DENVER: The capital of Colorado, Denver city will be hosting its first ever Sikh parade on May 22, in celebration of the culture of the growing population of Sikhs in the area. Around 1,000 people are expected to attend the event, including 500 Sikh families in the Denver area, Christian and Jewish Pastors and seven other Sikh groups from the areas of Colorado Springs, Boulder, New Mexico, California and Utah.
Sponsored by the Colorado Singh Sabha temple in Commerce City, the celebrations for the Sikh parade would begin from 9:30 am and culminate at 4 pm at the Denver East High School while free vegetarian food will be available throughout the day. The morning would begin with prayers and music with the parade starting at 1:15 pm.
Organizers Paul and Gurpreet Juneja were inspired to increase awareness and celebrate their culture, specially after their kids faced bullying at school after being mistaken for Muslims.
“We hope it will bring more awareness and be well received,” Gurpeet Juneja said to Denver Post. “Our kids don’t feel different than other kids until they are treated badly at school.”
Despite Gurpreet Juneja immigrating to the United States and Paul Juneja and their two children having been born in US itself, Gurpreet said she and her family had still faced circumstances where they were insulted and told to leave the country.
According to Paul, “This whole thing is being done because of our kids,” adding that “We’re through being a victim and want to take the lead.”
When the Junejas approached Denver city officials about holding an event to increase awareness about Sikhism, a parade seemed the best option.
A spokesperson of the city’s office of special events, said “We work closely with city agencies to promote events that bring greater awareness to cultures in our communities.”
In New York the Sikh Cultural Society celebrates the cultural identity of Sikhs through the annual Sikh Day Parade, bringing together believers from gurudwara congregations across the state. The largest procession of Sikhs outside India however, can be seen in Canada, during the annual Khalsa Day Parade.
Although the adherents of the Sikh faith are often identified as those wearing turbans, Sikhism is the 7th largest religion of the world with around 23 million followers, according to United Sikhs, an UN-affiliated international non-profit organization. The largest concentration of Sikhs is located in India, from where the religion originated, followed by United Kingdom and then United States.
Event Details What: Denver’s first Sikh parade
When: 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday, May 22
Where: Denver East High School, 1600 City Park Esplanade
If there is one big leveller for people, irrespective of their religion, caste, gender, social status or riches, it is the “langar”, or community kitchen, at the Golden Temple complex, where the holiest of Sikh shrines, the Harmandir Sahib, is located, in this city considered holy by Sikhs.
Referred to as the world’s largest community kitchen, the Sri Guru Ram Das Jee Langar Hall of the Golden Temple complex is unique in several aspects. On an average, it feeds over 100,000 people daily — from children to old people — from all religions, castes, regions, countries; and people from varied social, economic and political backgrounds.
“It is a 24×7 operation that carries on day and night all 365 days of the year. This has been going on for centuries, since the concept of langar was introduced by Guru Nanak Dev (the first Guru of the Sikh religion and its founder; born 1469) and propagated by other Gurus,” Wazir Singh, senior in-charge of the langar preparation, told IANS here.
At any given point of the day or night, the place is not only swarmed by devotees wanting to partake what is considered as blessed by service but by hundreds of volunteers who are ever-so-ready to be part of the voluntary cooking and serving process. The langar food is even sent thrice daily to the two Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC)-run hospitals in Amritsar, especially to a ward where treatment of mentally-ill patients and drug-addicts is being carried out. The SGPC is tasked with the management all Sikh shrines.
“We have over 500 volunteer employees. The sangat (community) also pitches in with great enthusiasm daily. People come from across Punjab on trucks and tractor-trolleys — even other states, different countries — to help in this massive exercise of making and serving food. Several local residents, including women, have been coming here for years. People take time out of their government and private jobs to serve here, irrespective of their religion or caste. We welcome everyone with love,” Wazir Singh, speaking in Punjabi, pointed out, even as he continued to issue instructions to staffers involved in cooking the langar.
The langar is all vegetarian — comprising mainly of dal (maa-chole ki dal), rice (slightly salted for taste), chapattis, achar (pickle) and a vegetable, along with something sweet (kheer or prasad). In the morning, the “chai langar” comprises of tea and rusk.
The devotees sit down on the matted floor inside the langar hall in rows. To manage the huge rush, the SGPC volunteers allow only a few hundred to enter the hall at one time. The whole operation is carried out in a meticulous manner as a daily routine.
“The whole exercise is quite enormous but it goes on, with the blessings of the almighty, seamlessly. The daily expense is around Rs 15 lakh. We use 100 quintals (100 kg) rice and up to 30 kg (each) of dal and vegetables daily. Over 100 LPG cylinders (domestic size) are used daily for the cooking along with hundreds of kilograms of firewood for the traditional cooking. Nearly 250 kg of ‘desi ghee’ (clarified butter) is used in the cooking. We have over three lakh steel plates. We can serve 10 lakh (one million) people in a day,” Gurpreet Singh, in-charge of the kitchen, told IANS. SGPC functionaries pointed out that 30,000-35,000 people from Amritsar and nearby areas are daily visitors to the shrine and partake langar thrice. Many of these are migrants from other states and poor people who cannot afford meals.
“Our doors are open for everyone without discrimination. We follow the concept of equality here,” said Amrit Pal Singh, a SGPC official at the Information Office. The chapattis, in the thousands, are made on eight chapatti-making machines and even by hand by women and men volunteers. The steel utensils (plates, glasses and spoons), used by devotees, also numbering in lakhs, are washed voluntarily by the devotees themselves or by volunteers.
“The shrine complex has such a spiritual attraction about it. The langar served here leaves you satisfied in many aspects. The whole experience touches your soul,” Ramesh Goyal, a devotee from Bathinda, said.
“I had always heard about this shrine. Today, what I experienced was heavenly. The langar service is unparalleled in any religion. They do it with so much devotion and humility despite such huge crowds. It is unimaginable,” Tariq Ahmed, who had come here with his family from Patna in Bihar, told IANS. Anup Singh, a young Sikh devotee from Amritsar, often accompanies his grandparents and parents to the shrine.
“I love to serve chapattis to the people having langar. It is a very satisfying and fulfilling experience,” he said. “The whole exercise is carried out selflessly. It is a big task but everything is carried out smoothly. We keep introducing changes depending on the needs of the devotees,” Roop Singh, Chief Secretary of the SGPC, told IANS.
The SGPC, known as the mini-parliament of Sikh religion, manages the Golden Temple complex and gurdwaras across Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. It has an annual budget of over Rs 1,100 crore, mostly from donations at the gurdwaras.
The Golden Temple complex itself gets millions of visitors from across the country and other parts of the world annually. The strong Sikh diaspora in other countries like United States, Britain and Canada actively contributes to the shrine and visits it whenever they can. IANS