An anonymous tipster (thanks!) updated our news tab with the following story, which I found quite interesting:
After the Chinese-made kirpans (daggers) nearly wiped out local manufacturers of one of the five ‘K’s of Sikhism, it is the turn of Guru Nanak Dev’s idols with ‘Chinese characteristics’ to flood shops across Punjab. [link]
Yes, apparently the figurines make the Guru look like a “Lama”, i.e. Tibetan. But more on that (and the Kirpans!) later.
The figurines, which have been in the market for some time, are available for Rs 100-150. They are popular gift items, with the smaller ones finding a perch on car dashboards “since it reassures the driver of divine protection”, as one user put it.
The larger versions are seen in restaurants, stacked along with statuettes of deities of other faiths. Not everybody, though, is pleased. In fact, the Sikh clergy have issued directions to the community to refrain from buying these idols.
The order ostensibly stems from the fact that idol worship is banned in Sikhism. Idol worship, including performing of ‘aarti’, was prohibited by Guru Nanak himself, while Guru Gobind Singh even declared that those indulging in such practices would be ostracized from the faith. [link]
The fantastically-named Sikhi Wiki has this to say regarding idolatry:
Idol worship was heavily discouraged by all sikh Guru’s. This was believed to have been a manipulation by the preistly (sic…no pun intended) caste to keep the power in their hands. The concept of ‘worship’ does not exsist (sic) in Sikhism, sikhs may only bow down to Guru Granth Sahib for respect, and may mediate on God’s name (nam simran). [link]
What I’m wondering is, who is buying these figures? Maybe they aren’t Sikh? Or is that irrelevant?
Is this the real source of conflict and potential teeth-gnashing:
Moreover, the Chinese-made idols sport a Chinese look, like slanted eyes and Mongoloid features. [link]
I kind of understand this. It’s not like there is agreement on what Christ looked like…and we all want to see ourselves in the divine, which is why Jesus is available in black, brown, white, etc. This case is a little different, in my opinion, because Guru Nanak-ji was a more recent historical figure and we know he was Punjabi and can depict him as such (and no, I’m not even going to try to get in to “what a Punjabi looks like”)– I’m just pointing out that unlike JC, whose ubiquitous Dresden-doll edition doesn’t quite jibe with his Semitic ancestry, the Guru might look a bit more realistic. But on to China’s nefarious plot to undermine our Kirpans, as promised earlier!
In the rows of kirpan shops lining the Golden Temple complex, China has made an incursion unknown to most who carry with them one of Sikhism’s five symbols. Mintai, a brand from comrade country, is doing particularly well and local kirpan manufacturers are not at all happy about it. Till recently, the annual turnover of Amritsar’s kirpan market was estimated at Rs 50 crore. But the hold it had on global kirpan markets seems set to change, thanks to made-in-China entrants.
Agitated, Kanwaljit Singh of Jagmohan Kirpan Factory said, “The entry of Chinese kirpans has made a considerable dent in our overseas market. With labour being cheaper in China, the products are cheaper, too. The low-budget overseas market has almost entirely been captured by the Chinese. Our exports have come down by 80%-90%.” [wiki]
I wonder if merchants will take a page from this book, and offer Kirpans which are branded as Indian-made?
Incidentally, Hindu Gods and Goddesses have already received the Chinese treatment, which we blogged about here, back in 2005.