Years ago marble was installed on the floors and base of the walls in the Gurdwara here in Espanola, New Mexico. Ever since then it has become a beautiful weekly get together to clean the Guru’s House. I used to hear about it from Prabhu Singh and a few others (Sat Bachan Kaur) who were always trying to encourage people to participate. Back then It took place late at night (rather than 6:30am nowadays) so I never did take part in it. At first I thought it silly to install marble in the Gurdwara when it seemed to be perfectly nice as it was. I thought, why make more work and the need to clean the marble?? Was this our sangat’s way of having a similar experience of cleaning the marble floors of Harimandir Sahib (which most are not allowed to take part in)? Anyways, that was my critical mind at work and was a factor in my not taking the opportunity to do this seva till this year.
My son Narayan Singh had come to Ishnaan Seva a few times before me with some of his uncles, and he always seemed to love the experience. So one morning I decided to go with him since he really wanted to go. How could I say no when my son wanted to serve in the Guru’s house??? Ever since that morning I wondered why I had never come before?? It was so nice to be with other sevadhars doing this seva. It’s not so much the cleaning part or the labor…. but there is something about coming together with other Gursikhs in the Guru’s House and serving in this way that is special.
On my first morning doing the seva Sat Bachan Kaur asked if I would carry the Siri Guru Granth Sahib from the Guru’s room to a different location, so that we could clean the Guru’s room. This was the first time I have done this and for some reason it was such a powerful experience for me (all of like ten seconds or so). Many Sikhs refer to the Guru as "The Sikh Scriptures" or "The Sikh Holy Book" which is totally off base, as the Siri Guru Granth is our living Guru and not a "book". So as I carried the Siri Guru Granth on my head and it was an experience that is hard to put to words. I was carrying my Guru with love and respect and feeling the "vibration" of the Gurbani flow through my being. Wow!
The whole process takes about two hours from start to finish. The two Siri Guru Granth Sahib’s are moved from their room to a temporary location as well as the two sets of the English/Punjabi Translations of Siri Guru Granth Sahib which are used to read the English translation of the Hukamnama and also for the weekly Akandh Path. After that we roll up the carpets, remove everything from the Gurdwara, sweep up the dust from the floor, wash the marble floors with water, dry everything, put everything back in, and then lay down sheets on top of the carpets for the Sunday Gurdwara. Most weeks Hari Kaur or Jugat Singh cook some yummy langar for us to enjoy at the end, which is real treat!!
On the weekends when I participate in the Ishnaan Seva I try to bring my (1.5 year old) Charanjeet Kaur and (6 year old) Narayan Singh. They both love the seva also, and help out with everything. Narayan’s favorite is taking the buckets of water and pouring it all over the floors and then wiping it all over with towels. He zips back and forth. I like going with my kids because it gives them a positive experience of seva and of being together with sangat. Some of the other people also bring their children so they all have fun together and we get the kids involved. It’s like a big family event coming together like this in the morning.
If you come to visit our community, definitely plan to participate in this seva on Sunday morning. If you are from Espanola and reading this then you don’t know what you are missing! Come join us! (Starts around 6:30am) You won’t regret it.
A few weeks ago someone suggested recording the Ishnaan Seva and making a video. So, this past weekend I did that. Here are two short videos showing the Ishnaan Seva.
The first video is from one camera that I carried around during the seva and recorded the different activities close up. In order to better illustrate the seva I sped up the video to go very fast. I suggest that you download the video which is MUCH better quality (and larger) then what shows in the below Youtube video. You’ll be able to see things better and enjoy it more.
This second video is a continuous recording of the Ishnaan Seva from start to finish (for about 2.5 hours) from a second video camera. I then sped it up so you can watch the whole thing in about 80 seconds! (again I suggest that you download the higher quality video). You can see everyone zipping around, and the transformation of taking everything out of the Gurdwara, cleaning and then bringing everything back in.