There are only approximately 400 Sikhs in Nepal, a predominately Bhuddist country sandwiched between India, Tibet and China. So we had our work cut out when we set off on a mission to find one of only two Gurdwara’s in Kathmandu, the capital city. One of them is an ancient Gurdwara and is dedicated to Guru Nanak Ji, who was the first of the ten Sikh Gurus and the founder father of Sikhism during the 15t h century.
Kathmandu is a large, chaotic city without the apparent administration and transport system of India. With all modes of transport sharing the same roads, without pavement, and taxi drivers only too willing to take you to the Gurdwara that’s the furthest away from where you are at that moment, we set out on foot armed with a good map and our google info, across Kathmandu. For somewhere like Kathmandu your turban and the wearing of bana come into their own: protecting you from the sun, keeping the cranial segments of the skull together for feelings of containment and determination. The white of my cotton suit reflecting out into the aura helping to keep space around my magnetic field whilst a full attack on the senses prevailed around me….mostly all forms of traffic in all different directions!
In 1515, Guru Nanak,, was in Varanse, (India) teaching. At the same time a Nepalese prince from one of the three kingdoms of Kathmandu, was also there for some for spiritual healing and guidance rom Guru Nanak. The prince was so grateful for the healing and guidance received by Guru Nanak Ji that he invited Guru Nanak to Kathmandu where he gave him 30 acres of land next to the banks of the sacred Vishnu Mati river in Kathmandu. Later this same place was also to hold special significance for Guru Nanak as it was where a group of Udasi people chosen to live when escaping persecution from the moguls in northern India. Udasi’s are best described as Sikh Yogi’s, or Sadhu’s, from the lineage of Baba Siri Chand , (1494 – 1693) Guru Nanak’s elsdest son. In effect although the root of the Udasi is Sikhism they also revere the 5 Hindu gods known as the Pancha devata; Ganesha, Devi, Shiva, Surya and Vishnu with their rituals including the 5 tattvas (elements).
Like Baba Siri Chand and Shiva the Udasi keep their hair in long dreadlocks, sometimes smearing their faces and body with ash from the dhuni. Dhuni being a burning hole or opening in the ground representing the female sexual organ (shakti energy) and wearing red, dark orange, black or white robes. To emulate Baba Siri Chand, some still wear the simple red loincloth.
Guru Nanak lived at this ashram/gurdwara for a year and from there travelled onto Tibet and China. It is said that the city of Nanking in china is named in honour of Guru Nanak. The small 270 year old Gurdwara, which previously was a mud hut like construction, is in the Udasi Ashram, Ballaju, Kathmandu on land that is still officially owned by Guru Nanak. Although over time the acres have been bought or taken away there is still around 6 acres to the site where presently a renovation and preservation project is under way to restore and expand the site, which will include a Kundalini Yoga centre. This project is led by Simran Singh, an original student of Yogi Bhajan’s, from California and is part funded by KRI, the Kundalini Yoga Research Institute.
It was an overwhelmingly contrasting experience to arrive at the Gurdwara. Steep steps ran up the side of a filthy, polluted river bank. Plastic bags, heaps of rubbish and the occasional dead animal lay everywhere blocking the flow of the now dead river. Following the steps up to the top of a hillside you were led into an oasis of calm and wonder. We were greeted by two large Sikh warriors and two fearsome chained guard dogs who were not only there to protect but to honour and guard this special Gurdwara.
After our time spent in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib, we were taken through an antique, locked, heavy wooden door which opened out into a beautiful courtyard. This, we were told, was not a place many got to see and was Guru Nanak would spend time teaching, meditating and relaxing. We were shown the oldest and largest Bodhi tree I had ever seen, at least 700 years old, under which Guru Nanak would sit and hold court. His foot prints had been preserved at the foot and opening of the tree. It was hard not to be moved as I bowed down my forehead to this humble residing place of Guru Nanak.
This medieval Gurdwara and ashram, also pays homage and respect to Baba Siri Chand, Guru Nanak’s son, who is an important link in the golden chain of the kundalini yogic lineage.
Langar and a rest in the ashram was welcomed after our dusty trek to get there. Exciting as this all was it was even more surprising to meet a white Californian turbaned yogi, Simran Singh, who I guessed to be a student of Yogi Ji’s (Yogi Bhjan) and whose seevva is helping to restore, keep and expand the site.
“There’s no other way on the planet to free your soul unto the destiny and unto God but by serving those who need a hand—smiling at them, wiping away their tears, forgiving them.”
“We are on this planet to love each other, to serve each other, and to uplift each other. We have come to this Earth to give, not to take. Don’t take pride in taking. Give. Give, and there will be virtue in what you will be given. And that will give you God.”
For more information on sevva here contact
Contact Simran Singh in Nepal cell 977 980 880 0362 email firstname.lastname@example.org
Associated links: www.sikhsangat.com