SNC Inaugural Annual Nagar Keertan Parade Spreads Sikhism’s Message


Photos: Harjit Galhotra & Jaswant Singh

By Dr. Hardam Singh Azad

HOUSTON: Sikhs all over the world celebrate annually and enthusiastically the birth of their 1st Guru, Nanak Dev, who took birth in 1459 AD at Nankana (which is now is West Punjab, Pakistan) and later founded the Sikh Religion.

With about 25 million Sikhs worldwide, Sikhism is the 5th largest independent religion in 2018. An estimated 20 million Sikhs reside in India and the remaining 5 Million are scattered all over the rest of the world. There are around 1.5 million Sikhs in North America about evenly divided between Canada and the U.S.A. As a percentage of the overall population, Sikhs are a tiny minority in the U.S. but, due to their physical looks, they are highly visible. Very few Americans know who Sikhs really are and are often mistaken for the Taliban who also wear turbans! This necessitates Sikhs to introduce and reintroduce Sikh identity to the U.S. masses.


Nagar Keertan – a Sikh religious parade – is a small but significant effort in this identity building process at the local community level. Nagar Keertans are held in the US during Guru Nanak Dev’s Birthday celebrations by many Sikh Communities wherever sizeable Sikh populations have developed.

The Sikh National Center has the largest concentration of about 15,000 Sikh’s in Houston, has achieved the critical mass to hold the Nagar Keertans on a regular and periodic basis. The SNC held its 1st Annual Guru Nanak’s Birthday celebration Nagar Keertan last Sunday, November 25. Several hundred Sikhs — young and old — enthusiastically participated and had fun doing it.


The Punj Pyares — 5 Beloved Sikhs — led this parade on foot with the Guru Granth Sahib on the float right behind. Raagis (singers of Sikh scriptures in raags — melodies) sang Shabads —Sikh Religious Hymns — before the Sikh Holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib while sitting on the main and lead float. Chanting Universal God’s Name collectively in open air while traveling the local roads to the nearby Best Western Hotel has its own charm! Other passerby’s heard and saw Sikhs on the road and read our signs explaining Sikhism with interest and delight.

Participants boldly predicted a major growth in the future years by including the 18 or so other Gurdwara congregations in Texas and make this a more memorable and grand event in Houston. A member of the Board of Directors of SNC, Aman Singh Sidhu, volunteered to lead a specially created Nagar Keertan Committee among many major Gurdwaras in Texas to grow and sustain this effort.

Another SNC Board Member, Bhupinder Singh, and his wife, Surinder Kaur, who own the Best Western, hosted a special refreshment stand for the entire parade. This surprise gift to the congregation created much enthusiasm which is bound to last until the next bigger and better Nagar Keertan.