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Thursday, 12 December 2013

Sikh Dharma In Los Angeles

Sikh Dharma In Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, CA - Thousands of Sikhs from Southern California joined forces to put on a great show of unity when they congregated at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles for the annual celebration of Baisakhi on April 4. It was the 311th Anniversary of the Birth of the Khalsa and the theme chosen for this year's festivities was "Khalsa is my Perfect True Guru."

The event started in the early hours of the morning before sunrise with the Aasa di Vaar at the Guru Ram Das Ashram on Preuss Road in Los Angeles by Guest Raagi from the Sees Ganj Gurdwara in New Delhi, Bhai Kultar Singh. As the darkness fell away, a motorcade carried the Sri Guru Granth Sahib to the Los Angeles Convention Center and was installed in the sacred hall for public viewing which was followed by the recitation of the Jaap Sahib by a Jatha from the Guru Ram Das Ashram. Then followed several hours of kirtan performed by Jathas from Sikh temples in the city. The penultimate performance was by the three man team led by Bhai Kultar Singh from India and concluded with a Five Raagi Jatha presentation under the direction of Prof. Ranjit Singh.

People kept pouring in as the day progressed and the line to get to the canopy which housed the sacred book extended all the way to the entrance but the several hundreds waited patiently as they inched forward and were finally able to offer obeisance and then settle down on dharis spread all over the hall, to enjoy the soothing kirtans.

Throughout the day, an enormous langar set up in the adjoining hall to fed the hundreds who arrived every hour. No corners were cut, with plentiful gourmet food and an impressive spread of mouth watering sweet items being distributed without a break. The lines were long but the operation was so streamlined that no one had to wait beyond a few minutes to be served.

A section of the hall with the langar was set aside for a Baisakhi Bazaar which was filled with booths with several vendors selling a variety of items such as religious objects, jewelry, books, wearing apparel, toys, etc. To keep the kids occupied and out of trouble, a children's room provided them with plenty of diversion.

A highlight of the celebrations was two performances of a 55 minute play "The Maharajah and the Kohinoor (1838-1893)" presented by a six man team of British professional actors. Created by the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trust in the UK the show is currently touring California sponsored by Sikhlens.com~The Sikh Art & Film Festival, Hollywood and Sikhpoint.com. The show charts the story of Maharajah Duleep Singh an iconic figure whose life is critical in understanding the relationship between Sikhs and the British.

The official segment of the celebrations commenced with opening remarks by Keertan Darbar Coordinator Kirtan Singh Khalsa. Federal and state officials were presented with saropas and certificates. Reverend Leonard Jackson, Community Relations Officer for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry and California State Controller John Chiang praised the Sikh community and their contributions to the state.

Judy Chu, attending the event for the 8th consecutive year but for the first time as a Congresswoman said she will hold her relationship with the Sikh community dear to her heart forever. She reflected on their association when she worked with them on introducing several Bills related to Hate Crimes. She pledged to continue her campaign in Congress to help victims of such atrocities.

Congressman Brad Sherman attended the mega show with his family. He pointed out that after 14 years in Congress he had got passed a Federal Hate Crime Bill and reminded listeners it was he who sponsored the resolution in 2004 calling France to abandon its oppression of those who wished to wear religious clothing and headgear. He presented a US flag flown over the Capitol along with an authenticity certificate to Bhai Sahiba Bibi Inderjit Kaul Khalsa which would be passed on posthumously to the family of the late Surinder Singh Sidhu.

Bhai Sahiba Bibi Inderjit Kaur Khalsa reflected upon the history of how Sikhism had evolved through 10 Gurus over a period of two centuries. She said Guru Nanakji had laid the foundations and given the message of God is One while in 1699 Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa nation of God conscious people and gave them the unique identity they carry. She added the celebration of Baisakhi is to remind Sikhs to face challenges with courage with the knowledge that the Guru is always with them.She also made a strong appeal to every Sikh to return the Census forms which will go a long way to getting a Bill recognizing Sikhs as a minority group passed which would allow them to draw on many benefits from Federal funds.Along with her, Jasmit "Jesse" Singh Jaspal and Jagjit Singh Bains were honored for their invaluable efforts in mobilizing responses from the community to Census 2010.

Repeating the history and explaining the 4 concepts it believes in, Siri Sikdar Sahiba Sardarni Guru Amrit Kaur concluded that Sikhs had come together at Baisakhi to celebrate a beautiful moment when their hearts, souls and spirits may touch each other with their smiles and services.

The event was organized by the Guru Ramadas Ashram and the Sikh Dharma of Southern California.