FRIDAY, JANUARY 13: Bonfires light up the night for many Indians marking Lohri, the Punjabi winter festival, tonight, but for Sikhs, the fire signals something bigger: Maghi. Devotees today remember the sacrifice of the 40 “Immortal” Sikhs who defended Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1705, when the Mughal army marched in pursuit of the 10th guru. (AllAboutSikhs has more.) It was 40 followers who had previously deserted the Sikh leader who fought off the army and prevented an attack on Gobind Singh, and it’s recorded that Guru Gobind Singh himself cremated the bodies of the 40 men on Maghi.
Sikhs worldwide will recite hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book) and watch recitals today, but the largest festival in the world takes place at Mukstar, a district town of the Punjab. In Mukstar, Sikhs attend extravagant fairs, visit shrines and participate in a march to Gurdwara Tibbi Sahib, a place well known for its favor by Guru Gobind Singh.
American Sikhs have recently asked leaders of Punjab for something besides a fair: a stricter focus on environmental issues. Representatives of EcoSikh, a Washington-based Sikh environmental group, have called Punjab’s environment “disturbing,” adding that they believe “this must become the focus of attention for the people living in the state and the entire Punjabi diaspora.” (Read more from MSN.)
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.