10 Tips For Attending Nagar Kirtan

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10 Pointers When Participating in Sikh Parades

Yuba City Sikh Parade Guru Gadee Float and Sangat
Yuba City Sikh Parade Guru Gadee Float and Sangat. Photo © [S Khalsa]

The Sikh parade is a Nagar Kirtan procession involving transporting Sikhism's holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib on a palanquin or float through the streets while singing devotional hymns. Parades are held on special occasions:

  • Gurpurab - Commemorative dates honoring any of the Ten Gurus.
  • Guru Gadee - Inaugural anniversary honoring Guru Granth Sahib.
  • Hola Mohalla - Demonstration of Gatka skill in Sikhism martial arts.
  • Interfaith Marches - Promoting solidarity between people of diverse faiths.
  • Pooran Mashi - Full moon festivals celebrating the birth of First Guru Nanak.
  • Vaisakhi - Anniversary of the establishment and initiation of the Khalsa warrior order.

Try these ten tips featuring the Yuba City Annual Sikh Parade, whenever attending Nagar Kirtan for an enjoyable and unforgettable experience. Paying attention to these 10 pointers when participating in any Sikh parade makes for fun filled festivities:

  1. Locate Nagar Kirtan Start and Finish
  2. Decide on Parking, Meeting Place and Exit Plan
  3. Show Reverence and Respect Wear Appropriate Attire
  4. Abstain From Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Use
  5. Eat Your Fill of Free Food and Drinks (Langar)
  6. Watch For Moving Parade Vehicles
  7. Walk Beside, or Take a Ride on Floats
  8. Shop for Religious Items at Bazaar
  9. Freshen Up with Sanitary Facilities
  10. Participate in Seva Preparation and Clean-up

Take Along 5 Items You Won't Want to Be Without at Nagar Kirtan

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Locate Nagar Kirtan Ceremonies Start and Finish

Yuba City Gurdwara Hosts Annual Sikh Parade
Yuba City Gurdwara Hosts Annual Sikh Parade. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

Locate the start and finish of the Nagar Kirtan parade, using a map if necessary. A hosting gurdwara is often the starting point, as well as the final destination when the Nagar Kirtan finishes at the end of the day. However on some occasions, Guru Granth Sahib may be transported by automobile to a city park hosting the Nagar Kirtan where the parade will start and finish. When hosted at the gurdwara the parade begins with ceremonially transporting of Guru Granth Sahib as the Guru is carried from the gurdwara and installed on a palanquin or float which will lead the procession. The ceremony involving Ardas may take place in side a gurdawra or out of doors in a common area such as parking lot or park. Everyone is welcome to reverently observe or participate in ceremonial proceedings. Nagar Kirtan ceremonies generally commence about 10 am. Floats begin to depart about 11 am and make take an hour or more for all to get under way with the last inline departing by noon at the latest. Floats return about 4 pm and may take until dusk depending on the number of floats participating.

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Decide on Parking, Meeting Place and Exit Plan

Yuba City Annual Sikh Parade Parking Options
Yuba City Annual Sikh Parade Parking Options. Photo © [S Khalsa]

When attending a Nagar Kirtan parade, usually there are option for free parking, however parking close to the gurdwara or hosting site may be scarce especially where food booths and bazaars are located. Arrive early, or be prepared to park further away and walk to the starting point. It may be possible to pay for closer private or permit parking. Alternately you may want to park and observe from a vantage point located along the parade route as the Nagar Kirtan passes by. Plan your exit strategy ahead of time to avoid the crush of vehicles traveling away from the parade site at the end of the day. If weather conditions indicate rain, be aware that mud could be concern later in the day, and assess the area carefully so that you don't step in mud puddles or get stuck during your departure. If you are traveling with your family, or in a coach, or bus, with sangat, cell phones are helpful for keeping in touch. If the Nagar Kirtan is hosted at a gurdwara, set aside time to pay your respects and partake of free langar. If there is a bazaar set up, be sure to allow time to browse and shop. Decide on a meeting place, and set a time to regroup, in case should you become separated during the days festivities. Options to meet up include:

  • Your vehicle, or coach
  • A particular parade float.
  • A particular vendor at Bazaar.
  • A particular food booth, or langar hall.
  • The hosting gurdwara worship hall, or location in city park, or along parade route.
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Show Reverence and Respect Wear Appropriate Attire

Street Sweepers Wearing Shoes at Yuba City Sikh Parade
Street Sweepers Wearing Shoes at Yuba City Sikh Parade. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

Show respect for Sikhism, Sikhs, and revere Guru Granth Sahib by wearing appropriate attire suitable to the occasion of a Nagar Kirtan function.

  • Headcover - Turban, chuni, scarf or other head cover is advisable.
  • Apparel - Traditional attire, any style Punjabi suits, and modest comfortable contemporary clothing are all acceptable.
  • Shoes - Shoes are optional for street wear, when marching with the parade, or when participating in street sweeping. Depending on the weather, be prepared for muddy conditions in case of rain. Choose comfortable walking shoes and preferably those which can be easily removed as shoes are not worn when sitting with feet inside of a float, nor when entering the gurdwara. In crowded conditions with hundreds of thousands of people attending its possible when footwear is removed, for shoes to be misplaced. So you may not want to wear your best pair of shoes when attending Nagar Kirtan.
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Abstain From Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Use at Sikh Parades

Free Juice and Bottles at Yuba City Parade
Free Juice and Bottles at Yuba City Parade. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Nagar Kirtan is a religious festival held to honor the holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib. Please respect Sikhism values which prohibit use of tobacco, drugs, and other intoxicants. Please abstain from smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages while attending any Sikh parade wherever Guru Granth Sahib or the Sikh congregation is present. Plenty of free non-alcholic drinks are available for everyone.

