Thousands Attend Darbar-E-Khalsa In Southern California
By Simrin Singh
POMONA, CA – It was a crisp but sunny morning at the Pomona Fairplex grounds, where a melodious recitation of Asa Di Vaar rang through the cavernous carpeted hall to the outdoor food stalls at this year’s Darbar-E-Khalsa celebration put on by the International Institute of Gurmat Studies (IIGS).
The event, which takes place annually on December 25, brought together tens of thousands from around the world to celebrate the 357th Prakash Utsav, or birthday, of Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji, the tenth Sikh Guru.
Regular participant and volunteer Nimarta Kaur said the annual function is meaningful for local Sikhs because it gives them a place to get together and remember Sri Guru Gobind Singh who created the Khalsa community hundreds of years ago.
“For years, Darbar-E-Khalsa has given our community a place to gather during the holidays to remember our great tenth Guru and the principles he stood for,” Kaur said. “The beautiful day allows people to reconnect, sing God’s praises, engage in seva (selfless service) and get in the Khalsa spirit.”
Throughout the day, visitors had the chance to interact with members of the community, shop at the Khalsa Bazaar, partake in Langar, and most importantly, sit with other Sikhs to listen to and sing Shabad Kirtan – peaceful praises of the Divine from Sikh scriptures.
At Darbar-E-Khalsa, a diverse range of local youth groups and Kirtan raagi jathas from around the world are given time to sing Kirtan for the Sikh congregation. This year, a total of 21 raagi groups and more than 450 kids from different gurdwaras across the state had the opportunity to perform. A highlight was a joint performance by five different raagi jathas that came together to sing Gurbani.
“Seeing the Sikh community unite en masse makes Darbar-E-Khalsa one of my favorite events of the year,” volunteer Aashna Singh said.
She said she appreciates that Darbar-E-Khalsa’s doors are open to anyone, no matter where they come from or what they believe in. “It’s been heartwarming to see my neighbors and classmates learn about and interact with the Sikh community through food and kirtan.”
In addition to listening to Kirtan, people who attend Darbar-E-Khalsa are invited to eat snacks and langar. Volunteers from gurdwaras in the Southern California area come together to provide food and refreshments for thousands throughout the entire day.
Singh said the dedication of volunteers who come together to put this massive event together is a clear example of how the Sikh community can work together to serve others.
Darbar-E-Khalsa also provides a space for shop owners and vendors to sell items at the Khalsa Bazaar. Some stalls include Sikh art and paintings, Punjabi clothes, jewelry and books. Additionally, community outreach groups have booths to educate the community about current Sikh initiatives.
After the Kirtan program wrapped up inside with Ardaas, children and other participants met outside for the Khalsa parade and a display of Gatka, Sikh martial arts.
Community members expressed inspiring Sikh slogans in unison, such as “Deg Teg Fateh” and “Bole So Nihal!” Spirited devotees walked together to respectfully send off the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji, via helicopter, with prestige and reverence, signifying the end of the program.
Revolutionary thinker and IIGS founder Capt. Kanwar Harbhajan Singh, endearingly referred to as “Bhapa ji,” came up with the idea for Darbar-E-Khalsa 37 years ago to give the Sikh American community a place to come together and remember Sri Guru Gobind Singh, who established the Khalsa in 1699.
His focus was always on Sikh youth. His foresight is an investment that continues to pay off.