Posted by: Singh Is King | Saturday, August 18, 2007

Guru Nanak Figurines get undue flack

Figurines of Guru Nanak are being made in China and being bought and sold by Sikh shopkeepers. The articles I’ve read have lead me to somehow feel this is deeply offensive to me as a Sikh, and that the entire country of China is responsible for it.If there was no market for Guru statues/figurines then the Chinese wouldn’t be making them. It’s seems like a pretty common-sense business venture. The one picture I’ve seen of a plastic statue of Guru Nanak (below: far right) didn’t seem have Chinese features and yet the article was entitled “Nanak with Chinese characteristics!

And then I saw another article entitled “Chinese rub Sikhs the wrong way

The truth is that similar brass and wooden statues of Guru Nanak were available long before that. I know because I’ve seen them in people’s houses and I’ve owned them. These statues escaped the internet-assisted bad publicity. Not to mention that this issue is being taken up by the SGPC.

Golden image of Guru Nanak commonly sold at the shop outside of Sri Harimandir Sahib
Painting of Guru Nanak with an Ek Ongkaar on his hand.

Popular painting of Guru Nanak

Chinese made figurine of Guru Nanak

These plastic ones being made in China are somehow being separated out and called “idols.” There is a distinction being made between statues and paintings; Statues are bad and paintings aren’t. This all seems nonsensical to me, so I’m just confused as to what we have against the Chinese. Why we deem their products (ones made in China) to be idols and ours (ones made in India) not? Or is the issue based on that fact that these statues are made of plastic? Or is it perhaps because of the Ek Ongkar written on Guru Nanak’s palm?

It keeps being quoted that as Sikhs we don’t believe in idol worship. Therefore, these statues are idols and anyone who purchases them is an idol worshiper. So I guess the question is; what is an idol? I have owned a brass statue of Guru Nanak and I didn’t worship it, I just thought it was a nice decorative reminder of Guru Nanak and his message. To me it is the same thing as owning a painting of Guru Nanak. I would like to point out that Guru Nanak spoke against idols in a time when people made prayers and gave food to stones and considered them to be manifestations of their gods. They worshiped stones and gave the stone food instead of to hungry people. That is idol worship. That is quite different from owning decorative statues and paintings of your Guru. So I don’t see anything intrinsically wrong with owning such a statue or a painting.

We have to remember to not be ritualistic and false. And a statue doesn’t have any kind of magic poison that will make the owner false and ritualistic. I say; Buy a statue if you like, but don’t worship it. Just appreciate it for its inspiration and as a reminder of your Guru’s constant presence.

We are cetrainly not idol worshippers. The most important thing is to remember the message of the Guru. If we can do that, we should not be worried about offending the Guru. The Gurus told us to sing the Shabad and connect directly to God. If we’ve lost that message then it hardly matters if we own a plastic statue or not.


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