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Published: October 2nd 2021
We met Tony & Glenda in Tasmania in 2014...fossicking secluded beaches at Mt Willem NP for little things.
Told by firemen their house had been lost in the Blue Mountains fires only to find it still standing...most holidays in Oz deserts in 'Matilda' their converted vehicle with attached van...fascinating couple...kept in touch...now living at Safety Beach near the Sikh enclave of Woolgoolga...212 kms south of Mullumbimby. Spending a couple of nights with them on our long drive back to Sydney.
True friends are those that no matter how long between drinks...we pick up as if we have never been apart.
And so it is with Tony & Glenda...super fit bicycle riders...Glenda the driving force behind a garden and community centre...Woopi Gardens...Tony a handyman of extraordinary skill...transforming their beach house into an oasis...welcoming us with open arms.
Tony is also a Swiss trained chef having worked in top Brit restaurants...lavish meals...cold beers...fine wines from Denise & gins from me...sharing tales that only true friends can do.
Beaches & Nature Tours...the 1930s wreck of 'The Buster' exposed by high tides from the floods with surf washing over...flying foxes by the thousand...sunrises with surf pounding the reef out yonder...native
bees, frogs and spider-eating wasps in their oasis backyard.
And as you do...they introduced us to the locals.
Sikh & ye shall find
Meeting NSW's largest Sikh community in Woolgoolga...North Coast New South Wales...visiting two temples and the Sikh Museum...truly an education and revelation.
Sikh & ye shall find...a brief visit that will remain in the conscious forever.
Australia is a land of immigrants...waves of various ethnic groups arriving on our vast shores colouring our 50,000 year indigenous palate with ever increasing diversity since European occupation in 1788...in recent decades waves increasing from Asia and the Subcontinent.
Sikhs came from the Punjabi regions of NW India in the mid 19th Century from 1849 following the fall of the Sikh Empire...mainly brought by the British to work the sugar plantations of North Eastern Australia.
The Hindustani Times reports that the past decade has seen a massive surge of student migration from Punjab, rather than skilled migration.
The rush Down Under on student visas is seen as a passport to permanent residency. Lack of employment opportunities in India and the lure of better lifestyle are the driving factors.
According to the 2016 census, Punjabi is one of the fastest-growing languages in Australia, with 132,499 individuals identifying as Punjabi-speakers.
It was estimated Sikhs comprise 0.5% of the Australian population of about 24 million.
The Hindustani Times reports that Australian immigration law has toughened up considerably since 2009. Skill lists, visa rules, and permanent residency requirements have changed rapidly. Despite that, the huge influx of new Sikh and Punjabi-speaking arrivals has continued in a steep upward trajectory in the last decade, with Victoria emerging as the destination of choice for many of them.
In Victoria, with Melbourne as its capital, was home to 52,762 Sikhs, followed by New South Wales (31,737), Queensland (17,433), Western Australia (11,897), South Australia (8,808) and Canberra (2,142). Northern Territory and Tasmania have a smaller population of under 700 Sikhs each.
The next Census was in August 2021, so I look forward to seeing the rise of Sikhism reflected therein.
It is reported that the Sikh population in Australia had increased by 75 percent in only 5 years between 2011 and 2016.
Sikhism is regarded as the fastest growing religion in Australia and the 5th largest religion following Christianity, Islam,
Buddhism and Hinduism.
Sikhism is still predominantly in the Punjab state of India but Sikh communities exist on every inhabited continent, with the largest total immigrant population being in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Interestingly, Canada is the country that has the highest number of Sikhs in proportion to the population in the world at 1.4 per cent of Canada's total population.
Even Niger in West Africa has about 3,000 Sikhs comprising 0.2 per cent of the population, which appears to be the majority of Sikhs in West Africa for some reason.
The vast majority in Africa are in Eastern and Southern Africa.
The vast majority of Sikhs in Europe are in Western Europe, UK with about 432,000 comprising 0.68 percent of the population while Iceland had 100 comprising 0.03 percent of the population.
Of the about 600 in South America, they appear to be divided equally between Argentina and Brazil.
Wikipedia reports of the world's 26.4 million Sikhs spread around the world, in 2021 in India where the vast majority still live, at about 22.7 million they only comprise 1.7 percent of the population of India.
1st Guru Nanak
Founder of Sikhism
Sikhs live in Woolgoolga and its representative on the local Council, John Arkan, whose great grandfather worked the sugar plantations in the 19th Century spies Tony and me from across the road and beckons us to join him.
Shouldn't be surprised...Tony and John are good friends...the only place to buy red onions for Tony's maestro curries they tell me...winking at my lens. The Sikh Religion and the Sikh Empire
Knowing next to nothing except that the turbaned Bishen Bedi, was a great Indian spin bowler, we visited the Sikh Museum and became immersed in the extraordinary history of the Sikh religion and its people and wondered at the ordeals of its martyrs who suffered the most extremes of torture in the name of their religion...thus elevated into the psyche and history of Sikhism for eternity.
Sikhism was founded in about 1,500 AD by Guru Nanak.
