Guru Gobind Singh 350th Birth Anniversary: 15 facts about the 10th Sikh Guru

Today marks the 350th Birth Anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh ji. He was the 10th and the last Sikh Guru. His life is an ideal example of service to humanity and adherence to truth, even if it means laying down your own life. Here are 15 facts from Guru Gobind Singh ji’s life story on his 350th Birth Anniversary or Gurpurab (2017):

– He was born in Patna, Bihar in 1666.

– He was earlier named, Gobind Rai.

– He was considered a leader by his friends right during his childhood.

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Picture: Pinterest

– During the time of his birth, his father, Guru Teg Bahadur was in Dhaka (then Bengal, now Bangladesh). He saw his child Gobind Rai for the first time when the latter was three years old.

– Guru Gobind Singh ji migrated to Anandpur, Punjab with his mother, Mata Gujri ji in 1671.

– Even during his childhood, he was well-versed in a number of languages like Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit and Brij Bhasha (along with his mother tongue Punjabi).

– Gobind Rai was only 10 years old when he was given the responsibility of leading the Sikhs by becoming their next Guru after the passing away of his father.

– Guru Gobind Singh ji not only became an expert in warfare (martial arts, sword fighting, etc) but also trained a large army of Sikhs to fight the oppressors in the form of Mugals and, at times, caste-conscious Hindus.

– Raja Bhim Chand of Kahlur and other rulers got insecure of Guru Gobind Singh ji and waged a war against him and the Sikhs in 1687. But the Sikhs fought valiantly and defeated the enemy forces.

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Guruji asking for heads (Picture: Gurbani.co)

– Guru Gobind Singh ji found the Khalsa Panth in a dramatic way in 1699. He took a sword and asked for the heads of the most beloved Sikhs. Although people were confused, five Sikhs came forward. The Guru took one inside and returned with a blood stained sword and continued the same exercise for all five followers. He later came out with all five of them and, highly satisfied with their faith and dedication, he honoured them as Panj Piara (five loved ones).

They became the heads of the Khalsa Panth. This is also how the slogan, “Wahe Guru Ji Da Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Di Fateh” was born. It translates in English to, “You are a pure soul created by Wahe Guru (God) and hail victory to him.”

– Guru Gobind Singh ji and his troops fought quite a few battles from here on. He lost his two elder sons in a battle against the Moghuls at Chamkour. His two younger sons were brutally killed by being buried alive straight in walls by Moghul emperor Wazir Khan in Sarhind. Soon thereafter, their mother passed away in custody.

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Guruji with family (Picture: PunjabiDharti.com)

– Despite losing his sons and wife, Guru Gobind Singh ji continued fighting battles against oppressors.

– In 1707, Guru Gobind Singh ji arrived at Nanded, Maharashtra where he came across Madhav Das, who became his follower and was named Gurbaksh Singh. He later came to be known as Banda Singh Bahadur.

– Over here, Guru Gobind Singh ji was attacked by a Pathan with a dagger when he was doing his prayers. But Guru ji managed to kill him but not before sustaining serious injuries. This is how Guru Gobind Singh ji merged with the Supreme.

– Before passing away, he announced that henceforth, Sikhs should worship the Guru not in a physical form but in the form of their religious book, Guru Granth Sahib.

Book Review: Open-Eyed Meditations

Open-Eyed Meditations is author Shubha Vilas’ latest offering. He has gained popularity with his Ramayana: The Game Of Life series (three of the six books have released so far). His admiration and keen interest in ancient Indian epics is clearly felt if you have read the three books.

Apart from retelling the epic, a notable feature of his version is the wisdom at the end of each page. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise to see him come up with a book full of wisdom. As those wisdom lines in his earlier books aren’t limited to Ramayana, it also doesn’t come a surprise that he has also included examples of Mahabharata in it.

Open-Eyed Meditations is a non-fiction book with a series of chapters based on the teachings of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Each chapter takes up one issue and offers a practical solution to it by linking it to one or more incident from the epics.

open-eyed-meditations-shubha-vilasThere is a misconception that ancient epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana or any of the Vedas for that matter are outdated items. It is believed, especially by people carried away with urban culture, that they are irrelevant in the current time. However, if one looks deeper, one would understand that they are more relevant now than they were before. Open-Eyed Meditations reconfirms this.

Shubha Vilas has delved deep into human mind and brought to light varied types of negative emotions and behavior. He has offered solutions to them using from most famous to least known incidents from the epics. His lessons might appear preachy but if looked closely, they are practical solutions.

Another reason why Open-Eyed Meditations generates appeal is that the author has tackled problems pertaining to the current, modern era. For example, issues faced at workplace, modern relationships, degradation of the psyche in the fast-moving world, management issues in the corporate world, etc. In other words, it’s a subtle reminder on living life rather than just surviving.

