Chandigarh, Sept. 18: The Akal Takht, the highest temporal authority for Sikhs, has banned taking the Guru Granth Sahib into homes where liquor is served, consumed or stocked.
“There were many complaints pouring in from the community to direct Sikhs to ensure that their homes are free from liquor, drug and tobacco consumption. These are against what the religion preaches,” Takht jathedar (priest) Gurbachan Singh told The Telegraph.
The last social edict from the Akal Takht came 25 years ago when it directed Sikhs to hold weddings in gurdwaras and not in hotels or in homes where liquor was served. That directive was accepted by the community and Sikh weddings in the country are now held only in gurdwaras.
However, the ban on installing the holy book in homes where liquor is served might be tougher to enforce. Priests will not visit homes for kirtans or any religious ceremonies unless they are assured that liquor is not consumed there, and Sikhs who disobey the edict have been warned of ostracisation. It is not clear though how the Takht authorities expect to find out that an individual is flouting the ban.
“How can you recite the holy book when you know you have liquor bottles lying nearby in the house? The Sikh religion prohibits the consumption of all kinds of intoxicants,” Gurbachan Singh said. Having bars in homes where the holy book was installed was tantamount to disrespect of the Guru Granth Sahib, he added.
Consumption of all intoxicants is banned in Sikhism. In spite of that, consumption of liquor and drugs like poppy husk in Punjab is high. The state ranks third in the country in liquor consumption, behind Kerala and Maharashtra.
Last year, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had created a stir when he was quoted as saying that 70 per cent youths in the state were addicted to drugs. He was citing a 2009 study conducted by a former professor of Amritsar's Guru Nanak Dev University, Ranvinder Singh Sandhu, that said seven out of every 10 addicts in the state were youths. That report had been submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court by the state government in a case.
The ban ordered yesterday follows complaints from devout Sikhs for the last several years against installing the Guru Granth Sahib in homes where liquor or halal meat are consumed.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the apex body entrusted with the upkeep of gurdwaras, has hailed the Akal Takht’s directive.
“There are reports that drug consumption in Punjab is growing to the detriment of the people residing in the state. A massive movement is needed to curb the menace. And what better way than the most respected institution in Sikhism initiating steps to curb drug consumption. We welcome the initiative. Bars and the holy book cannot co-exist,” an SGPC spokesperson said.