I.S. Saluja RICHMOND HILL, NY (TIP): Sikhs have a tradition of taking out a parade which they call Nagar Kirtan to celebrate the birth anniversaries of their masters, and their creation in 1699, by the Tenth Master Guru Gobind Singh, which they celebrate as Sikh Day Parade. The parade is not only the showcase of the community’s well fabricated structure, it is the Sikh way to spread the message of their Gurus (Masters).
The Richmond Hill Parade to celebrate the birth anniversary of the First Master of the Sikhs, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, was started by Gurdwara Makhan Shah Lobana in 2001. A rain soaked day greeted the devotees preparing to march in the 14th Guru Nanak Day Parade in Richmond Hill on November 1. Not to be deterred by the inclement weather, thousands of devotees of Guru Nanak, with umbrellas in their hands marched in the parade or stood by the streets to watch the parade.
The annual Guru Nanak Day Parade organized by Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana, with cooperation from all New York gurdwaras and Sikh institutions an organizations, started from Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana, located on 114 Street and 101 Avenue in Richmond Hill. Having taken a turn to Liberty Avenue on 111 Street, it took a left turn on 123 Street to Atlantic Avenue. On 118 Street on Atlantic Avenue, it took a left turn 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. The Parade then moved on to 101 Avenue from where it took a turn towards 114 Street, where finally it terminated. That was for the route of 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 dozens 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 local police did a good job of policing and received praise for being helpful and cooperative in organizing the Parade.