2019 is the 550th birth year of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, that is indeed, the youngest religion in the world! Some of the most iconic symbols of Sikhism are Sikh men with their colorful turbans, gurudwaras which welcome everyone regardless of their religion, and langar, the simple community meal that all visitors to a gurudwara can share.
As it turns out, some lovely children’s books capture various aspects of Sikhism’s rich culture and offer both adults and children a sneak peek at some best loved symbols of Sikhism.
Have you ever wondered how Sikh men tie those beautiful turbans? Or the fact that colloquially, the turban is referred to as a pug, or that fifty is not a number when tying a pug?
Natasha Sharma, one of India’s best known children’s authors, weaves a brilliant story in The Art of Tying a Pug, where a young Sikh boy learns to wear the pug but the family’s pet pug gets progressively anxious because he thinks the family is referring to him when they discuss ‘tying a pug’. Sharma, a sardarni who grew up in Amritsar in Punjab, hoped the book would be a small step in fostering understanding, open-mindedness and respect about the Sikh culture.
“The Art of Tying a Pug” is a book that is extremely dear to my heart for many reasons.
Helping my father with his morning pooni before he could fasten his turban was a regular feature. I’d help him match his fifty to the turban and scout around for the salai that he invariably misplaced. In case you’re wondering what all this means… pooni, fifty, salai … “right there was my inspiration for the book!” Sharma says.
Artika Aurora Bakshi’s My Little Sikh Handbook focuses on Ardas, the special prayer that Sikhs recite before and/or after any special occasion.
The interactive book, with plenty of fun exercises, explains what the Ardas is comprised of and why it is important to Sikhs. It also explains why the sacred Guru Granth Sahib became the eternal guru for the Sikhs after the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh passed on.
For Bakshi, Ardas was a shared moment of bonding with her family when she was growing up – it was also a time to make requests to God for a book or a good exam result. And even if you know nothing of Sikhs or their culture, Bakshi’s book has a delicious treat — the recipe for the karah parshad that all gurudwaras serve and that everyone loves, because, as Bakshi says in the book “Karah parshad is always tasty because it’s blessed by Waheguru. We also put in a lot of love when we make it.”
“I remember laughing sometimes, when we were seated in our prayer room and the verses from the Guru Granth Sahib Ji were being recited, and our mother was trying to hush us up. Life turns a full circle and I find myself doing the same with my boys… if on some occasions, there was laughter while praying, then it was a blessing,” Bakshi said.
MY LITTLE SIKH HANDBOOK. By Artika Aurora Bakshi. 2018. £14.53. Paperback