Thousands of Sikh individuals gather inside the Los Angeles Convention center on Sunday, April 2, dressed in white, blue and bright orange. They enter the main hall (Darbar Hall) and bow to the Guru Granth Sahib and eat langar.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Baisakhi celebrations, called the Nagar Kirtan, was held online for the past three years. This year, it was held in person where thousands of people from California and out-of-state congregated to celebrate around downtown L.A.
The theme of this year’s Baisakhi celebrations was the “Panj Pyare,” which means “five loved ones” in Punjabi. Baisakhi is the holiday based on the story of five brave souls who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the Sikh Panth. The sakhi, or fable of the Baisakhi holiday, depicts Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh, Bhai Himmat Singh, Bhai Mohkam Singh and Bhai Sahib Singh who stepped up and gave their lives for their guru.
Nagar Kirtan is loosely defined as the singing of hymns in a residential area and consists of the Sikh congregation parading around the neighborhood chanting prayers and hymns. In this year’s Nagar Kirtan, the streets around the L.A. Convention Center were closed down. Prior to the parade, the Sikh congregation gathered inside the Convention Center for prayers inside the Darbar Hall.
Outside the convention center, speakers discussed the current state of Indian oppression in Punjab. Many wore or carried flags representing the Khalsa panth (Sikh congregation). The protest is an attempt to bring light to the arrests of Sikh activists and media blackouts happening in Punjab right now.