He was followed by 9 further Gurus who spread the faith among Punjabis.
The fifth Guru, Arjan made Amritsar as the capital of the Sikh world, and compiled the first authorised book of Sikh scripture, the Adi Granth.
However, Sikhism was seen as a threat to
2nd Guru Angad
Founder of Punjabi language
the state and Guru Arjan was executed for his faith in 1606.
His successor, Guru Hargobind raised a Sikh army which fought battles to preserve their faith.
The Sikhs then lived in relative peace with the political rulers until the time of the Mughal Empire and its vicious ruler, Emperor Aurangzeb who used torture to force his subjects to covert to Islam.
I stand transfixed reading the gruesome details of the arrest and beheading of the 9th Guru, Tegh Bahadur in 1675.
In 1699 the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh formed the Sikhs as a military group of men and women called the Khalsa so that the Sikhs should thereafter be able to defend their faith. He was the last human Guru, Sikhism thereafter adopting their scriptures as their Guru.
In the 18th Century the Sikh armies took on the Islamic Mughals in various military campaigns culminating in 1799 when Ranjit Singh led a Sikh army to capture Lahore.
In 1801 Rajit Singh created Punjab as a separate State, and even though the Sikhs were in the minority, the Punjab Empire emerged with himself as its Maharaja.
At its peak in the 19th Century,
3rd Guru Amar Das
Marriage according to Sikhism rather than Hinduism
the Sikh Empire extended from the Kyber Pass in the West to Western Tibet in the East, from Delhi in the South to Kashmir in the North.
When Rajit Singh died in 1839, the Empire crumbled due to internal hostilities until finally defeated by the British Raj armies in 1849.
It was the last major region of the Indian subcontinent defeated by the British.
Thereafter the Sikhs and the British Raj fought side by side, the Sikhs regarding themselves as partners rather than subjects.
Then everything changed as a result of the Amritsar Massacre in 1919.
In April 1919 British troops commanded by General E H Dyer opened fire without warning on 10,000 people who were holding a protest meeting. The troops killed about 400 people and wounded 1,000.
This event some say was the catalyst for Indian Independence that was finally granted in 1947.
Independence resulted in the partition of India into Hindu India and Islamic East and West Pakistan.
The Sikh homeland of the Punjab was the centre of many massacres as the Sikhs sided with India but were unable to demand their own state, because there were too few
4th Guru Ram Das
Started construction of Amritsar City & Temple, the holiest place in Sikhism.
of them to resist Pakistan’s claim to the Punjab.
Only by siding with India were they able to keep part of the Punjab, although they lost many of their privileges and much of their land.
In 1966, after years of Sikh demands, India divided the Punjab into three, recreating Punjab as a state with a Sikh majority.
The Sikhs were not satisfied and continued to demand various concessions from the Indian government.
As Sikh discontent grew, the political conflict turned into violence between Hindus and Sikhs.
In 1983 a Sikh preacher, Bhindranwale and his closest followers took refuge in the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the most revered place in the Sikh world.
In June 1984 Indian troops launched 'Operation Blue Star', attacking the Golden Temple, killing many of those inside, and seriously damaging the buildings.
This assault on the Sikh's most holy place was ordered by Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister.
In October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards.
Four days of anti-Sikh rioting followed.
The Indian government said more than 2,700 people, mostly Sikhs, were killed, while newspapers and human-rights groups put the death toll between 10,000 and 17,000.
I stand transfixed...seemingly for an
5th Guru Arjan Dev
Wrote the Adi Grath, sacred Sikh scriptures. First Sikh martyr.
But where to get a feed?
There are two Sikh temples in Woolgoolga and on visiting one cannot escape a meal...'cos its part of their religion to feed all visitors...kinda humbling to thus enter the fold.
We retire to Tony & Glenda's for chatter, wines and curries. Tony may be a Swiss trained British chef...but its gotta be the salt air...they have a penchant for curries!
The alarm rings at 6am...off to the beach with Tony...even with guests he can't go without his dawn swim.
The sound of the ocean...the scent of frangipani and salt air...gotta wonder why we live in the rat race of Sydney...and not somewhere like their's! The Russian Reunion
Another 200 kms south to our next destination...Port Macquarie...an overnight with friends we met on our cruise of the NW rivers of Russia in 2019...Peter & Mary.
Backing a canal...their downstairs and boat shed only weeks before covered in a metre of water from the East Coast floods...the Russian Reunion thwarted by Covid can now take place.
And what a great stay it was.
Russian music from The Cathedral of St Peter & Paul
Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev
Tortured for his faith on a boiling plate for 3 days
in St Petersburg...beautiful meals...rugs...fine wines from Denise & gins from me...a very special wine from Peter's cellar.
But for me the highlight was our yarns & laughter.
Mary has to be the best stand up comedian in the country...not known on stage or screen...Peter's grin her everlasting fan.
We tasted Mary's sharp wit in Russia but her tales and Peter's banter over their dinner table will endure in the memory forever.
We may have missed Bluesfest...but its the people you meet that are music to our feet.
Relax & enjoy,
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