Theme for the Week:
Do you recall the names of some historical and figurative places or towns in our previous issues?
Such words are called toponyms, from Greek topos (place) + onoma (name).
This week let us undertake a tour of five ancient and sacred places in Hinduism. Let’s explore and discover the messages conveyed by making reference to them in Gurbani.
Meaning: noun: Kasi or Kashi, one of the oldest and sacred cities of Hindus, situated on the banks of the Ganges in North India.
ਜਉ ਤਨੁ ਕਾਸੀ ਤਜਹਿ ਕਬੀਰਾ ਰਮਈਐ ਕਹਾ ਨਿਹੋਰਾ॥
jau tan kaasee tajahi kabeeraa ramaee-ai kahaa nihoraa.
O Kabir! If you leave your mortal frame-body or die at Kashi (and attain liberation there), what obligation would you have to the Divine? -Bhagat Kabir, Guru Granth Sahib, 692
Message: Sacred place or way to die?
“Come on, die here and you will go to heaven. Don’t die there or you will fall into hell or be reborn as a donkey,” said the Brahmins.
Can you imagine the ridiculousness of such statements? Anyway, this was what the Brahmins or priests of those times used to say in order to exploit the gullible people.
Adhering to this belief, many people used to pass their last days of life there. Some even used to get their heads sawed at Kashi in the hope of obtaining salvation after death. Kashi is the old name for Benares, Banaras or Varanasi.
Bhagat Kabir was also posed with such a challenge. But he condemned and boldly rejected such beliefs. He wondered that, if he attained salvation only by shedding his physical body in Kashi then what was the use of his lifelong devotion to the Divine.
To prove that such beliefs are futile and have nothing to do with the Divine grace or salvation, he moved to another place and died there.
If truth and divinity are enshrined in our hearts and we live by divine wisdom then we would be able to see the Divine permeating in all places, from Rosario, Argentina to Xinghua, China.
Etymology: In the ancient Indian texts, the place is referred to as kaashee (Kashi) from the Sanskrit root kash (to shine) and hence also known as the ‘city of light or learning’.