Forging Bonds at Baisakhi Celebrations in the Indian Embassy

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April 16, 2013

By Geeta Goindi

WASHINGTON – Baisakhi celebrations were held at the Indian Embassy on April 10. Conveying greetings on the auspicious occasion of Baisakhi, an influential lawmaker has stressed that India and the US have a lot in common and pledged to continue supporting closer ties between the world’s greatest democracies.

April 16, 2013

By Geeta Goindi

WASHINGTON – Baisakhi celebrations were held at the Indian Embassy on April 10. Conveying greetings on the auspicious occasion of Baisakhi, an influential lawmaker has stressed that India and the US have a lot in common and pledged to continue supporting closer ties between the world’s greatest democracies.

Talented young members of DC Metro Punjabi Arts Academy (DCMPAA) performed the Bhangra to a medley of Punjabi songs, at the ‘Baisakhi’ celebrations hosted by the Indian Embassy in Washington.  Seen in the photo from left to right are: Ishmeet Singh Maharaj, Dashmeet Singh Maharaj, Ishar Kaur Chhabra and Navneet Singh Maharaj

Congressman Eliot Engel (Democrat – New York), Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, told a packed gathering at the Indian Embassy, that India and the US “have a lot in common and we will continue to have a lot in common”.

The lawmaker is a founding member of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans which was established over 20 years ago and is now the largest country-specific caucus in the House of Representatives.  “I am proud of this and the relations between the US and India”, he said.  “I have been a long, strong supporter for even closer ties between the US and India because we share so much in common with the United States being the world’s oldest democracy and India being the world’s largest democracy”.

In heartwarming greetings to Indian-Americans at the Chancery, Congressman Eliot said, “I think it is very fitting that we celebrate this wonderful Sikh holiday of Baisakhi with the cherry blossoms outside (as this is a time of) harvest and the New Year.  Could you have a better day for the New Year?  We have been freezing all winter long and suddenly, in honor of Baisakhi, we have beautiful 90-degree weather, beautiful cherry blossoms and beautiful people here at the Indian Embassy.  Happy New Year and let’s enjoy this wonderful festival and continue to strengthen the bonds between India and the US”.

Congressman Eliot Engel of New York (right) mingling with Indian-Americans at the Baisakhi celebrations held at the Indian Embassy in Washington

Mr. Vinay Kwatra, Minister of Commerce at the Indian Embassy, was the Charge d’ Affaires at the event which was moved from the Embassy Residence to the Indian Chancery as Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao “had to travel to India for unavoidable reasons”, reportedly a family emergency.

Welcoming the gathering, Mr. Kwatra read a message from Ambassador Rao in which she hailed Baisakhi as “one of the major Indian festivals”.  It “is celebrated with enthusiasm and gaiety as a Sikh New Year and the founding of the Khalsa Panth in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, not only in the state of Punjab, but throughout India and the world wherever there is a significant presence of the Sikh community”, she stated.  “For the large farming community of Punjab, the Baisakhi festival marks the time for the harvest of the ravi crop and they celebrate the day by performing joyful Bhangra and Gidha dances which make it so colorful.  As the festival has tremendous importance in Sikh religion, major activities on this day are organized in Gurudwaras”.

Ambassador Rao noted that Baisakhi marks the beginning of New Year in various parts of India where it is celebrated under different names such as ‘Pohela Boishakh’ in Bengal, ‘Bohag Bihu’ in Assam, ‘Vishu’ in Kerala and ‘Puthandu’ in Tamil Nadu.  “May these festivities bring peace and prosperity to mark a new and joyous beginning for all of you”, she said, in her message.

The Baisakhi celebrations at the Embassy began with the divine sound of Kirtan by the Hazoori Raagi Jatha of the Guru Nanak Foundation of America (GNFA) based in Silver Spring, MD

The Baisakhi celebrations at the Embassy began with the divine sound of Kirtan by the Hazoori Raagi Jatha of the Guru Nanak Foundation of America.  This invocation by Bhai Sahib Jagmohan Singh Ji, Harmohan Singh Ji and Harvinder Singh Ji, was the perfect start to the festivities.

On hand, were: Mr. Datta Padsalgikar, Minister for Community Affairs, Indian Embassy; Mr. Sridharan Madhusudhanan, Counsellor of Press, Information and Culture at the Indian Embassy; Mr. Jasdip Singh, Chairman of the Maryland Governor’s Commission on South Asian American Affairs; Mr. Manmohan Singh who spoke about the significance of Baisakhi; and Brigadier Ashok Dhingra, emcee of the event.

Regarding the Commission which he chairs, Mr. Jasdip Singh mentioned that it was formed by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, in 2012, to serve communities from South Asian countries.  There are 21 commissioners and India has the largest presence on the body.  Among the commissioners present at the Chancery were Sharad Doshi, Ishani Chowdhury and Baljinder Singh.

In his remarks, Mr. Jasdip Singh dwelt on what the Indian Embassy means to the community and how it has brought Baisakhi into the mainstream.  “Sikhs have always been leaders and sacrificed for India”, he pointed out.

To Embassy officials, he said, “You are the beacon of light for so many students, new immigrants and others who come to this country and the community appreciates the efforts that you all put into bringing different Indian groups and religions into this mainstream society”.

Talented singer Mona Singh is flanked by Simmi Singh (left) and Kiran Kaur (right) at the Baisakhi celebrations held at the Indian Embassy in Washington

An integral part of Baisakhi celebrations are the cultural performances – vibrant, colorful and joyous!  At the Embassy, Mona Singh rendered Punjabi songs, accompanied by Gurmeet Singh on the tabla.  She chose ‘Jind mahi bajre diyan’ which she explained was a plea to the beloved – O’ my love, the harvest is going to be cut soon, come spend some time with me; and ‘Jugni’, a variation of the version in the film, ‘Tanu Weds Manu’.

The young brigade – Ishar Kaur Chhabra, Dashmeet Singh Maharaj, Ishmeet Singh Maharaj and Navneet Singh Maharaj – members of the DC Metro Punjabi Arts Academy (DCMPAA) based in Ashburn, VA, performed the fast-paced bhangra to a medley of Punjabi songs.

In a special announcement, Mr. Sridharan Madhusudhanan disclosed that the Gandhi Memorial Center will be holding an exhibition highlighting the Sikh heritage and is seeking artistes who can perform in conjunction with the event.  The exhibition will be held from May 18 to 31 and visitors will get an opportunity to view rare photographs on Sikh history, culture and traditions by Sandeep Shankar.  Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao will inaugurate the event at the Gandhi Memorial Center which is located at 4748 Western Avenue, Bethesda, MD.

A number of cultural programs are being planned to coincide with the exhibition and performing artistes are invited to showcase their talent.  For more information, Readers can contact the Gandhi Center at 301-320-6871 or info@gandhimemorialcenter.org or go to www.gandhimemorialcenter.org or Mr. Sridharan at the Indian Embassy.


Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM

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