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SAY NO TO IDOLS

Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti Akhal Takhat Sri Amritsar Punjab Dear Jathedar Joginder Singh ji: Vaah Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vaah Guru Ji Ki Fateh. You occupy a seat of responsibility and authority, the Jathedar of the Akal Takhat being the mouthpiece of the Guru Khalsa Panth. We have great expectations from someone in your position because you are capable of influencing the Sikh Nation through the prestige of your office. As a Sikh of the Diaspora, I am repulsed by your recent announcement to debate the heresy of installing statues of Sikh Gurus. Why is it that our Muslim brethren, since the inception of Islam, have never deliberated on whether they can paint a portrait or create a sculpture of Prophet Mohammad? Why is it that our so-called leaders in the Sikh Homeland, escaping the real issues besetting the Panth, are engaging in frivolous discussions? Have you become so insecure in your understanding of the long established traditions of the Panth that you are unable to state with conviction that we shall not allow any statues or portraits of the Sikh Gurus? There is no precedence and room for such heretic debates, especially when the Gurus themselves have settled this matter.

Guru Gobind Singh emphatically disapproves idol worshippers in his Zafarnamah, the epistle of victory to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. He critically identifies the failed Hindu hill chiefs as “idol worshipers” and calls himself an “idol breaker.” (keh uoo boot parastando man boot shikan.) According to Sirdar Kapur Singh, “When in 1610, some Sikhs asked for permission of the Sixth Nanak (Guru Har Gobind) to have a portrait of the Guru prepared, it was politely refused, and to the puzzled Sikhs, Bhai Gurdas, the evangelist, explained that the only portrait of the Guru is the Word of the Guru.” gur moorat gur shabad hai. (“The Central Message of Guru Nanak,” Sikh Review, Calcutta, November 1961, p. 35-37.) It is demanded that you stop debating issues that have long been resolved and start focusing on issues affecting Sikh sovereignty and basic human rights. If you do not act now you will be remembered as the Jathedar who introduced idolatry to the Sikhs of Punjab, destroying decades of hard work by Sikh Sabha luminaries such as Giani Ditt Singh and Prof. Gurmukh Singh. The words of Guru Gobind Singh should loudly echo in your ears, “jab eh gahe bipran kee reet, mein na karoo in kee parteet.” (When the order of the Khalsa adopts Brahminical ways, I shall no longer trust it.) Let us destroy all statues and tear all portraits of our Gurus because they are not their true representation and they have become vehicles to denigrate our Gurus. One can see them behind alcohol stands and bars in restaurants next to Hindu deities, for instance. Furthermore, their creation is a severe violation of the Sikh Rehat Maryada, which has been ratified through the consensus of the Guru Khalsa Panth. These icons need to be uprooted and destroyed, as done by the member of the Sikh Sabha movement. We should accept nothing less.

Prof. Puran Singh admonishes us – “When I stand before the pictures you call those of the Gurus, I feel as much disgusted as when I look at the ugly idols of Krishna of the Hindus in the temples of Vrindavan. You will be killed by this mean imitation of others’ passion . . . Woe unto that religious preaching which needs the support of such soulless imitation. For goodness’ sake, burn all your canvases and throw your brushes away. You are not risen to the level of men and the craft of the artist is far above your reach. You are not yet able to grasp the essentials even of the intellectual appreciation of the Art of the Beautiful. You need yet to learn how to wear a pearl necklace and how to adorn yourself. You must needs be decorated and beautiful to go and dare approach the Beautiful.” (The Spirit Born People, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1990, p. 111) I am copying this message to Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi, the president of the SGPC, who is also a guilty party in this severe transgression of encouraging idolatry among Sikhs because many places under SGPC jurisdiction have erected statues of Sikh Gurus without any effective response from this statutory body.

The SGPC is again violating the Sikh Rehat Maryada that it publishes. To reiterate Guru Gobind Singh’s sacred and powerful words in the Zafarnamah -- man boot shikan! Long live the Panth!

Harpreet Singh Sikh Heresy Regulation Board (SHRB) New York