Archive | June 2012

Pakistan beyond Islam… – 1

Political disparity has turned India and Pakistan into rivals but until today they have shared heritage that will always keep them together. Most Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims of India have a bond of their ancestors, religion or culture across the border. Similarly, most Pakistanis have a connection with India.As the popular English saying goes, “there are always two sides to every story,” it is not different for the story of the people of India and Pakistan. Today, people on both sides hold some kind of bitterness for each other in their hearts.On the flip side people who travel across the border never go back disappointed because of the warm hospitality, they receive.

“It’s [Pakistan] not all about Islam and terrorism,” said Sohail Abrar during his expert seminar on summer holidays in Pakistan-2012. Sohail is a Pakistan national, who lives in London and has been organising religious and trekking tours to his home country for the past nine years. Sohail explained that Pakistan is home to many other religions, “especially Sikhism.” Guru Nanak-the founder of Sikhism was born in Pakistan in 1469 and his shrine called Nankana Sahib stands tall till today. Every year in November “thousands of Sikhs from around the world, mainly India visit Pakistan as their holiest pilgrimage and take back beautiful memories for lifetime.”

Sikhism is the fifth largest religion with more than 20 million Sikhs around the world, recorded during the census in 2001. It is a monotheistic religion based on the teachings of Guru Nanak and the nine Sikh gurus who followed him. According to the BBC: “Sikhism stresses the importance of doing good actions rather than merely carrying out rituals.” Guru Nanak was born in a Hindu family. He went on an exile for over 30 years to study Hinduism and Islam in depth, before finding Sikhism in the mid fifteenth century.

Guru Nanak

Not much is known about Guru Nanak but some incidences of his life and his teachings are written in the holy book Guru Granth Sahib,’ which Sikhs consider as a “living Guru” today.  The cemetery of Guru Nanak is in Baghdad, Iraq but Sikhs are unable to go there. However, there are 28 historical gurudwaras (Sikh temple) in Pakistan, out of which Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib are open to Sikh devotees annually.

Nearly 2,000 to 3,000 Sikhs have been visiting the two gurudwaras every year in the past decade, according to the Pakistan Research Repository. Sikhs believe that once in their lifetime they must complete this pilgrimage in order to complete their lives in the name of their religion.

Gurudwara Nankana Sahib – Pakistan

Saurabh Dhillon, 32, who visited Pakistan from Punjab, India last year with a group of 37 devotees said: “The initial official process of getting the visas and planning the trip was complicated. But, once we were in Pakistan our first stop was at Nankana Sahib, where we received a very warm welcome.”

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Pakistan beyond Islam… – 2

Nankana Sahib is about 48 km from the capital Lahore, one of the only areas where the Sikh community resides. There are about 35 Sikh families here, but many of them are slowly migrating out to mainly United Kingdom and Dubai, a local Bhaijee (Sikh priest) told the group. Saurabh was surprised when he found that the Muslims who lived around the gurudwara helped in maintaining the building and purity of the place. “The most satisfying part was – be it the small Sikh community or the Muslims in the area, they looked after the shrine wholeheartedly.”

Yearly Sikh pilgrimage in Pakistan

After meditating for two days in the peaceful environment of Nankana Sahib the group of devotees travelled to their second destination, Panja Sahib.

The history of Panja Sahib dates back to 1521 when Guru Nanak was meditating under a tree in peak summers. A group of devotees asked the local ruler for water to quench their thirst but were refused. Annoyed by the singing of spiritual songs, the ruler threw large rocks at the Guru from the top of the hill. Guru Nanak stopped the rocks with his hand and put aside one large rock and fresh water sprang from under it. The large rock with the hand imprint and spring continues until today, the pilgrims bring back the holy water and believe it to cure illnesses.

