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This weekend on June 19th, Sikhs in New Westminster joined millions of others around the world in celebrating the life and teachings of their fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Guru Arjan Dev Ji compiled the first version of the holy Sikh scripture - the Guru Granth Sahib - which preaches love, acceptance and equality of all human kind regardless of religion, sexual orientation, caste, colour, creed and socioeconomic status.
Adding to the universal message of peace, Guru Arjan Dev Ji consciously included in the new Sikh scripture, the writings of saints from different social, economic and religious orientations. The holy Sikh Scripture was installed in the Golden temple in Amritsar which is considered the holiest shrine of the Sikhs. Guru Arjan Dev Ji supervised the construction of the temple himself. The temple was built with four doors signifying that people from all walks of life may freely visit the temple without restriction. The glimmering temple is also the lowest point in the city of Amritsar signifying humility. Attached to the temple is a community kitchen where tens of thousands of people from diverse backgrounds come together and share meals any time of day on a daily basis.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji, was fast becoming popular and thousands of people from all over South Asia came to listen to his universal sermons of equality and respect for all. His ever growing popularity didn’t sit well with the emperor of India at the time.
The emperor sent orders and had the Guru arrested. He made it clear that he was not happy with the universal sermons of the Guru. He requested that the Guru rid the new Sikh scripture of the writings of saints from diverse religious, socioeconomic and class backgrounds. The Emperor threatened Guru Arjan Dev Ji with death by torture if he did not concede to the demand. Guru Arjan Dev Ji chose not to give up his belief of free speech and equality of all faiths. Like a true champion of human rights he preferred to sacrifice his life but not his principles.
The Guru was made to sit on a burning hot sheet while boiling hot sand was poured over his body. Despite the continued torture, the Guru did not waver and stayed resolute and committed to his principles. After several days of continued physical torment Guru Arjan Dev Ji’ s physical body departed from earth.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji taught us that we must exhaust all possible means of peaceful protest in order to stop tyranny and injustice. He taught us that the principles of equality, justice and human rights should be more precious to us than our own lives. In the annals of the history of non violent and peaceful protests there are not many sacrifices like that of Guru Arjan Dev Ji.