Monsoon of Memories: The Aroma of Ghee… and Devotion
I rubbed my hands and deeply inhaled the warm aroma of ghee, roasted wheat, and dollops of sugar. I’d just had kada prashad at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in New Delhi, India, where my grandma had taken all of us—my cousin brothers and sisters—to celebrate Gurupurab.
[Left] Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in New Delhi lit up for Gurupurab.
As we sat down, she told us the story of this day that celebrates the birth of Guru Nanak Dev, the first Sikh Guru, and is one of the most prominent festivals for Sikhs. “This is the best birthday,” I told her, giddy with delight at the festive celebrations in the Gurudwara.
To date, when I think of Gurupurab, all I have to do is close my eyes and I get transported to the time when my little hands would be filled up with the prashad, and yet I’d always want more. Of course, the volunteers serving would never say no to a second offering.
For some reason, everything about the day spelt happiness. We woke up early in the morning, showered, got into our nice clothes, and walked to the Gurudwara. The sun was yet to rise, and one could hear the birds chirping. On our way, grandma hummed Dhan Guru, the famous hymn, and told us more about Gurbani Shabad Kirtan, the hymns in Gurbani, and the meanings and the stories behind each. In rapt attention, we absorbed it all and became excited to reach the Darbar Hall, the prayer room in the Gurudwara.
We removed our shoes, cleaned our feet by walking in a shallow stream of water at the entrance of the gurudwara, and then got into a fun squabble about selecting the shiniest, most festive, and prettiest
head scarf to cover our heads. I loved the ones that were in fuchsia and turquoise with golden zari as borders. Our cousin brothers used their handkerchiefs to cover their heads.
Just one foot inside the hall, and it felt like we were transported to another land. The faint sound of prayers merged with the calmness and quietness of the place. We sat quietly for a while and listened to the recital. Even the youngest of us did not get impatient or make any kind of noise. I did not understand the meaning of everything that was being read out of the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred text of the Sikh community and the embodiment of the Guru, but I simply loved listening to the soothing voice of the Granthi, the appointed reader at the Gurudwara, and instantly experienced a sense of tranquility.
After a while, we all walked to the Manji Sahib, the throne where the Guru Granth Sahib was laid out under a canopy. We walked around the space and the Granthi blessed us and offered us the prashad.
Once outside the hall, we spent time sitting by the water body and looking at the lovely ducks there. By then, the sun was up and we were excited to have the best meal of our life—the langar, the food cooked in the Gurudwara. We would always ask grandma how everyone was offered such lovely food for free. She told us that we could help prepare and serve it too. She said we could also help by washing a few glasses or picking some bowls to serve some devotees, sweeping the floor, or picking up any other task that needed help.
It was in those visits that I picked up the meaning of devotion, dedication, and service. It was there when the kind people offered us kada prashad or langar and we learned to share with a smile.
Purva Grover is an author, journalist, poet, playwright, and stage director. A postgraduate in mass communication and literature, she is the founder-editor of The Indian Trumpet, a digital magazine for Indian expats in the UAE. She can be reached at email@example.com. To comment on this article, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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