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Symbolism of kumbh mela in sikhism
Posted By Sarin on Feb 12, 2013     RSS Feeds     Latest Hinduism news

Let Milk and cream be your scripture
Ocean of mind, your churning container
Butter eats the one, whose mind is churning
Others, like the churning sticks, acquire nothing.
The above rhyme symbolizes the churning of the ocean. Now, you may be speculating that I have copied the above verse form one of the many sacred Hindu scriptures but in reality, this is my poetic translation derived from  two verses of the Sikh sacred scripture ‘Guru granth Sahib’.  
Why this article?
Just after the start of kumbh mela, one of the major Sikh communities known as “Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee”, shortly called as SGPC, announced their participation at the sacred kumbh mela. Immediately after their announcement, committee president ‘Avtar Singh Makkar’ was criticized by SGPC member ‘Hardeep Singh’. He also encouraged other members to refrain from the participation as it is against their faith and identity. Soon, he was followed by other organizations like the All-India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) and Shiromani Akali Dal who openly lashed out the ‘Makkar’ decision to join kumbh mela. I have been following this news since its inception and found this level of intolerance very disgusting keeping in mind the fact that their most sacred scripture ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ frequently talks about the story behind celebrations of kumbh mela.  Because of intolerance by followers of other faiths, I usually do not incorporate concepts or ideas of other religions in my articles. However, since my childhood I had many Punjabi friends, I will be explaining the symbolism of the kumbh mela in Sikhism (just for the sake of spreading information) through this article.
Now before I explain the symbolism from Sikhism point of view, it will be better to understand the symbolism from Hinduism point of view. This will help you analyze and compare the concepts of churning of the ocean in Sikhism sacred scripture and ancient Hindu scriptures.
Please go through the below article to understand the symbolism of kumbh mela according to Hinduism
Symbolism of story behind kumbh mela-world largest gathering on earth
Let me start from the two verses based on which I wrote the starting rhyme:
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 355  
Jaake nigam doodh ke thaataa. Samund bilovan kayu maata:
Let the sacred scriptures be your milk and cream, and the ocean of the mind the churning vessel  
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 1365
Jin biloyiyaa tin khaayaa avr bilovan haar:  
Whoever does the churning eats the butter; others, like the churning-sticks obtain nothing.  
My Explanation:
In the first verse, churning of mind is referred to meditating on Naam(god) or meditating on waheguru within the mind. Sacred scripture is your milk and ocean means that one should read the sacred scripture like guru granth sahib as a guide to know how to meditate on wahe guru (God). Instead of meditating on the god(Naam) written in Gurbani, many people follows false scriptures and get trapped in worldly desires like earning money by grinding stones, spinning tops, churning sticks etc. By following the teachings of Guru granth sahib or Shabad Gurbani, one can become stable and fit to chant the god name (Shabad) repeatedly and intuitively.  
In the second verse, Whoever does the churning eats the butter means “one who meditate on waheguru(God) gets Moksha(Salvation)”
Others, like the churning-sticks obtain nothing means “One who get trapped in illusion of this world gets nothing”
Butter cannot be seen in milk until you churn it. Similarly, Supreme Absolute Truth (God) cannot be seen in mind or felt by the senses unless you churn your mind.

