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There are some good points, particularly with regards to the original concept of Prabhat Pheri and the value of the Nishaan Sahib (irrelevent of the more recent change in insignia), which was historically so important that a Misl was even famously named for it's bravery in defending the Sikh standard.

Gurmat Reflection of Southall Nagar Kirtan

By Manvir Singh Khalsa

***Origin***

Nagar Kirtans originate from ‘Parbaat Pheris’ (prbwq PyrI) (Parbaat literally means ‘early morning,’ and Pheri means ‘going around’). The Parbaat Pheri would consist of a Gursikh carrying a vaaja (harmonium) tied to themselves, some people would carry chhainey (bells), and one person would carry a dholki. Early in the morning the group of Gursikhs would walk around the village or city singing shabads and people would join them as they walked past their homes. Leading the jatha (group) would be the people leading the shabad singing and a Gursikh carrying a Nishan Sahib. The processions gave opportunity for people to enjoy the bliss of singing the Lord’s Praises, an opportunity to distribute relevant and useful Gurmat literature to the public and also share a positive image of the Guru's Khalsa.

In recent history we have started doing processions which include Guru Maharaaj's Sawaari (without Prakaash) and also Panj Pyaare leading the procession.

***Benefit of Traditional Nagar Kirtan***

The traditional Nagar Kirtans or Parbaat Pheris inspired people to sing Gurbaani and gave them opportunity to distribute educational material in regards to Gurmat. Seeing Chardikala Gursikhs in public singing Kirtan provided the public and youngsters with positive role models and good impressions of what and who Sikhs are. The whole event would have a community spirit, gathering the community together and inspiring others to sing and understand Gurbaani.

jan naanak dhoor mangai tis gursikh kee jo aap japai avreh naam japaavai. 2.

Servant Nanak begs for the dust of the feet of that GurSikh, who himself chants the Naam, and inspires others to chant it. ||2|| (Ang 306, SGGS)

aavo sikh satguroo ke piaario gaavho sachee baani.

Come, O beloved Sikhs of the True Guru, and sing the True Word of His Baani. (Ang 920, SGGS)

***Today’s Nagar Kirtans***

What do we learn or take away from Nagar Kirtans organised nowadays? We end up eating loads of delicious food, like pakorae, jalebian, ladoo, sholay bhatoorae and chips etc. It seems there is so much nice food and so many people wanting to distribute it to the Sangat that we end up squeezing as much food as possible into our stomachs.

Looking around Southall Nagar Kirtan, I saw large and small Nishan Sahibs everywhere and anywhere. Young children, teenagers and older youngsters were holding Nishan Sahibs and having a laugh with their mates. I thought to myself, “Do they know the value of the Nishan Sahib?’ “How is it that we have made devalued our Nishan Sahib so much that it is found everywhere and anywhere and being treated with little or no reverence or respect?â€

When the Nagar Kirtan had finished and the road blocks were lifted, youngsters born in Sikh families had decorated their cars with Khandas. Driving up and down the Broadway and Kings Street boys and girls were flirting and making a show and display of themselves. The Gursikhs I was with and myself were disarrayed with how the Guru’s Khanda, bestowed upon us by the Sixth Nanak had been made into a fashion accessory which is commercialised by shopkeepers at Vaisakhi time.

***How productive are today’s Nagar Kirtans in educating, promoting and highlighting Gurmat***

Last Sunday’s Southall Nagar Kirtan seemed very minimal in its effect in promoting and educating youngsters and the public about Gurmat. It should be mentioned that were children on floats singing Gurbaani and also children accompanying their parents who were singing along with shabads being sung. However, unfortunately they were a minority. The large number of people were talking amongst themselves, looking for the nearest place to get some nice food or busy looking out to see for people they knew in the crowd.

I felt shame and disgust in seeing people dancing, and stupidly waving their arms (similar postures to what Bhangra artists do when singing and dancing to songs) to Dharmic (religious) songs about Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the Khalsa. The float in concern was the Desi Radio float. There is nothing wrong or objectionable about playing Dharmic songs in the Nagar Kirtan procession. However, Dharmic songs are played for people to be educated, inspired and for them to act upon the message in the lyrics. Songs singing about Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the Khalsa are not designed to dance to but to think and act upon.

