Indian American Community Celebrates Vaisakhi at the Indian Consulate

NEW YORK (TIP): The Consulate General of India in collaboration with International Punjabi Foundation and The Indian Panorama organized the Festival of Vaisakhi at the Consulate General here on April 16.

It appeared all roads for Indian Americans led only to the Consulate located in Midtown Manhattan. There was a beeline of enthusiastic Indians to celebrate the harvest festival of India and the birthday of the Khalsa. People of Punjab, in particular, have been celebrating Vaisakhi as a post harvest entertainment.

Consul General Dnyaneshwar M. Mulay, in his remarks, spoke of the strength of the Indian
nation and the great role of the Sikhs in making and strengthening of the Indian nation.

This celebration has been in the form of a coming together at a fair called Vaisakhi where they would buy and sell, eat and drink, and sing and dance. It came to be called Vaisakhi because it was celebrated in the month of Vaisakhi, which corresponds roughly to the month of April. Vaisakhi celebrations are not confined to Punjab and Punjabis alone.

In fact, the day is the most widely celebrated occasion across the length and breadth of India. For the Hindus, it is the start of the New Year. In Kerala, the festival is called ‘Vishu’. It includes fireworks, shopping for new clothes and interesting displays called ‘Vishu Kani’.

Dr. I.J. Singh exhorted Sikhs to integrate with the mainstream of the country of their adoption without getting assimilated

In Assam, the festival is called Bohag Bihu, and the community organizes massive feasts, music, and dancing. Apart from the Sikhs and the Hindus, Vaisakhi is an important day for the Buddhists as well. The name is Vesakha or Vaisakha or Vesak. It commemorates the Birth, the Awakening and the Enlightened Passing Away of Buddha who was born as prince Siddhartha. Until 1699, Vaisakhi remained just a socio – cultural event.

But in 1699, at the Vaisakhi fair at Anandpur Sahib, one of the five holy seats of the Sikhs, the Tenth Master of the Sikhs, Shri Guru Gobind Singh, created a new sect known as Khalsa which is known as Sikh religion today and has a worldwide following of 25 million, which makes it the world’s fifth major religion. Since then Punjabis celebrate Vaisakhi as traditional socio-cultural event and as a religious event, being the birthday of the Khalsa.

Chitagam S. Saluja extends a flowery welcomes to the CG

The elaborate celebrations included screening of a documentary-A Journey in Time- produced and directed by The Indian Panorama Editor Prof. Indrajit S. Saluja. The audience watched it spellbound and had a word of praise for the world of information blended with entertainment. The documentary traced the history of Punjab from the time of Indus Valley civilization. It narrated the story of the hard working people of Punjab who mixed judiciously work and pleasure.

It traced the history of the creation of the Khalsa by the Tenth Master of the Sikhs, Shri Guru Gobind Singh in 169o on the day of Vaisakhi festival. The invaluable contribution of the Punjabis, particularly the Sikhs in the freedom struggle movement and in protecting the borders of the nation was also very well depicted.

Prof. Indrajit S. Saluja, in his welcome note, admired the spectacle of national integration in the ball room where Indians from various regions and religions had gathered to celebrate with their Sikh brethren the festival of Vaisakhi

And to cap it all, the documentary presented the success story of the Punjabis in diverse fields. The other aspects of the celebration included folk songs by sister brother duo of Preachy Maker and Surry Maker. The NYC Bhangra led by Megha Kalia thrilled the gathering with their electrifying Bhangra and Gidha- folk dances of Punjabperformances.

Earlier, giving his remarks, the Consul General of India in New York, Mr. Dnyaneshwar M. Mulay spoke of the greatness of the Indian nation and of the great contribution of the Sikhs in building the nation. He said it was imperative to strengthen the bonds between people from various regions and religions in India.

A group of sponsors and associates who were recognized

He said it was equally important to integrate with the mainstream in the country of adoption which, he said did not mean being assimilated. He exhorted the gathered Indian Americans to maintain their identity and preserve their culture. Dr. I.J. Singh, a well known Sikh scholar

The guests stand for the national anthem of India and the USA.

pointed out that there was no contradiction in following and practicing one’s religion and being a good citizen at the same time. “You can be a good Sikh and a good American also. There is just no contradiction”, he said. He quoted extensively from Shri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scripture, to point out the oneness of humanity. He said for Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Master of the Sikhs, there was no stranger.

“I see no stranger”, Guru Nanak said. Thus, Dr. Singh gave a clear message of the Sikh Gurus that all beings are the creation of one God and, therefore, they are brethren. Na Ko bairy, Nahi Bigaanaa; Sagal sang humko ban aayee. There is no enemy; no stranger. I am at ease with all. On the occasion, some who helped inputting together the event were recognized by the organizers.

Prachi Makkar and Surya Makkar weave musical magic with a Punjabi folk song

They were presented plaques by the Consul General on behalf of the International Punjabi Foundation and The Indian Panorama. The sponsors so recognized included Mr. Herman Singh of Omni Mortgage, Mr. Darshan S. Bagga, a leading developer, Mr. Ravi Batra, an eminent attorney, Mr. Jarnail S. Gilzian, President of Richi Rich Banquet & Restaurant, Mr. Harry Singh, President of Bolla Oil, Mr. Paramjit S. Bedi, a Long Island based businessman and a community leader, Mr. Gurdev Singh DP, a leading fashion garments dealer, Mr. Peter Bheddah, a community leader, Mr. Salim Iqbal, President of HAB Bank, Mr. S. Chandramouli,CE US OPS, State Bank of India ( who was not present), Mr. Ashok Garg, CE, Americas, Bank of Baroda, Mr. Pramoda Pattanaik, CE, Bank of India, and Mr. Srinivas Ranga, Corporate Vice President, New York Life ( who was away to Chicago on an official errand). Some others recognized for their cooperation in organizing the event included Mr. Satbir Singh Bedi- DJ Kucha, Mr. Balwant Singh Hothi, Mr. Gurinder Singh Hothi, Ms. Renee Mehrra, Mr. Chitagam Saluja, Mr. Harpreet S Toor, Mr. Zahid Syed, Mr. Gurmej Singh, Mr. Gurdev S Kang, Mr.Dilip Chauhan ,Master Mohinder Singh, Ms. Megha Kalia, Mr. Madi Dholi (who could not be present), Mr. Shiv Chopra, Ms. Prachi Makkar , Mr. Surya Makkar, Mr. Shambhu Amitabh, Dr. I.J. Singh, Mr. Mohammad Jaffer, Ms. Malini Shah and Mr. Parveen Chopra. Prof. Indrajit S Saluja who was joined by representatives of Gurdwaras and various Indian American organizations and institutions, honored Ambassador Mulay with a plaque.

Megha Kalia and her companions performed Bhangra and Gidha with great aplomb

The event was organized jointly by the Consulate General of India which is at present headed by a very distinguished person, Ambassador Dnyaneshwar M. Mulay, International Punjabi Foundation, headed by Prof. Indrajit S. Saluja and the leading Indian newspaper The Indian Panorama.

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