Nagar Keertan in Southall today marks the Tercentennial Celebration to celebrate 300 years or saal of Dhan Dhan Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as our Eternal Guru and the Guru Nanak Dev Ji Prakash Divas. The religious street procession is held wherever the Sikh community thrives and live and such processions are also known as jaloos where the Sikhs all get together to say the Name of Akal Purukh and at the same time to serve and care for others. Other major cities have similar celebrations but the focus is more so at Nanded Sahib.
Celebrations have been underway around the world for past week marking the great 300 years Guru Gaddi Divas of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Hundreds of Gurdwaras around the world have marked this unique celebration holding Akhand Path Sahibs, Kirtan Darbars, Rainsbhai kirtans, langar and various talks and radio and TV shows bringing the Sikhs and non-Sikhs to celebrate the great treasure left by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1708.
Along with the Sikh sangat celebrating in Gurdwaras in Panjab, India and the Takhat Sahibs(Damdama Sahib, Anandpur Sahib, Keshgarh Sahib, Harimandir Sahib, Amritsar and Patna), countries like the UK, Canada, America and other European and Western countries have also marked the occasion with great pride and spirit. In particular, the UK and Canada has seen a long weekend of Akhand Paath Sahibs, Dhadhi Darbars, Kavi Darbars and Rainsbhai kirtans, while various leaders and political figures in the US took time to greet the Sikh community of America and announced October 20th to be marked as Sri Guru Granth Sahib Day just like Remembrance Day.
The religious procession in Southall started from Havelock Road where the majestic Siri Guru Singh Sabha is located and eventually ended at Park Avenue Siri Guru Singh Sabha. Despite the rain and windy weather, the crowds turned in droves with their brollies and overall mack. It was also time to welcome the New President of the Gurdwara, Bhai Didar Singh Randhawa. This Nagar Keertan is organised by the Siri Guru Singh Sabha in Southall and this has been going on since 1970. The procession is usually led by the Panj Pyares or the Five Beloved Ones, in saffron and kurtas (tunic) with white scarf around their necks. They all walked barefoot and the processions go by, with devotees paying their respects to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib and at the same time listening to live keertan. Sewadaars or volunteers barefooted had the broom in the hands clearing all the debris and rubbish from the road. Each of them carries a Nishan Sahib, the flag that carries the symbol of Khanda. Each of the five panj pyares carry a kirpan which has its own rich history. The kirpans are gold-plated and the hand guard of the kirpans was in the shape of hawk. The reason for was to represent an occasion at Anandpur Sahib when two sparrows drank the amrit or sacred water, that Guru Gobind Singh has set aside for the birds to drink. They then flew away and fought like two Rajas clamouring for supremacy. At the end of the handle is a lion’s head with crown on it; this signifies the rule of Khalsa or Khalsa Panth. Guru Gobind Singh Ji asked Mata Sahib Ji to add the puffed sugar crystals (pataasas) to the amrit to give sweetness to the amrit that balances its fiereceness. On the blade of the sword, the khanda and the stamp of the Akal Takhat is embossed in gold.
“The platform carrying the Siri Guru Granth Sahib will weave it way gracefully along the planned route and the palki is adorned with ramalas and flowers. The conveyer was beautifully adorned with fresh flowers and wreaths on the side. The palki with the dome represent Darbar Sahib and some the features in architecture”
“The Nagar kitran started at 1100 hours and finished at 1500 hours and throughout the procession people were practicing naam simran and singing praises of God saying Satnam Vahiguru. Devotees throw petals of flowers over the reverred Sri Guru Granth Sahib and present rumallas gifts to of cloth to the Guru Granth Sahib to cover and grace the Holy Eternal Guru”
Throughout the route food was freely available. Food was plentiful and the different variety of cold drinks, cups of steaming hot tea and food (jallebi, gulab-jamann, rice and kaadi, pakorras, samosas and channa or chholay with roti and parautha) was served to the passers by. Trays of food were served to passengers in the cars and van. As the food is served, some of them were uttering the name of Good and others who doing the service with great humility. As it is a unique occasion people were taking photographs to treasure their memorable moments in life as this time will never come again for them.
