Kesh Ghar SahibNagar KirtanKesh Ghar Sahib
Guru Gobind Singh ji
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The Gurdwara at Fort Keshgarh SahibGuru Dhan Singh instructing the yatrisSunday, April 11th In total we will spend a little over 5 days here in Anandpur Sahib. Our goal today is to rest up in the hottest part of this day (over 100F), we’ll relax and nap in the shade of our rooms, for tonight we begin our Nagar Kirtan through the streets of Anandpur Sahib. audio.gif (91 bytes) Walking through Anandpur Sahib streets going to Keshghar Sahib audio.gif (91 bytes)

This morning a group of women from our yatra went with Bhai Sahiba Bibi Inderjit Kaur to participate in the Mata Saheb Kaur Istri Sammelan, a conference for and by Sikh women.

I must say that some of the recent news stories about the events in Anandpur Sahib this week have given me pause. They talk of water and food shortages, possible violence, political discord, and in general -- disorganization. How many will arrive? Anandpur Sahib’s usual population is about 15,000 people. If the total number of pilgrims swell to 1.5 million, that would be 100 times the normal population. Luckily, our yatra arrived early, just in case the crowds that arrive are, in fact, so large that they block access into and out of the city. But, so far by God’s Grace it does not seem too dangerous here and after all, I tell myself, Khalsa is all about being fearless. I also realize, that if you just look about, you see there are many acts of courage and an incredible amount of seva happening right before your very eyes. Sikhs greeting us as the procession passes.

Everywhere you look you can see all that the local sangats have put into preparing for this celebration. Along the roadways are water stations complete with stainless steel cups that are chained to the water faucets. At other locations there are large cylinder-shaped water trucks. Next to each truck is three or four sevadars who simply stand-by waiting with pitchers of water. The sevadars are waiting for a thirsty passerby to stop. I watch a simple, but most amazing example of how people here in Anandpur Sahib are completely serviceful and also how environmentally friendly a water station can be. Here’s how it works. A passerby stops, bends forward from the waist, puts his cupped hands in front of his face and then the sevadhar pours until the passerby has sipped his fill. Usually not a word is exchanged, the pilgrim simply straightens up – perhaps gives a quick thanks via a nod, and then he’s off. The sevadhar then once again stands waiting in the hot sun to repeat this service hundreds of times more throughout the day. It is inspiring to be here.Sada Sat Singh Khalsa getting ready to do gatka

Tonight, we're going to assemble for our audio.gif (91 bytes) first Nagar Kirtan procession through the streets of Anandpur Sahib.audio.gif (91 bytes) In case you don’t know about this style of kirtan, the word Nagar means "town", and Nagar Kirtan means literally singing Shabads around the town as opposed to doing Kirtan in the Gurdwara or the house. This is usually done for a few days before a Gurpurb when the local Sangat goes round the streets walking and singing Shabads early in the morning.

A Nagar Kirtan is a really fun style of kirtan in which the entire sangat sings and chants together while walking in a paradelike procession. The procession is lead by the Nagara or by another traditional Punjabi drum, the dholak. It’s a great way to bond a sangat together.

Our plan is simple, 1) walk to get the darshan of Sri Keshgarh Sahib 2) line up in formation --four abreast 3) take lots of drums 4) Put the eldest students from Miri Piri Academy in front to lead the way with gatka and banners. Students from Miri Piri Academy in a Gatka Fight

Later That Day in the Evening. If I ever had any doubt as to whether or not I should come to Anandpur Sahib, it has now been thoroughly eradicated. I thought I came on this trip to be part of the great tradition of Khalsa and to see my many Sikh brothers and sisters in the land of Guru Gobind Singh. I thought I came for inspiration and spiritual renewal. Now I know, I have most certainly arrived for this purpose and this experience.

Every street is thick with Sikhs who are beaming, and happy, and ready to be proud of their religion. Dhol Drummers in the lead of the processionThe booming, rhythmic drumming and colorful outfits of the dhol drummers immediately commanded everyone’s attention. We all formed a procession headed by the Miri Piri Academy students doing gatka. The students’ range in age from 8 to 18 years old and all were dressed in their dark blue school bana. I found out later that the daily training at Miri Piri Academy is quite rigorous. In keeping with the meaning or Miri (spiritual sword) and Piri (temporal or earthly sword) students first, rise in the Amrit Vela and do seva at Harimandir Sahib, and then return to the academy for morning Link-Icon.gif (118 bytes) Gatka practice. This ancient, fluid martial art was used by the armies of Guru Gobind Singh to build discipline, strength, agility, and courage. It is said that one reason Guru Gobind Singh was such a master was because his father taught him Gatka from a very young age. It is exhilarating to see how proficient many of these students have become, especially the youngest ones.
audio.gif (91 bytes) Miri Piri Academy students doing gatka audio.gif (91 bytes)

With swinging swords and chakars spinning above their heads, the students carved a way through the crowds for the Nagar Kirtan procession. With folded hands everyone greeted each other with smiles and loud cries of "Bole so Nihal!" and "Deg Teg Fateh!" At times along the way we all became one voice chanting rhythmically "Sat Nam" and "Wahe Guru". It was a matchless experience with the energy at a constant, penetrating pitch. We continued up the incline to Keshgarh Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh's fortress on the hill, where the 5 Beloved Ones came forward on Baisakhi Day, 1699.

Spinning the Chakar

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