One of the most inspiring things for us at FaithHaus is the interfaith lifestyles of families and friends. The experience of sharing your beliefs, being accepted and loved, and exposing each other to your rituals makes life richer. Christmas is one of the biggest holidays in America and many people forget its roots in religion. Everyone is invited to celebrate and why not find gifts that are as meaningful to their spirit as well. Today we pick gifts for our Sikh loved ones that might just enlighten you as well!
Men's & Women's T-shirts
Colors and symbols are important to the Sikh culture. The Kanda is a representation of the double-edged sword. It is the main symbol to the Sikhs, like the Cross is to Christians or The Star of David is to the Jews. The lotus flower signifies enlightenment, beauty from the darkness, and a reminder to stay open. The colors orange and blue are featured often in their dress. Orange is vibrant and presents joy and bliss, worn in the Nishan Sahibs. Blue is honesty and sensitivity and you see it often in turbans and swags. $22-$24, shop here
"Ohm" For Him
This modern "Ohm" bracelet for men is the perfect reminder to harmonize his life. The Ohm is a sacred and spiritual symbol and a mantra. $34, shop here
"Ohm" For Her
Combining silver and gold (good luck!) in this modern 'ohm' symbol necklace. Wear your spirit! $36, shop here
Organic Jute Yoga Mat
Ok, so this doesn't quite fit in the stocking but it's a great gift for the Sikh yogi! This organic yoga mat is made from jute, antibacterial and comes with a breathable carrying bag. $75, shop here
Petite Elephant Earrings in Sterling Silver
The Sikh religion has a divine respect for all animals. And who doesn't love elephants! Petite silver elephant earrings for anyone with piercings! $16, shop here
Going the extra step in gift giving is easy and VERY meaningful. We want to help you honor the uplifting.
Love, light, and happy holidays!
There is no denying Diwali is one of the most beautiful and joyous celebrations within the Hindu faith. Diwali Day falls this year on October 30, but the 5-day celebration begins on October 28 with gorgeous festivities happening throughout.
Diwali is celebrated in honor of the return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother, Lakshmana, from Lanka. It illuminates their path to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness or good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair (all concepts we love!).
When you add in the pageantry of the attire, the food, the coloured rice powder and flower floor designs called rangolis- and of course, fireworks – you’ve got yourself a full-on vibrant spectacle of hope and togetherness.
From Bollywood to London to Hollywood, Diwali is an over-the-top affair celebrated by Hindu’s, Sikhs and spiritually inclined people around the world. And, you don’t have to be a celebrity like Shah Rukh Khan, George Harrison or Julia Roberts (all practicing Hindu’s) to get into the spirit.
If you are unable to experience a grand affair at the Taj Land’s End hotel in Mumbai, on the Johari Bazarin Jaipur or at Trafalgar Square in London, chances are you are invited to an intimate home festival within your community. Here’s how to navigate the whirlwind of Diwali in style:
WHAT TO WEAR
You’ve RSVP’ed your eVite and are excited to celebrate, but what to wear? Whether you don an embroidered sari or kurta (for the men), or blend traditional Indian dress with more Westernized dress, the look is about splendor and grandeur. You can be as bold or demure as you feel comfortable (just be sure to cover your shoulders and legs), but traditionally, women adorn themselves with beaded and metal jewelry and lots of colour. Dark-rimmed eyes, deep berry lips (you can’t go wrong with Tom Ford’s Bruised Plum Lipstick) and bright manicures rule the make-up looks that balance the flowing silks draping their bodies. The look is exotic but always very polished.
The Beauty Look
Tom Ford Bruised Plum Lipstick at Nordstrom
Jewels to Celebrate Diwali
Polka Dot Saree-full of color!
Bhumika Arora Celebrates Diwali (Vogue)
WHAT TO BRING
Of course, you aren’t going to show up empty-handed, so what to bring? It’s customary to bring something sweet and alcohol is not typically consumed during this holy event, but you can be more Westernized and bring home-baked cookies, cupcakes or beautiful chocolates (did someone say Godiva?). Or, try a hostess gift like a sweet necklace that your host can wear every day to highlight her faith after all the pageantry is over. This little dainty elephant charm (referencing the Hindu God, Ganesh) is one of those gifts that you’ll buy one for her, one for you!
Or, go with the celebration theme of light and bring paper sky lanterns for you and the guests to release during the celebration (tip: probably best done separately from the fireworks!)
A gorgeous candle is always appropriate and ups your hosts good fortune quotient, as Hindu’s believe that the Hindu Goddess of Luck and Wealth, Lakshmi, visits the homes that are brightly lit.
