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Gurdwaras And Youth

Jun 1, 2004
Is it End of a Civilization?

Are we witnessing the end of a Civilization? Is our own Sikh civilization slowly self-destructing? Thirty years ago, eminent Sikh Historian Khushwant Singh had predicted that Sikh civilization is in decline and there may be no Sikh left by the year 2000.

Was He Right? Sikhs not only survived but celebrated the 300 Years of Khalsa with pride in the year 1999. Today Sikhs thrive in Punjab, Rest of India, South Asia, UK, and here in North America. Thirty years later, while receiving Nishaan-E-Khalsa award at the Tri-Centenary Celebration at Anandpur Sahib, Khushwant Singh admitted that he was wrong.

Reality Check
But was he far from truth in his earlier prediction? Sikhism today stands at the same crossroads as Buddhism did in year 500 AD. The Sikh civilization is facing challenges coming from several directions:
  • Rising Hindu Fascism in India
  • Western Influence among the Youth
  • Slow decline in Punjabi language
  • Slow but steady degradation of moral values
  • Lack of effective Leadership
Will Sikhism survive in India? Sikh civilization has undergone dramatic transformation after the Sikh Genocide of 1984 where thousands of Sikh Youth perished. There is widespread Apostasy in Punjab. In most of the villages, it is disheartening to see that 60-80% of youth have shorn their hair and no longer wear turbans. Alcohol and drug abuse is common practice. In several villages you rarely spot a young Sikh boy with Patka.

There are several other examples of the decline:
  • Rise of Caste-ism among the followers of Gurus
  • Damage done by self-proclaimed Sants & Baba’s
  • Sorry state of religious, cultural, and political leadership
  • Emergence of Punjabi Pop Music
How are sikhs doing in the western world? Are we doing Better? I encourage you to just look around yourself; in your families, your friend circles, and in your communities.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • How much of a Sikh are you?
  • Do you maintain the appearance?
  • Do you perform Nitnem regularly?
  • How much Gurbani do you understand?
  • How much do you know of Sikh History?
  • Can you speak Punjabi and read/ write in Gurmukhi?
Our Ancestors …
We all are proud of our ancestors and their achievements. We are proud of our spiritual and moral mentors, our Gurus and the path shown by them. We are proud that they had the courage to take on the invincible Mughals and finally seal the Indian border from centuries of invasions and plunders. Recalling their sacrifices and their resistance against evil heartens us. We are proud of our culture the green revolution our forefathers brought to the state of Punjab. We are proud to recall the struggles of early immigrants to the USA and how they have established as one of the most prosperous immigrant community in US.

How did they achieve so much? Was it just luck? or mere coincidence? If they were the high achievers then why decline in that situation now? Today we are concerned about our lost glory and anxious that our lost glory is restored. Today we all pray that our weaknesses are eradicated. Did we ever analyze why this is happening to us?

What was the strength of our ancestors? In my understanding our Glory, Honor, and prominence comes from the teachings of the Gurus. Our ancestor’s strength stemmed from their beliefs. It came from their total faith in Guru Granth Sahib and power of Saadh Sangat.

The Power of Sangat
Sangat = Community Worship

Do we realize that it was Gurbani that enriched the souls of our ancestors and it was Amrit Ceremony that electrified the Sikh warriors to display amazing courage?

Our heritage is based on deeds and not mere words. Today you hear older generation lament about the lack of culture and religious knowledge among the youth. When we deplore our degeneration, why don’t we realize that our separation from Gurbani and Sangat is the main cause of our downfall?

There is only one place where we can get both Gurbani and Saadh Sangat. It is the Gurdwara!

Sikh Gurdwara
Is this the place where old people go in the weekend?

Gurdwaras have nothing for the Youth!

I don’t understand anything, as I don’t know Punjabi!

I heard so many negative things about Gurdwaras!

How will the Gurdwaras of Future be like? Will it be large marble buildings with gold-plated domes but empty from inside as the next generation shy away from the Gurdwaras?

Will it become the place for first generation immigrants only?

Will this be a REALITY?

Gurdwara: A Place for All
It doesn’t have to be like this! You do not need to sit on the fence and watch the history unfold itself in front of you. You alone can prevent it from happening. Come and join your own community and take charge of your community’s destiny. You are the future of our civilization. You bring fresh ideas and improvise the benefits of the Gurdwaras to all.

Remember that Gurdwara is the NERVE CENTER of our community.

Gurdwara: NERVE CENTER of Our Community
Gurdara is the place of our Guru: Sri Guru Granth Sahib. We get the opportunity to meet and listen to our Guru in Gurdwaras. It is also an example of Community Worship. Guru Nanak preached the benefits of community worship. In Gurdwaras we get:

Gurbani from Sri Guru Granth Sahib

Heavenly Kirtan sung by trained Raagis

Invigorating Discourses or Katha by learned theologists

Example of Community Service




Gurdwara: What happens there
The Gurdwaras have regular scheduled programs. Regular Morning Prayer service or Nitnem is held in the early mornings daily. Additionally, recitation of Asa Di Vaar is performed on weekends. In the evenings recitation of Rehraas Sahib is performed.

The Gurdwara also holds regular Diwan on Wednesday Evenings every week from 6:00 AM until 8: 00 PM. A Sunday Diwan is held every week which lasts from 10:00 AM till 2:00 PM. After the Diwan on Sunday, children attend Khalsa School where they learn Punjabi, Gurmukhi script and Gurmat, the path of the Gurus.

