The Nagar Kirtan season is upon us. I was involved as a marshal in both the Hounslow (April 5) and Southall (April 12) Nagar Kirtan, and am booked to take part in the Bristol Nagar Kirtan on the 26th of April.
My best memory of a Nagar Kirtan was when I was honoured by the sangat in Den Haag (Netherlands) to be part of the Panj Piaré. Although it was cold and windy (Den Haag is near the North Sea coast) and we walked barefooted dressed in a short and flimsy chola, it was a magic experience.
We kept doing simran all the way through, and some members of our UK Jatha who were part of the procession got the sangat doing simran too. We stopped at a square near a big masjid for a short demonstration of gatka, and the mainly Moroccan Muslims were very interested.
The Hounslow Nagar Kirtan was well attended, but is never as massive as the Southall one. For most of the route we have to stick to the left side of the road, and for this we use a modern version of the Indian Rope trick : a rope is attached to the right hand side of the back of the palki, and held on a spindle at the end of the procession.
The marshals walk along the rope, trying to keep the sangat inside it, or if they insist on crossing the road to first make sure that it is safe. The main worry are people, including ladies pushing prams, diving under the rope and crossing the road without looking in any direction. Luckily both marshals and police were vigilant and through Vahiguru’s kirpa no accidents happened.
For the Southall Nagar Kirtan I volunteered for a position right behind the palki, trying to keep some distance between it and the sangat. This turned out to be very challenging, especially in Havelock Road and King Street, where the road is narrow and the sangat eager.
Their enthusiasm to be near the palki, near the Guru Granth Sahib, made even fragile old ladies and mother’s with small children take part in the big push, which reminded me of the free for all in Amritsar, when the Guru Granth Sahib is taken from Akal Takhat to Harmandr Sahib.
I appreciate the enthusiasm of the sangat, and I too took part in the pushing and shoving to get my shoulder underneath one of the massive copper bars of the palki in Harmandr Sahib. In Southall sangat should know that the Nagar Kirtan takes hours to get from Havelock Road to Park Avenue via Southall Park, and that everybody has plenty of opportunity to pay their respect to the Guru Granth Sahib.
Are Nagar Kirtans useful ? I have my doubts, but I do enjoy them. I think that sangat should be offered more drinks and less food. Parkore, somose and fruit are fine, but leave serving langar to the Gurdware.