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Dayton, USA: The Sikh students, faculty and alumni of Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, USA along with the Sikh community of Dayton and Cincinnati came together to host and celebrate the “Sikh New Year and Harvest Festival - Vaisakhi”. 

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Vibrant Sikh Exhibition Showcases Rich Heritage

Central to the festivities was a vibrant Sikh exhibition to showcase the rich history, traditions, and Central to the festivities was a vibrant Sikh exhibition to showcase the rich history, traditions, and values of the Sikh community. The exhibits covered wide-ranging topics about Sikh history, teachings of the ten Gurus, the valor of Sikh warriors, distinctive quality of turban worn by Sikhs, the pivotal role of women in Sikh history, Sikh wedding, and other festive snapshots. Pictures, posters and books related to Sikh history and tradition, musical instruments including Harmonium, Rabaab, Dilruba and Tabla were also displayed.

Turban Tying: A Hands-On Experience 

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Attendees were also invited to participate in turban tying sessions, guided by experienced volunteers. This hands-on experience provided insight into the significance of the turban, or dastaar. For many, it was a memorable experience that fostered a deeper appreciation for Sikh identity and tradition.

The Significance of Vaisakhi and Sikh New Year 

Dr. Kuldip Singh Rattan, Professor Emeritus Electrical Engineering and advisor to the Sikh Student Association extended a warm welcome to guests, acknowledging the efforts of the association, led by President Harshdeep Singh, in organizing the event to promote cultural awareness and diversity on campus.

He shared that the Sikh New Year started with month Chet on March 14. Vaisakhi marks the first day of the month of Vaisakh, one of the most important festivals in the Sikh calendar and is being celebrated on 13th April. Dating back to 1699, Vaisakhi commemorates the founding of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh ji. It is also a harvest festival in Punjab and had been celebrated long before it gained an added dimension for the Sikhs.

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Guest Speaker Enlightens on Sikh Faith

The guest speaker Dr. Valerie Stoker, a Professor of Religion at the University delivered an enlightening discourse on Sikh faith and practices, covering topics such as the Guru Granth Sahib, Gurdwaras, the birth of the Khalsa, Panj Pyare (5 beloved ones), 5 K’s (kakar/emblems) and the significance of Vaisakhi. She shared her personal experience of eating Langar at a Gurdwara in Montreal, highlighting the importance of equality and service in the Sikh way of life and the valuable contributions Sikhs are making by serving free food all over the World, including feeding thousands every day at the Harmandir Sahib Amritsar.

Creating Awareness: Reflections from Alumni

After the September 11 (9/11) attacks in the USA, my cousin Tejdeep Singh Rattan, now serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army, and I decided to form the Sikh Student Association at the Wright State University. With support from our community members, a Sikh exhibition was organized for the first time in April 2003 and later years at the University to create awareness about Sikhs and their distinct identity.  

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Student Voices: Insights into Sikhism

Student speakers, including Harshdeep Singh, Jasmine Kaur, Gurleen Kaur, Harseerat Kaur, Gagan Kaur and Himani Narang shared insights on various aspects of Sikhism, from the significance of Kesh (Hair) to the empowerment of women, Harmandir Sahib, and the Sikh calendar.

Cultural Enrichment and Culinary Delights

Students and community members adorned in colorful traditional attire added to the vibrant atmosphere, spreading joy and positivity throughout the campus. The celebration of harvest festival ended with a lively cultural performance, Gidha, a traditional Punjabi folk dance by the students. Over 250 guests were served Punjabi cuisine featuring samosas, gulab jamun, Choley, Naan and Rice. 

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Embodying Unity in Diversity

The Sikh New Year and Vaisakhi celebrations at Wright State exemplified the spirit of unity in diversity, fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. As attendees departed, they carried with them a deeper understanding and appreciation of Sikh traditions.

Pictures Credit: Akash Pamarthy

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