of Southall Nagar Kirtan
London, April 06, 2005
By Manvir Singh Khalsa
Nagar Kirtans originate from 'Parbaat Pheris' (prbwq
PyrI) (Parbaat literally means 'early morning,' and
Pheri means 'going around'). The Parbaat Pheri would
consist of a Gursikh carrying a vaaja (harmonium)
tied to themselves, some people would carry chhainey
(bells), and one person would carry a dholki. Early
in the morning the group of Gursikhs would walk around
the village or city singing shabads and people would
join them as they walked past their homes. Leading
the jatha (group) would be the people leading the
shabad singing and a Gursikh carrying a Nishan Sahib.
The processions gave opportunity for people to enjoy
the bliss of singing the Lord's Praises, an opportunity
to distribute relevant and useful Gurmat literature
to the public and also share a positive image of the
In recent history we have started doing processions
which include Guru Maharaaj's Sawaari (without Prakaash)
and also Panj Pyaare leading the procession.
Benefit of Traditional Nagar Kirtan
The traditional Nagar Kirtans or Parbaat Pheris inspired
people to sing Gurbaani and gave them opportunity
to distribute educational material in regards to Gurmat.
Seeing Chardikala Gursikhs in public singing Kirtan
provided the public and youngsters with positive role
models and good impressions of what and who Sikhs
are. The whole event would have a community spirit,
gathering the community together and inspiring others
to sing and understand Gurbaani.
jnu nwnku DUiV mMgY iqsu gurisK kI jo Awip jpY
Avrh nwmu jpwvY ]2]
Servant Nanak begs for the dust of the feet of that
GurSikh, who himself chants the Naam, and inspires
others to chant it. ||2|| (Ang 306, SGGS)
Awvhu isK siqgurU ky ipAwirho gwvhu scI bwxI ]
Come, O beloved Sikhs of the True Guru, and sing the
True Word of His Baani. (Ang 920, SGGS)
Today's Nagar Kirtans
What do we learn or take away from Nagar Kirtans organised
nowadays? We end up eating loads of delicious food,
like pakorae, jalebian, ladoo, sholay bhatoorae and
chips etc. It seems there is so much nice food and
so many people wanting to distribute it to the Sangat
that we end up squeezing as much food as possible
into our stomachs.
Looking around Southall Nagar Kirtan, I saw large
and small Nishan Sahibs everywhere and anywhere. Young
children, teenagers and older youngsters were holding
Nishan Sahibs and having a laugh with their mates.
I thought to myself, "Do they know the value
of the Nishan Sahib?' "How is it that we have
made devalued our Nishan Sahib so much that it is
found everywhere and anywhere and being treated with
little or no reverence or respect?"
When the Nagar Kirtan had finished and the road blocks
were lifted, youngsters born in Sikh families had
decorated their cars with Khandas. Driving up and
down the Broadway and Kings Street boys and girls
were flirting and making a show and display of themselves.
The Gursikhs I was with and myself were disarrayed
with how the Guru's Khanda, bestowed upon us by the
Sixth Nanak had been made into a fashion accessory
which is commercialised by shopkeepers at Vaisakhi
are today's Nagar Kirtans in educating, promoting
and highlighting Gurmat
Last Sunday's Southall Nagar Kirtan seemed very minimal
in its effect in promoting and educating youngsters
and the public about Gurmat. It should be mentioned
that were children on floats singing Gurbaani and
also children accompanying their parents who were
singing along with shabads being sung. However, unfortunately
they were a minority. The large number of people were
talking amongst themselves, looking for the nearest
place to get some nice food or busy looking out to
see for people they knew in the crowd.
I felt shame and disgust in seeing people dancing,
and stupidly waving their arms (similar postures to
what Bhangra artists do when singing and dancing to
songs) to Dharmic (religious) songs about Guru Gobind
Singh Ji and the Khalsa. The float in concern was
the Desi Radio float. There is nothing wrong or objectionable
about playing Dharmic songs in the Nagar Kirtan procession.
However, Dharmic songs are played for people to be
educated, inspired and for them to act upon the message
in the lyrics. Songs singing about Guru Gobind Singh
Ji and the Khalsa are not designed to dance to but
to think and act upon.
Not being able to tolerate the disrespect of the
dancers and the Desi Radio's float and dancers bringing
down the Gurmat tone of the Nagar Kirtan, I approached
the clean-shaven dancers and two Singhs (who are Kirtani)
who were standing with them. They justified themselves
that is part of Vaisakhi culture, and that we are
celebrating "kushi" (happiness) of the Khalsa.
Myself and two other Gursikhs politely told them that
the Nagar Kirtan which is being led the Panj Pyaare
and Guru Granth Sahib Ji is a religious event and
not cultural event. There is a time and place for
doing Bhangra to songs. And that Guru's Kushi is not
in dancing but in taking positive steps in becoming
better Sikhs and following the Guru's Hukam. They
persisted to justify themselves by arguing that they
had danced in the Nagar Kirtan procession for six
years running and no-one ever has stopped them before.
This highlights the question of what are the Parbandhaks
and organiser doing to maintain Gurmat in the Nagar
Kirtan procession and what impression are these types
of things setting to our youngsters?
Generally the whole atmosphere of the Nagar Kirtan
(like in other towns and cities) was of a street carnival.
Conclusion of Southall Nagar Kirtan & today's
Nagar Kirtans in general
To my experience and understanding, last Sunday's
Southall Nagar Kirtan had no or very little positive
effect on youngsters. No one learn anything about
Guru Ji, about the Khalsa, about Rehat (Sikh way of
life & discipline) or about Gurbaani. There was
no person or no thing in the Nagar Kirtan procession
or the whole day event which inspiring.
Thought to take away
We are celebrating 306 years of the Khalsa Panth.
We should ask ourselves what do we learn from Vaisakhi
of 1699 and the establishment of the Khalsa Panth?
How do we improve ourselves, and what steps do we
take to change and adjust our lives to become closer
to Guru Ji and receiving the True Kushee (happiness)
of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.