by Sarah Rosen
There are approximately 4,200 religions in the world, and an infinite number of world views. Sikhism is one of the many religions which I had known close to nothing about. The only thing I did know was that when I saw someone wearing a turban, they were likely Sikh. About a month ago the staff of the Interfaith Center for Worldview Engagement had the privilege to attend the 3rd Anniversary of the Sikh Gurudwara in Jacksonville.
We were told to cover our heads when we arrive, leave our shoes at the door, avoid pointing our feet at the altar and that we would be separated by gender – men on the left, women on the right. After arriving we were seated at the very front of the women’s section on the floor. Equality of mankind is a fundamental value in Sikhism, thus all people irrespective of their status sit together on the floor during the service. The room lit up with vibrant colors from the beautiful clothing the Gurudwara members wore. The focus of the Gurudwara centered on a raised platform under a canopy. Within this platform held the Sikh Sacred Sculpture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the living Guru of Sikhs. Behind it, a Sikh volunteer waved a handle with what appeared to be animal hair coming out of it. The President of the Sikh Society of Northeast Florida later explained to us that the volunteer was using a “Chaur Sahib.” It is called to wave over the platform to clean the air for the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The service was unique from any other I had attended in the past. Among the prayer for peace, tossing fresh flower petals at the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the rhythmic hymns I found a sense of peace. The service was focused on equality and universal love and appreciation for all people from every walk of life. During the service one of the humble devotees discussed the purpose of the turban, explaining it represents complete commitment to Sikhism and when you choose to wear a turban, you choose fearlessly to stand out from six billion people.
After the service concluded the entire Gurudwara joined on the floor of the hallway to be served “Guru Ka Langar”, the blessed vegetarian lunch which is another symbol of equality. Being a vegetarian myself I was in heaven. I ate a colorful plate of lentils, beans, vegetables, and amazing naan bread, with a big bowl of rice pudding for desert. With my belly full, and my heart fuller I was sad to leave the Gurudwara but am so grateful for the experience, and am proud to say I have a deeper understanding of the Sikh religion.
Sarah Rosen is a senior at UNF. She has enjoyed participating in events at the Interfaith Center for Worldview Engagement since her freshman year and is excited to be a part of the staff this year. She is studying a dual major in International Relations and Spanish with a minor in Political Science. She plans to continue to grow her skills that she has learned at the Interfaith Center when graduating this spring in hopes to create a more inclusive environment for all people.