Life and teachings of Guru Nanak, now in Hindi too

The Hindi translation of Roopinder Singh’s book Guru Nanak: His Life and Teachings was released by Punjab Governor and UT Administrator Gen S. F. Rodrigues (retd) at the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10, Chandigarh, on April 12, 2007. On the dais with him were H. K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief, The Tribune group of publications, eminent art historian Dr B. N. Goswamy and Kapish Mehra, publisher, Rupa and Co.

The Hindi translation is based on the revised second edition of Guru Nanak: His Life and Teachings in English, which has also been released simultaneously.

The common thread among those at the function was the urgent need to return to the teachings of our Gurus. General Rodrigues, who was the chief guest, referred to the colonial strategy of Lord T. B. Macaulay, articulated through his ‘Minute of 2 February 1835 on Indian Education’, which was a fierce attack on orientalism and brought about the policy of introducing English education in India.

“I cannot think of any example to follow other than Guru Nanak,” said the Governor. He talked about the equality of women and about the need to break the distinction of caste and other barriers.

Asking the audience to participate in the effort to “put us back to the pedestal that we were thrown off from a few generations ago,” the Governor congratulated the author on his endeavour. “We must take joy in the fact that we are uniquely Indian and the time has come for us to get back to the values that evolved from our own culture because we are truly special people,” General Rodrigues said.

Stressing on the need to get involved in “the revolution of a new resurgent India”, he went on to explain that it was imperative to introspect and search within ourselves and give a practical shape to the ideologies of great saints like Guru Nanak. Guru Granth Sahib, he said, contained more seminal truth, spiritual value and humanism than any other book in the world, and that needed to be imbibed.

At least 200 people attended the event. Prominent among them were Justice S. S. Sodhi, former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, Dr Vijay Gupta, Director of the Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh, Mr Rajnish Wattas, Principal of the College of Architecture, Chandigarh, Dr Man Singh Nirankari, prominent eye surgeon and Sikh scholar, Maj-Gen Himmat Singh Gill (retd), Sahitya Akademi member and writer, and V. N. Singh, Director, Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh.

Mr Dua, the guest of honour, dwelled on the message of Guru Nanak, which he said was passed on to him by his mother, a heritage he shared with other children in Punjab. He recalled his childhood when his mother pointed out the significance of Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, to him on a train journey.

Guru Nanak’s message was one of love, of love for the other person, a message of humanism, of love for human beings as human beings. What happened to that message and why had it disappeared or got diluted, he lamented.

“The fault is not of the message, the fault is with we people, who are not able to live above our ghettos, individual or collective.” He referred to the maps in the book while describing how Guru Nanak travelled far and wide to spread the message.

In an addressed peppered with humour, Mr Dua said: “In the hustle and bustle of today’s life, the Guru’s message is getting lost, but within 80 pages, Roopinder gives the life and times and the message that Guru Nanak left for all of us. I would like editions of this book to be brought out in every language. This is a message that needs to be brought to everybody. It does not belong to one people.”

Dr Goswamy spoke about the language of the visual depictions of Guru Nanak. “The principle source of the life and teachings of Guru Nanak are the extraordinary documents called the Janamsakhis. The Guru Nanak of belief or faith is different from the Guru Nanak of history and the Janamsakhis are a record of the Guru Nanak of faith, and faith is sometimes greater than history. Ask any person on the street what he knows about Guru Nanak and he immediately will come out not with his teachings, but stories about him, of how he went to Mecca, and so on.”

Dr Goswamy spoke of how hundreds of artists had worked on the Janamsakhis and said, “It is remarkable how the memory of a great man survives in the form of visual documents.” It is a visual documentation and Roopinder’s book brings a large number of images to the common man which help in making the simple message of Guru Nanak accessible to the people, he reiterated.

Earlier, the publisher, Kapish Mehra, said: “Guru Nanak: His Life and Teachings, when it was published in 2004, got a terrific response all over India and to publish a reprint so soon is a matter of pride for us. For us at Rupa, it is a special moment in the history of our company—we completed 70 years of publishing in the last financial year.”

An emotional Roopinder said he was thankful to his father, Giani Gurdit Singh, who put him on the path, and to his mother, Sardarni Inderjit Kaur, who made him what he is today. He said it was really unfortunate that we were losing touch with the truths given in Gurbani and “these need to be retold a thousand times. That is the only reason we need books like this. We need to retell them, we need to re-listen to them and we need to understand these teachings.”

For many in the audience, the emotions were easy to understand. The author, who is Assistant Editor with The Tribune, Chandigarh, was taking forward the legacy of his father, the late Giani Gurdit Singh, to whom he had dedicated the book.