Three copies of the Guru Granth Sahib arrived in the Indian capital along with Afghan Sikhs. Despite the emergency situation, a special religious ritual was followed to get them out. Each book of sacred hymns is a "living guru". Concern is growing for Afghanistan’s cultural and religious heritage now in the hands of those who destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan.
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In addition to people, three sacred books of great spiritual value were evacuated from Afghanistan following a specific ritual.
Amid the scenes of people fleeing Afghanistan after its fall to the Taliban, one stands out, that of three Indian Sikhs walking barefoot on the runway of Kabul airport with three suitcases on their heads containing as many copies of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holiest Sikh religious scripture.
The precious books flew out yesterday on an Indian Air Force plane along with Afghan Hindus and Sikhs, landing in New Delhi, solemnly welcomed by a government minister.
The Guru Granth Sahib is a collection of hymns written by ten great Sikh masters; some 1,430 pages divided into 31 ragas. According to Sikh belief, each copy (saroop) of the holy book is a living guru.
For this reason, they are venerated in temples and put away in special containers in the evening. When they are moved from one place to another, a certain ritual must be followed: The scripture must be carried on the head and the person carrying it must be barefoot.
Declared the living Guru of the Sikhs in 1708, the Guru Granth Sahib was usually copied by hand, until printing was introduced under British colonial rule.
Old and worn copies must be taken to the Goindwal Sahib, one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Punjab, where they are cremated. For this reason, particular attention was paid to this aspect in the evacuation of the Afghan Sikhs.
Afghanistan was once home to hundreds of thousands of Sikhs, but their community was decimated by the Afghan wars. Only a few hundred are thought to remain in the country.
Until recently the latter had 12 copies of the Guru Granth Sahib, six of which were transferred to India in recent weeks, three arrived yesterday and the other three should arrive in an upcoming humanitarian flight.
The fate of Sikh sacred texts reflects Afghanistan’s latest tragedy, raising concerns about the country’s cultural and religious heritage, now in the hands of the Taliban.
The last time they were in power, the Taliban destroyed the gigantic statues of the Buddha in Bamiyan, on 12 March 2001.