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Most American Gurdwaras Will Not Follow New Nanakshahi Calendar

By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Friday, February 18, 2011 | 01:11 pm

Pal Singh Purewal, architect of the Nanakshahi calendar, is in Amritsar lobbying against changes made to the Sikh calendar. American gurdwaras are supporting him, asking the SGPC to revert back to the original 2003 version.

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Reporting from Washington - American gurdwaras representatives formally declared that they will not institute changes made last year to the Nanakshahi calendar by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Akaal Takht, and instead continue with the original 2003 version.

The Coalition of Sikh Gurdwaras of Southern California, the American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the World Sikh Council – America Region, which represent hundreds of gurdwaras across the country, said the changes were made hastily and without consent of the Diaspora.

“(We) will publish and distribute Sri Akaal Takht’s properly-approved Nanakshahi calendar 2003 every year among the Sikh sangat in Southern California,” the coalition said in a Jan. 30 news release.

It also asked Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Avtar Singh Makkar and Akaal Takht Jathedaar Gurbachan Singh to withdraw all revisions made last year and reinstitute the 2003 version.

Although the coalition held a meeting in Southern California, other gurdwaras in California, such as in Fremont and San Jose, usually follow their lead, said Jasbir Singh Mann, a spokesman for the coalition.

The AGPC, based in Northern California, also was represented at the meeting.

“We are not for defying the Akaal Takht,” said Pritpal Singh, AGPC coordinator. “(But) this is not appropriate, due process should be followed.

“We are going according to the previous calendar.”

The AGPC is preparing a petition to Akaal Takht jathedaar, Gurbachan Singh, asking that the calendar be reverted back to the original 2003 version. Gurdwara representative from across the country are expected to sign it.

Ohio-based WSC-AR was not represented at the meeting, but expressed total support for the California coalition.

“WSC-AR welcomed the original Nanakshahi Sikh calendar when it was issued in 2003 by Siri Akal Takhat Sahib and adopted it,” said Tarunjit Singh, general secretary of the council that represents 37 gurdwaras and 7 Sikh institutions across the United States, according to its Web site. “Since then, we have encouraged our member gurdwaras and Sikh organizations to continue to follow it.

“WSC-AR intends to continue to follow the original 2003 calendar and is appreciative of the gurdwaras of Southern California for standing behind the calendar,” he added. “We call upon other Sikh gurdwaras and organizations across the Sikh Panth to also extend their support for the original calendar.”

The SGPC did not return emailed requests for comment.

The Gurdwara Act of 1925 brought all gurdwaras in old Punjab under the jurisdiction of the SGPC. But Delhi gurdwaras formed their own organization, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee. And now that Sikhs have migrated to other countries, they have to deal with their own government agencies.
“We request participation of all Sikhs worldwide in the appointment of the jathedaar of Sri Akal Takhat sahib… because any decision on Sikh issues carries worldwide impact,” Jasbir Singh said.

The fight for a Sikh calendar was for Sikhs in the Diaspora to be included in the school calendars and other government calendars, he added. “This can’t change every year. How do you explain that someone from India will take a look at the Indian calendar and give a new date every year?

“We will follow Nanakshahi 2003,” he told SikhNN. “Outside Punjab everyone follows Nanakshahi 2003.”

Instituting a Sikh calendar was a monumental task, said Pal Singh Purewal, architect of Nanakshahi. “Every religion has its own calendar, we should have our own.”

Before Nanakshahi, Sikhs used the Hindu Bikrami calendar. Not only is it based in mythology and rituals, and is contrary to Gurbani, its luni-solar calculations misalign months and seasons, and gurpurab dates change from year to year.

Nanakshahi is a seasonal solar calendar. Its months are always aligned with seasons. All gurpurabs, except for Guru Nanak’s prakash that is followed according to the traditional lunar date, are fixed and match the Common Era calendar that is in use around the world.

After much deliberation between intellectual and religious authorities, the SGPC adopted Nanakshahi in 2003. But six years later, the SGPC convened a meeting of the 11-member Nanakshahi committee and two sanatani groups, the Sant Samaj and Damdami Taksaal. Without input form Pal Singh or consensus from the Panth, it instituted drastic changes back to Bikrami.

All sangraans, the first day of each month, moved back to Bikrami and change from year to year. Major gurpurab dates, such as the prakash of Guru Gobind Singh, the martyrdom of Guru Arjan, gurgadhi of Guru Granth Sahib and joti jot of Guru Gobind Singh, are back on a Bikrami schedule.

The changes were institutionalized in Nanakshahi 542, which was released on the last New Year, Chet 1 (March 14, 2010).

It is questionable whether Nanakshahi can be called Nanakshahi any more.



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