Gurudwara Panja Sahib – Pakistan

Raman Dhiman, 48, who visited Panja Sahib in 2010 said: “Apart from the hospitality of the Muslims towards Sikh worshipers, the well maintained gurudwaras in a Muslim country and the purpose of Sikhism to complete this pilgrimage – there was much more to my trip.”

During the long drive from Nankana Sahib to Panja Sahib, Raman stopped at a small village market to buy a meal and mementos. “I was hesitant to interact with the local people and tell them that I was from India,” Raman said. But when she did interact, she was surprised to see how “the hospitality increased and there was a sudden feeling of belonging to each other amongst the people.”

“The shopkeeper charged me half the price he quoted, the dhaba (road-side café) owner gave me a free drink and the family sitting on the next table made conversations as if I knew them. It was unbelievable. I didn’t feel like I was in a different country, the people wore the same clothes, followed the same culture and spoke the same language. It just felt very special. They all kept insisting that I should come back to their village sometime again,” she said. Saurabh agreed: “The local people were anyway very welcoming, but even more welcoming and warm when they figured that we came from India.”

“This posed a thought in my mind. The differences between India and Pakistan are the result of a few political officials and terror leaders, but not the common public. On one side thousands are dying safeguarding the borders between the two countries. On the other side, local public is welcoming guests from across the border,” Raman said.

Pilgrimage to Pakistan may not be an easy thought to most Sikh followers, but Pakistan has well protected the heritage and allows Sikhs to visit their historic remains. Beyond completing this religious journey, Pakistan leaves most devotees with beautiful lifetime memories.

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Indian style Michael Jackson

This is a must watch signature act from Britain’s got talent. My friend just showed it to me and it was one of the best performances I have ever watched. I am sharing it with you here – believe me, watch it and it will bring a smile on your face. You can leave me your comments if it doesn’t 😛

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The 5 traditions of Indian weddings

Indian weddings are known for their traditions. Here are the five traditions that are essential in most Indian weddings. May be you can steal some of these ideas for your wedding.

Lucky Day

In India, the couple doesn’t choose their wedding date. Instead, an elderly family member, fortune-teller, priest, or astrologist figures out the most auspicious day by considering factors like birthdays and phases of the moon. Most weddings last about 3-4 days and sometimes a week as well.

Colour Code

Once the perfect date is settled, follows the old tradition of giving out wedding cards with sweets. Red and gold, is the most common combination as the two bold colours are meant to represent luck and wealth. But recently people are slowly changing this colour scheme, as they want something new and different. However, people still stick to bright colours like pink, orange etc.

Painting Party

Mehndi (henna) night usually happens two or three days before an Indian wedding ceremony. During this ritual, henna artists draw on the hands of female friends and family members. They also paint the bride’s hands and feet and believe that it protects her from evil. It is said: the deeper the colour the deeper is the love between the couple and their two families. Usually the mehndi is kept for about 4-8 hours to get the darkest colour and it lasts about 2-3 weeks. Indian brides are also painted with turmeric powder mixed with milk all over their body, this is meant to improve her skin and give her a natural glow. She usually showers with milk on her wedding day.

Flower Power

If you thought flowers are only used for decorations in weddings, in Indian weddings they mean much more, Indian brides and grooms exchange floral garlands, representing their acceptance of each other as husband and wife. Another custom is that the groom’s brother sprinkles flower petals over the couple wishing them good luck. Some Indian brides throw rice behind them when moving into the new family, this signifies that she is leaving her family and moving into another and promising to take care of her husband’s family.

All Tied Up

Different cultures in India have different kinds of the final wedding ceremony. In Hindus, the couple takes seven rounds around the fire and pray to the God of fire, Agni. In Sikhs, the couple takes four rounds of their holy book. However, in both Hindu’s and Sikhs a prayer is read before each round, which spells out promises the couples has to keep after their wedding. Both bride and groom hold separate pieces of cloth that are tied together by their parents. They have to hold on to the two ends of the cloth till they finish their seven or four rounds.

To get some more ideas about Indian weddings visit:

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