LOS ANGELES – The annual grand Kirtan Darbar and Nagar Kirtan Baisakhi celebration was held with great enthusiasm by an estimated 15,000 people at the Los Angeles Convention Center here April 14, an event that attracted devotees from all parts of California, other U.S. states, as well as Mexico and India, said a press release. Sikhs around the world celebrate Baisakhi as the day their identity as “Khalsa/Pure Ones” supersedes all else.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji was a visionary, noted the release, a being of great faith and trust in God, a man of boundless courage, and a champion of the weak and poor. He fought for righteousness so that all people could have the opportunity to live in equality, dignity and grace. Guru Gobind Singh Ji not only believed that everyone should live with dignity and grace, he himself was a shining example of those qualities. He created a cultural revolution that brought together his followers from all backgrounds, social status and walks of life to fight for the peaceful realization of social justice and religious freedom.
This year marks the 550th anniversary of the birth of the founder of Sikh Dharma, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The impact of his life is both continuing to be realized and just beginning to be known and understood around the world. His life and teachings planted the seeds of a massive social change that would ultimately upend the mores of a societal caste system that had prevailed for several millennia. He championed the rights of women, the equality of all human beings and inculcated anyone he met with the message that there is "One God; The Creator of All Creation (Ik OngKar)." The theme of this year’s Baisakhi event comes from Guru Nanak’s words, “If you wish to walk this path of love, put your head in your palm, and walk on my path.”
The day began at 3:30 a.m. at Guru Ram Das Ashram in West Los Angeles where over 30 youth and adults of Bhai Avtar Singh Kirtan Taksal Jetha under the direction of Bhai Surinder Singh Ji recited the “Asa di Var”with great spirit. Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji was then escorted by motorcycle police in a grand procession, with Khalsa flags flying, all the way to the Los Angeles Convention Center, where Guru Sahib arrived at 7:00 a.m. to begin the Kirtan.
The exquisite decorations for the Darbar Hall were designed by Seva Kaur Khalsa and included rich red and orange highlights, floral garlands and murals, royal canopies over the three large stages and two inspiring large 40-foot murals picturing Ber Sahib Gurdwara in Sultanpur Lodi, home of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, and another of Keshgarsahib Gurdwara in Anandpur Sahib, home of the Khalsa and the place of the first Baisakhi in 1699.
The day’s main Kirtan program began at 7:15 a.m. and included many songs written in praise of Guru Gobind Singh and the Khalsa. More than 40 women’s, children’s and Ragi Jethas performed throughout the program. Dara Singh Sidhu from Fresno gave a talk about the four Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
The final five Ragi Jethas consisting of Bhai Jaswant Singh, Bhai Ragbir Singh, Bhai Varinder Singh, Bhai Sudeep Singh and Prof. Ranjit Singh all sang together with beautiful devotion. The Chardi Kala Jatha of Miri Piri Academy played a rousing rendition of “Khalsa Mero Roop Hai Kaas.”
The Guru Ram Das Ashram Kirtan Jetha played the closing Kirtan which included “Anand Sahib”and “Song of the Khalsa” before Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji was escorted outdoors for the beginning of the resplendent Nagar Kirtan.
The program was emceed by Kirtan-Singh Khalsa, of Guru Ram Das Ashram, along with Har Dev Singh Khalsa from the San Diego Sat Sangat. U.S. Congresswoman of the 27th District Judy Chu attended the program for the 18th year in a row, commending the Sikh community on working to create peace and equality among the diversity of the nation’s communities especially through the Langar Seva that is done in Gurdwaras around the country.
Also in attendance was the Los Angeles Chief of Police, Michel Moore, who spoke about the commitment of L.A.P.D. to protect the Sikh community of Los Angeles against bias and hate crimes.
Anaheim’s Indian American Mayor Harry Sidhu spoke about having been born in Amritsar, his pride in being a Sikh, and serving as a mayor of one of the major cities in the country. Fernando Delgado, representative for L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, presented a proclamation to the Sikh community on behalf of and signed by all five Supervisors of L.A. County. Mayor Eric Garcetti also issued a proclamation, via his representative Dilpreet Kaur Sidhu, to the Sikh community congratulating them on the occasion of Baisakhi. John Alford, representative of Congressman Brad Sherman, presented an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol building to Sardar Roop Singh, secretary of S.G.P.C. Roop Singh spoke about the unity of the Khalsa Panth.
The head Granthi of the Bangala Sahib Gurdwara in New Delhi, Giani Ranjit Singh, was also present, and highlighted the great contributions to the Panth by Siri Singh Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji. Special Saropa presentations (prayer shawls) were presented on behalf of the Sikh community of Southern California to several distinguished individuals. Nazar Singh Khooner from Bakersfield was acknowledged for his seva in conducting the annual Bakersfield Baiskahi Peace Parade and the 50,000 meals served over the course of 30 days to those economically challenged by the times.
Guru’s Langar was provided throughout the day, organized by Amarjeet Singh of the Hollywood Sikh Temple, and prepared by Bhai Chattar Singh Ji of Bakersfield and dozens of Sevadars. Nearly two dozen of the Langar cooks and sevadars received Spirit of Baisakhi awards.
Other recipients of Spirit of Basaikhi awards included Bhai Sahiba Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Khalsa; Siri Sikdar Sahiba Sardarni Guru Amrit Kaur Khalsa; Dr. Asma Qadri, professor at Punjab University of Lahore, who established a Department of Guru Nanak Studies; and DukhNiwaran Kaur Khalsa for her work in fostering important dialogues on diversity and inclusion.
Preparation for the Nagar Kirtan took place at Khalsa Care Foundation for the entire week preceding the event. The specially-designed Guru’s float was the main attraction and took dozens of volunteers to create under the direction of Joginder Singh Sidhu and was made to look extraordinarily beautiful. The nearly two-mile parade route started and ended at the Convention Center. Thousands of Sikhs in brilliant colors walked the entire route singing and chanting God’s name. The Bhai Khaneya Seva Dal provided a sumptuous Langar for after the Nagar Kirtan.
Hundreds of volunteers are involved for months in making the day special. The set-up and decorations seva was led by Hari Bhajan Singh Khalsa, Tej Mohan Singh, and Jai Pal Singh Khalsa. A few of the many others involved in the organization, decorations, set-up and break-down included Granthi Bibi Manjit Kaur Khalsa; a team of sevadars from Fresno for serving fresh juice throughout the day; and countless sevadars from the Guru Ram Das Ashram and the Southland to make the special day happen.