Generally of orange or saffron color, a Siropa (pronounced Siropaa – ਸਿਰੋਪਾ ) is a garment, scarf or a length of cloth.
You might have often seen Siropa giving/taking ceremonies in Gurdwaras worldwide, including Takhats!
Those who give away Siropa are, generally, the members of the Gurdwara committees, self-appointed clergy, Bhais, Jathedaar, Sant or Baabaa, Prachaarak, Kathaakaar, their lackey politicians, and so on.
On the other side, people who take or receive Siropa generally include, but not limited to:
- The same people who give them away! — ਸਾਕਤ ਸਿਰਪਾਉ ਰੇਸਮੀ ਪਹਿਰਤ ਪਤਿ ਖੋਈ ॥੩॥: (However, Even if you) get silky Siropa from a Saakat (one separated from his Mool, Manmukh, Mayadhaaree…), by wearing that honor is lost. ||3|| (sggs811).
- Spiritually blind and deaf mammon worshipers (Mayadhaaree) — ਮਾਇਆਧਾਰੀ ਅਤਿ ਅੰਨਾ ਬੋਲਾ ॥ ਸਬਦੁ ਨ ਸੁਣਈ ਬਹੁ ਰੋਲ ਘਚੋਲਾ ॥: One who is attached to Maya is (spiritually) very much blind and deaf (to the Gur-Shabad…). (In such conditioned state), he is unable to listen (i.e., don’t pay attention…) to the Shabad; (but, in love or hunger of Maya) he makes much uproar and tumult (ਰੌਲਾ-ਗੌਲਾ, noise, chatter, etc.). (sggs 313).
- Politicians, rulers, ministers, leaders, kings, their deputies, etc. — ਲਬੁ ਪਾਪੁ ਦੁਇ ਰਾਜਾ ਮਹਤਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਹੋਆ ਸਿਕਦਾਰੁ ॥: Greed and sin both have become the king and minister, and falsehood has become the tax collector (sggs 469).
- Immoral movie actors, actresses, singers, etc. — ਸ੍ਵਾਂਗੀ ਸਿਉ ਜੋ ਮਨੁ ਰੀਝਾਵੈ ॥ ਸ੍ਵਾਗਿ ਉਤਾਰਿਐ ਫਿਰਿ ਪਛੁਤਾਵੈ ॥: One who loves the actor in his mind, later regrets it when the actor takes off his costume (sggs 1145).
- Famous or rich people from other countries who have no clue of the Gurmati (Upadesh or Wisdom of the Gurbani…) — ਵਡੇ ਵਡੇ ਜੋ ਦੀਸਹਿ ਲੋਗ ॥ ਤਿਨ ਕਉ ਬਿਆਪੈ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਰੋਗ ॥: Those who seem to be great and powerful, are afflicted by the disease of worry (sggs 188).
- Lackey supporters of the Gurdwara leaders. — ਅੰਧਾ ਆਗੂ ਜੇ ਥੀਐ ਕਿਉ ਪਾਧਰੁ ਜਾਣੈ ॥ ਆਪਿ ਮੁਸੈ ਮਤਿ ਹੋਛੀਐ ਕਿਉ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣੈ ॥: If a blind man (blinded by the love of Maya, etc.) is made the leader, how will he know the Way (right Path, etc.). Due to his inadequate understanding (lack of Wisdom, etc.), he himself is being plundered (by Maya, evil inclinations, etc.); how will (those who follow such a blind or Mayadhaaree leader) know the Way? (sggs 767).
As we will see in the pages to follow, the Gurmati (Upadesh or Wisdom of the Gurbani...) disapproves such practice. Hence it’s an anti-Gurmati act performed in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS).
According to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, then, what’s the real Siropa in Sikhi (i.e., student or learner of the spiritual Knowledge of the SGGS)?
The use of this term Siropa can be traced to a few hymns in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. But, before we dive into that, let’s briefly review the background of the Siropa tradition.
