NEW YORK (TIP): New York hotel magnate Sant Singh Chatwal, May 27, pledged to donate one million dollar to help set up a five million dollar project for a Sikh Center for International Studies in Rakab Ganj Gurdwara, New Delhi.
On the sidelines of a press conference in New York, during which he formally launched the project, Chatwal said he will give the money for the center that is expected to be completed in less than two years and will be built on two-acres of land owned by the Gurdwara.
“This is a good cause,” Chatwal said. The press conference was attended among others by Manjit Singh, president of DSGMC, M.S. Sirsa, its general secretary and Paramjit Singh Rana, chairman of DSGMC Dharam Prachar Committee.
The center to be built as part of what organizers described as Mool Project, is expected to be completed in less than two years and will be built on two-acres of land owned by the Gurdwara. Mool variously means origin, essence, root and care in Punjabi language. It basically describes who Sikhs are and how they historically and religiously emerged in India.
The project will have a digital library having original texts from the Guru Granth Sahib and important historical texts and will provide research facilities for people wanting to learn about Sikhism and its history. An auditorium, which will be part of the facility, will have the latest state-of-the-art seats, and screens like in a planetarium. It will use technology like Holography and Laser to create near-realistic experience of history for the audience.
“I am very grateful to Manjit Singh, president of DSGMC who is here today. When I was in India he discussed the unique project of Guru Granth Sahib and I requested him to launch the project in New York so it has better visibility and people in the US and Canada, where there are a large number of Sikhs and elsewhere like in Australia come to know of this unique project through the media,” Chatwal who has largely backed the project, said.
This is the first time in Sikh history that such a huge and modern facility for Sikh studies has been conceived for the Sikh Diaspora. For the benefit of Sikhs living outside India, or living away from New Delhi, all programs at the planned center will be available through internet. The digital library will be accessible to all those interested in Sikh history, culture and religion.
“People may think that it is only for the Sikhs, but actually there are more Gurbanis of Hindus and Muslims and others as well. So, I think this center is going to be for all communities. It is going to be a unique learning experience for all,” Chatwal said.
A sample video of how the auditorium may look like when completed and how the history would be narrated audio-visually to the audience, was played at the press conference much to the delight of the largely Sikh media representatives as well as a five-member delegation from the DSGMC present at the two-hour long conference.
People chanted Sat Sri Akal as the five-minute video showing the Sikh Gurus in historical environment was played.
Manjit Singh explained the reason for the project. “Young Sikhs have very little understanding about their religion. A majority of them believe that by simply adopting the Sikh identity as embodied by the 5Ks of the Khalsa makes them a true Sikh. The problem is that they have no knowledge of the core values behind the identities that Sikhism represents and Sikhs are always proud of. These include service for the poor and the deprived, caring and sharing, gender equality and even environmental protection. They must be made aware of all these”
Bobby Bedi, creative had of the project, said during a presentation that one of the objectives of the project “is to engage young Sikhs all over the world and make them understand and be proud of the core values of Sikhism and the contemporary relevance of these values in their lives.”
Sikhs have been a significant and influential community both in India and in many parts of the world. While in India people understand and recognize this, in many countries Sikhs are confused with Muslims, examples of which were galore in the United States when Sikhs were attacked post-9/11 confusing them with followers of Osama-bin Laden because of their turbans.
Few have understanding about the role Sikhism played in India as a major reformist religion or the fact that Sikhism was much ahead of many other major religions in terms of dealing with contemporary and relevant issues.
Referring to how Sikhs must care for people in distress, a major tenet of Sikhism, Manjit Singh gave a recent example. “When the recent earthquake happened in Nepal, we were one of the first ones to reach there, trying to provide relief to the people. We planned to take rotis and cooked vegetable, but when we learnt that Nepalese people, a majority of them Hindus, eat rice, and not rotis, we made alternative arrangements for them. I do not want to mention this, but even the Nepalese envoy in New Delhi called us to express his gratitude for the help. What I mean to stress here is that young Sikhs should learn and imbibe the true values of Sikhism,” he said.
Chatwal, who was present along with his wife, throughout the press conference and was the first one to address it, said that the second and third generation Sikhs do not understand the true tradition of Sikhs. “Even, I do not know everything about Sikh tradition and history,” he said in a lighter vein.
“This project is very important for all of us. Please remember, this is not a Chatwal project, but by the Sikh Sangat and the project is supported by people from around the world. We want everybody to contribute, even if just ten dollars, for the project for this prestigious and important mission and thus register their wholehearted support and involvement for this mission. Delhi Gurdwara presidents will come and go, but this is something which is going to be a permanent and enduring feature in the annals of Sikh history.”