DC-area Sikhs summoned to Akal Takhat for altered Amrit Sanchaar

By Anju Kaur | May 16, 2016
Letter from Akal Takhat summoning DC Sikhs for altering Amrit Sanchaar on April 15.

Letter from Akal Takhat summoning DC Sikhs for altering Amrit Sanchaar on April 15.

Reporting from Washington - The five takhat jathedaars today summoned five Washington-metro area Sikhs for violating the Sikh Rehit Maryaada by replacing three of the five Baanees of Amrit Sanchaar, which are attributed to the original ceremony by Guru Gobind Singh, in 1699, with other Baanees from Guru Granth Sahib.

The five must appear at the Akal Takhat on June 4, says the letter from the Akal Takhat, signed by all five takhat jathedaars who met on the issue today, May 16. 
The letter came a day after one of the five, Bhai Surinder Singh of the Sikh Gurdwara, DC, asked the sangat for forgiveness for taking part in the tainted Amrit Sanchaar as a Punj Piaaray. 
“I am human; I have made a mistake,” Surinder Singh said to the sangat in two separate statements during the Sunday morning divaan. “I have not done anything like this before, and I will never do anything like this again.”
The apology came a few days after twelve Washington-metro area gurdwaras signed a statement condemning the altered Amrit Sanchaar.
“We strongly condemn this serious transgression by these individuals,” the May 11 letter says. “No single individual or organization has the right to change the Amrit guidelines as set by the Sikh Rehit Maryada.”
The letter was also signed by Daljit Singh Sawhney, a member of the management of the Sikh Gurdwara, DC. The management was not aware of Surinder Singh’s activities, he told SFP.
The letter also asked the five to “submit to correcting themselves according to the Panthic traditions.” Only Surinder Singh has apologized. SFP contacted another one of the five for an interview.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Gurdeep Singh Ahluwalia of Virginia, before he hung up the phone.
The twelve gurdwaras formed a committee to educate and warn Sikhs not to be misled by the new ceremony, said Sawinder Singh, a member of the committee. “We also want them to come back to the Panth,” he told SFP.
The new Amrit Sanchaar was organized by Giani Kuldip Singh at his gurdwara, Sikh Sangat of Virginia, on April 15, Surinder Singh told SFP. All of the Punj Piaaray were aware that they were going to say different Baanees, he said.
“The three Baanees – Jaap Sahib, Ten Sawayyaas and Baynti Chaupai – were replaced because they are part of Dasam Granth, which is a controversy that has been going on for a long time,” he told SFP. “But this controversy can only be fixed by the Panth,” not individuals.
Amrit Sanchaar is a baptism-like ceremony created by Guru Gobind Singh, in 1699, in which a Sikh commits to follow the Guru’s path. As part of the ceremony, the Punj Piaaray recite all or part of five baanees: Japuji Sahib, Jaap Sahib, Ten Sawayyas (beginning with sarawag sud), Bainti Chaupai (from “hamri karo hath dai rachha” to “susht dokh te leho bachai”), and the first five and the last stanzas of Anand Sahib. Japuji Sahib and Anand Sahib are from Guru Granth Sahib.
“Talks going on of Dasam Granth have goine to the point where people either accept all of it or nothing at all,” said Sukhmandar Singh, an activist and professor of civil engineering at Santa Clara University, in California. “Now it has spilled into the Amrit Sanchaar ceremony.
"Amrit Sanchaar should be spared because it is established tradition, handed over for long time,” he said.
The guidelines for the ceremony are written in the Rehit Maryada, the Sikh Code of Conduct, which is considered the collective wisdom of learned people, he added. 
The Rehit Maryada does not mention Dasam Granth.