Born in 1469 in the Punjab province (present day Nankana Sahib, Pakistan), Guru Nanak was a great religious innovator and is the first of the 10 Gurus in Sikh religious tradition. His 974 poetic hymns, a repository of wisdom, are recorded in the Sikh holy scripture and through them posit that there is only One God who constitutes the eternal Truth. His teachings were carried on and expanded on by nine gurus, forming Sikhism, which is now the fifth-largest religion in the world.

“Guru Nanak’s teachings can be very relevant in today’s world as we are dealing with issues of divisions, bigotry, hatred and distrust,” said Dr. Veena Howard, associate professor of philosophy and event organizer and moderator. “Nanak was one of the first leaders who focused on interfaith harmony while upholding the dignity of the human.”

In commemoration of Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday, the Department of Philosophy and the College of Arts and Humanities will present the symposium “Melodies of Peace in Sikhism: Guru Nanak’s Vision of Universal Love” at 9 a.m. PST Friday, March 12, on Zoom. Registration is free, and the general public is invited to attend.

Celestial Synergy group photo

Celestial Synergy

The following evening, the Fresno State Department of Music and Associated Students, Inc., will present “Celestial Synergy,” an Indian classical music concert, at 7 p.m. PST Saturday, March 13, live on YouTube. “Celestial Synergy” features Pt. Debasis Chakroborty on a modified slide guitar, Dr. Lovely Sharma on Sitar, Shri Shambhu Dayal Srivastava on violin, Ustad Rashid Zafar Khan on Tabla and Shri Debaditya Chakroborty on Sitar.

The Melodies of Peace in Sikhism symposium will feature Dr. Nikky Kaur Singh, Crawford Family Professor and chair of Religious Studies at Colby College, Maine, and Dr. Simran Jeet Singh of Union Theological Seminary, New York. It will be moderated by Howard.

Nikky Kaur Singh is an educator and author who has published many books, including “The First Sikh: Life and Legacy of Guru Nanak,” “Birth of the Khalsa: A Feminist Re-Memory,” and “Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent.” Her interests focus on poetics and feminist issues.

Guru Nanak’s message, Nikky Kaur Singh said, is “truth that transcends all humanly constructed boundaries. An elaboration on how this theological vision is focused toward building a culture of universal love.”

Last year, Time Magazine recognized Simran Jeet Singh as one of 16 people and groups fighting for a more equal America. He is a senior adviser for equity and inclusion at YSC Consulting and a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary. He is also a 2020 equality fellow with the Open Society Foundations, a racial equity media fellow with Interfaith Youth Core and a senior fellow with the Sikh Coalition.

“Guru Nanak may have lived 500 years ago, but his teachings have so much to offer our world today,” Simran Jeet Singh said. He added that Guru Nanak’s vision of oneness, love and justice and associated principles can help address some of today’s most urgent challenges.”

The symposium is sponsored by the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies and co-sponsored by Fresno State’s  Peace and Conflict Studies Program, Ethics Center, Cross Culture and Gender Center and the Fresno State Alumni Association. “Celestial Synergy” is co-sponsored by the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies and the Fresno State Department of Art and Design.