Like any celebration, food is the core of joining guests together. Diwali does not disappoint – but you’ll definitely have to embrace your sweet tooth! Most often, Mums and Aunties prepare counters full of trays loaded with luscious delectables such as Gulab Jamun (here from Manjula's Kitchen)– a spongy milky ball of sweetness drenched in exotic rose syrup – or the divine and classic cardamom and saffron infused Kesar Peda alongside the colorful swirls of crushed pistachio and cashew nuts in Kaju Pista rolls.
Among all the beautiful Indian oil lamps and flowers, you will also find bowls overflowing with various dishes of spiced lentils called Dal, Masala made with chickpeas, and squash and vegetable curries to feast on. It’s actually overwhelming the amount of food, so if you have never celebrated Diwali and are joining in with friends – prepare for a Thanksgiving-type-of-day where you’ll be thankful you are wearing a sari and not jeans!
The shimmering décor, sweet and savory cuisine and gathering with friends and family make Diwali a social and warm celebration, but the various ceremonies performed during the 5 days of Diwali are what make it the spiritual beauty it truly is.
When celebrating Diwali in the United States – traditions may be altered to accommodate work schedules, but practicing Hindu’s always find a way to honor their faith during this brilliantly happy time. Some will indeed even observe Halloween with their young children to celebrate the country where they are raised while still embracing their heritage and religion. The point is that family and friends come together in gratitude and harmony to acknowledge all they have together and all the wonderful things still to come.
" Kundalini Yoga is the root of spiritual experience."
Do you have to be a Sikh to practice Kundalini yoga? No, however many practitioners choose this way of life.
By definition, kundalini yoga is a system of meditation directed toward the release of a primal energy or shakti, located at the base of the spine.
Sikhism is the 5th largest religion in the world. It's monotheistic- meaning One God. It was founded in the 15th century as an independent religion and it worships Guru Granth Sahib. The places of worship are called a gurdwara which means "doorway to God". According to Simran Jeet Singh "Sikhism is rooted in oneness and love, Sikh theology encourages a life of spirituality and service".
Bir Kaur Khalsa's life as a Sikh and Kundalini Yoga teacher have deepened her spiritual experience. She has a great website called Warrior Spirit Yoga that shares her healings and teachings of Kundalini yoga through videos and articles that is a must read for anyone who's been wondering if they should check it out. We got the opportunity to hear from Bir on what her faith means to her and it's a blessing to share this with our readers.
-What is your definition of faith?
For me, faith is the courage that resides within the soul that enables us to transform darkness into light with the help of our spiritual teacher. To me, faith in action is commitment. It's commitment to your internal values. It's commitment to the evolution of your soul acting from a place of fulfilling your life's purpose in this human form through your destiny (dharma). For me, commitment and courage can be expressed in the form of religion.
-How would you define spirituality?
Spirituality is the remembrance of your connection with Universal Consciousness and therefore your soul. Spirituality is being in total balance with all aspects of your being and therefore reflected in everything that surrounds you. Development of your spirituality is supported by community. This group consciousness can be more powerful than individual consciousness. A sense of community that can be provided through religion, when utilized properly, can be a wonderful tool to developing a stronger relationship to God. However, “religion” and “spirituality” are often seen as two separate things in our society when they can actually complement each other.
-Would you consider yourself spiritual or faithful? Or is there a difference?
Some people associate spirituality with a more individual/personal journey and faithful to have a religious tone. Unfortunately, I think spiritual extremists find no value in religion and religious extremists find only one value in their particular religion to achieve liberation of their soul.
The words that are the foundation of the Sikh faith are “Ik Ong Kar”. This means “One Universal Consciousness/God.” No matter what your faith is, it is interconnected by all faiths, because it leads to the same One Universal God. I feel that I am spiritually committed to my soul through a steady daily spiritual practice/Sikh Faith values. I also feel that through the power of the One God, there are an infinite amount of religions/faiths that, when utilized properly, can also achieve this same potential. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to redefine spirituality and religion as being one in the same in other religions. Bringing spirituality into my faith allows me to embody the God given right to be a free, happy, and (liberated) spirit. One example of this is having a direct and focused conversation with God through prayer (faithful) or feeling the totality of the cosmos/interconnection of all life within me when I listen to kirtan (Shabad Guru) during a Sikh service (spiritual).
A simple way to bring spirituality into faith is to ask yourself “Why am I doing this?”. A simple way to bring faith into spirituality is asking “How can I do this with more authenticity and commitment”. In reality we all have the capacity to be spiritual and simultaneously faithful.
