New Delhi: the Gurunwara Bangla Sahib.

What should really serve as an example to the West is not only how the Indians tolerate but also how they embrace “Otherness”. Despite the fact that almost 80% of the population is Hindu, it comes as a surprise to the traveler how harmoniously they coexist with other ethnic and religious minorities. The secret behind this seems to be the fact that Hinduism is actually NOT a religion: it is a stance and philosophy of life. The Sanatama Dharma (Eternal Law) is rather a fusion of philosophies and traditions based on no particular Holy book or doctrine. And while the West is struggling with the East (and has been doing so ever since the 19th century) and vice versa, while hatred, misunderstanding and two-fold extremism appear to be more heated than ever, in India, conflict is just not an issue!

We discovered the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib near the most prestigious Cartier of New Delhi (Connaught Place). It is one of the most prominent Sikh places of worship, associated with the eighth Sikh Guru, Guru Har Krishan. The Guru resided here in 1664, in a time during a cholera epidemic in Delhi. According to tradition he helped ease the suffering of the locals by offering water from his well. The water is revered as having healing properties and is taken by Sikhs all over the world back to their homes.

The grounds include the Gurudwara, a kitchen, a large (holy) pond, a school and an art gallery. As with all Sikh Gurdwaras, the concept of langar is practiced, and all people, regardless of race or religion may eat in the Gurdwara kitchen (langar hall). The Langar (food) is prepared by gursikhs who work there and also by volunteers who like to help out. At the Gurdwara, visitors are requested to cover their hair and not to wear shoes. Assistance to foreigners and visitors with Guides, head scarves, and shoe-minding service can be found inside the compound and are available free of charge. Anyone can volunteer to help keep the shoes in the shoe-minding room, and cleaning the precincts of the Gurudwara. (Wikipedia).

But what is Sikhism? The Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak who was born is 1469. The Guru and his his nine Guru successors set a wonderful example of living spirituality, while yet taking an active and secular part in the social life. Thus, Sikhism is considered among the most recent religions dating back to the 15th century with somewhat 25-28 millions adherents around the world.

Sikhism is all about equality and it emphasizes simran (meditation on the words of the Guru Granth Sahib), that can be expressed musically through kirtan or internally through Nam Japo (repeat God’s name) as a means to feel God’s presence, and to have control over the “Five Thieves” (lust, rage, greed, attachment and conceit). Hand in hand, secular life is considered to be intertwined with the spiritual life.

This pilgrimage site is visited by thousands of people every year-either travelers of followers and is definitely worth the effort to reach!

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