The word “Sardar” (ਸਰਦਾਰ) is of Indo-Aryan descent, literally meaning “holder of authority”, ie – leader; ruler; in command; a man of power.
The word “Sevadaar” (ਸੇਵਾਦਾਰ) is the opposite. With roots in Sanskrit, the word refers to one who is a servant; one who works without pay; one who puts himself at the bottom of the social ladder.
The words seem to conflict, don’t they? In fact, they’re almost antonyms…
But then there’s us, Sikhs…who are supposed to be both. #dilemma
Guru Maharaj could be quite the perplexer sometimes, ey? Directing us to be both the lowest of the low and the highest of the high. It’s no wonder that we find ourselves lost trying to balance the two.
Interestingly, every guy with a dastaar on his head is dubbed “Sardar Ji”… not much thought goes into that – it’s just the way it is. I guess it does come with the territory…after all, the dastaar our men (and some women) don is reflective of royalty, isn’t it? However, I think we need to be a little more careful just throwing that word around. “Sardar” does NOT mean turban-wearer. It does not mean kes-rakhan-valaa. It means leader… and sorry to break it to y’all, but not every long-haired, turban-wearing guy really lives up to that title.
Yet, everyone claims to be Sardar….
Even MORE rare, though, is that man who can call himself a true “Sevadaar”. (Okay I know I’m referring to men a lot but really, this article applies to women too… so substitute sardar with sardar/sardarni and man with man/woman… make it easier for me!) One who is humble enough to take on the gravest insult without a bruised ego; one who is willing to DO more, speak less, give more, gain less; one who lives in humility … now that’s something.
Conversing with a dear bhai sahib recently, he said something that really stood out. ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਨੇ ਸਾਨੂ ਸਰਦਾਰ ਵੀ ਬਨਾਇਆ ਤੇ ਸੇਵਾਦਾਰ ਵੀ… ਅੱਜ ਕਲ ਸਾਰੇ ਸਰਦਾਰ ਬਨਣ ਨੂ ਫਿਰ ਦੇ ਨੇ ਪਰ ਸੇਵਾਦਾਰ ਨਹੀ ਬਨ ਸਕੇ “Guru Sahib ne saanu sardaar vee banaiyaa te sevadaar vee. Ajj kal saarey sardar banan nu phirdey ne par sevadaar nahi ban sakai…” (Translation: Guru Sahib made us both Sardaar and Sevadaars…in today’s world, everyone’s trying to be a leader and gain power but no one dares to be a real sevadaar and serve…)
Perhaps, we are so used to this title of Sardar that we forget our harder-to-earn, more valuable, and more esteemed title of Sevadaar. Perhaps we need to get a little less comfortable self-asserting ourselves as leaders… how can we lead if we don’t know how to follow? Follow our Guru, that is… Perhaps, we need to get off our high horse and find our place at the service of real Sardars.
This may just be my theory, but what if a REAL Sardar is he who understands what it takes and demonstrates what it is to be a straight-up Sevadaar first. What if the two words aren’t antonyms-but rather the one leads into the other?
Food for thought!