Sikh American heritage day celebrated in Gurdwara in Illinois

Chicago IL: April 13 is Vaisakhi day (also spelled Baisakhi) which is a cultural festival in Punjab, India, but it is also significantly historic, and transformational event in the Sikh world. This day in 1699 in Anandpur Sahib Punjab, near Chandigarh, the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh changed the course of human history and civilization in that part of the world. He created the order of Khalsa and prescribed the Sikh way of life eliminating caste system and gender discrimination, adding to the follower’s external appearance the five articles of faith including unshorn hair and Kirpaan, building self esteem and valor in the common people oppressed by tyrannical rulers. The first five Khalsa (Panj Pyaare) known as Five Beloved Ones were initiated on this day. Each of them were of a different cast and came from different corners of India. Later the Guru bowed before the five initiates and asked them to initiate him, thus the Sikh initiation ceremony (Amrit Chhakna) got started.

The Vaisakhi of 1699 brought into sharp focus, a universal concern for human and sacred rights of all people; That safeguarding human dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to worship, and ensuring that all God’s children are equal and deserve to receive God’s blessings; That it is just and honorable to take a stand against tyranny and oppression wherever it may be happening; And an inalienable right that Khalsa must engage in just struggle, righteous defiance and supreme sacrifices to attain these rights as a way to serve and honor the highest ideals set for the Sikhs by the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708).

The Vaisakhi day was celebrated at Gurdwaras in Palatine, Wheaton, and Chicago Illinois with great fervor and devotion, in an ambiance of exuberance, joy, and jubilation. The Sikh Religious Society (SRS) Palatine Gurdwara was full with people. More than 2000 devotees attended the Keertan, Prayers, and partook of Langar (community meal). Newly initiated Khalsas walked in a ceremonial procession, bowed to the Guru and were presented to the congregation amidst cheerful chants of “Jo Bole So Nihaal, Sat Siri Akaal.”

The Sikh flag (Nishaan Sahib) changing ceremony took place in the morning; the flag pole was washed and cleaned with great reverence and replaced with new fabric material by barefooted devotees singing and standing in chilly and wet weather. Prayers were supplicated to seek blessings for unity as a community and benefit for the whole mankind. Ladoos (sweets) were distributed to mark the occasion.

State of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn had proclaimed April 13, 2013 as “Sikh American Heritage Day.” From the Governor’s office, Ms. Teresa Mah Ph.D., Senior Policy Advisor and Director of Asian American Outreach represented the Governor, and addressed the congregation. She passed on the Governors greetings to the community and read the proclamation in the Palatine Gurdwara congregation hall. The proclamation enumerated and honored the achievements, services, and contributions of Sikhs in America. Ms. Mah presented the proclamation document to the Sikh Society President Sokhi Singh and other community leaders including Head Granthi Bhai Gurjant Singh.

The SRS president and the board members in return presented to the Governor, a framed photo of Golden Temple, and a photo of Sikh Soldiers displaying their gallantry in World Wars fighting on the side of the US Allies. SRS Board member Sarwan Singh Raju spoke about Sikh Soldier’s contribution in the world wars.

Amrith Kaur Aakre Assistant State’s Attorney Cook County Illinois spoke about the occasion and conducted the ceremonies for this proclamation segment.

Rajinder Singh Mago coordinated the Governor’s office and the Proclamation event at Gurdwara in Palatine.

Sikhs Americans are an immigrant community from Northwestern State of Punjab in India. About 540 years old, Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world with about 25 million followers.