COLORFUL FESTIVE SIKH PARADES: A GROWING GLOBAL CULTURAL HAPPENING
RELIGIOUS PARADES: TIME-HONORED EXPRESSIONS AND COMMEMORATIONS
Kanwal Prakash Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana USA - June 25, 2016
Press Released by NRIpress.club
High holy day processions, commemorative parades, and celebrations are a centuries-old traditions in many cultures and faith communities: Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico; Vesak Day - "Buddha's Birthday" is a celebration of the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha in Thailand; Semana Santa - Holy Week in Spain; Ratha Yatra or Chariot Festival- originated in Puri, Odisha, India. These parades often take on a unique aura and myriad expressions as major community happenings of local and national significance and as international and interfaith attractions.
Sikh Gurupurabs - holy days connected with the lives, times, and events of the Sikh Gurus; and countless major religious parades in India and around the world.
SIKH NAGAR KEERTAN (RELIGIOUS PARADE) IN INDIANAPOLIS
There were thousands of Sikh Americans men in colorful turbans and ladies in brocaded Punjabi dresses in Downtown Indianapolis on October 8, 2016 from all across the State of Indiana and the adjoining states of Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and beyond. They had gathered for a festive parade to commemorate the 308th anniversary of Gurguddi Divas (installation day) of Sikh Holy Scriptures, Guru Granth Sahib, as the Living Eternal Guru (Spiritual Teacher) of the Sikhs by their Tenth Guru Gobind Singh in October 1708 at Nanded, India.
The Celebration highlighted the Sikh tradition of Nagar Keertan (a spiritual parade); sharing of community meal; prayer and fellowship. There were several decorated floats lead by the Sikh Motorcycle riders: a truck carrying the Nagara, a large traditional drum played to make a prayer announcement in Sikh Gurdwaras; a truck towing a water tank to sprinkle water along the path as a symbol of cleansing the pathway for the passage of the Guru in a beautifully decorated float with Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Scripture and Sikh Raagis singing the sacred Sikh hymns. Slightly ahead of the float carrying Guru Granth Sahib, Punj Piaras (the Five Beloveds) barefoot and in traditional dresses, were accompanied by three Sikhs carrying the American, Indiana, and the Sikh flag.
The faithful spectators thronged the float as it passed by for a sacred glimpse and Prashad (sacred offering). Behind the float were hundreds of Sikh men, women, and children singing sacred hymns, a float carrying a Dhadi Jatha (Sikh religious bards), a van that displayed slides of sacred passages from Guru Granth Sahib in Punjabi with English translations, a float with photos of martyrs in Sikh struggles; and a contingent of Gatka (Sikh Martial Arts) demonstrators. There seemed to be a sea of Sikh Americans and Sikh spirit that had descended in Downtown Indianapolis streets to showcase their culture and traditions, pride and presence in their new home in America. The Parade ended with an Ardas (Prayer) at Veterans Memorial Plaza, the site of the gathering where Langar (free community meal) was served to all and the people engaged in fellowship.
According to Maninder Walia, past President of Sikh Satsang and a community leader: "The main focus of the Parade and gathering is a collective effort to showcase awareness of the Sikh Americans in our blessed Nation." Maninder added that, "It is a unique privilege that in America the freedom of religion permits diverse faith communities that form the rich cultural tapestry and spiritual landscape of our Nation to practice their sacred and time-honored traditions."
I believe that by learning about and from our vibrant inter-faith communities, that represents a rich resource for building goodwill across faith and cultural divides and removing misconceptions. With these assets and networking, we have the best chance to dispel problems of mistaken identity and unfounded stereotyping that has led to hundreds of incidents of harassment, discrimination, hate crimes, and unprovoked violence against Sikhs and others since 9/11.
A PRAYERFUL REFLECTION
In recent decades, we have seen Sikh religious parades (Nagar Keertan) become part of the western countries and cities with major Sikh populations: London, Toronto, Yuba City, Los Angeles, and New York. In Indianapolis, during the recent Nagar Keertan, there were few spectators along the parade route, fewer still in Veterans Memorial Plaza, the site of the gathering, community lunch, and fellowship. It was a Sikh community event - organized, produced, and presented by leaders of the Sikh Society of Indiana and supported by several area Gurdwaras and volunteers.
If the Sikh Day Parade’s aim was community pride and presenting a time honored tradition from India to a new landscape, then it was a successful endeavor. If on the other hand, the organizers had in mind that such public display of our tradition through the Downtown streets would educate fellow Americans about Sikh faith, culture, and community, then we have much work to do. Certainly, many learned about the Parade through photos on Facebook and write-ups on ethnic media sites. We all felt a sense of pride to take our tradition into the public square, another important dimension and effort at mainstreaming Sikh traditions and culture. Thoughtful invitations to other faith communities and civic leaders to participate in our celebrations in gurdwaras and cultural programs; organizing interfaith forums as part of the festivities should be explored to make Sikh community events as opportunities to build greater appreciation about Sikh Americans, their culture and contributions to U.S. society.
The Sikh Day Celebration was organized by The Sikh Society of Indiana; served by Dr. Prabhjot Singh Pannu, Founder; Tarlok Singh Atwal, President; Jagdish Singh, General Secretary. Sikh leaders of other Sikh organizations in central Indiana and many volunteers assisted in the 2016 Festivities.....Indianapolis, Indiana USA. <> www.KPSinghDesigns.com <> October 8, 2016