Gurdwara: What can you do!
There is plenty opportunity for the youth to participate and contribute in the Gurdwaras. You could participate in regular services held in the Gurdwaras and join the group of volunteers who provide valuable SEWA in various ways

Langar Sewa:
Ever thought how food is prepared and served to almost two thousand people on Wednesdays and Sundays?

General Sewa and Clean-up:
How do they clean up afterwords? Who provides maintenance to the property?

Teach at Khalsa School:
Where do the teachers come from to teach almost 500 children every Sunday?
Where do they get the curriculum?
How do they administer 00 children?

Learn Punjabi and Gurbani at Khalsa School or at SJSU:
You too can benefit from the Khalsa School if you are total beginner to Punjabi and Gurbani. Students learn how to read and write Punjabi and read Gurabani and train to read Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Advanced Punjabi language classes are run at San Jose State University by Prof. Atamjit Singh where you learn about the rich Punjabi literature.

Start a Youth oriented program ! You can also take initiative and start a youth-oriented program that suits the needs of the young generation.

Signs of Hope …
Recently the events after 9/11 tragedy has shown a very positive outcome for the Sikh Community. The Gurdwara managements felt helpless at the turn of events and looked up to the youth for help. A number of young Sikhs took initiative and took control of the situation. Their hard work brought benefits to the entire community.

Their achievements are highly commendable!

Learn from Past Mistakes
Lets get back to basics, understand the message of Gurbani. Unite by not politicking like your parents generation. There is an example of what the Jews did in 1945. In a Meeting in Paris they decided that to strengthen the community,

They will not waste their effort in criticizing the actions of fellow jews

(Another example of being non reactive as indicviduals)

Learning their language and the scriptures (Back to basics, active role)

Challenge every Jew to strive for excellence in his/her field of endeavor.
(Gaining strength, active role)

There is a lesson for us to learn from this story. Learn your own language and scriptures and then you will benefit from the teachings of the Gurus. Indulge in speaking Punjabi with each other. Be proud of your own culture, your language, and your people.

Study Gurbani and listen to Shabads, You will enjoy it.

Read Punjabi Literature by various acclaimed writers and poets. There is so much depth in our literature. Go to library and borrow Punjabi literature from there. If your library doesn’t have Punjabi books, ask for it to be added. Learn about Waris Shah, Bhai Veer Singh, Mohan Singh, Amrita Pritam, Nanak Singh, and many other famous Punjabi writers and poets. If you don’t understand Punjabi, you may want to study the English translations available from various sources.

Where do we go from here…
Cultivate respect for your fellow Sikhs. Make a commitment that whenever you see a fellow Sikh, you will take the initiative to greet him with “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh”. You could also wish them “Sat Sri Akal”. A little effort from you might make the day for the fellow Sikh.

Remember that a Gursikh is the image of our Guru. As Guru Gobind Singh ji said, “Khalsa Mero Roop Hai Khaas..”. This also means that if you are preserving the Sikh appearance, then you need to also take the responsibility that comes with it.

Discourage criticism of fellow Sikhs and Sikh institutions. Support them in any way that you can. Don’t criticize or tell them how to do it right. Instead join in and make the difference you would like to see. Appreciate and reap the benefits from the established institution of Gurdwara.

Visit your Gurdwara Regularly!

Aaye Mil Gursikh Aye mil, too mere Guru ke pyareya

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
Veer Arvind Singh of your best articles that I have ever read so far. Well thought out and thoroughly researched and well balanced. Congrats.

Yes this is the time for us Sikhs to get off our back*****..and get cracking..that is if we really want to stem this slide in our Youth. Gurdwaras have become just "social centres"...milan gilan gupp shupp, food and networking. No one remembers any shabad/katha or vichaar or goes back with any knowledge..the Kathawachaks/granthis/kirtnaiyas/sants babas are all also just for the sake of entertaining and collecting their dues...the more "interesting and out of this world" the sakhi is..the more people like and say What a fantastic kathaman...the more hindi-pop tunes in the kirtan..the more people say what a fantastic raagi..

SIKHE is the one and only religion based solely on meaningless rituals, ceremonies etc..but we are backslidign into rituals ceremonies and deserting GYAN of GURBANI. Sikhe can stand the scrutiny of the INTERNET ( where any so called "fact" can be cross referenced with just one click of the mouse..) and is BEST SUITED for INTERNET PARCHAAR..becasue anything it says can be proven..

Jarnail Singh


Jan 31, 2006
Hey I just have a suggestion for how we can bridge the gap between Western and Eastern Culture to understand Sikhi better. Honestly I was born and raised in Canada I can understnad read and speal punjabi fairly well for someone in my situation and can some what understand kaatha and kirtan but I can't understand all of it. THE COMMUNICATION gap is honestly what's causing people to convert religions, and why gurdwara attendance is on the low. Its the main reason why people dont uderstand Sikhi and so mcuh controversy is started. In Michigan there's a very small gurdwara where my relatives live thats only open on weekends, there they


Honestly it helps everyone understnad the kiratn and message of the kirtan, everyone gets to sing along and even th elittle ones can undertstand the shabds.
Jul 30, 2004
Gurmukhi is univsersal like Gurmat Punajbi,Arbic,Farsi or Hindi has region attached to it.Sanskrit,Latin could be other languages not realted to regeons(Latin Amrica is name after Latin and Latin was before its discovery).

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Shabad Vichaar by SPN'ers

Literal translation from Sant Singh Khalsa in black followed by my interpretation in green.

ਕਾਨੜਾ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥ Kaanarraa Mehalaa 5 || Ang 1298

ਕੀਰਤਿ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਗਾਉ ਮੇਰੀ ਰਸਨਾਂ ॥ Keerath Prabh Kee Gaao...

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