Retracing Guru Nanak’s legacy

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 17

“Why Guru Nanak Dev journeyed across remote areas and face hardships? Why did he never document his journeys? Why is there a limited narrative given by men of faith, who followed him despite the fact that Guru Nanak Dev travelled across geographical landscape that expands across nine countries?”

Writer, historian and documentarian Amardeep Singh’s probing questions are the ones that he has been asking himself ever since he journeyed across Pakistan for documenting remnants of the lost heritage of Sikh history. After the series of two books dedicated to the Sikh spiritual and martial legacy across the border, he now means to delve deeper and trace the footprints of Guru Nanak Dev through a documentary.

Amardeep Singh was in Amritsar, visiting Partition Museum that hosted a two-day multiple screenings of documentaries based on his works over the weekend. His latest work, a film titled Allegory- A Tapestry of Guru Nanak’s Travels that aims to revisit the sites the first Sikh Guru travelled to to seek spiritual knowledge, was the subject of a discussion held on the concluding day of screenings.

“I have always maintained that there is a lot left unexplored, undocumented regarding Sikh history, including Guru Nanak Dev’s spiritual expeditions. While researching on the subject, I came to know about at least interfaith sites across China, Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Most of these sites today are difficult to access due to armed conflict, yet we managed to film a few in Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka and Tibet,” he said. Amardeep, who has been working on the project for the past one year, managed to feature the Rababis, nanakpanthis, who are carrying on the traditions of their ancestors and visit some Sufi and Hindu worship sites that Baba Nanak visited.

“I had the opportunity of meeting the descendants of the family of Bhai Mardana, who follow the Rababi tradition. They otherwise work as day labourers but continue to do kirtan at Dera Sahib Gurdwara once a week. Similarly, for Nanakpanthis of Sindh, Baba Nanak is very important for them but they also have other practices. The Guru Granth Sahib in the Sindhi script and Bhagwad Gita and the Granth Sahib in Gurmukhi Script kept together. The Sindhi faith accepts Sikhism, Sufism as well as Hinduism. The traditions started by Baba Nanak is still alive and it needs to be highlighted.”

While filming in Afghanistan, met the last Nanakpanthi in Kandahar, Dr Raghunath, who has sent his entire family outside Afghanistan, but refuses to leave himself. For this lone man, Guru Granth Sahib was his one aasra (shelter). However, a few months ago, Khalsa Sikhs visited him and took away his Granth Sahib saying he did not know how to take care of it, he said. While narrating the incident, “he told me, Naadaan Lok ney. Ohna nu Baba Nanak di samajh nahin.”

He said the filming process was under way for sites located across India and Saudi Arabia. “I am a risk-taker and it’s an ambitious project. I know there is a lot to be done. The documentary will be ready for release in 2020, in a multi-episode format.”

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