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Why Does Every Gurdwara Have a Nishaan Sahib?
Sikhing Answers - XIX




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Why does every gurdwara in the world have a Nishaan Sahib - the Sikh Nation's Standard - flying outside it?

What is the purpose?

What does it mean and signify?

Posted on April 10, 2012

Closing Date: April 17, 2012


Conversation about this article

1: Mandeep Dhillon (Gurgaon, India), April 10, 2012, 8:52 AM.

It is our flag which can be seen either near the entrance or on the top of every Gurdwara. Great respect is shown to the flag as it is a symbol of all that the Sikhs believe. It also is a welcome banner for visitors. The flagpole is covered in orange material which is changed at special occasions and every year in April at the festival of Vaisakhi.

2: Gurvinder Kaur Arora (India), April 10, 2012, 9:01 AM.

In my view, at a time when we had no navigation devices, our great Guru started this tradition so that it was easier for us to search for and spot a gurdwara from a distance. Hence we call it a nishaan - and therefore, in respect, Nishaan Sahib.

3: Dr. Manmohan Singh (India), April 10, 2012, 9:42 AM.

It is for any one to spot the gurdwara where one can listen to gurbani, have langar and get rest for the night, if required.

4: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, U.S.A..), April 10, 2012, 9:51 AM.

It is pursuant to the principle of Miri and Piri, which makes every Sikh a sant - sipahi. Sikhi has its roots in the philosophy of love, non-violence and truth. Yet the Gurus, through their experience, saw clearly that an exception had to be made in the larger interest of humanity to counter-act the unjust practices of the rulers.

5: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), April 10, 2012, 10:34 AM.

Because Sikhs are a sovereign nation whose communities center around the gurdwaras and the Nishaan Sahib reminds us of, and proclaims to the rest of the world, this fact.

6: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), April 10, 2012, 12:58 PM.

The Khalsa's saffron triangular insignia - the Nishan Sahib, the Sikh Royal Standard - remains unfurled at all times in every gurdwara. No last post is sounded ever. It beckons all to the Guru's house and also provides a haven for the needy, together with ever-flowing langar which is open to all without distinction of colour, caste or creed. In the battle field, the Nishaan Sahib strikes terror in the hearts of the enemy. Once the Nishan Sahib bearer Bhai Alam Singh fell into the hands of Mughal enemy forces and was ordered to abandon the flag or else his hands would be cut off. Bhai ji replied that he would then hold the flag up with his feet. What if the feet were cut off? Well, in that case, he would hold it with his mouth. What if his head was cut off, what would he do? Bhai Alam Singh's reply: "The Guru whose flag it is, will then take care of it!" Such was the high esteem of the Nishan Sahib.

7: Kulwant Singh (U.S.A.), April 10, 2012, 3:49 PM.

Nishaan Sahib is flown outside of gurdwaras where langar is being served. Langar is a free community meal. Nishaan Sahib is supposed to be flown high, so that it is visible from far away.

8: Hardeep Kaur (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), April 10, 2012, 4:51 PM.

The Nishaan Sahib was placed outside the gurdwara for the same reasons that a flag now stands in every nation and it's embassies: to signal whose rule is applicable here. In the same respect, the Nishaan Sahib signals that it is the Guru's wisdom which governs here.

9: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), April 10, 2012, 9:45 PM.

The Nishaan Sahib declares to friend, foe and the needy that this is a gurdwara, and it welcomes all who come in love and humility.

10: Blighty Singh (London, Engalnd), April 10, 2012, 10:19 PM.

If we consider the Nishaan Sahib's origins, i.e., its conception by the Sixth Master, Guru Hargobind, and its use by Baba Buddha and Bhai Gurdas whilst Guru Sahib was held prisoner at Gwalior, I think it's quite clear that the reason the jhanda flies is to proclaim liberty and the independence of the Sikhs as a nation.

11: Anildev Malhi (Ipoh, Malaysia), April 11, 2012, 11:41 PM.

The Nishaan Sahib is the flag of the sovereign Khalsa Nation, and it identifies our gurdwaras, the throne of our Guru, the Guru Gramth Sahib, everywhere.