A brief background of Siropa practice
Siropa is a Persian (Farsi) term literally meaning head to foot dress bestowed on someone by a religious or social figure or institution as a mark of honor or recognition — Sar-o-pa (head and foot) or Sarapa (head to foot).
This worldly tradition was introduced by Muslim invaders in India.
In those days, this practice was mainly carried out in courts (Darbaar) of then kings. As the Gurbani reminds us, these kings were corrupt, oppressive, tyrannical, cruel, indifferent to the sufferings of the subjects, immoral, intoxicated with power, and so on.
Not only kings were corrupt, their officials or deputies were also equally corrupt and would tyrannize people on behalf of kings. The Gurbani calls them “dogs”.
- ਰਾਜੇ ਸੀਹ ਮੁਕਦਮ ਕੁਤੇ ॥ ਜਾਇ ਜਗਾਇਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਬੈਠੇ ਸੁਤੇ ॥: The kings are like tigers, and their officials are dogs; they go out and harass innocent people (sggs 1288).
These are the people who used to give/take Siropa from each others.
In addition, corrupt kings would give Siropa to their tyrannical officials, flatterers (ਚਾਪਲੂਸਾਂ ਦੀ ਚਾਪਲੂਸੀ ਕਰਨ ਵਾਲੇ), traitors who sold their country to these kings, and so on. The clergy was also corrupt (and still is!), mixed up with the corrupt and tyrannical kings and their deputies or chiefs.
Obeying and supporting the corrupt and tyrant rulers, the clergy and religious scholars and leaders of the masses became greedy, hypocrites, selfish, immoral, unethical, shameless, cruel, fraud, and unconcerned for Truth. Falsehood, cruelty, and Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, etc.) perverted their sense of Virtue and Dharma, As a result, indulgence in empty rituals (Karamkaand) was dominant in society. Here are the Gurbani’s observations:
- ਸਰਮੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਦੁਇ ਛਪਿ ਖਲੋਏ ਕੂੜੁ ਫਿਰੈ ਪਰਧਾਨੁ ਵੇ ਲਾਲੋ ॥ ਕਾਜੀਆ ਬਾਮਣਾ ਕੀ ਗਲ ਥਕੀ ਅਗਦੁ ਪੜੈ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ਵੇ ਲਾਲੋ ॥: Modesty (ਹਯਾ, shame, etc.) and Dharma both have vanished, and falsehood moves about as the chief (Pardhaanu-ਚੌਧਰੀ). The Qazis and the Brahmins have lost their roles, and (it’s like) Satan now conducts the marriage rites, O Lalo (sggs 722).
- ਗਿਆਨੀ ਨਚਹਿ ਵਾਜੇ ਵਾਵਹਿ ਰੂਪ ਕਰਹਿ ਸੀਗਾਰੁ ॥: The Gyanis (wise ones, Gnostic, etc.) dance, play the musical instruments, adopt many guises and adorn themselves with decorations (sggs 469).
The Gurbani thus openly criticizes meaningless rituals (Karamkaand), corruption, fraud, hypocrisy, political oppression and social inequalities.
Clearly, the practice like giving/taking of the Siropa is ladened with falsehood, egotism (Haumai), corruption, hypocrisy, Maya, Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride, etc.)…
The truth is — all bad qualities (“ਅਵਗਣ”) or Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, etc.) are disapproved by the Gurbani!
The real Siropa
The real Siropa of the Gurmati is given/taken at the level of the mind or Aatmaa!
Then came the Gurus and Bhagats — Gurmukhs, Daas, Jan. They all were very frank and upright on the conduct (actions, thinking, etc.) of people, not to condemn them, but to expose ills of the society of their times. Although they uttered these Words of Truth many centuries ago, however, they are as relevant today as they were then.
They saw the folly, shallowness, and filthiness of worldly traditions such as giving/taking Siropa — a phony game played by the corrupt power and the corrupt minds.
The Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) teaches us that such worldly honor (praise, recognition, glory, grandeur, “ਵਡਿਆਈਆ”…) to be false and temporary, which inflates one’s ego and separates him from his Mool (Source, Jot, Truth…). Thus, it puts one on a wrong path.
- ਦੁਨੀਆ ਕੀਆ ਵਡਿਆਈਆ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਭਿ ਕੁਮਿਤ ॥੨॥: O Nanak! (If the Divine is forgotten) All worldly praises are like bad friends. ||2|| (ssggs 319).
- ਕੁਲਹਾਂ ਦੇਂਦੇ ਬਾਵਲੇ ਲੈਂਦੇ ਵਡੇ ਨਿਲਜ ॥ ਚੂਹਾ ਖਡ ਨ ਮਾਵਈ ਤਿਕਲਿ ਬੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੈ ਛਜ ॥: Those who give out ceremonial hats of recognition (for Gaddee-ਗੱਦੀ) are fools; those who receive them have no shame. A mouse cannot enter its hole with a winnowing basket tied around its waist (i.e., such recognition is like a winnowing basket tied around one’s neck and wearing it one cannot enter the Divine Door – Sachkhand…). (1286).
As evident from the Gurbani, the Gurus and Bhagats tried to transform worldly Siropa into Divine Siropa or Spiritual Siropa. They counseled people to imbibe in Truth, Contentment, and the Divine Wisdom through Bhagti.
- ਭਗਤਿ ਸਿਰਪਾਉ ਦੀਓ ਜਨ ਅਪੁਨੇ ਪ੍ਰਤਾਪੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਜਾਤਾ ॥੨॥੩੦॥੯੪॥: O Nanak! With the (Spiritual) Siropa of “Bhagti”, “Jan” (Gurmukhs, Daas, Bhagat…) are recognized (and through Bhagati they come to) know the Glory of “Prabh” (Source, Mool, Jot…). ||2||30||94|| (sggs 631).
The Gurmati’s Siropa is Spiritual in nature
The Gurmati’s Spiritual Siropa is of the mind or soul and for the mind or soul (Aatmaa).
The Sri Guru Granth Sahib wants us to cover ourselves from head to feet with this Spiritual Siropa of the Gurmati (Upadesh or Divine Wisdom of the Gurbani).
- ਜਬ ਨਖ ਸਿਖ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਚੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ॥ ਤਬ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮਜਨੁ ਕੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ॥੧॥: When I came to understand this mind from the nails of toes to the top of head (i.e., when I understood my mind completely…), then I bathe within my self (i.e., I bathe in my Mool within…). ||1|| (sggs 972).
The Gurbani tells us the one who wears this Real Siropa (at the level of the mind or Aatmaa) ever remains Blissful.
- ਸਦਾ ਅਨੰਦੁ ਕਰੇ ਆਨੰਦੀ ਜਿਸੁ ਸਿਰਪਾਉ ਪਇਆ ਗਲਿ ਖਾਸਾ ਹੇ ॥੧੩॥: He, the Blissful one (the Gurmukh…) dressed in special (subtle, Spiritual) Siropa, is forever in Bliss. ||13|| (sggs 1073).
Therefore, the Bhagat (Gurmukh, Daas, Jan…) care less for this worldly piece of cloth called Siropa:
- ਪਹਿਰਿ ਸਿਰਪਾਉ ਸੇਵਕ ਜਨ ਮੇਲੇ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਗਟ ਪਹਾਰੇ ॥੨॥੨੯॥੯੩॥: O Nanak! Dressed in (Spiritual) Siropa, (His Bhagat, Daas, Jan..) Sewak get blended (in Him), and revealed (their) glory throughout the world. ||2||29||93|| (sggs 631).
