East Bay Sikhs honor birth of their most spiritual leader

Thousands of worshippers gathered Sunday at Fremont temple
The Oakland Tribune, Jan. 13, 2003
By Melissa Evans, STAFF WRITER

FREMONT — During 17th Century battles in which Sikhs fought against the ruling moguls of India, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib sent his own sons to the front line, Sikhs believe.

At least four of them died, along with dozens of his other family members during the many battles he led as the last of 10 gurus — or spiritual leaders — that took human form in the development of Sikhism, one of the world’s largest religious sects.

Thousands of Sikh worshippers gathered Sunday at the Fremont temple, or gurdwara, to celebrate the birth and life of their most revered leader.

Each of the 10 gurus is credited for developing different aspects of the Sikh faith. During services for the 10th guru, the aspect of sacrifice is emphasized, said Ginni Singh, a worshipper.

“He was willing to sacrifice his whole family for the good of the people,” he said, likening his willingness to sacrifice with prophets such as Moses from the Christian faith.

Described in Sikh literature as “the perfect example of manhood,” the 10th guru is also responsible for codifying how a Sikh is to act and dress. The cutting of hair is prohibited, for example, as well as smoking or sexual intercourse with any woman except one’s wife.

Because his tenure was marked by war, the 10th guru also began the tradition of carrying a sword as a symbol of power, high spirit and liberation that enriches a person with self-confidence.

Sikhism was partly formed out of the repression many faced under the Hindu caste system thousands of years ago, followers say. They believe in one God, but that religion does not matter as much as what is in one’s heart, Ginni Singh said.

Though born out of war, local Sikhs are quick to point out that their religion “is one of the most tolerant religions on the face of the earth,” said Rupinder Sekhon, a worshipper at the Fremont temple.

They believe in openness, acceptance and charity — an aspect that was formalized by the second guru, Angad Dev Sahib, who stressed the equality of all men, followers say.

That is the reason all Sikh gurdwaras offer free food 24 hours a day at their temples, said Jaswinder Gill, a member of the Fremont gurdwara.

“He taught that you should feed the needy first, and then teach them the religion,” he said. “Every temple always has free food.”

Though the 10th guru is the last to take human form, Sikh’s recognize their scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, as the final and lasting manifestation of their religion.

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