Ten gurus of Sikh who wrote guru granth sahib
Doesn’t the above two verse depict the moral of the story behind kumbh mela. If no is your answer, then let us go through some more verses
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 350
Rattan upaayi dhare kheer mathiyaa hor bhakhlaaye ji asee keeyaa:
The jewels were produced and brought forth by churning the ocean of milk; each one of them (Gods and demons) indignantly roared, "we have done this”
My Explanation:
In this verse, the symbolism of the churning process is appreciated and recommended. This verse talks about the fight between the positive (Devas) and negative qualities (Demons) to obtain the various jewels produced from the churning of the ocean.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 967
Maadhaanaa parbat kar netari baasak Shabadi rirhkiyon. Chayudah rattan nikaaliyan kar aavaa gayun chilkiyon:  
Making the mountain his churning stick and the snake-king his churning string, He (Nanak) has churned the Shabad. From it, He extracted the fourteen jewels, and illuminated the world.  
My Explanation:
By churning the mind (Mountain) with the desire (Snake king) of obtaining immortality, I acquire Shabad (God). Then I get fourteen spiritual powers (Jewels) to illuminate the world. Backward and forward movement of desires (Positive and negative) starts the churning process of meditating on the higher self (Soul).
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 442
Samund virol sareer ham dekhiyaa ik vasat anoop dikhaayee:  
I have churned the ocean of the body, and I have seen the incomparable thing come into view.  
My Explanation:
In the early stages of chanting (Churning), many Ratnas(Siddhis) or spiritual powers(Incomparable thing)  emerges out as a result.   In the above verse, incomparable means that one must not abandon chanting at this stage and should keep on chanting to experience immortality by vomiting out ego and false desires. Fourteen powers are incomparable to the attainment of god.  

Above three verses are sufficient to prove that many verses of guru granth sahib are an adaptation of churning of the ocean story. If you still find it hard to believe, then below are few more verses:

Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 478
Tan kar matkee man maahe biloyee. Is matkee mahi Shabad sanjoyee. Hari ka bilovanaa man ka bechaaraa. Gurparsaad paavai amrit dhaaraa:  
Make your body the churning jar, and use the stick of your mind to churn it. Gather the curds of the Shabad. The churning of the Lord is to Vichaar or reflects upon Him within your mind. By Guru’s Grace, the Ambrosial Nectar or Amrit thus flows into us
My Explanation:
Note in the above verse, Hari is used for representing god. In Hinduism, Hari is the name of lord Krishna or lord Vishnu. Similar to the above two verses; this verse guides the devotee to churn their mind to meditate on god with the aim of acquiring ambrosial Nectar or Amrit(Salvation) of life. Reflecting the god in your Vichar(spiritual or inner-inquiry) is the only way to churn your mind to obtain Nectar.
Shabad(God name) is the Nectar. By repeatedly chanting it, one can realize the absolute Reality. Thus, churning the mind to chant Shabad is the path of obtaining Nectar of Immortality.  

Sikh Devotees meditating and churning their mind
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 944
Gurmukh bolai tatt birolai cheenai alakh apaaro. Traai Gun metai Shabad vasaaye taa mann chookai ahankaaro:  
The Gurmukh speaks and churns the essence of reality, and realizes the unseen, infinite Lord. Eradicating the three qualities of Maya, he enshrines the Shabad within, and then, his mind is rid of egotism.
My Explanation:
One who is seeking knowledge should churn his mind in the essence of reality to see ever-pervading god. One must eradicate all his illusion to enshrine his soul and thereby, free his mind from ego.
Practically, below is what I can derive from the above verse
Humans are always seeking for happiness. In the process of seeking happiness, he/she is usually trapped/distracted in Maya (Illusion) thinking that wealth (Greed), Selfishness, anger etc is happiness. A devotee must eradicate these materialistic thoughts by churning his mind in realizing the infinite god. Only then, will he get nectar and live in this world without getting affected by Greed, anger and Selfishness (Three qualities of Maya).
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 227
Gurmat saach sahaj hari bolai. Peevai amrat tatt virolai:  
Following the Gurmat (Shabad), one intuitively chants the Name of the True Lord. Drinking in this Ambrosial Nectar, and churning it, the essential reality is discerned  
My Explanation:
Again Hari(Lord Krishna name) is used as the word to represent god. Follow the sacred scripture to learn how to
intuitively chant the lord name. Churning the mind on Hari (God name) is like drinking the ambrosial nectar and realizing the supreme reality. Chanting the name of the god is like the true service of god through which the mind reconciles and ego subsides.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 411
Sach mann kaaran tatt bilovai. Subhar sarvar mail na dhovai:  
For the benefit of the mind, churn the true essence of reality; bathing in the over-flowing tank of nectar, filth is washed away  
My Explanation:
Unlimited chanting of Hari with sincere love and devotion is the path to seeing god. ("Bhaakhiyaa Bhaayu Apaar")
Bathing in the over-flowing tank of nectar, filth is washed away means “Deep meditation along with chanting the lord name removes all your sins.”
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 367
Sarir sarovar gun pargat keeye. Nanak Gurmukh math tatt kadheeyai
The ocean of the body yields pearls of virtue. O Nanak, the Gurmukh churns this ocean, and discovers this essence.  
My Explanation:
One who is committed to intuitive chanting of Waheguru(Naam) attains the butter of divine virtues(Spiritual powers) and then we become Spiritual being (Gurmukh). Manmukh (material being) cannot see the pearls within his body because it is filled with ego, falsehood and material consciousness. He is unaware of the Chakras (Curd) which can be enlightened by the repeated chanting of Shabad or Naam.  
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 587
Titt jaayi bahu sat sangtee jithai har kaa har naam biloyeeyai. Sahje hee hari naam lehu hari tatt na khoyeeyai:  
Go, and sit in the Sat Sangat where the Name of the Lord is churned. In peace and poise, contemplate the Lord’s Name - don’t lose the essence of the Lord.  
My Explanation:
It is only when the inner transformation takes place, one learns the art of chanting and remaining in the meditation of Waheguru(God). One must visit satsang and other religious gathering to feel the essence of chanting the lord name.

