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TejS

Punjabiyat - An issue for Sikhs

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I had the exact same thought yesterday. I agree, the positive aspects of our culture such as our language, our folklore, and other cultural and historical markers should be treasured for posterity, but I can't help but think we've lost our way. In many ways I think Punjabiyat has inadvertently dumbed down the impact and image of Sikhi. I look at the contemporary figureheads of the Panth, and I think, "No. You can fool these simpletons, but you aren't making a mug out of me. You're not what Dasme Paatshah had in mind for us." But, as I said, there are some wonderful aspects to our culture besides the weird self-destructive and egoistic pandering parts of it.

I'll try to briefly summarise the problem as I see it, and I genuinely believe a considerable aspect of the overall problem lies in third party perception as well as our own Punjabi interpretations gradually bleeding into that which should be immutable.

In Sikhi we have a philosophy that, if gifted to a community of people who came from medieval Italy, for argument's sake, would be considered a treasure for humanity. The problem as addressed by this topic arises because of the somewhat erroneous assumption (I wouldn't quite call it discriminatory) that the humble origins of the faith and the seemingly... unsophisticated following who took up the faith are considered to be an indication of the substance and value of the philosophy itself. We haven't done ourselves any favours in this regard, as this is where I believe Punjabiyat is wielded as a stick to beat Sikhi, because we've sort of floundered and coasted along since the arguable golden age of our faith, and eventually for the admittedly essential act of survival and proliferation we've become the very thing that we weren't kind of supposed to, i.e. an organised religion and everything it entails. 

We've switched off. We just follow without any serious khoj. Coupled with the human desire to create factions and subgroups for various purposes, which could be argued is even more of a problem in desi cultures, there's a sense we've forgotten and neglected the spirit of that essential founding spark which allowed our faith to emerge. Being surrounded by the Indianess of India on all sides means we've regressed socially, intellectually, and spiritually. There's so much going on, and can't be pinned on a few reasons. 

Edited by MisterrSingh
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14 hours ago, TejS said:

Having watched the BBC report on alcohol being an issue in the UK Punjabi community, I came to a realization that Sikhs value Punjabiyat (Punjabi-ness) over their Hindu and Muslim counterparts and are for that reason suffering. Muslim Punjabi were willing to separate their state, their language and culture for their religion and did so. The Hindu Punjabis as well have distanced themselves from Punjabiyat, evidenced through their speaking of Hindi. Now Punjabiyat has its goods and bads, however as a whole, the culture is extremely destructive. And I think it was for a reason that Guru Nanak was born in a Punjabi community and not any other Indian community, as the culture needed saving, and Sikhi was just that. To be very honest, Punjabiyat and Sikhi are polar opposites. And unfortunately most "Sikhs" follow Punjabiyat over Sikhi. This is our fault.

The ethnic identity of Punjab is actually quite recent, having only emerged fully in the 10th century. It was essentially a mixture of Jats, Khatris, Rajputs, Tarkhans, Brahmins, Sindhis, and Dalits that formed a new identity on the basis of language, and now ethnic. Before this, Punjab was home to Vedic teachings and essentially was a small cog in the mega-Vedic machine which encompassed Sapta Sindhu (NW India + Pakistan + Eastern Afghanistan). It's only a few hundred years older than our Sikh identity, and unlike the Sikh identity it was never truly defined up until recently.

In fact, taking a look at the history of the Punjab region (when it was called Punjab and before that), there's not much to be proud of in fact. Yes, it was home to the oldest university of the world, Takshashila, a institution for Vedic teachings, however other than that, it was mostly defeat after defeat by invaders and cowardice until Sikhi. The first time after thousands of years of foreign rule, indigenous rule in Punjab was established only by Sikhs. 

What I'm trying to convey here is that as Sikhs, we need to learn from our fellow Muslim and Hindu counterparts and ease up on the Punjabi identity, and stress more importance on Sikhi. I'm not saying stop speaking Punjabi and whatnot, however get rid of the customs, which are mostly destructive, such as alcohol consumption.

