Multitude of forms, yet no form

Multitude of forms, yet no form

Multitude of forms, yet no form.

 

This simple philosophy holds the key to all inclusiveness. It has the power to make one focus on living a value based lifestyle, moving away from the un-thoughtful practice of anchoring on physical phenomena as the gateway to self-realization.

 

It was in the year 1505 AD, Nanak (first Sikh Guru) visited Jagannath Temple in Orissa state of India. The priest barred his entry as he was accompanied by Bhai Mardana, a Muslim musician friend.

 

Later in the evening, all by himself, Nanak visited the temple at the time of Aarti, a ritual prayer making offerings to the idol. Nanak just stood in silence. In his silence was the message that he refused to be a part of this myopic ritual.

 

Later that evening he sang a composition in Raag Dhanashree, which is now written on page 663 of Adi Granth (spiritual scripture of the Sikhs). In it he reminded mankind that the Almighty has no form, yet has all forms and therefore can’t be captured in the imagination of idols and symbols. In recognizing His presence in every firmament of His reflected creation, lies the true essence of Aarti.

 

In the message of this all inclusive philosophy one would start respecting every aspect of creation. Creation then becomes a mere reflection of the formless Almighty.

 

But man has a big ego and fails to accept the simplicity of this beautiful message. Time and again, he continues to anchor on symbols and forms to direct his prayers.

 

Being a photographer, my eyes are always on the lookout for uniqueness in the surrounding. During a drive from Kargil to Zanskar, as we were appreciating the beauty of the mountains, there were moments when we spotted patterns and symbols that could easily create the next mad rush to build religious site of pilgrimages!

 

In the summer heat, as snow was melting on the mountain landscapes of Suru valley, on two places it had created the symbol “OM”. Clearly this was just a transitionary phenomenon, captured by our awareness and imagination, else for the novice, it would just be seen as snow on the mountain.

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  Photo :  “Om” formed by snow.

 

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Photo :  “Om” formed by melted snow. See bottom right of photo.

 

Close to Zanskar, the pattern on the snow capped peak had created a face, which could be easily imagined as a smiling God.

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 Photo :  Smiling face formation on snow.

 

Such physical phenomena exist in every nook and corner of the world, just waiting for someone’s imagination to convert it into the next place of worship!

 

Elsewhere, as I stood beside the road on way to Zoji La pass, overlooking the Baltal valley (Kashmir), it saddened to see the destruction being caused to the fine balance of nature. Baltal is a night stop where thousands of religious seekers trek every year on way to Amarnath cave. At the cave, freezing water droplets falling from the roof, create an ice Stalagmite, which Seekers perceive as Shiva Linga (Lord Shiva’s penis) and throng there to worship it.

 

This cave is believed to have been discovered in the 15th century by a shepherd and today it’s importance has grown so much that every year in the 45 day period during July-August, when the cave is accessible, it receives over 400,000 pilgrims. Affluence has also bought about new generation of business opportunity seekers. Every 5-10 minutes, a private helicopter passes through the valley of Baltal, ferrying pilgrims to Amarnath caves.

 

A birds eye view of thousands of campers tented in Baltal valley and the ferrying helicopters, gives the sense of danger being imposed on this fragile eco-system.

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 Photo :  Thousands of pilgrims in temporary camps at Baltal.

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 Photo :  At Baltal, helicopters ferrying pilgrims to Amarnath caves.

 

Saddened, I was reminded of Nanak’s verses that he sang at Jagannath Puri, which is given at the end of this page.

 

In ending, let me leave my observations about the followers of Nanak, my own Sikh community, and how they have started entrenching themselves into the same trap of anchoring in physical phenomena as justification to create more and more places of worship.

 

I have always wondered why places like Pathar Sahib (a place in Ladakh, where lies a rock, believed to have Nanak’s back impression), Panja Sahib (a place in Pakistan, where lies a rock, believed to have Nanak’s hand impression) or Hemkunt Sahib (a place where the 10th Nanak is believed to have worshipped in his previous life as it befits an imaginative poetic description from a writing penned by the Guru) need physical symbols, which are mere natural phenomena, to justify their existence.

 

Nanak’s message has to be felt and understood. It needs no rocks or mountains to justify its essence. When will we realize the simplicity of his writings?

 

Verse in Gurmukhi with transliteration & translation (Page 663 of Adi Granth)


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22 Comments

  1. Geetali Tare

    Wonderful photography, as always, and learned something new from the accompanying text. _/\_

  2. adarsh goindi

    Very nice pictures with a true concern for our eco system which is being burdened to no limits.We surely need to conserve this natural heritage…..would like to add here..” Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore has actually translated Guru Nanak Dev ji’s Arti in Bengali n considers it as an International Anthem for the universe as this is the wonderful Arti which is being hummed by Nature before the invisible alter of God, the creator of this universe”.