The language used also doesn’t come as a surprise. Just like his previous works, he has maintained a fine balance between rich and simple sentences. In other words, it will appeal to those well-versed with English language to those who aren’t. The copy editing is also up to the make with no grammatical and punctuation errors as such.

There is not much of a flipside here. Probably the book should have ended before almost 280 pages. Also certain issues appear repetitive. It should have been crisper.

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Shubha Vilas

Rating: 4/5

Publishers: Fingerprint! Belief

Price: Rs 250/-

Pages: 279

Cover: Vibrant as well as simple. The image gives a clear idea of what to expect from the book.

Golden Temple Pictures: Where peace and kindness reside

By: Keyur Seta

Over the years, I must have heard umpteen number of times that the Golden Temple in Amritsar (Punjab), also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib, is one of the most beautiful places in India. I got some idea of it by watching its sight in numerous images and movies (Rang De Basanti, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi etc).

But I came to know its sheer brilliance only when I visited it for the first time a week ago. The manner in which it is radiating such enormous beauty since centuries can even make an atheist into a believer, even if it is just temporarily.

This is because one can’t ignore the immense peace the golden monument generates into you. The kind behavior of the staff and their commitment towards cleanliness adds on to the impressiveness.

This automatically gets passed on to the devotees. They might quarrel or do various kinds of mischief outside. But once inside, a sense of responsibility and sanskaar takes over them.

Golden Temple is one place that shows its different shades of beauty during day and night. So, it is mandatory to visit it during both phases of the day, like we did. The results are seen in the pictures.

Like all Gurudwaras, Golden Temple too offers langar (meals) to devotees daily irrespective of their religion, caste, language, nationality and what not. And being the biggest Gurudwara in the country, the number of people fed daily goes into lakhs.

All in all, the Golden Temple is a must visit for those craving for peace and hope.

Timings of the Golden Temple: 3 am to 10 pm.

More information or history: The Golden Temple was built in 1577 by the fourth holy Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das. It was turned into gold 200 years later by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. For complete info, click HERE.

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Devotees served langar.
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Preparation of langar.

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Book Review: When Life Turns Turtle

By: Keyur Seta

When Life Turns Turtle is a spiritual fiction novel by author Raj Supe. It tells the story of a 38-year-old Bollywood filmmaker Indraneel. He has had a successful journey from theatre to movies. His latest film, Strugglers, made with newcomers, has become a box-office hit. However, Indraneel’s personal life is going nowhere.

After going through a bitter divorce with Chitra, he gets involved with a struggling actress Avni. Unfortunately, life continues to betray Indraneel. It is at this point that his best friend Arunodaya advises him to visit Rishikesh and try treading on the spiritual path. Indraneel hesitantly agrees. But will this have any long-term positive effect on Indraneel’s life? Will he ever find peace?

when-life-turns-turtleWhen Life Turns Turtle basically falls in the self-discovery zone. But it actually goes much further and deeper than most of the stories on this theme. It provides a wake-up call that fills you with delight. Its impact is hard but at the same time gentle. Normally, books of this genre are only meant for those who are into spirituality. But this one goes beyond the target audience simply because any grown-up adult, especially from urban cities, would relate to it.

The initial portion is interesting. But the book gets fully into the mode once the story shifts to Rishikesh. From here on, it just keeps enlightening in a delightful way without being preachy. As Indraneel goes about his life in Rishikesh meeting and interacting with different people, you feel as if you too are present in the Himalayan town witnessing the discussions. But what gives you a terrific high is the climax and the events leading up to it.

Supe achieves such favorable results by keeping simplicity quotient in mind, even while explaining concepts that are mostly considered complicated. Be it in the overall plot, narration and the definition of characters and their distinctive psyche. The author provides a lot of information to the readers through interesting conversations, without making it sound non-fictitious.

The only weak point here is the length of the book. The story could have been told in much less than 468 pages.

Overall: When Life Turns Turtle is a delightful spiritual journey that forces you to introspect the life you are living. The book also has the capacity to appeal those who are not much into spirituality, provided they are okay with the length.

Cover: Peaceful scenario with light, pleasant colors. Perfectly goes with the theme.

Rating: 4.5/5

Author: Raj Supe

Publishers: Leadstart Corp

Pages: 468

Price: Rs 399/-

Durga Puja 2016: Photos

By: Keyur Seta

Durga Puja or Durga Pujo is the time when the entire Bengal, especially Kolkata, comes alive. One can find unending Durga Pandals in the state, all boasting some elaborate. The final day of the Durga Puja, which is mostly referred to as Dusshera in most parts of India, celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil Mahishasura.

There is another significance of the day. Dusshera is also the day when Lord Ram killed the evil demon Ravana, who had kidnapped the former’s wife Sita. In short, the day celebrates the victory of good over evil.

