Conviction to be enduring requires ideological mooring. And, ideology, in order to go beyond tokenism, requires organisational rigour. In the absence of the resolve to work for what you believe in, ideology devalues itself to rhetoric. Rhetoric, however mesmerising, will ultimately be exposed. It cannot endure, for people increasingly judge words against output, promises against delivery, and posturing against concrete efforts that can be measured for their sincerity in verifiable terms.
These ruminations come to the fore in the backdrop of the recently concluded Prakash Utsav in Patna to celebrate the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of the Sikh faith. Poet, philosopher, warrior and spiritual beacon Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna at Patna Sahib on December 22, 1666, and became the leader of the Sikhs at the tender age of nine when his father Guru Tegh Bahadur, was beheaded by Aurangzeb for refusing to convert to Islam. During his lifetime he lost all four of his sons, two in battle and two interred alive in a wall, but notwithstanding such supreme sacrifices, he succeeded in institutionalising the Khalsa and enshrining the Guru Granth Sahib as Sikhism’s eternal Guru.
To celebrate the 350th birth anniversary of the last Guru, the Bihar government under Nitish Kumar spent months in meticulous planning and preparation, so much so that Patna took on the profile of a “mini Punjab” from December 22, 2016 to January 7, 2017.
The task was nothing short of mammoth. Lakhs of devotees were expected to visit from all parts of India, including thousands from abroad. Systematic and thorough planning was the key to make the event a success. Three massive tented cities were set up at the Gandhi Maidan, Kangan Ghat and the Malaichak Bypass. Detailed arrangements were made for food and transport. Parking sites were identified in advance. Water and electricity was ensured and hundreds of mobile toilets installed. Around Patna Sahib roads were widened, houses repainted, and for smoother connectivity a new flyover constructed. The Patna Ghat railway station was reopened. New electricity poles were erected, along with new wiring. In addition, hundreds of solar powered streetlights were put up. The entire city was cleaned and spruced up and new drains constructed. Special attention was given to security. Some 200 new CCTV cameras were put into operation.
A daily programme for devotees was drawn up. Dozens of tourist information centres were opened. Special vehicles of the tourist department were mobilised for publicity. A special exhibition on “Emperor Prophet-Guru Gobind Singhji” was organised at the Bihar Museum to display historical paintings, miniatures, hukamnamas, coins, pictures of forts, and other rare artefacts associated with the life the 10th Guru. The exhibition will be open till January 31, and then taken to different museums in Bihar. In the heart of the city, at the historic Gandhi Maidan, a massive replica of the Patna Sahib Gurdwara was erected.
These massive arrangements were supervised by the chief minister on a daily basis. In the lead up to the Utsav, there was hardly a day when he did not personally inspect ongoing work, or devote time to planning and preparation. His eye for detail was relentless, including, for instance, the provisioning of heaters for devotees to ward off the winter cold. This is what illustrates best the dialectics between conviction, ideology and planning vigour.
Mr Kumar is not a Sikh, but for him the central issue was to give respect to the many faiths that make up the glorious plurality of India. Within a 100 km radius from Patna are situated some of the most important sites of almost every major religion in India. Patna Sahib is in Patna itself. Not far is Bihar Sharif, a Sufi destination next only in importance to Ajmer Sharif. A short drive from there is Pawapuri, the place where Mahavira attained his parinirvana, one of the most sacred sites for those of the Jain community. Bodh Gaya, the most revered pilgrimage destination for Buddhists, is close to Pawapuri. And, next to Bodh Gaya is Gaya, a must visit for any Hindu wishing to pay homage to his ancestors. In this sense, Bihar is a microcosm of the multi-religious, Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb of India, the preservation of which is an article of faith for Mr Kumar.
Accolades have poured in from across the world for the organisation of the Prakash Parv. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited Patna for the Parv on January 5 was fulsome in his praise for the CM’s successful organisation of the event. Captain Amarinder Singh on seeing the arrangements said that the Bihar CM was the “original Sardar”. Parkash Singh Badal was as effusive in his compliments, as was Arvind Kejriwal. The important thing is that this appreciation transcended party lines. Equally gratifying was the overwhelming response of the lakhs of Sikh devotees who had come from outside Bihar or from abroad. One of them tellingly summed up the sense of the rest when he said: “Bihar vale tusi great ho, tainu dil vich baith gaye (People of Bihar, you are great, you have made a home in our hearts!)”
Ultimately, the Prakash Utsav was an illustration of the organic link between ideology, conviction and governance. In this case, the respect for the Sikh faith could not be shown until it was accompanied by the effort required to make such an important event for the Sikhs a successful, fulfilling and well organised event. The effort required a vision to go beyond the macro picture into the micro detailing of all aspects of planning. And, the respect in Bihar for Shri Guru Gobind Singh Maharaj ji made the hours upon relentless hour of planning and preparation an act of homage.