Sikh Smagam Defined: Fellowship of Spiritual Companions

Camp Meeting of Like Minded Souls

Singing Kirtan With Sangat On Bus to Smagam
Singing Kirtan With Sangat On Bus to Smagam. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Definition of Smagam

Smagam is a Sikh term meaning union, close association, or fellowship.

In Sikhism, a smagam is a kind of extended program focused on fellowship of sangat, or spiritual companions in a meeting of like minded souls. Much like a camp meeting, the smagam often takes place over several days, and often up to an entire week. A smagam may coincide with commemorative Sikh holidays such as a gurpurab, or nagar kirtan parade, or held whenever convenient during other national, or secular holidays.

Smagam Programs

The smagam may take place in the Sikh gurdwara or be hosted in private homes. A Sikh smagam has several main components:

  • Akhand Paath - The smagam starts with an unbroken 48 hour complete reading of Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism's holy scripture.
  • Amritvela - The smagam includes an early morning meditation, or naam-simran program.
  • Kirtan - The smagam revolves around morning and evening kirtan programs arranged to accommodate daytime work schedules:
    • Asa di Var Kirtan - Early morning kirtan begins at day break involves "Asa di Var", a selection of 24 hymns each having 3-4 verses, with related hymns sung in between and may last up to five hours.
    • Amrit Kirtan - Early evening kirtan involves hymns sung from "Amrit Kirtan" hymnal lasting two to three hours in duration, ending usually by 9 pm.
    • Rain Sabaee Kirtan - All night kirtan, the grand finale usually begins about 7 pm and goes on at least until midnight, and often through amritvela, or until daybreak.
  • Amrit Sanchar - Sikh baptism ceremony of initiation, is held the afternoon or evening of the Rain Sabaee kirtan.
  • Langar - Sacred food from the guru's free kitchen prepared with prayer and meditation, is served morning and evening, during, or following kirtan programs.

Smagam Transportation

Individuals may traveling to a smagam may elect to go it alone by car, air, or other forms of transportation.

Perhaps the most enjoyable form of transportation is when individuals group together and charter a bus. When traveling in groups, the fellowship of the smagam begins as soon as the bus departs. Musical Instruments are brought out played while traveling, and the smagam is launched with the first shabad sung. A simple langar is also served to sangat on the bus. It is not unusual for kirtan to go on the entire trip, including the bus ride to and from the destination as well as the program itself.

Smagam Accommodations

Sleeping arrangements are made free of charge at the gurdwara, or in private homes for travelers attending the smagam. Those attending smagams usual sleep only a few hours, resting between programs in order to have the energy required to attend amritvela meditation, morning and evening kirtan programs, or other festivities, while enjoying the association of fellowship with sangat, or like minded spiritual companions.

Spelling and Pronunciation of Smagam

Pronunciation: The word smagam has 3 syllables. The first and last vowels are short and clipped a sound while the middle syllable vowel is a long aa sound, so that smagam sounds like sum-awe-gum.

Alternate Spellings: Samagam, Samaagam

Common Misspellings: Smagham

Examples of Smagam in Sikh Scripture:

Fifth Guru Arjun Dev wrote about the enjoyment of smagam fellowship:

"Ek palak sukh saadh samaagam kott baikunttheh paanae ||1|| rehaao ||
One enjoying peaceful pleasure in the fellowship of spiritual companions, for even an instant, is blessed to obtain millions of heavenly paradises. ||1||Pause|| SGGS||1208