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A Unique Vaisakhi Celebrated in Phoenix, AZ


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    Vaisakhi Celebrated by Combined Sikh Sangat of Gurwara Sahib, Guru Nanak Dwara Phoenix, Arizona

    by Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev, MD Phoenix, Arizona

    The spring in the desert was at its full swing on April the 9th 2006. The red roses and geraniums in the front gardens of the houses in the historical district of Coronado in central Phoenix were adding a beautiful contrast to the green grass. There was plenty of excitement in the air all around. The interior of a one of kind, upcoming three-storied new building of Gurdwara Sahib, Guru Nanak Dwara, a combined project of the Sikh-Americans and American-Sikhs in central Phoenix, had been decorated with a multi-colored custom designed carpet. The regal embroidered saffron colored canopy atop the throne of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, had just arrived from India with matching five layered beautifully embroidered Rumaalas. After Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji was respectfully escorted atop the head of one of the Sevadaar and honorably laid on a rounded raised throne, the Sangat members started filing in row to bow in front of the Guru.

    Gurujot Singh of SikhNet, Espanola, NM

    As soon as the Raagi Jetha of Bhai Satpal Singh started melodious Kirtan, a sea of blue turbans and chunni started flowing in. Two Raagi-platforms, one on either side of the elevated throne of Guru for alternate seating of the Raagis had just been completed with in-laid tiles all around. Dr. Jaspreet Singh PhD from University of Michigan, the invited Guest, took to the podium after Raagis and gave a very stimulating 15 minute talk about the significance of Vaisakhi that was then skillfully translated in Punjabi by local Sevaadar, Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev. This was followed by melodious Kirtan by Hazoori Raagi Jetha of Bhai Surinder Singh Ji who had arrived back from India, just the evening before along with their families. But the highlight of event was an awe inspiring performance of Kirtan and Vaaraan sung in stand-up Dhadi Style by turban-wearing six teenage girls of Akaal Academy located at Gurdwara Baru Sahib, Himachal Pardesh, India. They mesmerized the Sangat with their melodious Kirtan accompanied by three rarely used musical instruments. They included the Rebab, the kind played by Bhai Mardaana, the Saranda, a string instrument as designed by Guru Arjan Dev Ji and a third instrument called the Taus popularized at times of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

    Himmat Singh of Espanola, NM

    But the most amazing was the arrangement of the Nagar Kirtan, the religious parade of the Sikhs, an important element of the Sikh culture and tradition. It is worth a mention here that the tradition of Nagar Kirtan in Phoenix area had been originally initiated over quarter of century ago by the American Sikh Community with immigrant Sikh joining later on. The American Sikh families had made their homes around Gurdwara Sahib, Guru Nanak Dwara for close to thirty years in the neighboring streets of the historical central district of Coronado. This year, approximately 500-750 people all dressed with blue or saffron turbans or chunnis took part in the Nagaar Kirtan. It was a significantly high number, perhaps largest than ever, considering simultaneous programs in two other local Gurdwaras in a relatively small Sikh community in comparison to larger metros. The Nagar Kirtan, covering almost quarter of a mile was led by five horse riding young Sikh men and women followed by traditionally dressed Panj Piaras (The five beloved ones), the first members of the Khalsa-order. The Gatka-played by young American Sikhs as well as eighty three years old yet young-at -heart immigrant Sikh, proving that a Sikh of the Guru does not ever become old in spirit, created a sight no less than a feast to the eyes.

    A float carrying young girls of Akaal Academy of Baru Sahib with continuous singing of Gurbaani was next. Behind it were toddlers on the strollers and then came little children on tri-cycles dressed in yellow or blue. Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji, the sacred writings of the Sikhs, was escorted in place of honor atop a beautifully prepared float that took couple of days to decorate. It raised high in the sky more than thirty feet. Despite Arizona weather with its bright Sun, it was relatively comfortable. However the walk was made further easy by sprinkling of rose water and distribution of cold bottled water all the way. Throughout the procession free foods, cold drinks and candies were distributed not only to the members of the Sikh community taking part in the Nagar Kirtan but to the entire neighborhood who had come to witness this remarkable event. In a way it was a Sikh way of paying open gratitude to America and its entire people in providing the Sikh community with abundance of opportunities to enjoy prosperity in this land of free and plenty. ‘The freedom of religion that this country has bestowed upon its immigrant will not go unnoticed’ was the message that was being imparted through this colorful procession.

    Once the Nagar Kirtan finally arrived back in front of Gurdwara Sahib after about a mile long trip, another half an hour program of Gatka playing was presented again by over enthusiastic players while the Sangat watched around in a circle. By then it was already 3 o’ clock and Sangat members were ready to Partake Guru Kaa Lungar, freshly cooked by the volunteer family of Jatinder Singh Dhaliwal. Sitting in rows on the green grass in the outdoor court yard of Gurdwara Sahib, Sangat members enjoyed the blessed delicious Guru Ka Lungar, proving once again the legacy of plentiful and equality given to the Sikhs by their Gurus. With this ended the unique celebrations of Vaiskahi, the Prakash Utsav of the Khalsa leaving sweet memories for all the Sangat members to cherish until next year.

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