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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Fort St. John recently opened its langar (free community kitchen in Punjabi) to locals to mourn the sacrifices of Sikh martyrs. 

Santokh Singh, a local gurdwara, or temple, volunteer, said, “the aim to involve locals is to share Sikh values and principles with other communities.” 

Towards the end of December, the Sikh community remembers and pays their respect to mark the death of Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s four sons in an 18th-century battle with the Mughals.

Singh said to honour Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s sons, free meals are served at Gurdwara Sahib, or Sikh temple, throughout the chosen day.

The event is not merely a means to serve food to people but a reflection of Sikhs’ collective consciousness of being free from worldly desires.

“It is our way to mourn and celebrate our martyrs,” said Singh.

“We Sikhs feel energized by sharing our Guru’s langar with everyone.”  

Fort St. John Sikh Gurdwara Sahib is also planning to serve meals outside the Gurdwara next year to showcase the Sikh spirit.

During last month’s event, Gurprem Singh, a Granthi Singh (priest) at Sikh Gurdwara, said the Sangat (Sikh Gathering) recited “Sukhmani Sahib Path” followed by religious Diwan (Kirtan, Katha, Ardaas) in the memory of the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.  

“Ardaas( Sikh prayer) completes the religious Diwan and strengthens the community,” said Singh.

It is essential to understand the relationship between life and death in the Sikh context of martyrdom. 

According to Sikh Scholar Gurbhagat Singh, life and death are interconnected; “death is the ultimate destiny where one becomes complete and merges with Waheguru (God).”

In his article Stolen Bodies and Ravished Souls: Sikh Experience meets Colonial Power, University of Fraser Valley-based professor of modern languages Prabhsharanbir Singh emphasized the meaning of resistance and its importance to Sikh’s existence as a nation. 

He described the historical scene of the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji in the Sikh context of Shaheedi (martyrdom).

“Baba Fateh Singh Ji and Baba Zorawar Singh Ji’s message to “wall builders” of the world: Your walls will fail to kill our spirit, our resistance, and our innocence.” 

For Singh, “only through acts of resistance can a nation maintain its uniqueness.”

“Resistance is a creative act,” said Singh.

To remember our martyrs by organizing meals for the local community is a small gesture, but it is a symbolic gesture that revives the Sikh spirit.

Professor Singh’s idea of “sublime resistance” is a key to understanding the Sikh psyche and its gestures. 

During these days of mourning, Sikhs cry while remembering their Guru’s sons.  

For Professor Singh, “Tears can change the direction of history. One day, the river of our tears will break the barriers of hypocrisy and deceit. It might seem strange to some as the sublime power of tears lies beyond the grips of dry intellect.”

“Ardaas is the most meaningful gesture to remember our martyrs,” said Singh.

Through these gestures, the Sikh community thrives on their Guru’s honour. 

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Manavpreet Singh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

My name is Manavpreet Singh, and I was born and raised in Panjab. I came to Canada as an International student and studied at SFU. I learned the discourse on media and how it is not merely a tool for news but a powerful technology where reason triumphs the passion. My passion is reading philosophical texts, and I am particularly interested in understanding technology and its impact on colonialism. I will be covering stories coming out of Indigenous communities and trying to explore their language...