One can perhaps call Sikh Wave, a culture club at the La Trobe University. Founded by Karandeep Singh Khalsa, it is a group that works towards bringing people together and celebrating all things Sikhi. Recently, the club organised the Vaisakhi festival, which was a show of splendour, talent and great food.
The celebration of Vaisakhi dates back to 1699 when the tenth Guru established Khalsa (the baptised Sikh). It marks the birth of Khalsa when Sikhs were given the five articles of faith, which are unshorn hair tied inside a turban, wooden comb, ceremonial sword, iron bangle and cotton shorts, explains Karandeep Singh Khalsa.
So at the event, the club members shared the turban with everyone and explained them what it signified. Major attractions at the event were the langar, where free piping hot meals were served. This is a tradition started by the first Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, aimed at ending hunger and treating everyone equally. So everyone is welcome for free meals at any Sikh temple around the world.
The display of Gatka (Sikh martial art) was another attraction. “Our Guru made us saint soldiers, so although we are a peaceful tribe and ask for the good of mankind, if it comes to protecting our own and others’ rights and fight suppression we know how to pick up the sword and get it done,” says Khalsa.
According to Harkirat Singh, a Sikhism blogger, Gatka, is an ancient martial art used by the Gurus to help defend the religious beliefs of Sikhi and also those of other religions. Gatka uses weapons such as Talwar, Kirpan, Lathi, Marati, Churi, Kaman, Tir, Barcha, Khanda, Peshkarj, Kukri, Chakra, Bagh Nakh, Katar, Dhal, Gurj, Tabar, Soti, Dang, Pata, Farri, Chakri, Safajang, Kirch and Trishul.
According to the origin stories of this martial art, the Gurus spent their lives preaching about God and the importance of harmony between man and earth. Unlike some religions that shun self-defence and prefer to be killed by the enemy, thus preserving the act of nonviolence until death, Gatka originates with the ideology to fight back in defence to preserve harmony on earth.
The Gatka performed during the event included demonstrations by not only men but also women. Two women from La Trobe University, trained in Gatka, showcased their skills using the sword called, Soti, as well as the netted weapon called the Chakri. The performers where completely involved in their demonstrations as they flew around swiftly like Shaolin monks showcasing the ‘kata’ equivalent of Japanese martial arts. Katas are choreographed techniques against imaginary opponents, to be practiced, in order to develop the defence and counter attack reflexes of the human body against a variety of scenarios involving an attack.
Turban tying, another pride of Sikhs was demonstrated to everybody who was willing regardless of colour, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
The event concluded with chants of ‘Jo bole who nihal, sat sri akal’ echoing the Agora area of the campus. According to scholars in Sikh religion, Piar Singh, Kirpal Singh, Janam Sakhi Prampara. Patiala, Narain Singh, Macauliffe, and Cole, W. Owen this slogan is the Sikh slogan or jaikara (lit. shout of victory. triumph or exultation). It is divided in two parts or phrases. The first, bole so nihal orjo bole so nihal, is a statement meaning “whoever utters (the phrase following) shall be happy, shall be fulfilled,” and the second part sati snakaJ (Eternal is the Holy/ Great Timeless Lord).
“The Vaisakhi event was our very first major event on campus. We have around 35-40 members as of date and are growing. We have had sessions in the past where we tried to discuss what our Guru expects from us and how we can fulfil the same which is connecting to Waheguru.”
Sikh Wave is an initiative to spread awareness about the Sikh faith. It aims at making people aware about what Sikhs believe in with respect to God and humanity and how Sikhs contribute to the society on a wider level around the world.
Khalsa founded the club as there was no Sikh representation on campus. “Also not many people knew about Sikhs here in Australia. So the club was started to help people become more familiar with us and our thoughts and practices. The club also gives a stage to fellow Sikhs to meet up.”
Khalsa believes that since his Guru teaches his community to treat everyone equally, any activity they do at the club is open for all to participate in. He believes that together we can make the world a better place to live in where we understand each other’s differences and respect it.
By Eshan Arya