-Do you have specific rituals that you do in relation to your faith (meditation, prayer, celebrations, etc)?
Guru Nanak (the first of the Ten Gurus in the Sikh faith) was the first to embody the teachings of “Ik Ong Kar” and was the first initiator of the Sikh lifestyle. He didn't appreciate the blind rituals that his Hindu family practiced at the time. People were just participating in rituals without knowing why. They lost the spirituality and meaning of these rituals. As a Sikh, rituals aren't practiced. However, there is a daily service that occurs in a Sikh place of worship called a Gurdwara. In the Gurdwara the community gathers for daily prayers, kirtan, reading from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, and sharing in a meal of equality called Langar afterwards.
As a student and teacher of Kundalini Yoga, I have a 2 to 2.5 hour daily meditation and yoga practice that I am dedicated to. I get up between 4am-5am everyday to complete this practice along with reciting Japji Sahib. This helps me to connect with my soul when the chaos of the world is quiet, like others do from many other different faiths. You don't have to be Sikh to do Kundalini Yoga.
-Do you think it’s important for youth to have faith? Why?
I think it's really important for youth to have faith for the reasons listed above. Youth have the challenge and blessing of navigating in perhaps the most chaotic times this world has experienced. I feel that youth are our key to reigniting the spirituality that was intended to thrive in religion/faith. The youth have the opportunity through faith and courage to bring peace to the world and protect the resources of our earth by connecting with their own truth.
-Do you share your faith with others or keep it private?
As a Sikh I share my faith with others. I try not to share my faith so much in word but in action. I feel that through my actions others will know what a Sikh is. This includes being of service in any way possible. Sikhs are known for being of service through offering food to those in need, among many other things. I also share my faith by the way I look. I wear a turban all the time when I am in public so I often stand out in a crowd. There aren't many 30 something women out there wearing turbans. The sole purpose of this is to be recognizable if anyone needs help. Most people are curious when they see me and ask what my “hat” is all about.
-What’s your favorite thing about faith?
As a Sikh, I believe this spiritual relationship between myself and God is completely interconnected and merged. Therefore, God is not an entity or energy that resides outside of me. God is within me. So the Creator that resides within automatically makes me a co-creator. This leads to the concept of how we can choose to create heaven (or hell) on earth based on how clear and still our mind is. When our mind is still then we are more readily able to listen to what our soul wants us to do instead of what others want us to do. Faith is having the dedication to commit to this relationship through my spiritual practice so this can be possible. Being human is the greatest gift as we are the physical (being upright/vertical creatures) and the energetic connection between God and Earth.
Another thing I love is the Sikh Gurus teach me that I don't need a guru to experience Universal Consciousness/God, because it is all right here in this present moment. This is one of the reasons I fell in love with Sikh faith, because a true Sikh will encourage a Muslim to be the best Muslim they can be, a Christian to be the best Christian they can be, a Jew to be the best Jew they can be, and so on. Sikhs aren't concerned about spreading the Word masked by the intention of converting someone to Sikhism. It's quite the contrary. Sikhs are dedicated to being of service for others so others can have the opportunity to connect with their soul and therefore God in their own unique way.
-Do you buy gifts, items for your house or items that you wear that are related to faith or spirituality?
My husband and I usually have pictures up of a few of the Sikh Gurus that we are deeply connected with, particularly Guru Gobind Singh and Guru Ram Das. We also have a picture of our teacher who brought Kundalini Yoga to the west, Yogi Bhajan. I like having different incense, stones and gems nearby. I like to have Kundalini Yoga mantras playing in the background all the time to elevate the energy of the room.
-Do you have any funny stories related to faith?
I worked in home health physical therapy and often treated people that were 70+ years old. Many of my patients had no idea what Sikhism was and were curious to know about it. As a Sikh, one of the symbols I wear is a small knife (kirpan) in my turban. Depending on the laws of where I am at, I usually wear a large kirpan at my side. It's a symbol that I am ready and able to protect those in need no matter what their faith, social class, or race is. I got a lot of funny comments, but the best one was when an older man asked why I was wearing a tire gauge in my hat. He could only see the tip of my kirpan through my turban.
-Do you have any places that remind you of your faith or feel spiritual to you?
The pivotal spiritual place for Sikhs is The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. It has four doors which are open at all times. This place represents being open to all people from all different faiths. My dream is to go there someday.
Being in nature always helps me connect with my soul more. I lived in Portland, Oregon for 5 years. It is perhaps one of the most magical and scenic places I have lived in. A few places that made me feel most connected was The Grotto and Latourell Falls.