Clearly, in nutshell, this ongoing arrangement of giving/taking worldly Siropa is perpetuated by mammon worshipers (Mayadhaaree, Manmukh, Saakat). It’s totally contrary to the Divine Teaching of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS).
- ਭਗਤ ਜਨਾ ਕਾ ਲੂਗਰਾ ਓਢਿ ਨਗਨ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਸਾਕਤ ਸਿਰਪਾਉ ਰੇਸਮੀ ਪਹਿਰਤ ਪਤਿ ਖੋਈ ॥੩॥: (O Brother! Even if you) get an old ragged blanket form a Bhagat (Gurmukh, Daas, Jan…), wearing that you don’t have to worry about getting naked. (However, Even if you) get silky Siropa from a Saakat (one separated from his Mool, Manmukh, Mayadhaaree…), by wearing that honor is lost. ||3|| (sggs811).
Hence, with demoniac inclinations, those who practice this giving/taking of worldly Siropa mislead Sikh Sangat just as Pandits misled their people for generations. How so? With similar demoniac inclinations, Pandits totally diluted or corrupted the real Teachings, meanings, or Truth of the Vedas, misleading people in the process (ਗੁਮਰਾਹ, ਰਾਹ ਭੰਨ ਲਿਆ, ਪੁੱਠੇ ਰਸਤੇ ਪਾ ਦਿੱਤਾ) – they ill directed people away (“ਪੰਡਿਤ ਪਾੜੀ ਬਾਟ”) from the Path of the Truth and put them on the path of Maya, falsehood, Karamkaand, empty rituals, myths (ਮੰਨ ਘੜੰਤ ਸਾਖੀਆ, weird stories…), etc. The Gurbani confirms this in the following verse:
- ਪਾਹਨ ਬੋਰੀ ਪਿਰਥਮੀ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਪਾੜੀ ਬਾਟ ॥੧੩੭॥: The stone (idols) have drowned the world; Pandits split (or misled the world) from the Way (of Bhagti, and led the world on the path of Maya, Karamkaand, etc). ||137|| (sggs 1371).
Are we (i.e. Sikhs) doing any better than the corrupt Pandits?
Beware of honors/recognition/praise…
The Gurmati Teaches us to beware of any worldly honor, recognition, praise, and so on.
Obviously, the people who play this false game of giving/taking worldly Siropa in Gurdwaras have no clue of the Gurmati (the Divine Wisdom or Upadesh of the Gurbani). If they did then why they would be doing deeds disapproved by the Gurmati? Perhaps to gratify their lust, greed, etc.!
You see, falsehood cannot propagate Truth!
- ਦੁਨੀਆ ਕੀਆ ਵਡਿਆਈਆ ਕਵਨੈ ਆਵਹਿ ਕਾਮਿ ॥: Worldly praises are of no use (sggs 45).
Hence, a spiritually elevated person (Gurmukh, Daas, Bhagat, Jan) is sensitive to being unduly praised. He feels uncomfortable. Although people who praise him may be well-meaning, but he nevertheless feels uncomfortable.
He feels uncomfortable because, for one thing, such praise only reminds him of his limitations, his shortcomings, his weaknesses, his decadence, his faults, and so on.
He knows that the Way to Perfection (Jeevan Padavee) is through self-criticism and not through self-adulation. He knows that the success (Mool-realization) is not the same thing as worldly recognition/praise/honors…
Clearly, there is no place for Mayaic Karamkaand (rituals) in the Divine Teaching of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. In fact, in the Divine eyes of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, all are equal irrespective of one’s caste, social status, title, power, name, fame, rich or poor, well known or unknown, honor or dishonor, etc.
- ਭਰਮ ਮੋਹੰ ਮਾਨ ਅਪਮਾਨੰ ਮਦੰ ਮਾਯਾ ਬਿਆਪਿਤੰ ॥: Maya keeps (mortals) under its spell via doubt, attachment, honor, dishonor, and pride (sggs 1357).