16th June: A message of peace and good wishes to all humanity on the Martyrdom Anniversary of the 5th Sikh Guru
Traditionally, in India Sikhs set up stalls to offer free sweet cool drinks to the general public on hot days, known as Chhabeel, but especially between May and June, when Sikhs remember the martyrdom of their fifth Guru.
The fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1563-1606), a champion of peace and holiness, became the first Sikh Guru to be martyred in 1606 as a consequence of the tyrannical rulers’ religious intolerance and fanaticism. Refusing to give up his faith, Guru Arjan Dev Ji was tortured by being made to sit on a red hot plate, whilst hot sand was poured over Him.
The Guru’s son, who in turn had become the 6th Guru, ensured that the collective grief of the Sikhs developed into a source of strength, to show that Sikhs wouldn’t be downtrodden by others, and ultimately transformed the Sikh community into the religion it is today, a faith willing to fight for the freedom and rights of others, regardless of religion, race, or colour.
Instead of remembering the martyrdom of the 5th Guru through mourning, Guru Arjan Dev Ji taught the Sikhs to accept God’s will as sweet. Therefore, Sikhs changed negativity into positivity by turning an attack upon them into a chance to serve others. We honour the Guru’s burning by cooling everyone else. This brings to life the Sikh concept of Chardi Kala (directly translated as “ever-rising spirits”) which dictates that one should be always optimistic and positive. As such, when people may be feeling hot and bothered in the summer, Sikhs will be seeking to share positivity and kindness.
In the past few weeks with the terror attacks in Manchester and London, there has been a moving show of strength and defiance against those who want to create fear and terror in communities, driven by ideologies of intolerance and hatred. The message of Guru Arjan Dev Ji of responding to hatred with sweetness, and changing negativity to positivity, has been shown by many with their generous acts of humanity during these tragic events.
This month, whilst Sikhs remember the martyrdom of their Guru and the tens of thousands of Sikhs who lost their lives in the Sikh holocaust of 1984, they stand shoulder to shoulder with innocents killed and injured by mindless violence in Manchester, London and elsewhere in the world.