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Thousands Flock to San Fernando Valley to Celebrate Vaisakhi

Congressman Brad Sherman (2nd from right) with the event’s organizers, the Punjabi Heritage and Culture Society and Festival of India-Los Angeles (l-r): Shamsher Sidhu, Iqbal Samra, Dinesh Lakhanpal, Brad Sherman and Dr. Amarjit Marwah. (Parimal M. Rohit photo)
  • LAKE BALBOA, Calif., United States

    Almost 10,000 people filled the Birmingham Community Charter High School grounds here May 5 to celebrate Vaisakhi, one of the most honored and celebrated traditions for Sikhs and Punjabis.

    Following a more cultural and religious celebration in downtown Los Angeles almost a month earlier, the mela-style Vaisakhi festival was jointly organized by the Punjabi Heritage and Culture Society and Festival of India-Los Angeles.

    The evening-long event last into the wee hours of the morning with an energetic and lively musical concert and dance show headlined by singers Jazzy B and Sharry Mann.

    Preceding the two musical performances were performances highlighting classical folk dances and upbeat Bhangra moves. Surrounding the stage were about 40 booths featuring restaurants, clothing shops and service vendors.

    Vendors included Dish Network, India Sweets and Spices, JFK Realty, Nawab of India, New York Life and Veerjee Coffee House, among others. The evening’s festivities resembled the traditional Aug. 15 melas held annually in the Valley and in nearby Artesia, with a formal program featuring speeches followed by a cultural program.

    Several dignitaries, including Indian American community leader Dr. Amarjit Marwah and Congressmen Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, spoke at the Vaisakhi celebration on what the holiday meant to them.

    “This is a day that’s very important in history of our nation,” Marwah said. “Today is the day when the last Gurus of the Sikhs made a special community.”

    Acknowledging the significance of Vaisakhi and the celebration of the harvest season, Berman said he was impressed with the cultural contributions Sikhs and Punjabis made in Los Angeles and in the United States.

    “When I look at the audience in front of me today, I am struck by the tremendous contributions you have made the Valley and in influencing the culture of America,” he said. “You’re contributions are second to none (and) play a key role in the fostering and development of the U.S.-India relationship.”

    On the occasion, as he has done at such previous events, Sherman presented a United States flag once flown over the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., to the event’s organizers.

    The highlights of the evening were the musical performances of popular Punjabi singers Mann and Jazzy B.

    Performing his popular hit track “Yaar Amnulle,” among others, Mann entertained the thousands of celebrants who had waited more than three hours for him to take the stage.

    Jazzy B, the Vancouver-based Bhangra singer-songwriter also known as Jaswinder Singh Bains, performed numerous tracks from his 12 album releases into well past midnight, with members of the audience dancing to his highly-energetic show.

    Vaisakhi celebrates the creation of the Khalsa in March 1699 and represents the achievement of a pure state of mind by ridding oneself of all evils and vices. The holiday also celebrates the festival of harvest.

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