368.The Man in Blue – The Hounslow & Southall Nagar Kirtan

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.     

367.The Man in Blue – Apart from You

thujh bin kavan hamárá ||
Apart from You, who is mine ?
méré prí
tam prán adhárá ||1|| raháo ||
My Beloved supports my life’s breath. ||1||Pause||

This is the raháo line of Guru Arjan’s Sabad in Rág Gaurí on page 206 of the Guru Granth Sahib. I attended the 17.30 till 18.30 kirtan slot with rágí Niranjan Singh on Monday 6 and Friday 10 April. Niranjan Singh is an inspirational singer, who actively encourages the sangat to join in.

It is not all good news, as he practises ‘pick & mix’. The quotes from other sabads that he inserts are relevant, but it stops the flow of the sabad and uses quotes out of context. Those that attended Bhai Gursharan Singh’s kirtan will agree with me that he showed a better way. In each session all the sabads were on a particular theme, which was both more effective than ‘pick and mix’ and taught Gurmat better than many a katha session.

In favour of Bhai Niranjan Singh is that he got me ‘high’ on the Sabad, the Word, both on Monday and on Friday. A skilled and inspired rágí can bring the sabad to life, where the páth of the speed readers and the flat kirtan of the ‘commercial travellers’ does the opposite.             

Apart from You, who is mine ? So simple, so direct, so True. Who can we rely on in moments of distress ? I have some real friends, and they are important to me, but God is always with me, wherever and whenever.

Your friends, family members all are human beings with their own worries, their own prejudices. Even my best friend, my dearest brother will pass away one day. God has no beginning and no end.

My British/Panjabi friends do not fully understand my Dutch cultural background; my ‘western’ friends do not fully understand the Sikh/Panjabi life that I have lived for the last 13 years. God does not belong to any culture, God understands all cultures.

My Beloved supports my life’s breath. I have followed the example of other translators and translated ‘prán’ not just as ‘breath’, but as ‘life’s breath’. Without breath there is no life, and I think Guru tells us that My Beloved, My God, supports my life. Without God, the source of all life, I would not be. Without God the Nourisher, the Sustainer, my life would not be worth living, without God I would be dead, even if my body were to live.

Bhai Niranjan Singh kept repeating the raháo line, asked the sangat to sing this line together with him, asked the Singhanís and the Singhs sing it separately. For me it worked, I got the message and I got high on the Word.     

366.The man in Blue – Peace in Northern Ireland

I am a radical, but I follow Guru Gobind Singh’s teachings that violence can only be used after all other means have been tried and have failed.

I have always supported a United Ireland, but I have never supported the violence of the Irish Republican Army. I do understand why the IRA started using violence and I think it was probably justified by Guru’s standards.

The conquest and colonisation of Ireland by England started even before the days of William the Conqueror (1066) and was finalised around 1600 under in the reign of Elizabeth I. From the beginning English people settled in Ireland, and many of them became half English/half Irish.

After the last great rebellion by Hugh O’Neill, during the reign of Elizabeth I the English decided to ethnically cleanse Ulster, the most rebellious part of Ireland, and replace the Irish population with people who mainly came from the south of Scotland and the north of England.

Pressed by the 19th century modern Irish nationalist movement the English authorities realised that they had to give up the second oldest English colony. There was strong opposition to Irish independence from the descendents of the Lowland Scots and Northern English settlers in Ulster. 

Ireland is made up of four provinces, the most northern of which is Ulster. Ulster consists of nine counties. There never was a majority in favour of staying part of the United Kingdom, not in Ireland as a whole, not in Ulster.


But the ‘loyalist’ people of Ulster got what they wanted anyway as the three  Ulster Counties with big Irish populations became part of the Shaorstát Éireann (Irish Free State), which left a six county ‘Northern Ireland’ with an artificial majority of ‘loyalists’, and where the Irish remained second class citizens in their own land.


Due to the first past the post voting system for the Westminster Parliament the people of Irish descent were underrepresented, and through some funny voting system in local elections they were even more underrepresented in local councils and in the Northern Ireland Parliament.


There was no possible democratic solution to their problems, which caused the violence. The violence started in the late sixties and went on till the Good Friday agreement in 1998. Until that time the majority ‘loyalist’ community had rejected any form of power sharing. Loyalists still do not realise that it was their discrimination of the Irish that caused the republican violence. And the question of partition has still not been resolved. Real peace in Northern Ireland will only come about when not just the republicans but also the loyalist recognise that they have live together in Ireland.     

Published in: on April 5, 2009 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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