In the 1990s, Sikhs from the tribal areas first started arriving in Peshawar’s Mohalla Jogan Shah. They soon adjusted to the new environment and opened businesses. Once their livelihood was sorted out, they started focusing on their young ones who they wanted to keep close to their religious beliefs. That’s when they set up the Gurudwara Bhai Joga Singh Dharmik School.
Every day, young girls in the traditional yellow come to the school to learn hymns. The school has been teaching children music for almost three decades.
However, when terrorism hit the region, it also affected this school. The school never closed down fortunately, but it did at times keep a low profile.
Since peace has been largely restored, you can hear the children singing the hymns if you pass by.
Master Birbal Singh, who teaches music here, says that in Sikhism, music is considered a way of spreading love and is an integral part of the religion. The ‘Paath’ (verses) of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book in Sikhism, is sung accompanied by a tabla and harmonium.
“I recite two to three Kirtans in an hour or two,” said a girl student. “I have been reciting Kirtan at the Gurdwara for a year and I have spent two years learning the harmonium.”
More than a thousand Shabads (verses) are recited to music this way, he explained, adding that so far two generations of their community have benefited from the school.
“My parents get happy when they see me studying at the gurdwara,” said one boy student. “They get happy seeing me study music.”
The school is not just a training institute but is also a charity centre where the community donates 10% of their earnings as Dasvandh, a contribution in the name of the Guru.
The school’s monthly expenses run up to Rs100,000 and the community pays for everything. In 28 years, the government has never offered it any support. The community says that if it did, they could think about opening similar schools in other districts of the province.