A MONUMENT IN ISTANBUL MENTIONS THE NAME OF THE FIRST SIKH GURU IN ARABIC-PERSIAN SCRIPT
Gurmukh Singh, ExpressIndia
Toronto, November 30: DID Guru Nanak almost reach Europe during his religious missions (udasis)? There has been mention of his reaching Turkey in his Janam Sakhis (tales written about the Guru by his followers such as Bhai Mani Singh and Meharban), but nothing could prove that the first Sikh guru actually went there.
Now, a Sikh scholar from Montreal, Prof Devinder Singh Chahal, who runs Institute for Understanding Sikhism at Laval, claims that he has found evidence of the Guru’s visit to Istanbul, when he spotted a monument to the Turkish city.
The monument, which has developed cracks, carries an inscription in the Arabic-Persian script mentioning the word Nanak. As Prof Chahal told The Indian Express, “In 1994, I went to Istanbul to attend a global meet on bio-energy. During that gathering, I took time off and went cruising in the Straits of Bosporus. On my way back, I found this huge monument in a park. It was fifteen feet high, and on it I spotted the word ‘Nanak’ at the end of the first line in the inscription. I know a little bit about the Arabic-Persian script, and I was thrilled to find the Guru’s name. I couldn’t read it further. So I took pictures of the inscription so that I could show it to others.’’
The Sikh scholar said he showed this inscription to some Turkish students in Montreal, but they could not figure it out. He said he found his answer when he visited Pakistan early this year. “There I showed the inscription to Iqbal Kaiser, who has written the book ‘Shrines in Pakistan’. I also consulted Afzal Haider, a lawyer who has also authored Baba Nanak. Both these men know the Arabic-Persian script which prevailed in the vast region during the Ottoman Empire. They translated the first line of the inscription in Punjabi: Jamanay da malik, hind da banda, rab da Nanak (The lord of the time and resident of India— Nanak the man of God,” he says.
However, Prof Chahal says, “I have no idea about the date when the monument was raised. It has to be verified scientifically.”
There is also speculation that the monument was raised by the Sikh soldiers who fought for the British in Turkey during the World War. “This couldn’t be true as Sikh soldiers had no knowledge of the Arabic-Persian script. Also, Sikh soldiers had fought in Egypt where they had reportedly found a stone in memory of Guru Nanak. Where is that stone and why didn’t they raise any such monument there?”
Prof Chahal argues, “During his travel from Mecca to Baghdad, he did not take the direct route. Instead, he went to Baghdad via Istanbul. Historians, Kirpal Singh and Fuja Singh, say that Guru Nanak had taken a boat to Jeddah via the Gulf of Eden from Sonmiani. From there, he went to Mecca, Medina, Baghdad, Teheran and Kabul before reaching his birthplace Talwandi in Pakistan. But my discovery proves what Janam Sakhis say that Guru Nanak had gone from Mecca to Israel, Palestine, Syria and reached Istanbul in Turkey before heading for Baghdad.’’
Prof Chahal says he had informed the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). “Some people from the UK are studying the inscription and trying to find many broken and missing words. I am going to Istanbul in February and we will seek help from the Turkish authorities to have access to archeological material to verify our findings,” he said.