THE GROTTO, Portland, Oregon
LATOURELL FALLS, Oregon
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE, Amritsar, India
-Did your faith influence you in business and/or what you are creating?
Yes, Sikhism has helped me be a more compassionate in my work as a healthcare practitioner. It has also influenced me to create my own business, Warrior Spirit Yoga with Bir Kaur, to develop as a healer and Kundalini Yoga teacher. You can visit www.warriorspirityogabk.com for more information.
Thank you Bir, for shedding light on your yoga practice and your faith and giving us all a bit of inspiration. FH
This is such a lovely group of men. The four of them sitting cross-legged in the beautiful space better known as The Old Church in Portland, OR. Surprisingly the room isn't fully packed and overflowing with Sikhs, hippies or others Portland spiritual fans but a comfortably full cross-section of typical Oregon types. Attend the Oregon Country Fair once and you know what we are talking about. Needless to say we were all there for one reason: onelove and the joyous musical sounds of Guru Ganesha Band.
These men, their melodic voices and talented guitar playing can settle down the crankiest road-rager with their peaceful vibes and continuous smile. You get the feeling they love you and hey, you just met us. But that's ok and that's why we are all here. This group of musical all-stars spent close to two hours with us in what felt like a big living room with great acoustics. The aisle dancers, one very vocal follower, top yogis, spiritual fest promoters, and world music enthusiasts listened intently to the story behind their deep faithful practice and the mantras that make up their songs.
These (and all) Sikhs are truly about one love. They are not here to judge you but let you delight in their unfettered love of all strangers through their music and musings. Their music is for everyone and worth the price of admission. If for no other reason than to remember to share the love. Read the recent interview of Guru Ganesha in the OmTimes (link below) and check out their videos on their YouTube channel. Peace out.
Go here for beautiful music:GuruGaneshaBand
Go here for a great interview on Guru Ganesha: OmTimes
Header photo credit OmTimes
WHAT TO WEAR TO AN INDIAN WEDDING
You've just received your first invitation to an Indian wedding and a couple things pop into your mind: what do you wear and what do you expect? Be prepared for a colorful, lively event filled with family, a HUGE wedding party, lots of great food and amazing clothing, jewelry and tradition. Pretend VOGUE INDIA will be there to photograph this event and go all out (in other words don't be afraid of color and accessorizing)! Here's our suggestions...
First rule- not too much bare chest. Even though you may see stomach, these are still fairly religious ceremonies and exposed breast is a no-no.
The saree (or sari). This is like a long wide scarf or piece of fabric. Often goes around the waist and then up over the shoulder. Embellishment, specially in gold, is very much accepted (and desired!).
photo courtesy of veeshackshop
The lehenga. This is a long embroidered skirt. It is worn with a choli which is the midriff-baring top or blouse. With this outfit you would drape the saree over the top to complete the look.
photo courtesy of @indianstreetfashion
The salwar kameez. This is like a pantsuit and can be worn by a man or woman but the styling is different. The salwar is the pants and the kameez is the shirt or tunic. For women it's a bit more subdued and hides flaws better but you can still have fun with color and styling.
photo courtesy of Ethnicyug
The jutti. Both women and men wear these colorful embroidered slippers. Love these shoes! The come in many styles and colors so have fun with these.
photo courtesy of @turboozeshop
Accessories. Bindis- the dot in the middle of the forehead. Can be from paint or a stick on rhinestone type embellishment. Choora- the layers and layers of sparkly bangle bracelets. Payals- jeweled anklets. You can't go over the top here. More is BETTER.
If you are attending a muslim or sikh wedding you may be required to cover your head with a scarf so good idea to bring one as well. Many weddings now provide these for their guests.
The sherwani. This is a long tailored jacket. More dressy and worn on occasions such as weddings.
photo courtesy of @rimple_harpreet_narula
photo courtesy of @walklikeamaharaja
The kurta pajama. This is a long tunic which is usually lightweight fabric and worn with a lightweight pant that's usually tapered at the bottom. Comes in lots of colors and embroidered.
photo courtesy of @koleksibajuraydantunang
The mojari. Similar to the jutti, an embroidered and embellished slip on shoe.
photo courtesy of @mojaribazar
They too have the pick of lehenga, kurta pajamas, salwar kameez and saris to choose from. Don't leave the kids out!
photo courtesy of Ed McMahon
WHERE TO BUY
www.vamadesigns.com - San Jose, CA
www.dreamscollections.net - Artesia, CA
www.craftsvilla.com - online
www.khajananj.com - New Jersey
Cover photo from Jen Lynne Photography.