SIKH CULTURE AND SPIRIT AT THE STATE CAPITOL
Indianapolis, Sep. 22, 2010
Kanwal Prakash Singh
A Friendship Lunch and faith presentation, a Bhangra Dance, fun and fellowship rich in culture and Punjabi tradition took place at the Indiana State House in Indianapolis on September 16, 2010. This may have been the first such gathering of so many Sikh Americans and perhaps the very first Punjabi Bhangra folkdance performance in the prestigious and ornate halls of any State House in the nation. From the perspective of the Indiana Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives (IOFBCI) and Indiana Humanities Council (IHC), the two principal partners of this timely and meaningful series: “Learning about Indiana’s Faith Communities,” the Event was a great success. For the members of the Sikh Educational & Cultural Society of Indianapolis, the proud hosts of this Friendship Lunch and Sikh presentation in the North Atrium of the Indiana State House, it was a landmark triumph. About 150 people, nearly half of them Hoosier Sikh Americans in their traditional Sikh turbans and ethnic Punjabi dresses, community leaders, and dignitaries mingled amidst the beautiful Italian Renaissance style interior with grand staircases, stained-glass skylight, other architectual embellishments; in a majestic sunlit space of the Indiana State Capitol built in a Neo-Classical Revival style in 1888 A.D. We were eyewitness to this amazing gathering, a historic first for an ethnic religious community in Indiana.
In recent decades, we have seen increasing change in the spiritual landscape in Indiana with the arrival of Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Baha’is, African traditions, and others added to the richness of long standing Jewish, Christian denominations, and Native American faith traditions. Hoosier Sikh Americans were the first to lead the series on Indiana’s faith diversity and inspire a multi-textured framework for the presentations and introductions of faith communities that today form the rich spiritual and cultural fabric of Indiana. Throughout the North Atrium of the State Capitol, site of the first faith presentation, several visually stimulating and informative posters were on display; a Powerpoint, highlighting the Sikh Scriptures, outstanding leaders, tradition and culture, mistaken-identity concerns, and Sikh involvements in shared community initatives, interfaith forums, and cultural activities continuously flashed across a large screen. There were displays of colorful Punjabi Phulkaris, jewellery, books, wedding albums, and other related items of interest. A delicious Punjabi lunch buffet, prepared by India Palace and Shalimar Restaurants awaited the attending guests.
GREETINGS AND WELCOME BY DIGNITARIES
Several representatives warmly greeted the gathering of Sikh Americans and their friends. In his remarks, Mr. Issac Randolph, Executive Director - IOFBCI, said, “This Friendship Luncheon is the beginning of a series of events that we hope will foster understanding and appreciation of our various religious communities in Indiana. This month we are honored to highlight our Sikh brothers and sisters as they share their cuisine, culture, and traditions as our special guests.” He added that this series is all about learning and understanding, mutual respect, equality, and justice; a focus on our commonality, how different groups can work for the benefit of all.”
Similar sentiments and a warm welcome was extended to the audience by Mr. Douglas Hairston, special representative of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Ms. Rosemary Dorsa, Chairperson of the Board of IHC, and State Representative Cindy Noe; about the importance of learning about our shared humanity, mainstreaming our heritage, experiences, dreams; working together to build Indiana’s bright future.
Giani Pritam Singh, Head Granthi (spiritual leader) of the Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis, the oldest Sikh Congregation in Indiana, offered a beautiful and solemn blessing in Punjabi, its English translation in full was included in the printed Program and is attached.
KP Singh, Volunteer Event Coordinator for the Friendship Lunch and Sikh presentaion, in his welcome remarks on behalf of the Sikh community in Indiana read a portion of the translated Invocation:
“May a spirit of understanding, respect, and greater cooperation among all who serve and lead us guide our decisions and future endeavors; may we learn about each other and from each other and place our strengths to causes greater than ourselves.”
Almighty God: “give us the opportunity and inspiration to serve our beloved nation and state with all the gifts Wonderful Lord You have entrusted to each one of us.”
“May Your Exalted Name and a spirit of Charhdikala (positive exuberance) lead us forward, and in Your Name and by Your Grace, may there be peace and goodwill among all nations, cultures, and people everywhere.”
KP welcomed all the guests, expressed deep gratitude, and added that Sikhs have been serving this nation for over one hundred years and today making outstanding contributions in many diverse fields. Sikhs honor and respect the privilege of being world citizens. The Sikh history and heritage reflects and they are very proud of the founding principle of this great nation with its enlightened Constitution enshrining the promise of equal rights, basic freedoms, human dignity, and justice for all.
The Hoosier Sikhs are honored to participate in the very timely OFBCI initiative “to celebrate Indiana’s faith communities.” It has been a wonderful experience to work with friends like Mr. Issac Randolph, Executive Director, IOFBCI, and Ms. Keira Amstutz, President and CEO of IHC, who guided and led this effort and created this opportunity for us to share our faith and culture with all Hoosiers. “We believe that learning about our neighbors is the first step towards understanding, creating a sense of belonging, and celebrating our emerging spiritual landscape. This learning about Indiana’s faiths can be rewarding at many levels: dispel unfounded and unfortunate stereotypes, greatly enrich our cultural fabric, and help us discover areas where we can work together for the benefit of all Americans. We believe that our growing cultural diversity is our new frontier of opportunity in an increasingly interconnected and interdepependent world and we must embrace its promise and harness its full power. As Sikh Americans, we are excited to do our part for the peace and prosperity of our State and nation.”
