The Sikh calendar commenced in 1469 on the advent of Guru Nanak Sahib, founder of Sikhi, Nanak the Shah (Sovereign).
Nanakshahi calendar begins with the month of Chet on March 14. It is springtime. Everyone is enjoying, celebrating with someone, except the lover-being who shrivels in pangs of separation because the Beloved-Divine hasn’t come home.
In Guru Granth Sahib, human being as the votary is depicted in the image of a woman who is restless to meet her lover; the romance of nature makes her very tense.
Guru Nanak Sahib in Rag Tukhari in folk musical style reveals ‘Twelve Months’ – a zenith of sensitive lyrical and poetic excellence.
the bumblebees delight,
Barren woods bloom,
may my Beloved return home.
If the Beloved doesn’t come,
how can the lover be happy?
Her body trembles with pangs of separation.
The Koel sings happily on the mango tree;
how can I bear the pain in body?
The bumblebee hovers around the blossom boughs.
Mother, how can I live in this deathly state?
Nanak: In Chet joy comes naturally
if the lover finds the All-Pervasive Beloved in her house.
A Sikh without the Beloved dies.
Sikhs in both Des (motherland) and Pardes (foreign lands) are not in pangs of separation.
Love-less are leader-less in the authentic sense; human beings are the only ones isolated without the Beloved. Everything in nature is blooming, but the lover is withering without the Beloved. Are Sikhs withering for they are not the lovers of the Guru?
It seems the Panjab without the Beloved is withering as well. In otherwise Fun-jabi (pun fully intended) joyous culture, Panjabis are not able to participate in the reigning beauty of the spring. Panjab’s farmers, women, and Mulivasis’ are literally bleeding red while the chieftains are electorally back as elite rulers.
India just celebrated Holi by mandating the current Modi administration to “de-secularize” everything after “de-monetization.” Even Sikhs-at-large are still not interested in knowing how Guru Arjan Sahib plays Holi: “My Holi is to serve Truth-Exemplar. I am colored with deep crimson red” (holi kini sant sev / rangu laga ati lal dev).
Though Biharis and Panjabis are commemorating 350 years of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib’s Prakash Purab, they are not fully aware of the Guru’s spring which transformed Holi to Hola Mohalla at Anandpur Sahib.
Guru Granth Sahib in Rag Basant reveals and asks us to pause and reflect: “This mind isn't touched by the news of spring; this mind is burnt by other-duality” (isu man kau basant ki lagai na soi / ihu manu jalaia dujai doi).
The one who knows how to express and witnessed the Tenth Sovereign’s Holi is ‘Goya’ and he records:
Lips, like closed buds, bloomed beautifully.
Rose, Amber, Musk, and Red Abir
rained like showers from all directions.
Wonderful! Water gun filled with saffron color
turned the colorless, full of color and fragrance.
When ‘Auspicious Hands’ scattered gulal (red powder),
face of the earth and the sky turned red.
Both worlds turned colorful because of Your Grace,
when my Sovereign’s neck donned colorful attire.
Whosoever had a glimpse of the Auspicious,
attained the life’s desires fully.
Adore the dust on the fellowship’s path,
O Goya, this is my heart’s only wish.
The Guru’s spring colors everything deep red! And the love-colored one’s rabab and khanda are musically and justly colored with love too. The lovers touch and strike them with grace for they are the gift from the Beloved. Devoid of love, one calls them instrument or weapon, and uses them, instead of embracing them in harmony.
In separation, unbeknowingly, we become all the more aware of the togetherness. If we can spend Chet month to reconnect, we will be fully prepared to enter the next month of Vaisakh:
branches are adorning themselves.
Lover watches at the door,
All-Pervasive! Be gracious and enter!
Come home, Beloved,
take me across the impassable ocean;
without You I am not worth half a penny.
If I were to become pleasing to You,
who could appraise my worth?
See, show me, Darling!
I’ll know You are not far,
I’ll acknowledge You are within;
I’ll recognize the Mansion of All-Pervasive.
Nanak: In Vaisakh the Beloved is discovered
when consciousness has Wisdom and mind has faith.
For Guru Arjan Sahib, “Today, it is spring in my house. I sing Divine Glory of You, Infinite!” (aju hamarai grihi basant / gun gae prabh tumh beant). Imagine the Fifth Sovereign gracing us with Basant-ki-Chaunki in majestic Dhrupad style of singing accompanied by Saranda and Pakhavaj!
The Fifth Sovereign’s Rag Majh ‘Twelve Months’ (Guru Granth Sahib, 133) highlights what the Guru springs forth: “In Chet, remember the Earth-Force to greatly rejoice” (chet govindu aradhiai hovai anandu ghana). The end of the second month is such that “Vaisakh becomes delightful when one submits to the Truth-Exemplar to discover All-Pervasive” (vaisakhu suhava tam lagai ja santu bhetai hari soi).
The world without the Beloved is filled with filth.
Spring is about house-cleaning.
When something becomes habitual, that’s natural – that’s our Chet!
When someone is ready to commit, that’s devotion – that’s our Vaisakh!
May the Nanakshahi 549 commence to reconnect us as lovers!
Harinder Singh is an educator, thinker and activist who tweets @1Force.