Coming back to Durga Puja, the festival has been spreading a lot to other parts of India. Mumbai is a prime example. The Shivaji Park Durga Puja, organized by the Bengal Club, is also a sought after place during this time.

Here are some pictures from 2016 Durga Puja in Shivaji Park, Mumbai:

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6 reasons why Krishna was the ideal Common Man

Lord Krishna is one of the most worshiped Gods in the world. His followers or devotees broadly associate him with values like, righteousness, wisdom, valor, innocent pranks, fearlessness, adherence to truth, etc.

But his simple way of life is hardly mentioned among his greatness. This comes as a huge surprise because his simplicity and humility were very much on display throughout his long life.

Here are some points indicating that Krishna was the ideal Common Man:

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Krishna & Sudama (Picture: Hariharji.blogspot.com)

1) As a child, Krishna possessed miraculous powers through which he could easily kill demons or evil-doers. But not even once did he consider himself superior to others. He never had the attitude of ‘I am above the rest’ and considered people from all walks of life as his own. This is clearly seen from how he used to play or mingle with just any common citizen.

2) The name ‘Krishna’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Krishi’. It means ‘farmer’. Staying true to his name, Krishna happily carried out farming, despite the fact that he was a special being.

3) The story of Krishna and his friend Sudama also highlights his down-to-earth nature. Krishna greeted and welcomed his friend Sudama in the same manner as he used to do during their childhood despite achieving such Godly prominence.

4) When a war-like situation was developing between Pandavas and Kauravas, Krishna personally went to meet Duryodhana to convince him against fighting a war. He had no qualms in playing the role of a messenger.

5) In the great war of Mahabharata at Kurukshetra, Krishna decided to become the charioteer to Arjuna. In fact, he himself volunteered for it. He also followed Arjuna’s directions like an obedient charioteer when the latter asked him to take the chariot in between two warring camps.

Krishna and Arjun
Picture: vishalgosai.blogspot.in/

6) Among its various messages, the Bhagavad Gita, which was delivered by Krishna, preaches us to be non-materialistic or non-possessive. This is the biggest indication that Krishna not only himself believed in being a Common Man, but also wanted us to be one.

Through these points, Krishna teaches us that one should stay humble even if he happens to be the God of the universe. So, if the God himself didn’t practice high-handedness, who are we to think high about ourselves?

But a lot of his devotees I come across practice just the opposite. They keep chanting Hare Krishna Sankirtan or the holy name of Krishna, but are forever concerned about material possessions. Not just that, they even love to flaunt their ‘Social Status’ by spending abnormally. Naturally, these class-conscious people hate mingling with people from the so-called lowly professions.

How can you consider yourself a follower of Krishna if you don’t follow his way of life? Just worshiping Krishna and chanting his name isn’t enough to be his ardent devotee. Such bhakti means next to nothing if you don’t follow his ideologies.

Which aspect of Krishna was dearest to Swami Vivekananda?

By: Keyur Seta

Whenever I think of Lord Krishna or hear his mention, the first thing that strikes my mind is his teachings in the Bhagavad Gita. His theory on how to deal with life, no matter during which stage or phase, amazes me every time I read any shloka from it.

But most of the Krishna devotees I come across seem to focus more on his playful childhood antics (the famous Maakhan Chor episode), love relationship with Radha and Raas Leela. Somehow, I can’t relate myself much to these aspects of his life. I don’t dislike these incidents at all. It’s just that the message of the Gita is just too impactful for me.

Swami-Vivekananda-KrishnaAfter going through various teachings and sayings of Swami Vivekananda, it seems as if he too felt the same about Krishna. In other words, he was more interested in the Krishna of Mahabharata who eventually gifted us the priceless Gita.

This is evident from his following quote:-

“Keep aside for the present the Vrindâvan aspect of Shri Krishna, and spread far and wide the worship of Shri Krishna roaring the Gita out, with the voice of a Lion. We now mostly need the ideal of a hero with the tremendous spirit of Rajas thrilling through his veins from head to foot – the hero who will dare and die to know the Truth—the hero whose armour is renunciation, whose sword is wisdom. We want now the spirit of the brave warrior in the battlefield of life, and not of the wooing lover who looks upon life as a pleasure-garden!”

In my opinion, Swami Vivekananda meant that the world is in need of people who are ready to fight against various evils, even if it means sacrificing their lives for the greater good of the nation or society. His intention isn’t to mock the early period of Krishna’s life. This is evident from his conversation with a disciple, which you can read HERE.

Interestingly, Swami Vivekananda said this more than 100 years ago. But after reading it, it seems as it is meant for the current times we are living in.

Wishing all of you a Very Happy Janmashtami 🙂