Is Gurbani Bigger or a Sacred Shrine?

To many, this topic maybe touchy or sensitive because many, if not all tend to make it their life’s mission to visit the sacred shrines or historical gurdwaras (teerath asthaans) in India. We call this act ‘yatra’ or ‘teerath yatra’ and for some reason, we consider this act sacred or ‘pun’ (meritorious act).

Here are some questions we need to ponder upon (seriously):-

  • Is visiting the sacred shrines or historical gurdwaras in India a form of great deed?
  • Is this part of what Guru Nanak’s Sikhi says within the sacred words of Guru Granth Sahib?
  • What does Guru mean when he uttered the word ‘teerath’ in Gurbani?
  • Are sacred shrines / historical gurdwaras (buildings and places) being put higher than Gurbani?

Every time I travel to India, my visit has a lot to teach me. But one thing I can never get my head around is,

Why do the Raagis (bards/singers) employed by SGPC in Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar) never explain the meanings of the shabads they sing?

Isn’t the understanding of Gurbani to be put as emphasis rather than the ritualistic singing and acts of worship? How are we any different than Hindu devotees? They too sing ‘bhajans’ and perform ritualistic acts in their temples. So how are we Sikhs of Guru Nanak different?

Here is the thing – Sikh devotees flock Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in thousands, lining up for hours at end, just to take ‘metha’ (bowing in reverence) to Guru Granth Sahib which is placed in the main hall (center building surrounded by the ‘sarovar’ – pool of water). Families come from near and far just to get a glimpse of Guru Granth Sahib ‘bir’ (physical form of Guru Granth Sahib – holy scriptures binded). Don’t they realise that the same Guru Granth Sahib ‘bir’ is also present in their own local gurdwaras? Why isn’t there a long line of devotees taking ‘metha’ there?

When asked why are they so eager to take ‘metha’ and ‘parshaad’ (sweet) from the Golden Temple, they say, “because this is a sacred shrine and the ‘parshaad’ here is blessed!” What? Blessed?! Isn’t the same Japji Sahib and Ardaas (Sikh prayers) recited for all the ‘parshaads’?

Also, if you’ve realized, the ‘pujaaris’ do not allow women to partake in any major sewa, especially in the main darbar of Harmandir Sahib.  Why is this so? Was this a common practice during the times of our Gurus? Surely not! Our Gurus were NEVER race or gender bias. This rule was certainly invented by the ‘pujaaris’. In fact, if you visited any Hindu temple in the world, you’d notice the same thing – women aren’t allowed to partake in any temple or priestly duties.

Sorry, diverted there a little bit. But hey, have we not made the shrines bigger and more important than the message of our Gurus (Gurbani)?

Let me ask you…

Is the Guru Granth Sahib placed in Harmandir Sahib or any other sacred shrine (teerath asthaan) different? I don’t think so. In fact they’re all the same, all over; in village gurdwaras as well as in the shrines/ historical sites. We have been told false stories by fake priests for so long that now we have begun to believe that the shrines are bigger than Guru Granth Sahib.

They (the pujaaris) have made us bow down in reverence to Guru Granth Sahib for so long that, never once have they told us what’s written inside of the holy book. Instead, they’ve told us countless dubious stories of our Gurus, all taken from story books like ‘Suraj Parkash’ written by Santokh Singh. If you’ve not read this book, you should! This Santokh Singh, has not only made a total mockery of Sikhi but also showed utter disrespect towards of our Gurus and other Sikh martyrs in his stories.

Do you want to know what’s the saddest part of all?

We, the so called learned and wise Sikhs of Guru Nanak, have become so blinded over the years, that instead of questioning dubious writers like Santokh Singh, we started openly sharing these pathetic stories within our community.

So, the question is, why isn’t Akaal Takhat (the supposed sovereign authority of the Sikh nation) doing anything? Akaal Takhat has the power to shut these dubious actors down but instead, they’ve been shaking hands with various quarters and groups for many many years. These so called ‘babeys’ have been creating their own versions of Sikh practices and not following Akaal Takhat’s Maryada (SRM). Why?

Greed for power and wealth is so prevalent in our society today, that even leadership and sovereign institutions like Akaal Takhat have not been spared. Sikh leaders and politicians are corrupt and they live corrupt lives. If only they would have taken Gurbani as their guide and not their greed and evil mindedness. Sometimes, thinking about this gives me shivers to think how are we ever going to ever come out of this deep well, which we ourselves have dug and jumped in.

Shrines make more money and its all about the money. Have we not placed the sacred shrines above Gurbani?

Guru Nanak Ji says..

ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਵਣ ਜਾਉ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੈ ॥
ਤੀਰਥੁ ਸਬਦ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਹੈ ॥

Teerath Naavan Jau, Teerath Naam Hai ||
Teerath Shabad Bichaar, Antar Gian Hai || (SGGS: 687)


Guru Ji is pointing towards us and asking, what is the point of bathing in sacred shrines or during pilgrimages, when the the real ‘teerath’ (sacred shrine) is to understand ‘Naam’ (God’s laws -Law of the Universe). Guru Ji further elaborates saying that the real ‘teerath’ is when we strive for spiritual wisdom and contemplate upon the instructions of our Gurus, as inscribed within Guru Granth Sahib.

Here’s a short story which will elaborate the points above further…

Once there was a Punjabi family, born in New Zealand. They decided to visit Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar for the very first time. When they arrived at Harmandir Sahib, the youngest sibling decided to submerge himself in the ‘sarovar’ (pool).

After several dips, he came out and asked his mother, “Mummy ji, why hasn’t my skin color changed to white? I don’t understand. I prayed so hard for many years and now I’m finally in Golden Temple. Mummy, you’re the one who told me stories like how black crows who dipped in the ‘sarovar’ were able to come out as white! Why did you lie to me, mummy ji?!” The mother just kept quite. She was dumb struck, unable to answer her child.

The family left India and went back to New Zealand but the question always remained in the child’s mind, “why didn’t my skin color changed?”

So, when the child became a teenager, he met an elderly and wise Gursikh. He narrated his ‘dip in the sarovar’ story to him, and after listening attentively, the elderly man laughed and said, “aren’t you silly? Where is the logic in this? Why would a crow want to change its color in the first place? Its like an ant wanting to fly like a bird. Is this possible? No! Animals are in perfect sync with Waheguru’s “Law of Nature” (hukam). It mnade a lot of sense.

These stories and countless other stories we’ve been told are utter rubbish and fake.There are close to 4000 plus stories which have been deliberately created the Nirmalas and by ‘poojaris’ (brahmin priests) centuries ago. You will find most if not all these kinds of ‘mumbo jumbo’ stories in a book called ‘Suraj Parkash Granth’. (heck! they even had the cheek to name it a ‘granth’). But saddest case of all are not the stories but how we, so called ‘learned’ and wise Sikhs have fallen prey to their tricks.

Todays ‘brahmin priests’ do not wear a lorn orange cloth or carry a steal bowl. Today, ‘poojaris’ look, talk and even dress like Sikhs. They have infiltrated our way of live, our believe system and even our religious practices, diverting us from the original and true message of the Guru. They have made us worship Sri Guru Granth Sahib,  like as if it were a magical book, but never told us what was inside. They have made Sikh shrines just like the mandirs (hindu temples).

Just for the record, I’m not racist and I have nothing against any religion or its practices. But truth be told, wen we look around us today, its really hard to see Guru Nanak’s Sikhi anywhere. Except a few, the majority are treading on the path of falsehood and blindness. We need to wake up and see that Guru Nanak and the 9 Gurus after him , spent close to 250 years to form a global religion/ practice which is universal in nature and not confined to one specific religion.

The secrets of living have been deliberately kept from us by these ‘poojaris’ but we allowed it. Its not their fault entirely. We seized to wake up and use our brain to think. We preferred an easy way out of our troubles and began to believe the words of the ‘poojari’. We never took the trouble to read or understand Gurbani ourselves and instead always passing the baton back to the Gianis (priests) to solve our problems on the fly. Nothing has been solved. In fact we are on a downward spiral.

We need to wake up and think! Are we placing more importance to sacred shrines or Gurbani. Because without understanding, one is NOT able to elevate ones mind. Lets seek to make a change and live our lives with guidance from our Gurus. Let’s place more importance to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and whats written inside of it, and not living our lives blindly, following others (herd mentality). Only then, we may have some chance of saving ourselves and Guru Nanak’s Sikhi.

The metaphor behind the crows dipping story…

When one dips in the sarovar, one is to shed their bad and evil deeds, actions and thoughts. They are to surrender their minds and follow the will of God by accepting the truth as explained within Gurbani. If just by dipping in a sarovar, one is able to change color or become pure, then how about the fish that lives in the sarovar?


  • Amarjit S. Gulati

    Amarjit says, the Sikhi that is being practiced today & preached by most clergy (Gianis, Parcharaks, Kirtaniyas) is NOT aligned with Guru Nanak's teachings. As a researcher and a student of Nanakian philosophy, he attempts to share his utmost honest opinions and findings based on Gurmat and real-life experiences.

    View all posts

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