While the official date of Vaisakhi was yesterday, Sikh communities in several cities have already had formal celebrations to commemorate the day. I attended American Sikh Day a couple of days ago in Sacramento, California. And, across America, various media outlets are covering the continuing celebrations in their communities.
Scores of the faithful surrounded a flagpole and prayed outside the gurdwara about noon on Thursday. Flying above them was a triangular orange flag known as the Nishan Sahib, a symbol of their faith…
And inside a large tent erected on the grounds, a feast was underway throughout the day. A wide assortment of vegetarian dishes and sweets were available to visitors.
Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston will attend the main event that kicks off the day. From there, attendees will march through downtown and come back to the temple, where there will be free refreshments. The parade attracts thousands of people from as far away as England and Canada, Dhaliwal said.
As with many Vaisakhi celebrations around the world, Stockton’s Sikh community will be having a Nagar Kirtan on this day (often called a parade), which is a religious procession through the city:
The Panj Piare (five beloved of the Guru) normally lead the procession of the Nagar Kirtan. This is normally followed by at lease one main float, which carries the Sri Guru Granth Sahib [Sikhism's holy text and Guru]. In the float you have several Sewadars [volunteers] performing Kirtan and attending to the Guru. The Sangat [congregation] walked behind Guru Ji and the Panj Piaare singing shabads and enjoying the glorious day. Food and drinks are sometimes served from stationary points or from other subsequent floats.
Los Angeles, California: Southern California will be having their Nagar Kirtan on Sunday starting at 7:30 AM. The day starts early and will be on a grand scale:
The year’s theme is “I belong to the Khalsa, the Khalsa belongs to me.” – Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The program is a collaborative effort of service and participation from many of the 25 Gurdwaras in Southern California. The day’s events begin at 4:00 a.m. at Guru Ram Das Ashram (established by Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi Ji in 1972), 1620 Preuss Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90035, with a beautiful Asa di Var Kirtan program. At 7:00 a.m., there is a Grand Procession of Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji to the Convention Center, with police motorcade escort and a caravan of cars filled with the Sadh Sangat.
The Kirtan Program at the Convention Center begins at 7:50 a.m. with the Jaap Sahib Bani of Guru Gobind Singh Ji sung to music by the Guru Ram Das Ashram Kirtan Jetha. Following will be Kirtan from children’s groups and many Ragi Jethas from the Southern California Gurdwaras. The program will feature Bhai Balwinder Singh Jetha, Hazoori Ragi Darbar Sahib, and a 5-Ragi Jetha Presentation under the direction of Prof. Ranjit Singh of Bhai Mardana Academy. Guru ka Langar, a community vegetarian meal, will be served throughout the day beginning at 8:00 a.m. and continuing through 4:00 p.m. There are many activities for children, and a popular and busy Baisakhi Bazaar.
This celebration will be broadcast live on the internet on SikhNet’s website: http://www.sikhnet.com.
Selma, California: Also on Sunday, just south of Fresno in central California, the Gurdwara in Selma is celebrating Vaisakhi with a Nagar Kirtan as well:
This is the 17th year that the Sikh parade has been held in Selma. It’s part of a three-day gathering of Sikhs for prayers and praise singing at the Selma temple.
The gathering and parade are sponsored by the Sikh Council of Central California. About 45,000 Sikhs live between Merced and Bakersfield, Virk said.
Anderson, California: The Sikh community in California’s north (near Redding, California) is having a Nagar Kirtan on Saturday, April 30, 2011, and has nominated their celebration of Vaisakhi this year as “A Day for Non-Violence“:
[Amarjit] Singh has helped organize the Sikh Centre’s Vaisakhi Festival and Day for Non-Violence each of the past three years. The event will feature Punjabi foods, Indian classical music, a demonstration of Sikh martial arts, workshops of turban tying and the proper draping of Punjabi suits for women.
Members of the Native American community will offer prayers, a drum circle and flute music.
Shasta Head Start will demonstrate skin decorating with the spice henna or Mehandi, colored powders mixed with water to create a thick paste, Singh said.
The Vaisakhi celebrations in cities across California seem to be more commonly reported, but there are assuredly celebrations going on within the Sikh communities in other states as well. I look forward to reading about those celebrations in the coming days and weeks.