Photo Essay – Punjab, India
Sikh Faces and Places
By CommNet Media and Pioneers-USA
Wheat fields turning from green to gold stretch as far as the eye can see. Bright azaleas bloom along the roadsides. A man wearing a turban bounces to the rhythm of his tractor as it rumbles down the road. A few miles away, car and scooter horns blare. Pedestrians, cows, rickshaws, cars and trucks vie to take their place in the traffic of the city. Shopkeepers call passersby to come look at their wares. Poor families living in brick huts build fires out in the open while wealthy neighbors enjoy a five-course meal prepared by their cook. This is North India’s Punjab, one of India’s wealthiest regions.
Homeland of the Sikhs
Punjab Province is the homeland of the Sikhs, one of the country’s most recognizable and self-confident minorities. Sikhs have a distinct culture and religion and can be recognized by their beards and turbans. Sikhism was founded about 500 years ago by Guru Nanak, a teacher who advocated for belief in one God and preached against the Hindu caste system. From its beginnings, Sikhism emphasized the equality of all people.
The typical Sikh believes all paths lead to God. They say: you be a good Christian, and I’ll be a good Sikh. Most seem pretty content with their way of life and see little need for something more. Very few Sikhs have responded to the gospel.
Today, Sikhs number around 25 million—the fifth largest religion in the world. Some 700,000 Sikhs live in the United States. But the largest Sikh population is still in India. Let’s take a look.
A Sikh man takes a moment to pray by the sacred waters in his local gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship. Sikh religious services include singing hymns, reciting scripture from a holy book and prayer. After a service, everyone heads to the langar, or community kitchen, for a meal. There people sit and eat side by side, regardless of religion, gender, caste or social standing.
The Sikh faith places importance on the Kesh (hair). According to the Guru’s instructions, Sikhs cannot cut their hair. The turban covers and contains their long, uncut hair.
Cautious yet gracious, this matriarch permitted a single photo at her rural home. Principles of Sikhism state that women have the same souls as men and possess an equal right to cultivate their spirituality.
To a Western eye, his piercing gaze seems incongruous to his wardrobe color choices. Fascinating how color is perceived differently throughout the world.
Not all Sikhs look alike, but they do have something of a uniform, proudly displaying signs of their faith including a sword (kirpan), comb (kanga) and silver bracelet (kara), along with their uncut hair (kesh), which men and boys cover with a tidy turban.
Our photographer met this fellow in a market space. He had a genuine smile, friendly demeanor and welcoming handshake. They shared tea and chatted in broken language. “Sometimes you meet someone and wish you could really know them more. This is one of those cases for me.”
A Sikh couple travels through the marketplace on a motorbike.
Scenes Around Punjab
From agriculture to construction, migrant workers are found on the outskirts of every major city.
Notice the elation in this young girl’s face as she and her brother swing at a rock garden in North India.
All around this rock garden, recycled materials formed hundreds of figurines like these.
Hindu pilgrims may walk significant distances to sites they consider holy during special feasts and holidays—of which India has many! This fellow was in need of a rest at the train station.
The Indian subcontinent has some of the deadliest earthquakes globally. Perhaps this is the reason for above-ground utilities.
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