Gobind Sadan held a grand celebration of its first 50 years on 18 to 20 February. Spokesperson Ralph Singh, Founding President of Gobind Sadan USA, paid a ringing tribute to the late founder of Gobind Sadan, Baba Virsa Singh and said, “All we hear in the news is conflict and violence. The world needs to hear a clear voice of truth and justice. In the midst of darkness, this voice is a living reality at Gobind Sadan.”
During the mela, elderly sevadars spoke who remembered the early days of extremely hard work by which Gobind Sadan’s fields, gardens, and holy places of all religions were created in a formerly barren rocky wasteland. Sardar Gurnaam Singh said, “Maharaj ji came for the World’s emancipation. Even the souls yearned to serve Him. Even the women did so much seva. They used to lift extraordinary weight by His grace. The souls used to enter the bodies of sevadaars so that they could serve Maharaj.” Hardip Singh said, “I once asked Maharaj that there are so many powerful, wealthy personalities, then why have you chosen me for work? Maharaj smiled and replied that it is the innocence that matters. Do what the Guru says, obey Him, If He says do farming, then do farming, do keerat, do Naam, do what He tells you to do. Follow Him whatever He says. For those who think Maharaj is gone, then for them He is gone; for those who believe He is here, for them He is always present. I request the sangat to take this mission ahead. Let’s all do seva.”
After the sevadars’ testimonies, there was special havan, and then a programme by children of Baba Virsa Singh Ji Maharaj Memorial School and a Sufi sangeet offering by Navtej Singh vocalist,
Sarabjit Singh “Shibu” on tabla, and Rajesh Kumar on sarangi.
In a seminar on 19 February organized by the Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religion on “50 Golden Years of Gobind Sadan—Academic, Social, and Religious Contributions,” professors from many universities paid testimony to how Baba Virsa Singh had brought respect for all religions and created an alternative economic and social model. The seminar was presided over by Manjeet Singh Rai, Member of National Minorities Commission.
The keynote speaker, Dr. J. S. Rajput, Former Director of NCERT, recalled that Babaji had been instrumental in changing false depictions of religious figures in government textbooks, “for the sake of brotherhood of all religions.” Harvinder Hans Pal, Former MP of Lok Sabha, praised Babaji’s “great work to rewrite Sikh history,” through a series of academic seminars that researched and challenged common misperceptions. Professor Ronki Ram of Punjab University, Chandigarh, said, “To bring us out of our ignorance, Maharaj invited all along with their isht (preferred deity) and means of worshipping their isht. He always focused attention on respecting all religions as paths leading to One. He used to say that teachings should not be limited to speaking, but should be put into practice.”
Professor Nirmal Singh of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, said that when he first met Baba Virsa Singh, Babaji himself was plowing the rocky land with bullocks. “Babaji said that only from our own hard-earned income will there be blessings in the langar.” Gurdev Singh recalled, “Maharaj used to get up at amrit vela , go to the fields and come back after sunset. He set an example. When Maharaj established Gobind Sadan 50 years back, it was a barren land. He himself did manual labor, even at the dairy. He himself used to plough the fields first and then hand it over to others.”
Several foreign sevadars also shared their impressions of Baba Virsa Singh. Lena Shagedanov of Russia, who with her husband Gerald Shagedanov had transformed a former dairy storage barn into the lovely auditorium where the seminar was held, remembered that Babaji had told them that the auditorium would be used as a conference hall for people who do not have ordinary thinking, who were advancing into the future. Susanna Mattsson of Sweden spoke of the inner spiritual loneliness experienced by many people in her secular culture and said that “the blessing of being in Maharaj ji’s presence was like entering a highway to God.” She and others now gather to recite Jaap Sahib, to read Guru Granth Sahib together, and to meditate on Nam.
A letter was read out from Russian groups who are devotees of Gobind Sadan – The International Association for Peace through Culture, the Social Movement “New Country,” the International Centre of Spiritual Culture, and the Spiritual Culture Council of Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly. They wrote, “In the most difficult years of our recent history, Maharaj Ji supported us, inspired us, made us believe in better future, taught us culture of labour and service, of reverence for spiritual laws, of work for the sake of common good. May Maharaj Ji’s mission last many more years! May the fire of the havan and the fire of our love to God go on!”
Another highlight of the Golden Jubilee celebrations was a programme of kirtan, poetry, and talks on 20 February with participants including Dr. Jaspal Singh, Former Vice Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala, Jathedar Iqbal Singh of Sri Takht Patna Sahib, S. Ranbir Tanwar (MCD Counselor), and S. Champat Rai (General Secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad). Among the poets, Sardar Panchi read out a very touching poem he had composed in Urdu about Gobind Sadan, including these verses:
Gobind Sadan is a bouquet of fragrant love,
Where every religion, every sect is a fragrant flower strung in the garland,
It is essence of all diversity and multiplicity. . . .
Here no one can ignite the sparks of hatred because Gobind Sadan is the guardian of all relationships.
It is the essence of existence of different paths and it is the liberation and salvation of different paths. . . .
Gobind Sadan is the adornment of the One Who is reflected and praised
For every traveler, the path has been lit up with light
Gobind Sadan has become the new lighthouse for all. . . .
An exhibit of old photos of Gobind Sadan since its inception was displayed on 18 and 19 February. Gobind Sadan staff members were highly visible in their special gold Gobind Sadan Golden Jubilee t-shirts, and mugs with Gobind Sadan’s logo were presented to many of the participants.
During the celebrations there were free ayurvedic and allopathic medical camps, eye camp, turban-tying, langar, and assistance to minorities offered by Delhi Minorities Commission. Speaking on 20 February, Commissioner Kartar Singh Kochhar praised Baba Virsa Singh’s good work in helping to uplift the poor, engendering respect for all religions, and giving practical proof of Guru Nanak’s programme of kirat karo, Nam japo, vand chakho.