Invoking the principle of equality in support of a change requested by the parties to a wedding can be a valid argument but then the wedding could be carried out in environs that permit of such variations, not necessarily in a Gurdwara that may cause offence to several other believers. I think this kind of choice can be availed only with prior agreement of the Gurdwara not thrown in as a surprise. It is for us alone to avoid our Gurdwaras from becoming the equivalent of the Vegas strip where it only takes a few dollars to have any ceremony one wants. We have enough on our hands to try and reform in the way Gurdwara service is carried out before introducing such ‘a la carte’ choices.

Incidentally there could be lots of fallacies in the equality argument. The boy and the girl do not walk in holding hands and sit in front of the Granth. The boy comes in first waiting patiently for the girl to be escorted in later to a waiting groom with all ceremony. Is this equality? Equality is not just symbolic – it is how it gets translated in life. And as I have indicated the weight of symbols seems to be equitably sensitive to the bride and groom’s sense of equality.

I was once asked to address the gathering when the daughter of a friend was getting married to a White American. Sensing questions that may be in their more rationality oriented minds, in a light hearted strain, I mentioned in my short speech that they should not be misled by the groom leading the bride as indicative of the status of women among Sikhs for if they notice the groom is blinded by his ‘sehra‘ and is being led by the girl from behind.

I also had a very accomplished employee who supervised a sizeable group and who had to wait for a couple of years before her Catholic church would agree to let her be wedded in their church. The reason – the church had to explore the antecedents of her prior divorced fiancé and the couple wanted a Catholic wedding.

So do go and exercise your choice – after all it is your day and I would not deny your wanting to make the occasion unique. But do it where it does not leave other believers distressed that possibly a desecration has occurred in a place considered sacred by them. Gurdwara Rakab Ganj is not and possibly should be spared by us from becoming a place for us to exercise our free choice and promote equality. The problem is not lack of choice but a misplaced lack of sense of propriety and humane appreciation that any expression of civil choice could also cause unnecessary hurt to the sense of correctness and values of others. This caution is expected of all of us. Some may not care about it and proceed nonetheless to exercise their choice the way they want to. They can do it but rationalizing it as an expression of equality is short sighted. If you are interested in bringing about equality in the way weddings are performed it will need a massive reform of the entire process. Just try and spell it out – may be not only Sikhs but all others, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims et al can benefit by the socially revolutionary ideal being propounded.

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The question of ‘parkash‘ of SGGS in different settings may need to be more closely looked at. The purpose of parkash is facilitation of ritual prayer service as needed for the occasion – be it at home or in the Gurdwara or elsewhere. In more recent times confor’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’mance to ‘maryada’ [which really is an attempt to standardize ritual practices] has been emphasized and some times enforced through coercive measures. This also has been a point of contention with Pakistan Gurdwaras, deras and some of the Sikh sects. Such problems are not confined to Sikhs. All traditions have to contend with similar type of issues – important part is how to deal with such situations and how to relate to such groups. On Sikh participation in politics my views are veering round to the recognition that Sikh involvement in and with politics is important – the brand of their politics is more likely not critical and possibly irrelevant.

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If we go back to GLZ files we would possibly find reference to an earlier similar collective endeavor by our members to complete a sehj paath in 2007/2008. Most of communications after the initial one or two were between the group spread across continents. The names that come to mind are Giani Jarnail Singh Arshi [Malaysia], Charan Singh [Toronto] and a lady devotee from CA who used to sign off with Wahiguru and no name plus some others. We took commitments in sub groups like CA, East Coast, Malaysia-Australia and co-ordinated through email where one left off quoting the pankti and page number for the next to continue. The system worked very well and we were able to complete the sehj paath in a couple of weeks.

I am not sure if Sukhminder Kaur ji was part of the CA team at the time because no names were mentioned.

I am leaving aside the several questions that can well be raised about maryada, calling of such fragmented effort as collective and its efficacy in Guru’s darbar.

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Harjinder Singh ji has raised many issues regarding the format of the formalized text of ardas. It is likely that there will be understandable concern that what is laid down in the SRM should be accepted and not revisited.

Ardas has two clear purposes. It is an essential part of our rituals and therefore has a place in the way the worship is done. Since the purpose is different there are examples like in anand kaaraj and sukh aasan where in one case only the parents of the couple are asked to stand up and in the other an abbreviated version is often used.

Ardas is also the essence of connecting link between the devotee[s] and the Guru [God]. As a dynamic need, a standard ritual text constrains the devotee[s] in articulating their expression of love, their joy, their anguish, their sense of thankfulness.

A third purpose it has come to acquire is as a reminder of historical events and shrines et al. There can be good reasons for including these [especially in the context of Sikh struggles] but it should not make us believe that by doing so we are reinforcing Sikh spirit, Sikhi or our commitment to respect and defend our institutions.

Fortunately the SRM permits of the use of the formal text in an abbreviated manner. This allows for ardas remaining an effective way to supplicate and share mann ki birtha with the Guru or tailor it to the compelling collective prayer for seeking blessings in an endeavor that has wider impact. The praxis in a formalized worship however seems to have developed around adding a few sentences after the full text. This may in fact have had the effect of making the service more ritualistic.

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