Vaisakhi celebrations continue across the United States

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending the Vaisakhi celebration at the Sikh Center of Pacific Coast Gurdwara in Selma, California, which brought together a large gathering of Sikhs from the Fresno County area for a Nagar Kirtan (religious procession). It was very well attended and the atmosphere was quite festive. A local television station covered the celebrations in Selma, which you can watch here. I certainly enjoyed my first visit to this Gurdwara and celebrating with them the most significant event on the Sikh calendar. It was at this time 314 years ago that the Khalsa order was created by the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, giving the Sikh community the form and function for which they are still recognized today.

The official date of Vaisakhi was this past Sunday, however the Sikh community in the United States join the celebrations taking place around the world throughout the month. As early as last week, a Nagar Kirtan was held in Los Angeles, California and similar celebrations have been taking place all over the country. Just two hours north of Selma, another Nagar Kirtan was held in Stockton, California, on Sunday — home of the oldest Gurdwara in the United States.

While some Sikh celebrations in the country (such as those above) are a long-standing tradition in their communities and are on a grand scale, other communities celebrated anew. Sikhs in the Seattle, Washington area celebrated their first Vaisakhi event at the Gurdwara Sikh Center of Seattle, located in Bothell.

In Niskayuna, New York (near Albany), Sikhs celebrated Vaisakhi throughout last weekend at the two-year old Niskayuna Gurdwara Sahib, which culminated on Sunday. This house of worship is home to a congregation of about 150 Sikh families.

"A flag waves in the wind atop a flagpole wrapped in orange material outside the Sikh Sabha of New Jersey, located in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, in celebration of Vaisakhi" (source: Michael Mancuso/The Times of Trenton)

“A flag waves in the wind atop a flagpole wrapped in orange material outside the Sikh Sabha of New Jersey, located in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, in celebration of Vaisakhi” (source: Michael Mancuso/The Times of Trenton)

The Sikh community in New Jersey also celebrated Vaisakhi at the Sikh Sabha of New Jersey Gurdwara in Lawrenceville on Sunday.

Such events were not limited to Sikh houses of worship. Last week, Sikh students at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, held their annual “Turban Day” to raise awareness about the Sikh community by inviting people on campus to experience wearing a turban in public.

Finally, recognition of Vaisakhi wasn’t limited to just the Sikh community, as federal, state and local legislators around the country took time to congratulate their Sikh constituents on their celebrations. The Sikh Coalition has shared Vaisakhi proclamations and resolutions that were offered by various levels of government, from the US Congress to local city councils.

Vaisakhi celebrations will continue in the United States for the next several weeks. Nagar Kirtans are scheduled in New York City on April 27 and in Redding, California on May 4th.

Read more here about the history of Vaisakhi and the metamorphosis of the Sikh people in 1699.


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  2. Pingback: Picture of the Day: Sikhs in Utah celebrate Vaisakhi | American Turban

  3. I must preface this with a particular phobia. I hate having to go to NYC. As a field tech, I was assigned to service requests from what was my employer’s largest account at the time: NYPD. The other techs wanted nothing to do with NYC. This was all naturally due to 9/11. I serviced an account in the south tower a week before that obscenity occurred.

    No thanks to a pair of brothers who shall remain unnamed, I was wary in bringing some of my video equipment in a camera case. Throughout my walking , not even one officer so much as gestured for my attention. I caught a glimpse where the PTC crew were stationed and peeked at the equipment as I walked by, for I make videos as a hobby. I finally reached the park where Langar was being set up. I should have skipped breakfast. I met this fellow from JUS Punjabi who pitched his camera on the corner of 26th & Madison and we conversed shortly. His boss arrived and needed to set the white balance for the camera. I was wearing a white shirt and asked me to pose. That shirt was covering the most saturated orange shirt I could find. The navy blue Scott-E-Vest® completed the color scheme.

    I watched and waited for the volunteers to be served and then I partook. This was my very first time at Langar. No matter how careful I was balancing the expanded polystyrene food-tray, my white shirt decided that it wanted some of that daal at any price–SPLORTCH–shirt transformed into keepsake.

    I marched northward on Madison Avenue with camcorder in hand to capture as much as possible. I had to stay in the shadows of the scaffolding yet get up to the barriers for the best shots. Sunburn is an issue. I needed to get the best footage of the Panj Pyaare. I checked the sidewalk under me to see if it was safe for unshod feet. It was free of glass, chewing gum, spit and animal waste. I sensed the need to remove my sandals for the SGGS float for respect–was I supposed to do that? There were youth Gatka demonstrations from time to time. IMHO marching bands interrupted the cultural experience.

    The 1984 float passed by and I had to make certain that I got the best shot yet bow my head in respect. It’s a good thing that camcorder displays swivel. There were those bearing placards “Free Bhullar”, “India Kills Minorities” and “No Justice Since 1984” interspersed among the floats and marches. I would imagine that would compel PTC to censor nearly all the footage. Even people on the floats were bearing those signs. The finale consisted of all bearing the above placards and I followed them with camera rolling down to the park.

    My return to the park was met with a biological interrupt where I experienced some cutting in the queues for the portable toilets. My second meal at Langar was met with empty pots for the first stop. I managed to get some rice with the curried chick-pea dish. No saag or daal this time. The orange shirt was not hungry. Someone was selling CD’s and DVD’s nearby. I asked about “Sadda Haq” on Blu-Ray or DVD. He said that the screening was not yet finished and that it would be some time after. I must get on that preorder list! I must watch it until I learn Punjabi by osmosis!

    At the Langar, there was this fellow with a loud and joyous voice proclaiming “Don’t thank me, thank God! Don’t Drink and Drive! Free today, tomorrow five dollars”. Throughout the day, the youth sevadars were on top of things. They saw my empty bottle in hand and they were right in my face (in a good way) to receive it.

    Closing time had come and I needed to rest on a park bench half asleep. I have not walked so much in In little time, a middle aged man walked up to me and I raised my gaze to him. He greeted me with WJKK-WJKF. For that moment, I felt the space-time continuum grind to a halt like reaching the event horizon of a black hole (minus the spaghettification, of course). As my mind’s voice spoke like a tape at half speed “Whoooooooa! This cannot be happening, Is this not reserved for Amritdharis? I’m not even Sehajdhari,” my hands slowly clasped as if by instinct and I whispered with him. He stepped over to his family nearby for a photo shot. I retrieved my camera as quickly as I could and took two shots of him with his family. I did not want to miss the opportunity of perhaps identifying this fellow to perhaps meet him again.

    I spent six hours in Manhattan and it did not feel like New York at all. However, as the turban count dropped precipitously, I could feel the New York-ness return like high tide at the Bay of Fundy. I had to get out of there. Nonetheless, I have more than three hours of footage to edit in making a video of this experience. One could not have asked for better weather. I have shots from the return walk to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, this will be end credit fodder.

    Pity those who continue to needlesselly dwell in ignorance fear and hatred. Especially when all is required is a modicum of curiosity, a sense of wonder and healthy does of respect.


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