Thousands lined the streets surrounding the Sikh Temple to witness the 40th Nagar Kirtan take place in Yuba City, when the Sikh holy scripture the Guru Granth Sahib is carried on a float while Sikh hymns are sung.
While the float carrying the scripture leads the procession, dozens of other floats from Sikh organizations and other groups made their way around the approximately four-mile parade loop.
Sunday, 8:35 a.m.
The parking lot at River Valley High School was already filling up as people began to line up around the school’s front lawn awaiting green Yuba-Sutter Transit shuttles to arrive and take them the three miles to the temple.
After dropping off attendees at the temple, four shuttles pulled in the front driveway of the school and people piled into the shuttles until each was full.
Baldev Chima of Yuba City and his sister-in-law Jasmin Randhawa of Fremont stood in the middle of a crowded shuttle and braced themselves as the shuttle made its way to the temple.
Chima has been a resident for 65 years and said his family was one of the founding families of the temple. He said he has a video tape of the first Nagar Kirtan in 1979 that was attended by 350-400 people.
“It’s a very proud occasion in that so many people can come together from all over the world to enjoy this Nagar Kirtan event,” Chima said.
Randhawa’s family came to the United States in 1979 and she has attended every year since.
“We get together to see that this is our community, what we came here with and what we have accomplished, for that this is a great achievement,” Randhawa said.
As the reading of the holy scripture concluded, people gathered around the float that the Guru Granth Sahib would be transported on, which sat just outside the temple. Temple leaders led the crowd in call and response prayers.
The parade began with the float carrying the holy scripture slowly making its way out of the temple gates and onto the street.
The street was already crowded with people. A helicopter flew low overhead and released rose pedals onto the float and onlookers.
“It’s not just a book in the Sikh faith,” said Sikh community member Tej Maan referring to the holy scripture as a “living guru.”
People came forward to bow in front of the float or give an offering to one of the temple leaders riding on the float.
Hussan Laroya Banga was one of a handful of international media members that walked in front of the float as it made its way down the street, taking photos and interviewing Sikh leaders.
He works in the United States as a correspondent for the Daily Ajit India, a Punjabi publication that prints all over the world.
“Now all other communities like white, black, Filipino, they started coming,” said Banga about what he enjoys about covering the event.
Sandeep Reham swept the ground in front of the float with a broom along with a handful of other women and men. This is done out of respect for the holy scripture. She swept in the parade for the first time in 2007 and enjoyed the experience and has done it every year since.
“I was thinking after that it was really good,” Reham said.
On the side of the road where the parade went by, a platform housed supporters of the Khalistan movement calling over a loud speaker for people to support the creation of a Sikh homeland in the Punjab region of India.
Manav Gulati, 18, of Live Oak stood in front of a pick-up truck that represented the Sarbat Khalsa Dastar club in the parade. Members of the club tied turbans onto people’s head as the float made its way around the route.
“It’s not just ‘oh tie it around your head you’re done,’ people put hard work into it,” Gulati said.
A replica of The Golden Temple, the holiest shrine in the Sikh faith located in Punjab, was being pulled by a red Massey Ferguson tractor driven by Kulwinder Maan. It was the float directly behind the one carrying the holy scripture.
Jag Boyle stood next to his black Dodge Ram truck that was hooked up to a small open U-Haul filled with the mango drink Frooti. He and his friends in the truck were not representing an organization in the parade, but providing refreshment for those lining the streets of the route.
“We’re just a bunch of friends that went to high school together that just got together and started doing this,” Boyle said.
Christina Escobedo, Jessica Silvestre and Geali Silvestre, all from Marysville, sipped Frooti out of plastic cartons.
“It’s actually really good,” Jessica Silvestre said. “It’s our first time.”
After the main float passed the temple gates, dozens of pick-up trucks and semi-trucks attempted to maneuver into the parade line, some coming from different directions.
Jagjit Singh, Sukh Singh, Prabhjot Singh and Reetam Singh parked at the high school but walked to the parade route. This was the third year the friends have attended the festival together.
Jagjit is from Louisville, Kentucky, and his three friends come from Hayward, Livingston and Fresno.
“I like the way people still combine the faith with the culture, that’s a good part about it,” Jagjit said.
Puneet Kaur of Yuba City was waiting for the main float to come by and joined the crowd of people following behind the float.
“Everyone feels something in their heart,” Kaur said. “They walk with the float because they feel humility, happiness, usually everyone walks because of that reason.”
Jaswinder Pal, Kular Singh, Jarnail Mann, Valvar Sahota and Jasvar Singh handed out cold water bottles and juice to people walking the parade route of their pick-up truck bed. They arrived at 4 a.m. and planned to be on the parade route until they run out of refreshments.
“When we’re done, we go home,” Mann said.
The group has made the trip from the Bay Area every year since 1999.
A group of five shuttles pulled out of the River Valley High School front driveway with a line of people waiting for them to return and to make their way to the ongoing parade.