The Consulate General of India, Birmingham, in association with the University of Birmingham co-hosted a grand concluding event of the year-long celebrations of the 350th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji at the historic Great Hall of the University of Birmingham on 16th March, 2018. The highlight of the event was the Key-Note Address by Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, former Chief Justice of India, who had travelled from India to Birmingham, especially for this event. The event consisted of a Seminar on the 'Life & Philosophy of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji'. Justice Khehar spoke on the current relevance of the revered tenth Sikh Guru's message for the world.
Dr. Aman Puri, Consul General of India, Birmingham welcomed the dignitaries & distinguished guests mentioning about the various projects and events celebrated all over the world during this year-long Prakash Parv celebrations.
The event also featured a Photo Exhibition on the Life and Philosophy of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. During the Seminar, in addition to other speakers, Bhai Saheb Dr. Mohinder Singh, OBE KSG, Chairman Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewa Jatha (GNNSJ) and Nishkarm Charity, also addressed the august audience.
The Seminar began with a video montage, showcasing the year-long celebrations of the 350th Birth Anniversary of the revered tenth Sikh Guru which began in January, 2017 at the Patna Sahib, the birthplace of Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, attended these celebrations hosted by the Government of Bihar under the leadership of Hon'ble Chief Minister Shri Nitish Kumar. Prime Minister's vision of celebrating the 350th Birth Anniversary, not only in India, but all over the world enabled these commemorations being organised by Indian Missions abroad with the active support and participation of the Indian diaspora and, in particular, the Sikh diaspora.
High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, H.E. Mr. Y.K. Sinha, in his special address, mentioned that the largest celebrations outside India took place in the United Kingdom.
Justice J.S. Khehar, former Chief Justice of India, was the Chief Guest at the concluding event on March 16, 2018 at Birmingham. He was extremely pleased to interact with the members of the Indian diaspora based in the United Kingdom, especially in the Midlands and North England region. Justice Khehar, in his Key-note address, focussed on the description of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji as a warrior. After explaining the historical contexts, he explained how the Guru's warrior was limited to and aimed at the capacity of living virtuous life with dignity and dying with courage. 'The warrior of the Guru was not for land or territory, not for valuables and riches, not for glory of conquests but simply for truthful righteousness'. Justice Khehar remarked that all faiths understand and accept that 'Truth is the Ultimate' but the Guru wanted the Sikhs to understand it slightly differently and in Guru's words (Sabbe Uppar Sach) highest of all is truth (Uppar Sach Aachaar) but higher than truth is truthful living. Truthful living, righteous living and truthful righteousness. This was the philosophy of the Guru - of Khalsa - the pure. Justice Khehar shared his understanding that the warrior in the Guru was limited to fighting for truthful righteousness. He further mentioned that even (Chandi di Vaar) is a demonstration of the fact that Guru's warrior capacity was never aimed at anything else but for truthful righteousness.
Justice Khehar concluded by the following:
"It is this description which is timeless. It was relevant before the birth of the Guru, it was relevant during the time of his life, it remained relevant after his death, it is relevant now and it shall remain relevant in future as well. If we follow the footsteps of the Guru and try to be truthfully righteous, all disparity between man and man, between religion and religion will be over. That is the future that we need to look at. That is why the teachings of the Guru are as relevant today as they were when he wrote about them, when he experienced them and when he demonstrated them."
Bhai Saheb Dr. Mohinder Singh, OBE KSG, Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, another illustrious speaker, spoke eloquently, quoting extensively from Guru Granth Sahib ji, Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s own compositions and other texts/ authors about the virtues of the Sikh religion & the Universal message of Sikhism. He further said “the historic occasion of 350th Anniversary of Guruji’s Prakash Parv on 5th January 2017 inspires us to further reflect upon the Guru Granth Sahibji and Guru Maharaj’s own writings including his autobiography and instructions to the Sangat. Guru Gobind Singh Ji remains the epitome of love, sacrifice, courage, truth, humility and positive energy – 'Chardi Kala'. In fact all that is good and virtuous and more, the Sikh Panth and the world at large will remain eternally grateful to the Guru for his enduring and awe inspiring message.
Mr. D.P. Singh, Counsellor (Consular), High Commission of India, London, in his address, mentioned about the various projects organized to celebrate the 350th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji throughout the UK.
The evening continued with a Panel discussion moderated by Dr Andrew Davies, FRSA, Director Edward Cadbury Centre and Reader, Public Understanding of Religion, School of Philosophy, Theology & Religion, University of Birmingham, with Ms. Mandeep Kaur, Sikh Chaplain to the British Armed Forces who answered relevant questions on the topic based on ‘The Life & Philosophy of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji’. Responding to a question from the moderator, Ms Madeep Kaur quoted from the ‘52 Hukams’ (a set of instruction in Sikhism set by Guru Gobind Singh sum up the ideal way of life of the Khalsa, and serve as a code of conduct for the Khalsa Panth). She said that even if one follows only a few of the simple tenets of the Hukams or instructions, it will make a big difference in the world.
The event concluded with the presentation of a memento with the picture of Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) Amritsar by Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Hon’ble former Chief Justice of India, to Dr Andrew Davies, FRSA, Director Edward Cadbury Centre and Reader, Public Understanding of Religion, School of Philosophy, Theology & Religion, University of Birmingham, as a token of appreciation. Justice Khehar also presented, Bhai Saheb Dr. Mohinder Singh, OBE KSG, Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, with a souvenir for his immense contributions towards community cohesion and altruistic charity work.
Dr. Aman Puri, Consul General of India, in his welcome remarks also mentioned that the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, supported various projects and events all over the world during these year-long celebrations. Notable among these are the Bahu Uddeshiya Prakash Kendra and Udyan at Patna Saheb, setting up of a Chair in the name of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji at the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur and one at Punjabi University, Patiala. Various other projects were supported as part of this Rs. 100 crore grant. As was exhibited in the video montage, Indian Mission in the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada organised various events during these year-long celebrations.
Details of events held during the last one year which have been organised by various Indian Missions, State Governments in India and few other institutions are as follows:
Titles of the montage video in chronological order
A commemorative stamp issued on the occasion of the 350th Prakash Utsav of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, specially obtained from the National Philatelic Museum, New Delhi, India was distributed to the attendees along with specially printed booklets which replicated all panels of the original photo-exhibition.
The event was attended by nearly 400 guests. Dr David Cheetham, Reader in Philosophical Theology, Head of School of Philosophy, represented the University of Birmingham. Other attendees included prominent members of the Sikh community, other religious communities / representative of religious studies from different Universities, Vice Lord Lieutenant, Dr. Beverly Lindsay, Assistant High Commissioner of Bangladesh Mr. Md. Zulqar Nain, Ms. Preet Gill, Member of Parliament, Deputy Lieutenants, and people from a wide array of sectors, academics and students. With an aim to spread the message of the revered tenth Sikh Guru to the youth- children from local schools were invited and more than 50 young school students along with their parents formed a part of the nearly 400 strong audience.