08/02/2018

Spiritual Pilgrimage to India

By Kabir Karnani

This past December I visited India on a spiritual pilgrimage through some of the holiest sites in Hinduism and Sikhism, the two religions practiced in my family. Throughout my life as a teenager and into my twenties I always felt a deeper connection to India and developed curiosities into my family’s history. During my search I found a very outstanding ancestor who was called “Sant Teja Singh,” deemed a saint by the Sikh religion. He was the first Sikh to attend Cambridge University in the U.K. and questioned why the Sikhs (in 1906) couldn’t wear their turbans, a pillar of the religion, in respect of individuality. He was not only the first Sikh to attend the university, but the first to gain acceptance of the religion and approval to wear his turban. This was a major accomplishment for a foreign man during the beginning of the twentieth century. He went on to attend Harvard University as one of the first Sikhs, established several Sikh temples from Vancouver to India, and liberated Sikhs who were getting newly integrated into foreign societies.

Paonta Sahib, the Sikh temple in India that he helped establish and housed several Sikh refugees during the partition of Pakistan and India.

The front door of the house he once lived in, still covered in blue paint with the rest of the façade slowly deteriorating.

Local women carrying water on their heads to their nearby village.

The Golden Temple, in Amritsar, India. The holiest site for all Sikhs to make a pilgrimage to.

While in India we also visited a sacred Hindu site called Haridwar. This is a place where families from India can find their lineage, kept in huge scroll books dating back centuries. We were lucky enough to find our family’s book, but only dating back to 1965, when my grandfather’s brother came to visit. My family has since updated the book, stamped January 1st, 2018, so the next time I visit, we can look back on 2018 and read the written history. 

The scroll book with my family’s name, date and a handwritten message.

An elderly man sitting on the banks of the Ganges river, the holiest river in India.

A tray of offerings and marigolds to bless the Hindu deities and pay respect to the spirits that have passed on.

A mass prayer taking place on the banks of the Ganges river, in Haridwar, one of the most sacred sites to visit as a Hindu.