Sikh community celebrates

The scent of Indian spices filled the air Sunday as a colorful, ornate parade boomed its way to a South Salem High Schoo...

 

Shower (172K)
TIMOTHY J. GONZALEZ | Stateman Journal
Rose petals a tossed onto a vehicle carrying the Sikh holy book during a a public procession in honor of the Sikhs' fifth Guru, organized by the Dasmesh Darbarr Sikh Temple, on Sunday June 24, 2012.


The scent of Indian spices filled the air Sunday as a colorful, ornate parade boomed its way to a South Salem, Oregon High School parking lot.

Men, women and children wearing turbans and flowing head scarves crowded in as the story of the Sikhs’ fifth Guru rang through speakers.

The Sikh custom, called nagar kirtan, is a public procession while singing holy hymns. It occurs commonly in Sikh communities.

The parade started at Dasmesh Darbar Sikh Temple at 860 Oakhill Ave. SE and went up Commercial Street SE to South Salem High School.

The local temple has been hosting its annual nagar kirtan since 2006. Up to 1,000 Sikhs from the West Coast joined the Salem Sikh community to celebrate the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji.

Gatka (195K)
TIMOTHY J. GONZALEZ | Stateman Journal
A child performs ritual martial arts during a a public procession in honor of the Sikhs' fifth Guru, organized by the Dasmesh Darbarr Sikh Temple, on Sunday June 24, 2012.


Although a vast majority of the participants were Sikh, many others from different religious and cultural backgrounds joined the celebration that included free food and drinks.

Somewhere in the crowd, Susan Hughs and Pawmeet Sethi chatted about Sikhs and their role in society.

Hughs said she didn’t know Salem had a Sikh community, which is estimated to be a couple hundred families, but she saw the huge crowd parading through Commercial Street SE and saw Sikhs everywhere.

“Who knew?” she said.

Procession (170K)
TIMOTHY J. GONZALEZ | Stateman Journal
Members of the Sikh community take part in a public procession, organized by the Dasmesh Darbarr Sikh Temple in honor of the Sikhs' fifth Guru on Sunday June 24, 2012.


Sethi said the event is a good way of inviting the greater community to learn about Sikhs and to participate in their events.

“We want to be inclusive with everybody,” Sethi said.

Sikhs believe there is one God and that all people are equal. The religion’s origin is traced to Punjab, which is now Pakistan and northern India. It’s the fifth largest world religion, with 24 million followers.

SatHanuman Khalsa, an organizer of the event, said Sikh men with beards and turbans have been victimized by prejudice since September 2001, when Osama bin Laden’s photo was widely used on TV and newspapers.

The nagar kirtan is one way to educate the community on who those men are, he said.

“It’s a celebration of compassion and joy,” he said.

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