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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The story of a Gurdwara

The morning alarm, at 4 O’clock, rang. It was Jasjot’s turn today. Commonly known as ‘susti’ by the closest around him, he, in his University hostel room, was wrapped in his most lovable ‘rajaee’ with all the corners tucked under his body. Still he took less than a second to slap the small button on the head of the clock and made it silent. This happened every Friday morning, the day of Jasjot’s turn. But his love and determination towards his duty were unquestionable, given he came out of this dormant stage from his cocoon.

Suddenly there was a knock on his door. It was Prabhpal. He had returned from the campus gurdwara after finding it closed. Jasjot was supposed to open it today and do the seva and the parkash. It was a gurdwara of its own kind in the whole world. There was no granthi, no ragi, no sevadaar, and yes, no pradhaan and no secretary. In fact everyone was the granthi, the ragi, the sevadaar, the pradhaan and the secretary.

Yes this was the small gurdwara in the campus of Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar. And the story of its installation is also very interesting and inspiring. It is said that the University, in late 80’s, constructed a septagon shaped building which was supposed to house the student center. In the center of the building there was a septagon shaped hall which could be reached by going down a few steps. And this hall was surrounded by rooms with glass walls facing the center. A kitchen housed in the north-east of the building. Later the law faculty started holding its classes there.

There was a general disappointment among the students that there was no gurdwara, in the University named after Guru Nanak Sahib. And when they saw this small building in the middle of the campus being constructed, the idea of the perfect place for the gurdwara struck their mind. Though it was a perfect building for the gurdwara, at that time of heightened tension in Punjab, making such a demand was not less than a challenge. And as it was expected, the University administration outrageously rejected the students’ demand for the establishment of the gurdwara in the campus.

But that era of heightened tension in Punjab also meant excessive determination among the Sikh youth to struggle for their just cause. And this desire of having a gurdwara brought no exception to their determination. In the middle of a night in April 1986 some students took the saroop of Guru Granth Sahib and did the parkash in the building. This incident was followed by some arrests by the police, but finally the much awaited dream came true. The parkash was done, the nishan sahib was erected, the kitchen started running and thus the gurdwara was established inside the Guru Nanak Dev University campus under the spirit of ‘Deg Teg Fateh’!

But this didn’t lead to the thawing of relations between pro-gurdwara student activists and the university administration. For ten years there was no official recognition to the gurdwara by the administration. Even the university shied from mentioning this building on its published official maps.

No support from the administration meant students using their own dasvandh for running the gurdwara. First they constructed a small podium in the center hall where Guru Granth Sahib was installed. The hall and the rooms were carpeted. The two rooms, one on the left and the other on the right, were reserved for the sangat. A library was made in the room behind the podium. In one small room the place for sukhasan was made and another small room was reserved for gurdwara’s management.

And now, every year in February, the students celebrate the foundation day of the gurdwara on a big scale. All the seva, ranging from making langar for thousands to doing the keertan is managed by the students. On this day professional ragis, dhadis and katha-vachaks also join the celebrations.

This gurdwara has become a source of inspiration for many. And what better place it could be than in the University campus where thousands of students come every year to attain knowledge (gyan).
The gurdwara has also served as a gurmat school, where many students have learnt to do keertan, ardaas, take vaak, do parkash, perform sukhasan and prepare karah parshaad from each other. In the absence of a granthi this gurdwara also takes the credit of being one of the very few gurdwaras where men and women stand shoulder to shoulder in performing any kind of seva.

This gurdwara also serves as an example of harmony, selflessness and team-work, where the students volunteer to do seva, which they take from the senior students and in turn pass, what they have learnt, to the newcomers.

Every year new students come to the University, some of them, like Jasjot and Prabhpal get involved in the seva; and thus this holy cycle continues.


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