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LA Samagam Experience
LA Samagam (3 day kirtan)
6 of us rented an SUV and drove from Espanola, New Mexico to LA, which is 13 hours. We drove out on Wednesday evening for the thanksgiving weekend. Upon arrival at 3 AM we met with Santokh Singh, who was very hospitable. He gave us a room right next to the Langar Hall to nap in for the rest of the morning. When we woke up there was Sangat in the Langar Hall having breakfast. Then the Kirtan started…
At my first Samagam I noticed how different the Kirtan was than what I’m used to. At Sri Harimandir Sahib the Kirtan is usually medium paced, and often technical, very sweet, and melodic. In my Sangat there are a variety of styles, from western guitar, to keyboard, to classical Raag, etc. But at the Samagams it’s much different. They sing very fast, and always break in to Waheguru chanting. The tabla player starts playing very loud and fast with open handed hits. The tunes are easy to follow, and every kirtani sings in “call and answer”. The Sangat answers loudly. There is no one chatting in the back, no bored faces and everyone sings along. I think it’s the most powerful kirtan I’ve participated in. Twice a day there is a 1-hour Waheguru Simran. In my first Samagam I had to leave and go back to my room to lie down because it was so intense and powerful.
Samagams are held in different cities in US, Canada, and in Dodra Sahib India. Most of them last for 3 days on the weekends. www.samagams.org (the 2006 schedule is still being worked on) The daily program starts off at 5 AM with Simran. It’s an hour of Waheguru chanting and 15 minutes of silent meditation at the end. This is my favorite part. Then Panj Bania are read. All of the Guru Gobind Singh Banis are played on the harmonium and it’s very nice. Then there is a break for tea, and snacks. After that is Asa Di Var, and continuous kirtan until noon. Then there is a langar break, and 1 hour Waheguru Simran again at 3, followed by continuous kirtan, one break for snack, Rehiras Sahib, more Kirtan until 9PM, and then dinner. It is intense. One of the things I really enjoyed was that all of the Gurbani is displayed in Gurmukhi, and English translation on projector screens. This is managed by a seva that I didn’t know existed before, I call it “laptop seva”. It’s nice to read the meaning while singing along, and for me the bani goes much deeper.
A Singh Meditating
Going to the Samagam was easy, all I had to do is call up the contact person for that Samagam, and then show up. Those who fly in, are picked up and everything taken care of. All visiting Sangat get put up in a hotel next door to the Gurdwara. This is so nice, because I can go to my room whenever I want. Langar is served to the Sangat, so after I got there, there were no expenses. There are Sangat from all over. I met people from Virginia, Vancouver, Toronto, LA, Portland, etc. Some people drive 24 hours to a Samagam. Some even fly to India twice a year for the Dodra Sahib Samagam. A lot of the Kirtan was played by young women and they all had beautiful voices. There are lots of youth that are very active as well. I met Sikh brothers and sisters young and old. Now I have more acquaintances and friends.
Hari Singh and myself with a new friend Balbir Singh
As I sit in the Gurdwara I don’t want to leave. I sing along with the Kirtan, and read the translation on the projector. It’s like the Guru is talking straight to me. Although my knees are getting achy, I can’t leave. After the Kirtan, I can still hear Waheguru being repeated in body and mind. I don’t feel like talking very much, because talking doesn’t compare to the essence I’m enjoying. After doing the Kirtan for 3 days I feel the Guru’s presence all day, and I feel refreshed and renewed and inspired.
For more picutres visit Prabhu Singh's blog
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