I agree. Punjabiyat is really destroying Sikhi. Though, the society of Punjab during Guru Nanak ji's time wasn't much identical to the Punjabi society of today. Firstly, Jats didn't think themselves as a superior race/caste. According to Rattan Singh Bhangu, Jats didn't consider themselves as warriors, let alone a master race. Most of the customs and traditions associated with Punjab these days, date in fact just to during the time of the Misls , Raja Ranjit Singh and his reign, a period of peace and prosperity. Once the Sikhs had fought off the invaders and had created their own state, their attitude towards Sikhi and it's rules had relaxed. Sardars who drunk a lot, were considered "wise" by other Sardars. Debauchery and prostitution was prevalent among the Sikh nobility, especially during the time of the Sikh Empire (Ranjit Singh and his wifes+mistresses, Rani Jindan and her lovers). The majority of Punjabi Sikhs, who were of Jat descent, started thinking that they are greater than other Sikhs. When the Brits annexed Punjab, they promoted the idea of Jat Sikhs being better and superior than others, just to get them in their armies. Not to mention the whiskey bottles that the Brits gave as gifts to their best sepoys lol

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It's a completely different scenario for Sikhs as compared to Punjabi Muslims and Punjabi Hindus.

Pretty much all Sikhs are Punjabi, 95% if not more. Whereas Muslims are from all over the world and Hindus are the majority in pretty much all states of India.

So Punjabiness will dominate our way of thinking and behaviour. All of our leaders will be from Punjab, our literature will be in Punjabi because there is no need to communicate in any other language to other people.

Gurmukhi is a Sikh script, it was invented by our Gurus so we will never let it go and Punjabi Hindus will never feel completely comfortable adopting it for this reason, hence why you see many Devanagari signs in Hindu dominated Jalandhar.

I've even heard that Dr Ambedkar and his followers (non Punjabis) were considering to convert to Sikhism but the SGPC didn't want that as it would have reduced their power and actively discouraged it.

The most holy shrines for Muslims are in Saudi Arabia and for Hindus they are in Benaras in Uttar Pradesh, for us they are mostly in Punjab. So again Punjab is more special to us than it is to Hindus and Muslims.

Sadly Sikhi did not spread to the same extent as these two religions. For a religion to spread it needs support from rulers and the only time we had a Sikh king in Punjab he was busy building more Mosques and Mandirs than he was building Gurdwaras. When we took over Delhi we handed it back a few days later to the Muslim Mughal King, just handed it back! Compare this to King Asoka who sent Buddhist missionaries all over India and to the far east.

We are so obsessed about Punjabiness because it is the only place in the world where we are a majority. It is like the country we never had.

Edited by CharhdiKala
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My parents come from Punjab and i love it. And it’s 60% Sikh with Amritsar (Sikh holy city). It has 3 Takhats.

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8 hours ago, TejS said:

I'm not saying we should give up the Punjabi language, what I'm saying is that we need to give up Punjabi  cultural dominance, and buckle down on the Sikh identity more. We don't need Punjabiyat to dominate our way of thinking and behavior, because frankly, its not a very good way of thinking.

The SGPC not converting Ambedkar's Dalits was the greatest mistake in modern Sikh history. The elitist attitude of the SGPC led to Ambedkar concluding that Sikhi was only egalitarian on paper, and not in practice. Sikhi lost out on a lot of potential followers with that decision, and I'll argue that elitist attitude stems from Punjabi culture. 

We should not be obsessed with Punjabiyat, and instead be "obsessed" with Sikhi and its way of life. 

The only way I see this happening is if Sikhi spreads out to other ethnicities, however our own, such as in the case of Ambedkar, become an obstruction to that spread. 

That elitist attitude exists in all states in India not just Punjab. The upper castes in all states look down on the lower castes. Anyway Ambedkar was right, the vast majority of Sikhs believe in some form of caste system. Maybe it will go away in a couple of generations.

