Largest Sikh event in region draws thousands

The four-day Naam Ras Kirtan Darbar, which loosely translates as "festival of Sikh music", drew thousands of Sikhs from Singapore and the region, with speeches, devotional music and a heritage exhibition. Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam at
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam at the Naam Ras Kirtan Darbar on Tuesday, where he was honoured for being a strong supporter of the Sikh community. This year's festival also celebrated the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
The four-day Naam Ras Kirtan Darbar, which loosely translates as "festival of Sikh music", drew thousands of Sikhs from Singapore and the region, with speeches, devotional music and a heritage exhibition. Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam at
The four-day Naam Ras Kirtan Darbar, which loosely translates as "festival of Sikh music", drew thousands of Sikhs from Singapore and the region, with speeches, devotional music and a heritage exhibition. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Over four days from last Saturday, thousands of Sikhs from Singapore and the region were at the Singapore Expo for the largest gathering of the Sikh community in South-east Asia that had speeches, devotional music and a heritage exhibition.

This year's event took on added significance as it celebrated the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, who was born in 1469.

Organisers said the event, Naam Ras Kirtan Darbar, also aimed to remind the Sikh community of its religion's key principles - appreciation and respect for others, universalism and inclusiveness - as well as to provide a deeper understanding of the Sikh faith and traditions to non-Sikhs.

These will help enhance understanding, eradicate misconceptions and strengthen relations between people of different faiths in Singapore's multi-religious society, they added.

The festival is held once every two years.

Former MP Inderjit Singh, who is adviser to the Naam Ras organising committee, said that as intolerance and segregation are increasing worldwide, it is important that faith groups, especially minorities in small and open societies like Singapore, speak out against this trend, to protect social solidarity and stability.

"Moreover, as Sikhs around the world prepare to celebrate the 550th birthday of our founder and first guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji - who openly propagated these values of universalism and equality of all mankind - there is no better time to remind ourselves, the Sikh community, and the rest of Singapore of how it is in the community's ethos to uphold respect for other faiths and strengthen this social fabric," Mr Singh added.

Naam Ras Kirtan Darbar, which loosely translates as "festival of Sikh music", also featured a langar or community kitchen manned by temple volunteers who served some 10,000 free vegetarian meals a day for participants as well as non-Sikhs.

Members of the public also had a taste of Sikh culture from a photo exhibition featuring Sikh buildings and heritage in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak's birthplace is, to turban-tying stations.

Around 150 representatives from various religious groups in Singapore also attended the event.

On Tuesday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam visited the festival, where he was honoured with a shawl for being a strong supporter of the Sikh community.

Property agent Jasvin Narulla, 40, who has been attending the festival since it was first held in 2002, said the event is something he looks forward to.

"It brings the community together and allows me to make new friends, even from other faiths.

"It has been an enriching experience," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2018, with the headline 'Largest Sikh event in region draws thousands'. Print Edition | Subscribe