POMONA, CA - For thirty years, the International Institute of Gurmat Studies (IIGS) has been celebrating the Prakash Utsav of Sri Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth master of the Sikhs, in grandeur under the auspices of Darbar-E- Khalsa. The gathering of Sikhs in thousands has been taking place in Southern California,
This year too, on Dec.25, members of the IIGS jatha, with the help of SoCal gurdwaras, left no stone unturned in making sure that the event was a spectacular and meaningful one. Thousands of Sikhs, perhaps more than any previous celebration of Darbar-E-Khalsa, arrived with their families and friends to the grounds and huge hall of the LA County Fairgrounds here. Several raagi jathas, children and women jathas from local gurdwaras did wonderful and melodious kirtan as always.
Akhand kirtani jatha performed a blissful seva of Aasaa Di Vaar early in the morning starting at 6:30 am sharp followed by Hukum, Ardaas and Karaah Prashad Seva around 9am. This was followed by a brief kirtan by raagi jathas of Bhai Lakhan Singh and Bhai Khem Singh.
Children from various local gurdwaras then took over with their renderings, including two jathas from the Valley Sikh Temple, Gurdwara Buena Park, Gurdwara Walnut Sahib, Sur Shabad privar, Baba Farid Academy, Gurdwara Santa Anna, Khalsa Care Foundation and Ujjal Didar Singh Memorial Foundation. This was followed by kirtan by Sikh Women Now, Sur Shabad Privar Jatha and IIGS Group. Local raagis from Bhai Daljit Singh of Gurdwara Hesperia, Bhai Gopal Singh from Gurdwara Buena Park, Bhai Jatinder Singh from Gurdwara Vermont, Bhai Bhupinder Singh of Gurdwara Rosemead, Bhai Gagandeep Singh of Gurdwara Nanak Sadan and Bhai Naib Singh as well as jatha from Guru Ram Das Ashram then took turns in singing kirtans. Katha by Bhai Varinderpal Singh Dehradun was followed by kirtan by Bhai Jarnail Singh from Ludhiana and Bhavandeep Singh Zakhmi from Gurdwara Bakersfield.
Kirtan by IIGS Senior Jatha led by Sardarni Gurpreet Kaur and Sardarni Harmala Kaur followed by a joint performance by five senior local raagi jathas including those of Bhai Raghbir Singh, Bhai Jaswant Singh, Bhai Varinder Singh Bhai Kulwant Singh Chandan and Bhai Ranjit Singh was the highlight of the day. The most important Seva of Aardas was by Sardar Ranjit Singh, Hukum Seva by S. Kaviraj Singh and vote of thanks was done by S. Daljit Singh. Emcees for the day included among others, Sardar Gurdayal Singh, Sardar Sarabdyal Singh, Sardar Daljit Singh and Sardar Harvinder Singh as well as young members of IIGS.
While the religious program was being held indoor, an equal number of the sangat was treated in the wintery sun outside, with utmost reverence with hot breakfast snacks, including fresh chole bhature, pakoras and jalebis, donated and prepared by the various gurdwaras. The mela-like atmosphere was created with the visible enjoyment of families and the Punjabi bazaar where the booths did brisk business. Come noon, the Guru Ka Langar, donated and prepared by hundreds of selfless volunteers was served in a beautiful setting with people sitting on benches and lawns all around while speakers kept on delivering what was happening inside. A final formal sendoff to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in a helicopter, with the entire sangat looking up in the sky after it had walked in a procession behind the beat of a nagaara and Panj Pyaras as well as a team of gatka players, was a scene to behold.
On the beautiful Christmas day in sunny Southern California a sea of turbans in the campus of LA County Fairgrounds was evident at every inch of space making one believe that the Sikh Panth of Khalsa is alive and well. Captain Kanwar Harbhajan Singh who touched the lives of many young Sikhs and directed them to a successful Sikh lifestyle, though not present in body, was felt everywhere in spirit. It will be interesting to note that he specifically chose this day to engage the community constructively which otherwise wouldn’t have much to do given that this is a universal holiday. Popularly known as Papa Ji, he was a visionary who left behind an institution that continues to nurture youth and adults through events like Darbar-e- Khalsa, youth camps and a golf tournament. - With inputs and pictures by Sonam Mirpuri