Kids Corner


Desperate to Flee Dead-End India, Punjabis Adopt Goofy Hindu Superstitious Practices

TALHAN, et al




What does a toy plane have to do with getting a visa to leave India?

Well, at the Shaheed Baba Nihal Singh gurdwara -- which is bizarre to begin with, in that it is a government-run gurdwara --  the toy is at the heart of prayers of those who are seeking visa to go abroad.

Strange though it may sound, some charlatans in the tiny village of Talhan, about 12 km from Jalandhar, have made people believe that if you wish to go abroad, you offer prayers here along with a toy aeroplane and they will be answered.

On Sundays, anywhere between 80 and 100 toy aeroplanes are to be found inside the first-floor hall of the shrine although the Sikh faith and local elders ridicule the idea as superstition.

No surprise that the shrine is now popularly known as 'Hawaijahaj' (aeroplane) gurdwara.

"We don't know how it all started. We do not support superstitions. But we can't stop people from doing it. We can just guide them but if somebody believes in such things, let it be," said Balvir, the government-appointed 'manager' of the shrine.

Even as Balvir puts forth his views, a young couple with an aircraft miniature in their hands, enters the hall.

They spend about five minutes and emerge after offering the toy along with their prayer.

The young man is an agriculturist from Kapurtthala, 33 km from this gurdwara, and wishes to go to UK with his wife.

"I know the prayers are answered here. I am sure I will get visa," says the 27-year-old who chose to pay a visit before sending his visa application.

"They say, what are you doing sitting in gurdwara. Look at people who go to your gurdwara. They are roaming around the world and you guys just sit there," said another government-appointed employee.

Since 2006, the shrine is being managed by the government following a dispute between the 'jutt' peasants and the down-trodden 'dalits' of the village. Both the groups wanted control in the affairs of the shrine and even led to conflict ten years ago, in 2003.

The gurdwara has reportedly come up in memory of Nihal Singh, about whom neither the parachuted management of the shrine nor the villagers know much.

Ask about Nihal Singh and about his martyrdom and Balvir struggles to find answer.

"Can't say much about this. We do not know much about his life. But this place has some connection with him and that's why this gurdwara was established."

Balvir though provided a booklet which says Nihal Singh was born in 1860 in Jalandhar but says it is not authentic.

Asked why do they distribute it, he says,"An advocate, who belongs to this village but not settled here, collected some material and wrote this book. But we do not know how authentic this information is. Since people keep on insisting to know about babaji, we distributed a few books."

So, here is a shrine which is, strangely enough, being run by the government, and whose history is not known much but has scaled heights because of a goofy Hindu-like practice which is at complete odds with the Sikh faith and beliefs of the local populace.


[Based on report by Talhan of India Today. Edited for]

November 25, 2012


Conversation about this article

1: Tanveer (USA), November 25, 2012, 12:37 PM.

I thought the Sikh faith is accepting of others. Why call Hindu practices goofy?

2: Harjit Kaur (New Delhi, India), November 25, 2012, 1:38 PM.

Tanveer ji: The practice being described as being found within the precincts of a gurdwara is, without any doubt, stupid and goofy. And it is not consistent with Sikh teachings. The Indian media has gone berserk over this story -- re something happening in one, single, isolated gurdwara. And they keep on repeating in the brief stories on it that it is a Sikh place of worship, etc. They are also downplaying the fact that the gurdwara in question is not in Sikh hands ... it is totally being run by government minions. I entirely agree with making it very clear that it is, a) a goofy practice; 2) it is not a Sikh practice; and 3) that it is actually a Hindu type of activity (of bargaining with idols) that happens in virtually every Hindu temple in the world. I do not see this as an attack on Hinduism. It is merely defending us from propaganda directed against us. We have to be careful that we do not mistake being 'liberal' with being 'complacent'.

3: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), November 25, 2012, 8:53 PM.

Who wants to bet that these toy planes are sold back to the shopkeepers?

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