as follows: “Kirpaan is a weapon, has all along been intended to be a weapon, and when used it has worked as a weapon. Once converted into a non-functional weapon, it simply turns into a ceremonial item, i.e., an ornament, for show (exteriority) only. It then has to be looked upon as a ‘Janeyu’, though in a different form and shape. We all know well what Guru Nanak thought of a Janeyu. Let us not wear things just to look good and feel good.” Grewal has very well justified that keeping the kirpan fixed in the sheath becomes a ritual forced by the Rahit Maryada but not based on any basic principle of SIKHI founded by Guru Nanak.
I have read a few posts from Grewal before, too, which were enlightening. This type of truth only a rare person like him can take courage to write.
Forum Member 2: Amrit is the highest degree of spiritual evolvement and should only be given to those whose life style is consistent with what is expected of Amritdhari Sikhs. It should not be given to anyone who asks for it. It should not be given to children. Women are not required to take it.
Kirpan at the time of Guru Gobind Singh was regular 3 feet long and not gatra kirpan. We changed it for convenience. Now in this age it is no longer an offensive or defense weapon. It is purely symbolic. It can be reduced further.
Forum Member 3: Well said Sardar Hardev Singh Ji. We are drifting away (already have) from the real message of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and well trenched into rituals.
Forum Member 4: You have written a very well worded explanation and a solution about the situation. If I may add my two Bob’s worth. Amrit is taken by an individual when he resolves to carry out the promise of the requirements and conditions of the Amrit. No doubt that you are aware that we have many different Amrit’s. Anyway having taken on of the various Amrit’s it is the responsibility of that INDIVIDUAL to keep it. Kirpan is meant to be used for defence and protecting the defenceless persons and not for attacking. Thanks for your message and thoughts.
Forum Member 5: With reference of carrying a kirpan by baptized Sikhs, i.e., Khalsa, and its banning in NSW public schools. As per the history coming down to us Guru Gobind Singh invited volunteers for a test. Thus first five pyaras were baptized. They were asked to wear a prescribed dress code. I have no source of information when Guru Gobind Singh ordained all Sikhs, ie followers of Guru Granth Sahib, to compulsory get baptized and wear kirpan. All the first 5 pyaras were more than adults.
Kirpan may be article of faith for some but it is a weapon which can be used for defence and attack. If we defend it as only a part of faith and not a weapon for use, then we are speaking against the the very philosophy of kirpan ordained by Guru Gobind Singh.
If wearing of kirpan is only a religious symbol then it is typical Brahmanical ritual of no significance as per Gurbani. Kirpan is no more a weapon of warfare anywhere in the world. Now there are state laws and enforcement agencies to protect you. Every country has its own laws on carrying personal weapons.
* The article was first published at Gurmat Learning Zone (GLZ), an Internet-based Sikh discussion group following the temporary kirpan ban at schools in New South Wales, Australia. To subscribe to the group, email: email@example.com
Hardev Singh Grewal received a degree in electrical engineering in 1961 at Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh and later a Master’s degree from the University of Manchester. He had worked in England and the US. In 1977, he served as the first general secretary of the newly gurdwara in Fremont, San Francisco Bay Area. He now lives in Dublin, California.
New South Wales bans kirpan in schools after alleged school stabbing incident (Asia Samachar, 18 May 2021)