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The Gurdwara is a place of worship.
The Gurdwara is a place for the community to socialise and meet up.
The Gurdwara is a place for us to educate, learn and to inspire fellow Sikhs about the path of Sikhi and Gurbaani.

Many youths then say:
I don’t like going to the Gurdwara,
The Gurdwara is boring,
I can never understand a thing said at the Gurdwara.

When somebody goes on the stage in the Main Hall at the Gurdwara and gives a talk, lecture or explains something in English, then you hear the old men say, 'why are you speaking in English?' Speak Panjabi, the language of our Gurus”, “We should encourage children to learn Panjabi, and not speak English in the Gurdwara.

Gaj ke aako ‘Waaheguru’ is my response to these opinions about speaking English in the Gurdwara.
People seem to think that by discussing or explaining Gurbaani or giving a lecture in English at the Gurdwara, will lead to youngsters in the future not being able to read Gurbaani and that instead youngsters will be reading English translations of Gurbaani rather than Gurbaani itself.

I personally disagree.
Did the non-Panjabi American Sikhs know Panjabi when they got interested in Sikhi?
Should we have told these non-Panjabi Sikhs to first take lessons in learning the Panjabi language and only then should they start learning about the religion of Guru Nanak?
Does speaking Panjabi make one a Sikh?

If speaking Panjabi makes one Sikh, then the whole of Panjab should be Sikhs.
If speaking Panjabi makes one a Sikh, then all the youngsters in Panjab should be following Sikhi, rather than losing their faith in pursuit of drugs, alcoholism and other intoxicants.

Guru Nanak Ji travelled on four long journeys, to Iraq in the West, Russia in the North, Burma in the East and Sri Lanka in the South. This was a big chunk of the known world at that time.
This highlights that Guru Nanak Ji’s message was universal.

Do not get me wrong. I am not undermining or questioning the value of Gurmukhi or Panjabi language. However the discussion, thirst, yearning, explanation and discourse on Sikhi should not be ‘limited’ to Panjabi. Guru Nanak Ji spoke the language of the people, wherever he went. However, despite travelling the world, Guru Nanak Ji composed Gurbaani in Gurmukhi. This was the language intended by Waheguru to reveal the message given to the Gurus.

But how will we understand that message, if we are not allowed to enquire or learn about in the language we are comfortable with?
How will we understand the treasurers of Sikhi, if we are not allowed to think and explore our religion in the language our mind operates in?
How can we give people an opportunity to learn about Sikhi, which entail them later to learn Gurmukhi so that they can dive deep in the glory of Gurbaani, if we are stopped in the early stage of this education just because we are not speaking Panjabi.

Guru Pyaaree’o, a humble request is that we should all send our children to Panjabi classes to learn Gurmukhi.
We should all encourage in belief and practice speaking Panjabi and reading Gurmukhi.
However, we should also allow those who are not comfortable in expressing their love in Panjabi to be able to express and share their feelings in the language of their choice.

What can we do?
Forward thinking Gurdwaras have installed permanent projectors and screens in the Main Halls to be used for showing shabads and shabad translations.
Gurdwaras, which understand the need to involve the youth, get someone to explain the hukamnama into English after it is read.
Gurdwaras which want to create future leaders of Sikhi, run Gurmat classes which allows youngsters to learn, explore and discuss Sikhi in English, which leads to youngsters having a thirst and desire to wanting to learn Gurmukhi so that they can go one step further in understanding their Guru.

We must ask ourselves, are we involving the youth enough in the Gurdwara and Gurdwara management?
Are we taking our Gurdwara into the future or are we taking the Gurdwaras with us to our graves?
Are we building our children’s future and creating a learning environment for them, or are we just passing time?

Food for thought.

by Manvir Singh