I knew next to nothing about Sikhs before my last trip to India, the word simply making me think of men wearing turbans on their head. But after learning a bit about Sikhism and visiting the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple in New Delhi, I have come to have nothing but admiration for the Sikhs, their history and their philosophy of life.
Sikhism is an offshoot of Hinduism started in the 16th century to promote the concept of the equality of all people, irrespective of religion, caste, age, color, gender, creed or race. That alone was enough to get my attention and my respect.
Knowing that the Sikhs fought hard against the Mughal Empire’s efforts to coerce everyone to convert to Islam only increased my respect for these courageous people.
I can’t say that I understand all the issues surrounding the political disputes over Punjab between the Indian government and the Sikhs. In my opinion, there should be a way to marry the need to preserve the unity of India with the Sikhs’ aspirations for a state of their own.
In any event, the Sikhs’ philosophy of tolerance and compassion finds its expression in the “langar” kitchens of the Sikh temples.
As incredible as it may seem, the Sikhs offer a meal to anyone who wants one without restrictions of any kind at each of their temples. It is a vegetarian meal suitable for all who come. All you need to do is show up and sit down among the thousands who come every day for a full hot meal.
Volunteers staff the kitchens where the meals are prepared.
How can you not admire the compassion of these admirable people!
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