This year’s ਨਗਰ ਕੀਰਤਨ (Nagar Keertan) procession in Abbotsford will be held Sunday, September 1st.
What is a Nagar Keertan?
The word keertan has several meanings, the most simple of which is praise of God, with musical instruments. The divine hymns written in Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the eternal living Guru (enlightener), describe the real condition of human and spiritual life, and provide divine guidance to all human beings, about various stages and aspects of life, various natural and scientific realities of the universe, and various depths of the mind and spirit. In addition to these hymns, the Sikh community has accepted as divinely inspired, three other collections of divine scripture, namely:
- the writings of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Enlightener, which are collectively called Dasam Granth and are known as Gurbani (Word of the Enlightener)
- The writings of Bhai Gurdas, a world renowned scholar, Sikh preacher, and spiritual personality, whose Vaars (ballads) were given the title of Gurbani Di Kunji (the key with which to unlock the treasure of knowledge in Guru Granth Sahib)
- The writings of Bhai Nand Lal Singh Goya, a devout Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, and a literary master of the spiritual realm, who wrote divine spiritual poetry in several languages.
The singing of these four compositions mentioned above, with musical instruments, is called keertan. Often keertan is done in large congregations, with several people singing together, but it may also be performed alone or in a small group.
The word nagar refers to a street or a road. Combining nagar with keertan means “singing God’s praises in the streets.” This beautiful spectacle takes place across Punjab and other countries across the world, wherever there is a community of devout Sikhs. Nagar keertans may be dedicated to any cause.
A short nagar keertan in the early morning hours in a small Sikh neighbourhood is called a Parbhaat Feri (early morning walkaround), which is similar to a nagar keertan, but takes place more often in Punjab, and on a smaller scale of attendance.
What about the Nagar Keertans in BC?
Some of the largest nagar keertans in the world take place in British Columbia. There is one nagar keertan each year in Surrey, and two each year in Abbotsford. In the Sikh Calendar there are 12 months, each with individual names from the Punjabi language. The first day of the Vaisaakh month is called Vaisakhi. On this day, in 1469 CE (0 Nanakshahi), Guru Nanak Dev Ji arrived in this world (prakash divas or divine illumination) at Rai Bhoi Ki Talwandi, now known as Nankana Sahib, in East Punjab (currently occupied by Pakistan).
Also on this day, 230 years later, in 1699 CE (230 Nanakshahi), Guru Gobind Singh Ji called upon his Sikhs to become Khalsa (property of the sovereign King) and to give their head for the Guru. The Khalsa was a new world order of divinely inspired citizens, Akaal Purakh Kee Fauj, or the Army of the Immortal God, who would preach and practice truth, righteousness, universal love, and human rights. This event took place at Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib, in East Punjab. To the Guru’s call, five brave Sikhs responded, and became the Punj Pyare, or five beloved. These five are: Bhai Daya Singh Ji, Bhai Dharam Singh Ji, Bhai Himmat Singh Ji, Bhai Muhkam Singh Ji, and Bhai Sahib Singh Ji. The five Sikhs were from different castes, economic backgrounds, trades, and geographic locations across the nation. Therefore, there was no preferential treatment, nor was this initiation limited to any social group. All were welcome to be initiated into the new order of the Khalsa, through the Khalsa initiation ceremony called khande ki pahul, which means “nectar of the double edged sword.”
The majority of the Sikh community, due to the prevalence of some traditions, conduct gurpurb celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s prakash divas in November, instead of the actual date on Vaisakhi. The main cause for celebration on Vaisakhi, and at the Abbotsford and Surrey Nagar Keertans, is for the 1699 Revelation of the Khalsa. Sikhs from across the west coast of North America, as far south as California, and as far north as Edmonton, often come to attend the Vaisakhi nagar keertans. The first nagar keertan takes place in Surrey, BC and is hosted by Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar in April. The second, as mentioned above, takes place in Abbotsford, BC and is hosted by Gurdwara Sahib Kalgidhar Darbar.
The second nagar keertan in Abbotsford takes place on the first weekend of September. It is in celebration of the prakash divas of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The first edition of the Guru Granth Sahib, often called Aad Granth Sahib, was scribed under the direction of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, by Bhai Gurdas Ji, and was installed on the Guru’s throne at Sachkhand Sri Harimandir Sahib, Amritsar, in West Punjab (currently occupied by India). The first granthi (servant to the scripture) was Baba Buddha Ji, who has been one of the most amazing and inspirational spiritual personalities of human history.
Each year, the Sikhs from across BC travel to Abbotsford to attend the celebrations and to honour the divine spiritual enlightener, Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Guru Granth Sahib Ji does not embody a human form, and is present as a scripture, but still the divine word speaks individually to each spirit in a profound manner, and the divine light of the teachings in Guru Granth Sahib extends across the world.
Many of the shabads that are chanted in the nagar keertan include praise of the Divine Word such as Bani Guru Guru Hai Bani (The divine word enlightens. The enlightener is the divine word) and Gur Ka Shabad Rakhvaray (The divine words of enlightenment are my protection).
Abbotsford Nagar Kirtan Procession (Sikh Parade)
Event: Nagar Kirtan Procession (Sikh Parade)
Date: Sunday, September 2, 2012
Time: 9:00am – 4:00pm
Place: Begins at 30640 Blueridge Drive
The City has approved a Special Event Permit for the “Nagar Kirtan Procession” to take place on September 1, 2013, between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm. The parade will start at 11:00 am, at the Gurdwara Sahib Kalgidhar Darbar, 30640 Blueridge Drive; proceed east on Blueridge Drive; south (right) onto Townline Road; west (right) onto Southern Drive; north-west (right) onto Sandpiper Drive; north (right) onto Blue Jay Street; west (left) onto Blueridge Drive; and ending at approximately 3:00 pm, at 30640 Blueridge Drive.
A map of the parade route can be seen on the right.
Festivities at Kalgidhar Park will take place until approximately 5:00 pm. The procession will disrupt regular traffic. Please use alternate routes to and from the area during this time. Prior to the event (72 hours minimum), in addition to any permanent “No Parking” signs, temporary “No Parking” signs will be posted along the entire route.
Cars parked in designated no-parking zones, on sidewalks, boulevards, in front of or within 1.5m of a driveway, within 5.0m of a fire hydrant, or in contravention of the City’s Street and Traffic Bylaw (Bylaw No.1536-2006), may be towed at the owner’s expense. Road closures are expected to be in effect from approximately 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.