  3. Bijaaya Jena

    Sharing Nanak’s prayer.Thanks for telling me that he went to Jaganath Temple in 1505 and saw the banning of people of other religion.

  4. Jasmeet Kaur

    Nailed the explanation!

  5. Ashmeet Sidhu

    Amardeep is so true in his observations.

  6. Beautiful … _/\_ … But to me the Snowcapped Mountain smiling god looks like a whitened Jabba the Hut … 😀 … Bless You Old Chap …

  7. Ruchika Singh

    Wow beautiful as always. Keep learning something new from you. Love it.

  8. Hammad Nasir

    wonderful photography. look forward to see and read more.
    stay well.

  9. Gurpreet Singh Anand

    Ik war phir jhanjod rakheya ….very nice and eloquent on your feelings and choice of words ..they compliment your great pictures equally well ..keep going ..

  10. DESH PAL ALAGH

    BEST ONE EXPLAINATION OF WORDING OF SHREE BABA NANAK DEV JI, WE REQUEST TO AMAR TAG MORE ON IT , OUR NEW YOUNGERS GET KNOWLEDGE FOR ALL .
    BABA NANAK JI VISITED CHINA ALSO .

  11. Mohindra Chadha

    Excellent photographs accompanied with words of Nanak full of profound wisdom.You are one of the Blessed Ones!!

  12. Upinder Kaur

    Awesome photography and nice thought provoking words. Great job!

  13. Karamjeet Singh

    Amardeep you have the same wavelength of looking at the world as Baba Nanak saw.Baba Nanak’s canvas was huge,he did not belittle the size of God into icons or idols.The essence of Guru’s thought was to embolden mankind to accept higher feelings,but the human kind falls back to low levels drawn from self ego,avrice,baser instincts.It is not Baba Nanak alone, the same feelings were expressed by Bhagat Kabir,Bhagat Ravi Das,Ramanand,Farid and countless Saints,yet humans have tendency to fall back.
    Your Photos of the nature and inferences drawn from it are indeed laudable.Keep Going…

  14. Jaideep Sahney

    Amardeep, I read this in the morning and it made my day! The beautiful pictures remind us of the amazing world we live in. Thanks to your pictures and your writings, I get a glimpse of the beautiful, calm and serene part of the world. Look forward to hearing more from you.

  15. Parminder Kaur

    Beautiful photography and the blog accompanying it!

  16. Satpal Singh Gandhi

    I once read somewhere that, balraj sahni (ACTOR) ONCEASKED RABINDRA NAAT TAGORE TO WRITE A UNIVERSAL ANTHEM, TAGORE REPLIED THAT IT HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN BY NANAk. He was refering to the arti that nanak recited at jagannath puri.

  17. Amritprakash Singh

    I feel that Dhan Guru Nanak Dev ji spoke through you.

  18. Profound Wisdom. Keep the gyaan and photographs coming. Great stuff as always. Cheers.

  19. Surupa Chatterjee

    What a beautiful post and how intensely it resonates with what I feel personally… Can never thank you enough–there is so much of the universe in your thoughts, writings and photographic eyes….

  20. kishore kumar Biswas

    ” Simplicity ” perhaps lost for ever . from our conception , from our urban life style . The modern civilization cares a straw for the nature . It is a civilization that believes in ” heaps ” adores ” ornaments ” loves ” pomp .It cannot understand subtle feelings unless it expressed with gross images . Thus it become a civilization of ” goods ” a life burdened with ” furniture ” . This has turned machine devoid of soul. Now its religions are only blind and senseless practice of ” rituals ” which gone away far from the simple and noble teaching of the religions. Truth that are in the soul of the religions are dead for us.We now play with dolls of our own ‘ ego ‘. Our religious practice is far from divinity.It does no more clean our soul . we have lost our paradise.
    Here Amardeep with pictorial explanation of his true feelings tried to make us aware of our misfortune. He gives a hint how we can again return to the right path. Hope some soul will listen to his cry.

  21. Manjit Kour

    Just started following your website after Naam Ras. You write beautifully and from the heart. Your photography speaks volumes. Thank you. Have not seen you for a long while at the Sikh Centre.

  22. Upinder Kaur

    “Nanak’s message has to be felt and understood. It needs no rocks or mountains to justify its essence. When will we realize the simplicity of his writings?”
    Absolutely true!

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