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Watch For Moving Parade Vehicles

Yuba City Motor Cycle Club at Nagar Kirtan
Yuba City Motor Cycle Club at Nagar Kirtan. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

Dozens of moving vehicles along with hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are children, require vigilance when attending a Sikhism Nagar Kirtan parade. Though injuries are extremely rare, it is very important to be aware of moving vehicles at all times in approximation to you and your family, especially little ones to prevent tragedies from occuring. Sikh Parade vehicles include:

  • Trucks of all sizes pulling floats on trailers with devotees climbing on and off as they move along.
  • Floats which are assembled over and cover up trucks present special visibility challenges for drivers.
  • Independent participating promotional vehicles with banners may include trucks, cars, and vans such as Red Cross ambulances.
  • Motor cycle clubs with any number of bikes being ridden in synchronization with each other.
  • Police vehicles include squad cars and motorcycles (even horses) and help with road blocks directing parade traffic and foot traffic. It's very important to listen to directives given at all times, but especially at the end of the day when the parade lets out and darkness descends, making visibility difficult for both automobile drivers and pedestrians.
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Walk Beside or Take a Ride on Floats

Ride On Yuba City Float
Ride On Yuba City Float. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

The number of floats participating in any Nagar Kirtan varies with each and every parade. At minimum a palanquin supporting the Guru Granth Sahib is borne on the shoulders of devotees. In a well attended Nagar Kirtan there may be any number of floats sponsored by participating gurdwaras from around the country following behind Guru Granth Sahib. Some floats are elaborate affairs depicting scenes from Sikh history, others are simple trailers piled with devotees. Sangat associated with the gurdwara sponsoring the float help to decorate the float and helping hands are always appreciated. Floats are pulled by volunteer truckers with decked out rigs. Ragis ride and sing hymns with sangat on some floats. Recordings blast from loud speakers on others. There is no restriction as to who can ride on the float. As long as there is a space to ride everyone is welcome to climb aboard and join in the festivities. Anyone brave enough to clamber up a slowly moving float is welcome to squeeze in.

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Eat Your Fill of Free Food and Drinks (Langar)

Langar Tent Offers a Variety of Fare at Yuba City Sikh Parade
Langar Tent Offers a Variety of Fare at Yuba City Sikh Parade. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Sikhism has a long tradition of langar. Free food and drinks are provided for all Nagar Kirtan attendees whether participating devotees, or curious onlookers. Roadside food booths, tents, tables and trucks loaded with a mouthwatering array of traditional langar and popular snacks available all along the Sikh parade route, at the gurdwar langar hall, and parking lot, beckon the passer by. Sevadars walk into the streets offering the throng of worshipers and visitors bottled water, soda, and fruit juice along with samples of sumptuous savory Indian food, as well as ice cream, chips and more. Everyone is urged to eat their fill, and then eat some more. Look out for waste receptacles where you can deposit empty bottles, cans, used paper plates and utensils.

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Shop For Religious Items at Bazaar

Kirpans For Sale at Yuba City Sikh Parade
Kirpans For Sale at Yuba City Sikh Parade. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Festivities hosted by gurdwaras, such as the Yuba City Annual Sikh parade, generally have a Bazaar where vendors display a variety of religious items for sale, such as reference, story and prayerbooks, CDs and DVDs, Sikhi art, bana and other spiritual apparel, 5 K's, specialty kirpans, khanda jewelery, clocks and other sikhism theme knick knacks, as well as prized items such as Punjabi suits, fabrics, blankets, even carpets. The New York City Annual Sikh Parade however is prohibited by local ordinances from allowing vendors to set up along the parade route.

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Freshen Up With Sanitary Facilities

Sanitary Facilities at Yuba City Sikh Parade
Sanitary Facilities at Yuba City Sikh Parade. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Sanitary facilities for freshening up include water for washing hands, and are provided for Nagar Kirtan visitors at the hosting gurdwara and in areas along the parade route. Be aware that facilities closest to the gurdwara experience the heaviest use and may be over capacity by the end of the day, so plan accordingly. Be sure to use hand washing facilities before entering gurdwara or partaking of langar.

Eight Guidelines For Langar
What You Need to Know Before You Visit the Gurdwara

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Do Seva and Help With Preparation and Clean Up

Seva at Yuba City Sikh Parade
Seva at Yuba City Sikh Parade. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Nagar Kirtan like the popular Yuba City Sikh Parade may cater up to 200,000 visitors and presents plenty of opportunities for seva. While there is absolutely no obligation, extra helping hands are always welcome:

  • Help maintain the Nagar Kirtan parade route.
  • Help with float building, decorations, or dismantling.
  • Help with gurdwara readiness, maintenance and clean up.
  • Help With langar, food preparation, service and clean up.

Seva -The Sikh Tradition of Selfless Service Illustrated

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Virtual Sikh Parades

Yuba City Mounted Police
Yuba City Mounted Police. Photo © [S Khalsa]

When its not possible attend in person, take a virtual tour of Sikh parades around the world right here at Sikhism.About.com with illustrated glimpses into Nagar Kirtan festivities.