Not being able to tolerate the disrespect of the dancers and the Desi Radio’s float and dancers bringing down the Gurmat tone of the Nagar Kirtan, I approached the clean-shaven dancers and two Singhs (who are Kirtani) who were standing with them. They justified themselves that is part of Vaisakhi culture, and that we are celebrating “kushi†(happiness) of the Khalsa. Myself and two other Gursikhs politely told them that the Nagar Kirtan which is being led the Panj Pyaare and Guru Granth Sahib Ji is a religious event and not cultural event. There is a time and place for doing Bhangra to songs. And that Guru’s Kushi is not in dancing but in taking positive steps in becoming better Sikhs and following the Guru’s Hukam. They persisted to justify themselves by arguing that they had danced in the Nagar Kirtan procession for six years running and no-one ever has stopped them before. This highlights the question of what are the Parbandhaks and organiser doing to maintain Gurmat in the Nagar Kirtan procession and what impression are these types of things setting to our youngsters?

Generally the whole atmosphere of the Nagar Kirtan (like in other towns and cities) was of a street carnival.

***Conclusion of Southall Nagar Kirtan & today’s Nagar Kirtans in general***

To my experience and understanding, last Sunday’s Southall Nagar Kirtan had no or very little positive effect on youngsters. No one learn anything about Guru Ji, about the Khalsa, about Rehat (Sikh way of life & discipline) or about Gurbaani. There was no person or no thing in the Nagar Kirtan procession or the whole day event which inspiring.

***Thought to take away***

We are celebrating 306 years of the Khalsa Panth. We should ask ourselves what do we learn from Vaisakhi of 1699 and the establishment of the Khalsa Panth? How do we improve ourselves, and what steps do we take to change and adjust our lives to become closer to Guru Ji and receiving the True Kushee (happiness) of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

manvir_singh_khalsa@yahoo.co.uk

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Clearly the origins of this "Jaloos" is not routed in any maryada...they are makings of certain groups and individuals long after Guru Sahib's passing away...and frankly, there are far better ways to spend celebrating Vaisakhi or Gurpurb in public spaces (i.e. feed the homeless etc etc), the need for us to conduct a "jaloos" remains questionable...

I am well aware that other groups undertake their own processions, however one has to wonder if such activities actually do any more than deprive hundreds of our fellow citizens of their daily earnings (as businesses are closed down in line with the road closures), make others miss their appointments, trains, flights and heaven forbid some in immediate need of urgent medical relief are deprived of their lives...all this, because as Manvir Singh Khalsa and other Sikhs feel the need to "inspire people to sing Gurbaani" and dish out "educational material in regards to Gurmat" or "provide the public and youngsters with positive role models and good impressions of what and who Sikhs are"...really???

At the expense of the above??? Surely the first two objective can and should be achieved through Gurdwaras, Schools and Community Hall events, i.e. without having to cause havoc on the roads, and surely the above, very real issues, do anything but "provide the public and youngsters with positive role models and good impressions of what and who Sikhs are", which can probably be done by the earlier example of feeding the homeless or other similar activities?

Clearly, many will regard my views as slanderous and "anti-gurmat", however as Tarlochan Singh (Chairman, Minorities Commission and MP, India) once stated “All the goodwill we Sikhs earn by sewa and the langar where we feed thousands free of charge everyday is destroyed by these processions.â€

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Some questions for consideration -

what is the nishaan?

where does the maryada of having a nishan sahib come from?

why have a nishan?

Was the nishan sahib as we see it today introduced only in the last 100 years?

Have Gurdwaras always had nishans?

Why do the Nihangs have nishans and specific nishanchis who carry these nishans?

Who is authorised in the panth to give out nishans?

Was the khanda on the nishan sahib really bestowed upon us by the sixth Nanak?

Are nagar kirtans an invention of the Singh Sabhas?

What is a 'mahalla' and how does it differ to a nagar kirtan?

question time...

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Nagar Kirtan is influenced on the large part by Prabhat Pheri, an old Indian tradition. Although Maharaj was not carried and panj pyare were not leading. It was traditionally used on celebrating Guru Nanak Dev Ji's janam divas, where an Akhand Paath was held and the Prabhat Pheri would start at amritvela, people singing kirtan would walk around the village and the gathering would gather and grow larger. The tradition for Sikhs is said to have started from 6th Master. It slowly evolved to celebrating more Gurpurbs, where Akhand paath was also held.

