Sangat is a group of persons, men, women and children with similar feelings, ideas and values, to stay for a while in the company of the Guru. Sangat is a holy assembly on account of the belief that the Guru lived and moved among them, and would bestow happiness on them.

Guru Nanak nominated a sincerely devoted Sikh to conduct sangats. He was called sangatia. The san gatia officiated in the san gat in place of the Guru and sat on a manji or cot in the manner of Guru Nanak. The manji was analogous to a sangat. The manjis developed in course of time into great centres of Sikhism. The sangatia presided over the sangat during good behaviour and at the most for life. Nanak did not make this office hereditary. Guru Nanak bestowed manjis on a number of persons such as Kauda Rakhash, Sal is Rae, Jhanda carpenter, Gopal Das, Lalo carpenter, Budhan Shah, Mahi, and Devlut. The central place was called Bari Sangat and its branches in different localities of the same place or at other villages were known as Chhoti Sangat.

 

Guru Arjan on completing the Adi Granth instructed the Sikhs to hold kirtan by singing the holy hymns from Pothi Sahib in chorus. He said kirtan would serve as food for soul and would satisfy spiritual hunger. The melody of hymns would delight mind and soul of listeners. To begin with kirtan was regularly started at the Hari Mandar.

 

Guru Arjan insisted on his sangats to listen to the recitation with attention, devotion and meditation, and not merely for Kan ras or pleasure of ears. The san gat should concentrate on God and the meaning of the hymns. The minds of san gats should be free from worldly affairs. The melody would bring the soul in tune with God. The inner joy would remove affliction and despair.

 

The first five Gurus sang hymns themselves to the accompaniment of musical instruments. For the devotees it was a celestial scene.

 

Sikhism is a congregational religion. Every Sikh is expected to attend the sangat in a gurdwara in the morning and evening. All sit together on the floor, anywhere they like. There is no reservation of seats. This implies equality. After prayers everybody must get exactly an equal quantity of karah prasad. It indicates removal of caste distinctions.

 

Bala’s Janam Sakhi, 67, 74, 89, 91.

 

Pritam Singh Gill, 165.

 

One of the significant aspect of Sikhism is its group consciousness and its belief in the presence of the Guru in Sangat. Literally, Sangat means assembly of people who work or assemble together for social, moral or spiritual well being of the community. It is a company of like minded saintly people which purifies and uplifts the devotees.

 

Bhai Gurdas writes in Var13-Pauri 19 that where there is one, he is called Sikh, where there are two, they are called Sadh Sangat and where there are five, God manifests in them.

 

It is assembly of holymen in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib where nothing but the Name of One God alone is recited. It is an assembly, where there are discourses of truthful people on the name of God. It is the company of saintly people who have an ennobling influence on the human mind. Whenever persons of truthful living assemble, they constitute Sat Sangat. Remembering of Name in the company of saints is given significant place in Sikhism.

 

Guru Nanak Dev laid foundation of saintly assemblies when he visited different places to propagate Sikh philosophy.

 

Just as the fire destroys the cold, similarly the company of saints vanishes the sins.

 

Sat Sangat is considered most important in the Sikh way of life. It is given special status among the Sikhs. Every Sikh is expected to attend Sangat in the Gurdwara where all devotees sit together on the carpeted floor irrespective of their social, political, economical or religious position. This implies equality. They recite or listen to the praises of God. They learn from each other and in good company they shed off their amoral tendencies. It is strongly believed that the Guru is physically present where there is an assembly of five holy persons.

 

The Sangat consists of minimum five Sikhs in whose lives the Sikh religion is transfigured. It is said that where there is one Sikh, there is one Sikh. Where there are two Sikhs, there is an assembly of saints. Where there are five Sikhs, there is God.

 

Bhai Gurdas writes in Var13-Pauri 19 that where there is one, he is called Sikh, where there are two, they are called Sadh Sangat and where there are five, God manifests in them.

 

Sangat is the training school where the devotees practice discipline of the Guru and acquire virtuous qualities. ( Var Kanra M-4, 1316 ) In addition to the ripening of the spiritual thought, Sangat creates social and organizational awareness also. Sangat helps in harmonizing the people who live in disunity and have diversity of faith. It serves as a link between common people and the Guru.

 

The decision of Sangat is considered to be as the decision of the Guru. It is worth mentioning here that the assembly of perverse or evil people is never a Sangat. Assembly of immoral or irreligious people would lead a person to disaster and sinful life. (See Bhai Gurdas)

 

Normally the congregation takes place at Gurdwara ( Sikh Temple ) in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The devotees sing hymns from Guru Granth Sahib, recite Name of God and pray for universal peace and prosperity. The singing of Gurbani is called Kirtan. By listening and devotedly reciting the holy hymns one is inspired to put the precious teachings of Bani into actual practice in life. In the company of such saints, one realizes Truth. His sins are washed away and he wins the grace of God ( 809 ).

 

Guru Nanak Dev started the concept of Sangat in Sikhism. Wherever he went during his travels, he asked the people to establish Dharmsala or a place of Sikh worship. He nominated devout Sikhs as Sangatias who used to officiate in the Sangat in place of the Guru. This system was followed by Manjis and Masands. The succeeding Gurus followed suit. Hari Ram Gupta writes at page 424 of History of the Sikhs, “Guru Hargobind introduced congregational prayers.” Mohsin Fani writes in his memoirs that when a Sikh desired for something, he would request the Sangat to pray for him. (Dabistan, Persian-239)

 

Merits of good company

Man is known by the company he keeps. Man is the result of environment. Company is a great force and it plays a big role in shaping a person. Those who live in the company of thieves, robbers and evil persons, acquire evil ways of life. Those who keep the company of saintly persons are shaped in the saintly mold.

There may be people who live near good and saintly persons but they are so much over involved in their ego that they do not think of becoming good people.

The Sikhs present a good example of selfless service and sacrifice in all the Sikh Gurdwaras. They volunteer their time in Community kitchen. They acquire humility, contentment, detachment from the worldly illusions, temperance and true faith in God.

The Sikh Gurus laid great emphasis on attending the holy assembly. The congregation influences the personality and character of the devotees. Sat Sangat produces visual Divine harmony and internal bliss. It helps in the attainment of Truth but it becomes available with the blessing of God. The society of the truthful is not available without good fortune. and His Grace.

Sandal tree has fragrance. It distributes its fragrance to those who are near it, irrespective of their growthThe Simal tree becomes fragrant in the neighborhood of the Sandal tree. A devotee who remains in the company of holy persons and attends Sangat, relishes the fragrance of Gurbani and Kirtan without knowing the change. Guru is present in the company of the holy persons.

Guru is ever present in the holy congregations in Gurdwaras and other private and public assemblies where Guru Granth Sahib is present. Attending the Sadh Sangat is regarded as coming in to the presence of the Guru. According to Bhai Gurdas, a Sikh who remains in the association of the Guru is blessed and benefited.

Light which manifested in the ten Gurus continues to manifest in the Sangat and the Khalsa.

The Society of the good or Sadh Sangat gives birth to modesty, patience, tolerance, service, righteousness, simplicity, conscienceness, truth, love, justice, friendliness, mercy and contentment. Bhai Gurdas declared that the spiritual goal could be achieved through Sangat and Nam simran.

 

 

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