Even Muslims in Pakistan and India  practice some form of caste system. It is too ingrained. At the end of the day if someone is born into a higher caste and has power of lower castes, why would he want to give that up?

Personally I would like people in Punjab to become more literate and educated. Punjab is not know for academics and that is what needs to change.

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On 4/8/2018 at 3:05 AM, TejS said:

Now Punjabiyat has its goods and bads, however as a whole, the culture is extremely destructive.

No it is not. It is extremely constructive. This is the culture that Guru Sahib lived in, and changed some bad parts. Punjabi culture is much more conducive to human happiness than modern mainstream British/American culture.

On 4/8/2018 at 3:05 AM, TejS said:

I'm not saying stop speaking Punjabi and whatnot, however get rid of the customs, which are mostly destructive, such as alcohol consumption.

You sound like a Jacobin from the French Revolution.

Most of the customs are destructive? Is there a percentagewise list?

You've set up a strawman, then are attempting to alight it.

Punjabi culture does not advocate drowning yourself in drink, or of drinking in public. If you want to say that's Punjabi culture, then you might as well also saying that drinking is part of the Sikh rehit.

Authentic Punjabi culture only allows for a bit of drink behind closed doors when guests visit.

Also, so-called "bhangra" is not a part of Punjabi culture. Rather, it's simply a dance to celebrate farmers' harvests. It's for men only. Male-female dancing (whether "bhangra" or otherwise) is not a part of Punjabi culture. Finally, girls dancing (whether giddha or otherwise) with men watching is also not a part of authentic Punjabi culture. (I realize that there was prostitution, I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about the "mainstream".)

So if you were just to follow authentic Punjabi culture, you'd be in a pretty good place (better than mainstream British/American culture or fake Punjabi culture). Of course Sikhism goes a step further, and nasha is outright banned in the rehit.

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This is a great thread.  This recent obsession with "Punjabiyat" creates two different problems:

1.  It encourages the youth to adopt elements of "Punjabi culture" (whether authentic Punjabi culture or some recent perversion of Punjabi culture) that are not in line with Sikhi

2.  It damanges Sikhi by pigeonholing it as a strictly Punjabi phenomenon, and it prevents it from growing into the global religion that it should be.

Edited by californiasardar1
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Lots of plausible reasons mentioned which just shows the complexity of it.

Another may be a fear that losing certain traditions and customs will mean a loss of identity, maybe not feeling like a Panjabi or enough of one.

There's a lot of pride associated with it and that's a problem - is there any desire or focus to search for traditional cultural norms let alone Sikhi?

Some of this is understandable given the threat of extinction by the suleh, chitteh and now hindus as well as but if it is true, we should try to educate or make them aware that we can retain the positive parts of our culture and still feel like a Panjabi and even use them to strengthen our faith because there are some similarities e.g. the language and certain types of work.

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17 hours ago, CharhdiKala said:

That elitist attitude exists in all states in India not just Punjab. The upper castes in all states look down on the lower castes. Anyway Ambedkar was right, the vast majority of Sikhs believe in some form of caste system. Maybe it will go away in a couple of generations.

Even Muslims in Pakistan and India  practice some form of caste system. It is too ingrained. At the end of the day if someone is born into a higher caste and has power of lower castes, why would he want to give that up?

Personally I would like people in Punjab to become more literate and educated. Punjab is not know for academics and that is what needs to change.

I disagree that an elitist attitude exists in all states of India. Punjabi and Punjabi culture endorse an extremely boastful nature which has seeped into Sikh attitudes as well. I've seen Punjabi look down on anyone just because of their appearance or caste, we're as worse as white people during colonialism. I'll hear our fellow Punjabi boasting about conquering Alexander, having the largest empire in India, and single handedly defeating the Mughals because of this boastful, elitist attitude. It's this kind of attitude that drives people away Sikhi, as most equate Sikhi to Punjabi, which is not true at all.

You're definitely right about Punjabi, especially Sikhs, needing to chase after academics.

Edited by TejS
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