It’s fair to say the Holla procession has also influenced Nagar Kirtan, due to it’s the multi-faceted nature (i.e. Gatka, Dhol and Bhangra – a recent innovation etc…)

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Khanda, it would be interesting if people could list references from sources to where the current Khanda on the Nishan Sahib originated from.

From old paintings that I have seen, Nishan Sahib seems to be either Durga or a Katar and 2 kirpanan shown horizontally.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a khanda on any photo or painting prior to 1900.

Bhai Sahib Freed Ji could probably provide some paintings to show this.

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Nagar Kirtan Value?

Walking towards a heart attack! We walk and walk (which is nice...more people including me need excercise) but then we eat mataiy (sweets) and samosay like we've never seen them. Not realizing these were delicacies in our grandparents time...when people were actually active! So I like the walking

Everything else?....well most people have a gloomy disposition, as everyone does while they sit in gurdwara (Im speaking of the masses not the chardikallah uchi avastha gurmukhs who are constantly imbued in maha-ras of the sangat)

What should we do instead? maybe learn, maybe encourage more communication and discussion in the community...may encourage our uncles to stop saying "bhain**o" and "godhvaray" in the same sentence while they chomp away at juicy tandoori chicken and guzzle their pints!

I believe life is more about understanding and adoring the truth as opposed to a penance based spiritual reward...although the latter entails the former.

I am congressi, does that make me RSS? (and no, I'm actually hungry)

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Nishanwalia Misl.

Flag has great significance for

every army. Falling of flag not only discourages the troops

but is also a symbol of acknowledgement of defeat. ‘Don’t

let the Flag drop’ used to be the proclaimation of the

soldiers. So, selected Sikhs were pulled out of various misls

and placed in this misl. If the flag bearer would drop in the

battlefield, another would pick up the flag before it drops

or comes lower. Many tales of bravery of this misl are

known in Sikh history. One such example is as under. Bhai

Alam Singh was captured by the Mughals. They asked Bhai

Alam Singh to drop the flag but he did not budge. Thecommander shouted at him and said, “Throw the flag or

your hands will be cut.†With great enthusiasm, Alam Singh

said, “I shall hold it with my mouth.†“Your head will be cut.â€

Bhai Alam Singh said loudly, “He will protect it whose flag

it is.†This misl had no separate area of jurisdiction. Their

soldiers were found in every misl. They would obtain their

share after every campaign. Jathedâr Sangat Singh was

the Jathedar of this misl. He used to be ahead in every

campaign of the Sikhs. After the exit of Abdali, S. Sangat

Singh made Ambala as his centre and exercised jurisdiction

upto Karnal in the South and Ropar–Kharar in the North.

Jathedar Mohar Singh succeeded him. He felt contented

with what ever territory he had. Since he had no offspring.

The misl became leaderless. Maharaja Ranjit Singh took

over this misl and ended its existence.*

Sikh Missionery College

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Nagar Kirtan Value?

Walking towards a heart attack! We walk and walk (which is nice...more people including me need excercise) but then we eat mataiy (sweets) and samosay like we've never seen them. Not realizing these were delicacies in our grandparents time...when people were actually active! So I like the walking

Everything else?....well most people have a gloomy disposition, as everyone does while they sit in gurdwara (Im speaking of the masses not the chardikallah uchi avastha gurmukhs who are constantly imbued in maha-ras of the sangat)

What should we do instead? maybe learn, maybe encourage more communication and discussion in the community...may encourage our uncles to stop saying "bhain**o" and "godhvaray" in the same sentence while they chomp away at juicy tandoori chicken and guzzle their pints!

I believe life is more about understanding and adoring the truth as opposed to a penance based spiritual reward...although the latter entails the former.

I am congressi, does that make me RSS? (and no, I'm actually hungry)

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Xylitol, surely all of that can be accomplished in a Gurdwara or in one's personal space at home or elsewhere, why the need for the big fanfare...I still see no purpose, Manvir Singh Khalsa's points appear to be little more than an advertising campaign gone wrong (see my earlier comments).

