06 October 2011

The Jamnagar Gurudwara


View Gurudwara in a larger map

This here is the Google map location of the gurdwara in Jamnagar.  My uncle Santokh Singh Suri was one of its founders.  It was aimed at providing a place to pray for the growing Sikh community in Jamnagar.  Santokh Singh Suri was the personal physician of Jam Saheb, whose generosity helped lay the foundation stone of the gurudwara here.

Of course, all this happened before I was born.  Circumstances in my life made my uncle and aunt my guardians, hence my childhood was spent in this amazing little town.  I will be writing about it often, as it has shaped me and my thoughts.  Often, as I sit around doing some work, I am suddenly seized by some memory of a day gone long past, something trivial, like walking down a road or appearing for an exam.  But the memory is so real, I feel like I am re-living that moment.  It is to put these memories down on record that I will be doing a series of sketches like this one.

My uncle and aunt were a devout couple.  All the various gurupurab's (birthdays of the Guru's) were celebrated with gusto.  As were the Shahidi Diwas (martyrdom days).   On these occasions we would donate some mah ki daal (black lentils) for the langer (community lunch).  We would all sit around and clean the mah ki daal scruplously.   Baiji (my Aunt) would wake up at 4 in the morning and go to the Gurudwara to do service. I would throw a tantrum until I was allowed to go along.  In the gurudwara we would help make rotis.  We would sit around a large 4 foot long tava with a roaring fire under it.  Women would crowd around and roll out thick rotis that another lot of women would roast expertly on the hot tava.  Another big bunch of men and women would gather around the kitchen cutting up mounds of cauliflower and peeling and dicing potatoes.  The job of cooking was under the expert hands of a gentleman we knew as our mamaji (maternal uncle).  He was not a relation, but in that sparse close knit Sikh community, everyone was an uncle, it would have been rude to call them our 'acquaintance'.

As the afternoon of Gurupurab rolled around, at the completion of prayers with Ardas, the carpets would be rolled away and thin runner carpets spread out instead to create long aisles.  People would sit on them and be served all the food prepared since early morning on leaf plates.  Boys and young men would walk down the aisles doling out daal, aaloo-gobhi sabzi and 'parshadas' as the roti's prepared in Gurudwara were called.  I can swear I have never ever tasted food so tasty ever in my life.  It was full of the taste of simple living and love that existed between people in those days.

Although the Gurudwara was open for prayers all days, Sundays were special.  Come Sunday, and we were all hustled into the car and driven to the Gurdwara for prayers.  The ceremony probably took 3-4 hours.  We sat on durries on the ground in front of babaji's beed.  The sanctum was appropriately decorated with flowers and colourful silk spreads.  There were sparkly buntings on the ceiling. Sobha Singh's portraits of the Guru's adorned the walls.  Lovely glass chandeliers, a personal gift from the Jam Saheb, hung from the ceiling.  I would often get restive, and sneak out to get a toffee from the shop outside, not that I was hungry or anything, it just was nice to run around with other kids.  Soon, the paath would be over, and it would be time for ardaas.  That was the time we were all required to be in our place.  Head bowed, I repeated 'Sat sri Akal' everytime the granthi said 'Jo Bole So Nihal'.  From the corner of my eye, I could see the assistant granthi making his way to the big paraant of the crowning glory of the day - the Kada Parshad.

My mouth would water in anticipation as, the Ardaas over, we would sit and await our turn to be served the glorious dollop of Parshad.  It was oily sweet and hot.  It was like the perfect end to my visit to the Gurudwara.  I am not particularly religious, but a visit to the gurudwara, always ending with a bit of parshad, makes me feel secure, as if I am back in the arms of my parents.

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