PUNJABI BHANGRA: FOLKDANCE OF THE PUNJAB
After the four young Punjabi dancers (Balvinder Kaur, Nupur Kaur, Gurpreet Singh, Harpaul Gill) performed an exuberant Bhangra Dance, then all the guests danced to the beat of vibrant Bhangra music. The result was joyful audience participation and a memorable experience; a truly splendid moment captured in this historic setting where people of many faiths and cultures were making beautiful music and new friendships. We imagined the early pioneers and brave immigrants who came before us and dared to cross the frontiers of their times and generations in search of their dreams and future in Indiana.
RECOGNITIONS OF FRIENDS
Many groups, besides the leaders of OFBCI and IHC were present or represented in the audience:
Among them, Governor Mitch Daniels, Lt. Governor Becky Skillman, Indiana State Representatives, and Mayor Greg Ballard. Several Judges, Democratic candidate for Mayor, Ms. Melina Kennedy attended. Interfaith Hunger, Faith Learning Initiative, International Interfaith Initiatives, members of the clergy and faith leaders represented Indiana’s diverse faith communities. Members of Asian American Alliance, International Center of Indianapolis, Nationalities Council of Indiana, Multi-Ethnic Indiana, and Race and Cultural Relations Leadership Network brought cultural and ethnic diversity to the Event. Attendees from educational institutions, Law Enforcement officials and FBI, and the American Red Cross were in the audience along with leadership of the three area Sikh Temples, and many others guests and friends joined in the celebration.
The Sikh Educational & Cultural Society honored several people including: Governor Mitch Daniels and Mayor Greg Ballard (both had visited the Sikh Temple, Acton Road), Lt. Governor Becky Skillman, Issac Randolph, Keira Amstutz, Shary Johnston; State Representative Cindy Noe, Michael Welch, Head of the Indianapolis Office of FBI; Dave Minor, Volunteer Executive Director of Interfaith Hunger Initiative and others. Jasvir Singh Lalli, President of SE&CSI, presented the distinguished friends with special plaques, copies of The Sikhs by Khushwant Singh, and Indian silk scarves.
REFLECTION AND PROMISE
Each event is only a beginning, some more significant than others, paving a friendly way through education, arts, and culture for future generations. The opportunity to share Sikh culture and traditions with distinguished guests at the Indiana State House was a landmark moment in the journey to make Indiana a welcome place for all people, cultures, and communities. The success of the Event lies in the hard work, commitment, and cooperation from various partners, and the prayers of many more. This Event opened another door to share our common visions, inspirations, and experiences. It is up to us to build upon such opportunities, honor the laws, safeguard our rights, and become responsible partners in our state and national life. It is a shared blessing to learn about each other, create a positive environment to build cultural and spiritual bridges; walk towards each other in friendship and accord mutual respect, basic dignity, and equal justice to all. All understanding begins with our commitment to see ourselves as an integral part of the cultural and spiritual fabric of the nations and communities where we live and work. Together we can create opportunities to interface and learn about our shared values and address our common concerns; nurture our hopes, dreams, and intertwined destiny as a human family.
STATE HOUSE FRIENDSHIP LUNCH PLANNING COMMITTEE
No event can be successful without the deep commitment, hard work, attention to the many details, and without the special skills needed for a presentation to an audience with some of them learning about the Sikh faith and culture for the first time. The State House Event Committee members: Jasvir Singh Lalli, Harpreet Sandhu, Maninder Singh Walia, Baljit and Chirjeev Oberoi, Jyoti and Sukhvinder Mehta, Sonya Gill, Balvinder Kaur, Sukhdip Singh, Narvinder Singh Bhola, Dave Samra, Issac Randolph, Janine Schumm, Suzette Foster, Keira Amstutz, and KP Singh.
LEARNING ABOUT INDIANA’S FAITH COMMUNITIES
Indiana State House, Indianapolis, Indiana USA
September 16, 2010
Giani Pritam Singh, Head Granthi
The Sikh Satsang (Congregation) of Indianapolis
EK ONG KAAR SIRI WAHEGURUJEE KEE FATEH
One Supreme Creator, all victories belong to God
Sutguru (True Immaculate King): Your Sikh sevaks (volunteers), religious leaders from many faith traditions, friends and fellow Americans, community and civic leaders of the State of Indiana have gathered in this beautiful place to share the culture and spirit of the Hoosier Sikh Americans.
Bestow your unbound benevolence and cherished prayers on everyone gathered.
May a spirit of understanding, respect, and greater cooperation among all who serve and lead us guide our decisions and future endeavors; may we learn about each other and from each other and place all our strengths to causes greater than ourselves.
Almighty God: give each of us the opportunity and inspiration to serve our beloved Nation and State with all the gifts Wonderful Lord You have entrusted to each one of us.
May we always walk in Your Light: in Hope, Faith, Trust, and Humility; follow in the Footsteps of Your Faith Messengers; and honor lessons and legacy of Enlightened Souls who have nurtured humanity throughout the Ages.
Bless and guide our Honorabale Governor Mitch Daniels, Mayor Greg Ballard, other dignitaries, and all friends and representatives who have joined us here.
Make their good works and righteous efforts fruitful and successful.
Give each of us the mind and spirit to share our humanity with one another as brothers and sisters and members of our extended family, as Children of One Father and Mother of all Creation, and especially reach out to those who have special challenges here and elsewhere.
NANAK NAAM CHARHDIKALA TAIRAY BHANA SURBUT DA BHULA
May Your Exalted Name and a spirit of Charhdi Kala (positive exhuberance) lead us forward and in Your Name, By Your Grace, may there be Peace and Goodwill among all nations, cultures, and people everywhere.