44th Annual Yuba City Nagar Kirtan: A Celebration of Sikh & Indian Culture in the US

by Manjari Singh

Yuba City, California witnessed a spectacular display of Sikh and Punjabi culture on Sunday, November 5, as an estimated 300,000 people converged to partake in the 44th Annual Yuba City Nagar Kirtan. This event, touted as the largest celebration of its kind outside of India, provided an immersive experience into the rich traditions and values of the Sikh community.

People who attended expressed the significance of showcasing their culture. They also emphasized the core principles of unity, selfless service, and brotherhood, which lie at the heart of Sikhism. This event is a platform to share their cultural heritage and the principles they hold dear.

The Nagar Kirtan is a grand procession that spans 4.5 miles, temporarily closing down roads to accommodate the massive turnout. Year after year, over 150,000 people make their way to Yuba City to participate in this celebration. The event not only highlights the cultural aspects but also upholds the tradition of giving back to the community.

On the day of the parade, the Sikh and Punjabi communities unite to ensure everyone feels welcome. This act of service is a testament to their dedication to fostering inclusivity and sharing the rich tapestry of their culture with the broader community.

The Nagar Kirtan has grown in popularity year after year, and organizers anticipate even larger crowds for the 45th annual celebration. The event’s enduring success reflects the strong sense of community and the desire to educate and celebrate the Sikh and Indian cultures. The vibrant and colorful procession, the music, the food, and the warm hospitality all combine to make it an unforgettable experience for both Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike.

In 2017, Yuba City marked another remarkable moment in Sikh history by appointing the first Sikh woman mayor, Preet Didbal. This Indian-American daughter of a laborer, who also worked in the fields picking peaches and prunes, achieved this milestone. Her appointment not only represented a significant moment for the Sikh community but also for women in leadership roles.

Preet Didbal’s appointment as mayor marked a historic moment in the United States, making her the first Sikh woman to hold such a position. Her accomplishment came on the heels of Ravinder Singh Bhalla’s election as the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, another significant milestone for the Sikh-American community.

The celebrations were however marred by an unfortunate incident when a violent rift emerged between two alleged Khalistani factions.

This regrettable altercation took place during what should have been a peaceful and joyous occasion, tarnishing the reputation of the Sikhs and the essence of Sikhi. Such incidents work in direct opposition to the harmonious and inclusive values that Nagar Kirtans traditionally embody, as they are intended to be a reflection of the teachings of Sikh gurus, emphasizing unity, love, and communal togetherness. It is crucial to remember that the actions of a few individuals should not overshadow the greater message of Sikhism, which preaches tolerance, peace, and compassion for all.

Manjari Singh

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