12: Bibek Singh (Chandigarh, Punjab), April 12, 2012, 9:59 AM.

Every country has a flag to signify that her 'Rule/Constitution' will be applicable in the area where the flag stands. This is even true for a country's flag standing in a non-home country. So in a U.S. embassy located in China, the U.S. flag signifies that the U.S. constitution will be applicable in that compound and not China's constitution. This might sound strange but is true. Similarly, the Nishaan Sahib (i.e., the Guru's flag) proclaims that in a gurdwara, only the Guru's rule will be applicable. It means that all the decisions will be taken as per gurmat ... and so on.

13: Harpreet Singh (Delhi, India), April 12, 2012, 10:55 AM.

Nishaan Sahib signifies that any person of any region, religion, colour, caste, status, may come into the Court of Guru Granth Sahib and be part of the sangat and he or she will get food for body and soul, with no strings attached.

14: Sarvjit (Boston, MA, U.S.A.), April 12, 2012, 3:56 PM.

I think all of the above reasons are valid. However, if we go back into the history from books such as Puraatan Sakhis, it is clear that Guru Hargobind Sahib, when he armed the Sikhs, also created the Sikh Nishaan or Standard as every army and sovereign state is represented by one. Just as Guru Harhobind also founded the Akal Takht with a throne higher than the one in the Red Fort, this act of creating the Nishaan Sahib were clearly meant to proclaim the sovereignty of the Sikhs. The Sixth Master thus founded the Sikh Army, gave it the Flag and created the Akal Takht - all very clear indications of his thought process.

15: Manjeet Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), April 14, 2012, 5:18 PM.

The nishaan sahib is the 'shaan' of all Sikhs. It can be seen fluttering at all gurdwaras throughout the world. It proclaims to all that this is the Guru's abode. The nishaan sahib is triangular and has a khanda as its emblem. 'Nishaan' means symbol or stamp or mark of identity. In gurdwaras managed by Nihangs, the nishaan sahib is blue whilst in most gurdwaras it is saffron in colour. Sikh history tells us that the nishaan sahib was originally red in colour. In some places, Sikhs had hoisted white flags outside dharamsals. Guru Hargobind hoisted a saffron flag at Akal Takht in 1609 for the first time and it has remained saffron ever since. When Guru Hargobind was imprisoned by Jahangir at Gwalior, Baba Buddha ji, Bhai Gurdas ji and other Sikhs used to sing shabads whilst carrying the nishaan sahib around Gwalior Fort. It was the Sikh expression of protest against the imprisonment of the Guru. After the Guru came to Amritsar, the tradition of these chaukis [singing shabads whilst carrying a nishaan sahib] continued in the parkarma and can be seen even today at Harmandar Sahib. On your next visit to Harmandar Sahib next, please look at the two nishaan sahibs standing outside the Akal Takht. The nishaan sahib closer to the Harmandar is higher than the one closer to the Akal Takht. These two represent the concept of miri-piri. In keeping with Sikh doctrine, the miri nishaan [which is closer to the Akal Takht] is shorter than piri nishaan [the one closer to the harmandar]. This signifies that temporal power is always subject to spiritual authority. In Guru Granth Sahib, there are many shabads where flags are mentioned. The words used for flags are, inter alia, 'dhuja', 'jhanda','neja' and 'nisaan'. In our daily ardaas, we also refer to 'chaunkiyaa(n), jhannday ...'. We pray that these symbols of the Khalsa may ever flourish in glory with the grace of God. The nishaan sahib is never flown at half mast in keeping with the Sikh spirit of ever being in chardi kala. Moreover, Nirankaar - the Formless One - who is the sole focal point of all Sikh prayers, is never downcast!

16: Jashdeep, Sehaj, & Sidak (Tracy, Calfornia, USA), December 23, 2012, 2:46 PM.

The Nishan Sahib is a flag of sovereignty that represents the location of a gurdwara, and was created by the Sixth Guru to be installed outside every gurdwara. It tells the visitor that the values of Sikhi are applied in the gurdwara where it is located. It can be seen fluttering at all gurdwaras throughout the world.

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Sikhing Answers - XIX"

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