Devotees attending satsang and chanting lord name
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 983
Saakat karam paanee jiyu matheeyai nit paanee jhol jhulaare:  
The actions of the faithless cynic are like the churning of water; he churns, constantly churning only water  
My Explanation:
Just like the curd cannot be obtained by churning water; a Manmukh(Faithless Cynic) cannot achieve God by churning Maya (Materialistic desires).
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 699
Aap math math tatt kadhaaye jap naam rattan umaahaa he:  
He Himself churns it, churning up the essence; remembering the jewel of the Naam, sincere love comes to the surface  
My Explanation:
Continuous vibration of God chanting ignites the inner devotion and brings out the love present within your heart by removing all ego and materialistic desires.  
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 1059
Gurmukh hovai su taat bilovai Rasnaa har ras taahaa he:
One who becomes Gurmukh churns the essence of reality; his tongue savors the sublime essence of God.
My Explanation:
Upon attaining God or Shabad-Surti(God Consiousness), Manmukh(Material being) dies and one gets reborn as a Gurmukh(spiritual-being) and feel the sweet essence of god.  
Terming it according to Hinduism, soul becomes situated into worldly consciousness and the mortal body into Transcendental Consciousness.  
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 1059
Ghrit kaaran dadh mathai sayiaan. Jeevat mukat sadaa nirbaan. Kahi Ravidaas param bairaag. Ridai Ram kee na japas abhaag:  
For the sake of ghee, wise people churn milk. Those who are Jivan-mukta, liberated while yet alive - are forever in the state of Nirvana (Salvation). Says Ravi Daas, O you unfortunate people, why not meditate on the Lord with love in your heart?
My Explanation:
Scriptures are true or false depending on how you analyze it with your intuitive understanding. If you try to obtain ghee from milk you can obtain ghee. If you try to obtain butter from milk then you will get butter. Similarly with your own limited thinking, you see falseness in scriptures if you can’t understand its deep symbolism. Only when love and devotion is in your heart, you will understand the true meaning of scriptures and thereafter, attain the state of nirvana (Salvation) by churning your mind into chanting god name.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 1088
Mann ke adhik trang kiyu kar sahib shutteeyai. Jo rachai sach rang goorhai rang apaar kai:  
The mind is churning with so many waves of desire. How can one be emancipated in the Court of the Lord? Be absorbed in the Lord’s True Love, and be blessed with the Infinite Lord's profound bliss.
My Explanation:
One cannot focus on meditation and chanting god name when the mind is looking for materialistic desires. Only when the love and devotion is enveloped in the heart, one gets blessed by the blissful appearance of the infinite ever-pervading god.  

