Row over Sikh scripture clouds celebration plans

AMRITSAR: Thousands of Sikhs were arriving here yesterday to celebrate the 400th anniversary of their holy book’s entry at a temple, but a controversy is brewing over whether their object of worship is genuine.

Tradition holds that the scripture, known as the Adi Granth or the Guru Granth Sahib, was installed on September 1, 1604 at the Golden Temple, the Sikh religion’s holiest shrine, in the northern Indian city of Amritsar.

But some historians believe that the original book was stolen in the 17th century by Dhir Mal, a relative of Sikhism’s sixth guru Hargobind, to stake a claim for succession as the community’s leader.

Mal’s descendants, the Sodhi family in the northern town of Kartarpur, still claim to hold the original Adi Granth and say the version in the temple is a copy.

A Sikh political party called the Shiromani Akali Dal consider the family’s book to be genuine and appealed to the Sodhis to hand it over.

“This will enable Sikhs to pay obeisance during the forthcoming anniversary celebrations,” said the party’s president, Parkash Singh Badal.

But the Sodhi family refused. “How can anyone take it from us? It is our private property and there is no question of handing it to anyone,” descendant Kamaljit Kaur Sodhi told Outlook magazine.

Despite the controversy, the guardians of the Golden Temple plan ceremonies focusing on the book which is at the complex in Amritsar.

The celebrations today and tomorrow will be attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is India’s first Sikh head of government, and President Abdul Kalam.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
AFP, France
Aug. 31, 2004

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)