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Regarding Nagar Kirtan, in a conversation I had with Sant Partap Singh from Rara Sahib, he stated that Nagar Kirtans have very little or no spirtual value - the merely serve as social/political events.

Another comment he made was that why do people feel the need to take maharaj for a tour through the dirty cigerette littered streets of our city when we can keep maharaj in a small pavittar place where we can do full satkar. A comment I couldnt agree more with.

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naw, still disagree. you can get way more people doing kamai at a PROPERLY HELD nagar kirtan than in a Gurdwara due to space limitations. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen often enough that it's proper throughout, usually just a few floats doing it right.

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Xylitol, you speak of "kamai" - this is a personal kamai, which has to be done individually, sadh sangat and Gurdwaras are a 'taksal' for a Gursikh, not the end-all-be-all where "kamai" and "phall" are obtained.

Ultimately, one has to undertake their own spiritual development to become a Bhagat. A Nagar Kirtan as defined by Manvir Singh Khalsa (and one supported by many, given the numerous 'vah vah' posts he gets on his blog about his definition and supposed analysis and the number of times it has been copied and pasted to various Sikh forums as something to be lauded), clearly is nothing more than an attempted advertising and/or recruitment campaign, i.e. "show positive role models of a Gursikh" and "make others engage in kirtan", well frankly, as I've alluded to above, there are many ways in which "positive role models" can be established and blocking the traffic and blasting crackling distorted Vaheguru Jaap and/or vaja-dholak kirtan to people who otherwise don't really wish to be disturbed doesn't seem to a particularly great one!

Getting people to be engaged in Kirtan is also better done through mediums that I described earlier - in fact, the likes of Surinder Singh Matharu, whatever one's technical or personal opinion of him, is one person who has probably done more for getting people involved in Kirtan than what a Nagar Kirtan achieves.

As I said, this is an invented tradition and one clearly that should be re-thought for today's world.

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good discussion guys.

I am in favor of having nagar kirtan. Its true beadhi of guru sahib and guru maryada its committed un-intentionally on many levels by sevadars ie- panj pyare walking infront of guru sahib having their back towards guru sahib, and other beadhi but these things can be improved through education.

Fact remains-

Gurdwara is a great a place to do parchar to sikhs(youth, middle age, old) about gurmat. So I dont think nagar kirtan should be done based on that reason.

However things have changed after 9/11 in america. Regular joe blow gorra/kalla doesnt know anything sikhi confuse turban wearing people (mostly) sikhs as hostile sect of islam- talibans . I beleive nagar kirtan is an excellent medium to educate western masses about sikhi.

I am going to show sangat an example, how nagar kirtan can be consider excellent parchar tool-

Here is an example of excellent one form of parchar to western masses. Its picture of "Canadian Sikhs in Canada" on a huge floa, its show canadian sikhs contributions to canada ..singhs have spent weeks making before display, leaving all the contoversial figures pictures like- talvinder singh parmar, or speeches of ajaib singh bagri or just screaming out your lungs- khalistan zindabad hindustan murdabad, burning indian flags aside. These things should be fully rooted out from nagar kirtan (but off course with an exception of showing india's brutality on minority groups, anmensty human right abuse reports, sikh right to be fully sovergein banners) its nothing but an lame attempt to exploit/recruit sikh sangat especially sikh youths by so called khalistani leaders who are most of them are either fanatics or GOI Agents.

Anyway here is the picture:

n511236788_51385_9106.jpg

I strongly beleive there is more need of sikh nagar kirtan across america, europe where sikhi have flourished especially after 9/11.

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Gurdwara is a great a place to do parchar to sikhs(youth, middle age, old) about gurmat. So I dont think nagar kirtan should be done based on that reason.

Neo – you are discussing the promotion of Sikhs as good citizens, which is fair enough, nonetheless I don’t believe a Nagar Kirtan is really that appropriate, for the same reasons cited above – events like Sikhs in the Square (in London’s Trafalgar Square ) however do accomplish what you are suggesting without anywhere near as much disruption, as per my first post.

A nagar kirtan is not, in my opinion the most effective method by which to “educate western masses about sikhi.†The flaws in the very example you gave adequately point out why (in addition to the disruption items highlighted earlier).

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