Sacred Guru who blesses our soul
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 636
Mere prabh saalaahan se bhale piyaare Shabad ratte rang laayi. Tis kee sangat je milai piyaare ras lai tatt viloyi.
Those who praise my God are good, O Beloved; they are imbued with the Shabad, and His Love. If I join them, O Beloved, I can churn the essence and so find bliss.  
My Explanation:
If you praise my god then you will get the blessings and love of my god. Then if I join all such devotees, I can churn the essence of the god and acquire his blessings. In a real sense, such situation can happen only in mass gathering like kumbh mela or satsang. So, one should join such religious gatherings to chant the lord name to get his love and blessings.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 1365
Kabeer maya dolanee pavan jhakolanhaar. Santan maakhan khaaiaa shaash peeai sansaar. Kabeer maya dolanee pavan vahai hiv dhaar. Jin biloiaa tin khaaiaa avar bilovanhaar  
Kabeer, Maya is the butter-churn, and the breath is the churning-stick. The Saints eat the butter, while the world drinks the whey. Kabeer, Maya is the butter-churn; the breath flows like ice water. Whoever does the churning eats the butter; the others are just churning-sticks.
My Explanation:
Illusions are all materialistic desires, Use your mind and breadth to meditate on the supreme god. One who does that (Saint) gets all the butters of life while others get trapped in this materialistic world.
Why to visit religious gathering and places of worship
Guru granth sahib says that any amount of religious bathing or visiting Sacred places (tirath sthan) will not give you salvation unless you meditate on the lord name. Guru granth sahib recommend visiting religious places of worship and chanting Waheguru name to attain god. Complete "Inner Purity" can be attained only with help and complete devotion through satsang and chanting lord name. Below two verses from Guru granth sahib tells the same.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 587
jaayi bahahu satsangti jithai Hari kaa Harinaam biloyeeyai:
Go, and sit in the Sat Sangat where the Name of the Lord is churned
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Verse 982
Mil sat sangat param pad paayaakadh maakhan ke gatkaare:  
Joining the Sat Sangat the supreme status is obtained; the butter is produced, and eaten with delight.  

So, it is good to visit kumbh mela or golden temple to take a bath on river ganga or amritsar sarovar instead of wasting time in comforts and pleasures.  

Amritsar sarovar
Sikh Saint bishan singh ji muralawale did his Prachar of Naam(God) and have written a full chapter on his prachar in kumbh mela which can be downloaded from from page -353-369, titled- Bar Desh Parchar,Ganga Da Kumb. Below are few of the significant verses
Page 353 -starting verse
Ramdas Sri Satguru, Dashan Daie Kalyan
Amritsar Tirath Kairo, man bachant daie dan ||
Page 369-ending verse
Chale Gang Snan Kai, Gurmat Kar Parchar
Amrit Diya Chakaie Bahoa, Eh Bismata Dhar ||

Why bathing is important in religious activities?
Science has proven that water affects your body and gives a positive or negative impact on your body depending on how uses it (Religious scriptures proved this thousands of year ago). Water molecules respond with positive vibrations to love, music and peace and serene environments and they give negative and erratic vibrations to harsh and hateful environment. So, when you involve positive thoughts on water, it will help in cleansing your mind and body. The water absorbs the negative power of your body and heals your mind.  

It is very sad that today most people are using religion for their personal gain. Criticism of SGPC by All-India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) and Shiromani Akali Dal shows that they are not even aware of the teachings of their sacred scriptures and are spreading differences between communities for their political gain. With friends, I regularly visited local gurudwaras with the last one being Sri Guru Nanak Darbar of Mulund Colony, Mumbai. In fact attending satsang late night was an excellent excuse I gave to my mother for roaming across the streets of Mumbai. Though I never participate in their religious chanting and singing of devotional songs, I did notice their rituals and deep belief of god in sikh followers(especially Elders) which made them to chant the lord name continuously for as long as 5 hours and as late as 4 AM early morning. Though my visit was not religious, still I joined my friends in their ritual belief and in eating some delicious food of LangarJ.  God is one and there are many ways of reaching god. So, if one feels that he should chant lord name on banks of river ganga, then no one has the right to stop him not only morally but also religiously and constitutionally. I hope my sikh brothers take this article in a true spirit and help spread the message of love and peace.
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