There has been unprecedented upsurge of devotional fervour that has been witnessed during the tercentenary celebrations of Siri Guru Granth Sahib’s Gurta Gaddi Diwas in India; even as Sikh Babas from Panjab, Haryana and Delhi set up separate langars.
Many Babas have spent crores of rupees to organize community kitchens for devotees, who have started thronging Sachkhand Hazoor Sahib and other historical Sikh shrines. They have enough rations to serve langar for more than one month though the celebrations may come to an end in the first week of November.
Baba Maan Singh of Pehowa, Haryana, said his Dera would serve 300 dishes, including Chinese, gol-gappas, ice-cream, etc, during the celebrations. He had to bring ration worth Rs 1 crore from Hyderabad as ration demand had picked up in the local market.
Baba Makhan Singh of Amritsar said his Dera had spent more than Rs 10 lakh on the purchase of dry milk. More than 500 quintal of atta(flour), 200 quintal of pulses and 1,000 tins of ghee would be consumed at these community kitchens.
However, the Babas feared the ration might not be consumed fully due to low turnout of devotees.
The huge pandals, put up by the Sachkhand Hazoor Sahib Management Committee at a cost of Rs 60 crore, are quite at a distance from the main shrine. Though the Takht management has arranged 350 buses to ferry devotees from the campsite to the main shrine, all of them would not like to travel that far for the langar only, he added.
Baba Makhan Singh said the management was charging rent for the tent facility, which was unheard of in Panjab. The city did not have enough hotels or government accommodation.
Panjab Bhawan, constructed with the grant of Rs 8 crore given by the Panjab government, and SGPCs serai were yet to be fully furnished.
However, the Hazoor Sahib Management had built sufficient number of rooms in the Serai of Takht Hazoor Sahib. The Nishkam Sewa Jatha, Birmingham, UK had got constructed an NRI serai, having 148 rooms.
Every house here has virtually been converted into serai with local residents receiving guests from far-flung areas. Amid chanting of religious hymns, first-ever Nagar keertan with 13 “saroops” of Sr Guru Granth Sahib today arrived here from Pakistan at the Wagha joint check post to participate in the Gurta Gaddi Diwas celebrations in Nanded.
While the celebrations go on the West, historical Gurdwaras across the Pakistan have also celebrated Gurta Gaddi Divas. Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Siri Nankana Sahib held a large gathering of the Sikh sangat who rejoiced the day with full Sikh spirit.
Pakistan has also granted a 500 Sikhs residing in Pakistan with Indian visas to celebrate with their Sikh brothers in neighbouring Eastern Panjab and India at Takhat Hazoor Sahib on October 30th where they will join the celebrations by the Takhat Sahib at Nanded
There were other celebrations near the Wagha border. I am sure everybody remembers this border for the parade and march. As soon as the Nagar keertan entered the Indian Territory, the Panjab police band played devotional compositions. Officials of the district administration, led by deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu, welcomed the Nagar keertan.
The 10 saroops, out of 13 carried by the Sikh devotees on their heads, were placed in a special coach provided by the SGPC to bring those Guru Granth Sahibs to Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple)
About 370-member Sikh Jatha, a majority of them Peshawaris, led by Bhai Bishan Singh, President of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC), were accorded a warm welcome by Gulzar Singh Ranike, Minister for sports and animal husbandry, and Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, general secretary of the SGPC. A large number of local Sikh devotees showered flower petals on the Sikh sangat.
Bishan Singh said Pakistani Muslims had offered greetings on the occasion of the tercentenary of the installation of Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
He said the Pakistani government had also organised special functions at Nankana Sahib from where the Nagar keertan started at 0630 hours in the morning.
The PSGPC president said the special bus arranged by Lucky Dhillon of Canada from the funds of the Sikh devotees there was not allowed to cross into the Indian Territory as she had failed to get the required approval from the Pakistan surface ministry and the immigration authorities. He announced that the nominations for the PSGPC elections would be finalised by November.
The SGPC has arranged for the stay of the Jatha members, including 60 women, at the SGPC complex in Amritsar. They would leave for Takht Hazoor Sahib Ji by a special train to join the rest of the congregation.
The epicentre of all the celebrations is at Nanded and the turnout is estimated to be 6 millions devotees are expected to converge at this unique spot of Abchalnagar, Nanded.