The Sikh community of New Jersey celebrated the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of the religion, at the New Jersey Performance Arts Center in Newark, N.J. on Nov. 23, 2019. The theme of the event was “Oneness.”
Globally renowned comedian and political commentator Hasan Minhaj, was the keynote speaker at the event which was attended by around 3,500 people, according to a press release from organizers.
Lasting for more than 4 hours on a stage colorfully decorated with images from Sikh history, there were performances and speeches by among others, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Attorney General of New Jersey Gurbir Grewal, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J, as well as several mayors, city councilors and other dignitaries.
The event started with a Color guard ceremony in led by Colonel Kamal Singh Kalsi, co-founder and president of the Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA).
Hannah Harleen sang the national anthem, followed by Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa who sang the Satguru Nanak Pargateya.” The audience enjoyed it .
Satpal Singh from London, U.K., gave a speech based on the basic teachings of Guru Nanak and how they can apply to day to day life, to become a lifelong student and build one’s own self esteem. He engaged the audience in a meditation moment. made them meditate with him.
A performance by Karamjeet Singh and Dr. Manpreet Singh included reciting “Barah Maha” from the teachings of Guru Nanak, The Barah Maha explains the different seasons of the year.
During the Barah Maha, the well known performance artist Vilas Nayak, created a live painting within 12-14 minutes which also reflected different colors related to various seasons of the year.
The IKIGAI Group gave a theater performance entitled, “Kal Taran Guru Nanak AAEEA”. It reflected the message Guru Nanak spread to humanity in the fourteenth century.
Another presentation on the stage was based on the Divine Journey of Guru Nanak from his birthplace, Nankana, to Kartarpur, where he passed away.
In his speech to those assembled, Governor Murphy, who wore a turban at the event, is quoted saying, “New Jersey welcomes the diversity and (is) proud that Sikhs have found it as their home in this state.” He assured people of the safety of all the sects of the society. He was honored on stage by Lt. Col. Kalsi, Harpal Singh and Onkar Singh.
Attorney General Grewal, the first Indian-American Attorney General of a state in the nation, said he was very proud to be
a member of law enforcement and touched on the basic teachings of Guru Nanak.
He also tweeted out his pleasure at meeting Hasan Minhaj at the @onenessusa event. “Great to share the stage with so many inspiring people as everyone came together in the spirit of oneness and united to celebrate the teachings of Guru Nanak” he tweeted.
Senator Menedez spoke about his role in U.S. Senate to promote and protect minorities. He presented U.S. flags to the organizers of the event.
Gagandeep Singh and Jashon Singh gave a musical performance on rabab and tabla, and were accompanied simultaneously by famous sand artist from Singapor, Lawrence Koh, who constructed the famous “Sacha Sauda” with his expertise.
Key Note Speaker Hasan Minhaj came to stage and started with few comedy lines.
Minhaj sat down with Sweta Singh of AajTak for a discussion that touched on Guru Nanak’s teachings, Sikh religion and the current state of world. He shared some of his own experiences with Sikhism, and took a few questions from the audience. A 7-year old asked him a question related to identity and his advice was, “Best is — be what you are.”
Minhaj was honored by Dr. Mandeep Oberoi.
Various community members were honored for their key role and contribution to the Oneness event.
Harmeet Kaur of CNN was the master of ceremonies.