RICHMOND HILL, NY (TIP): A bright, shining, cherubic Sun and a balmy weather provided a fitting setting to the 12th Guru Nanak Day Parade in Richmond Hill on November 17. The weather god certainly pleased thousands of Sikh devotees who came out to join the parade to mark the 543rd birth anniversary of their First Master, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The annual Guru Nanak Day Parade was started in the wake of 9/11 with a view to familiarizing people with the Sikh identity.
The Sikhs were mistaken for Al Qaeda and Arabs which resulted in unfortunate incidents of Sikhs being targeted at a number of places. Credit should be given to Raghbir Singh Subhanpur, the then President of Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana who came up with the idea of promoting Sikh identity through a parade on the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the First Master of the Sikhs. The 12th edition of Guru Nanak Day Parade was organized by Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana, with cooperation of all New York gurdwaras and Sikh institutions and organizations. The parade started from Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana, located on 114 Street and 101 Avenue in Richmond Hill. It turned left on 111 Street to Liberty Avenue. And from 123 Street on Liberty Avenue, it took a left turn on Atlantic Avenue. On Atlantic Avenue, it took a left turn on 118 Street to Gurdwara Sikh Cultural Society where the Parade was received by the management of the Sikh Cultural Society at a brief halt. This was done to let the Gurdwara Sikh Cultural Society management pay their obeisance to Shri Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Scripture of the Sikhs that is regarded as the Living Master.
Many, including the current President Gurdev Singh Kang, conveyed their greetings to the sangat, Earlier, the Miani Welfare Society led by its President Jagdish Singh and Patrons Bawa Rajinder Singh Lali and Baboo Joginder Singh paid obeisance to Guru Granth Sahib. Bawa Rajinder Singh Lali presented a rumala sahib to the Guru Granth Sahib . Sant Baba Prem Singh Sikh Cultural Society led by its President Lakhwinder Singh Pappy paid obeisance to Guru Granth Sahib, with a rumala sahib. They also presented Siropaos to the Panj Piaras (Five Beloveds).
The Parade then moved on to 101 Avenue from where it took a turn towards 114 Street, where it was to terminate. A few yards before the termination point, a former President of Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana, Pritam Singh Gilzian and his brother Baldev Singh Gilzian who is currently Chairman of the Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah presented a rumala sahib to Shri Guru Granth Sahib and offered to the sangat sweet hot jalebis and pakoras, the snacks that every Punjabi loves so much. The parade then terminated at around 5 P.M. at Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana from where it had started.
While the sangat wended home, the organizers got together for a while to pat each other for a successful parade. 2011 Guru Nanak Day Parade, the 11th such Parade on November 5, attracted a larger number, primarily because the weather was really very fine. The milling crowds on Liberty Avenue created traffic delays. Even pedestrians found it difficult to move. One just could not believe the numbers. The New York City Comptroller John Liu led the parade. and in his address praised the Sikh community for their hard work and contribution to New York and America. The Sikh community leaders also spoke on the occasion.
The local police received praise for being helpful and cooperative in organizing the Parade. The Living Guru, Shri Guru Granth Sahib, was taken out on an ornately decorated float at the head of the parade that was led by the Panj Piaras-the Five Beloveds. It was a wonderful sight to watch the priests in attendance of the Holy Scripture while the bards sang the holy hymns. Service (Seva) and langar (community kitchen) are amongst the major characteristics of the Sikh community life. Guru Nanak Dev enjoined upon his followers to share food with others. That is why in Sikh shrines, one always gets food.
Also, Guru Nanak who believed in equality of all, enjoined upon his followers to sit together in the community kitchen to take food. That is why, all along the route of the Parade, food and beverages were served at hundreds of points in the 5 mile stretch of the Parade route. Extremely generous and hospitable, the Sikh community has no equal when it comes to service and hospitality. The Parade is just a prelude to celebration that mark Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary. The real celebration will take place on the Master’s birth anniversary on Wednesday , November 28 in all Sikh shrines.
The community gathers in the Gurdwaras, which organize special programs, to listen to the praises of the Lord. Each Gurdwara tries to get the best bards and preachers from India and elsewhere. There is a special feast for all in the Gurdwaras. At the stroke of the midnight, the Master is offered floral greetings, followed by exchange of greetings amongst the congregation. The Master is looked upon as light that dispels all dark. Take a trip to a Sikh shrine to see for yourself how much reverence the Sikh community has for their Master and how much love they have for fellow human beings. After all, their Master had told them more than five hundred years ago to “Consider human race as one”.