Yu. V. KOLEDYUK (Saint Petersburg) Interfaith and interethnic conflicts have become a real scourge in many countries of Asia and Africa in the 21st century. Nor did India escape them. Sectarian-ethnic clashes, which sometimes escalated into bloody massacres, broke out in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, in the north-east of the country, where armed separatist groups operate. Against this background, the situation in the state of Punjab (north-west India) looks relatively calm. However, even in this region, the security services sometimes have to resort to force to settle disputes among Sikhs, followers of Sikhism with representatives of various sects (dera). Dera literally means a place of worship or temple. The dera tradition in Punjab existed before the advent of Sikhism and played a role in shaping its ideology. Dera usually appeared at the cremation or burial sites of the remains of a local saint, Hindu or Muslim, and served as a place of worship for residents of nearby areas. In the past, dera often became a meeting place for Muslim dervishes and Hindu bhaktas, 1 where they exchanged spiritual experiences and knowledge. DERA IN PUNJAB Currently, there are various types of dera in Punjab. Most are simply Sikh gurdwara temples headed by Baba or Sant2. They were built in memory of the saint and are now run by his descendants. Gurdwara Management Committee (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Kamiti or SHGPC)3 recognizes them as Sikh Gurdwaras. The second category is dera who continue to practice Sikhism but do not fully follow what the Sikh Code of Conduct ("Sikh Rahit Maryada") and SHGPC prescribe. The third category of dera are cults that have the institution of a living guru, and although their teachings are based on the Adi Granth (Sri Guru Granth Sahib), the Sikh scriptures, they can be defined as separate sects.4 These include Namdhari, Nirankari, Ravidasi, Sacha Sauda. SHGPC does not recognize these sects as being related to Sikhism, as the book of Guru Gran ... Read more

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