18th Annual Sikh Children’s Day
Saturday July 30th, 2011
On Saturday, July 30th, 2011, the Ujjaldidar Singh Memorial Foundation celebrated the 17th annual Sikh Children’s Day competition at The Khalsa Care Foundation in Pacoima, California. More than 200 children registered for this annual event. Every year, Sikh Children’s Day is celebrated in memory of S. Ujjaldidar Singh; a bright, young, Amritdhari gursikh who was tragically killed in an unfortunate accident in July of 1993 at the age of 16. He was a beloved and cherished member of the Sikh Sangat of Los Angeles. Ujjal loved being an Amritdhari Gursikh, above all else. Keeping this in mind, and to spread his love for Sikhism throughout the world, many members of the Sangat, along with his family and friends decided to create Ujjaldidar Singh Memorial Foundation. Currently, besides hosting the annual Sikh Children’s Day competition, the Foundation operates the USMF Punjabi School, located in Granada Hills, CA and also takes part in countless community service and cultural events throughout the year.
On the morning of the competition, participants, along with their families, started arriving as early as 7AM. Even at this early hour, the youngsters seemed bright eyed and eager to start the competitions. Many arrived in their beautiful cholas and dastaars while others wore the cool blue T-shirt which carried the message, “Sikhi Meri Jaan Hai”. This message signifies the importance of Sikhism in a Sikh’s daily life. It reminds us that Sikhism is not just a religion to be read about and discussed, rather it should be a way of life for all Sikhs. By 8 AM, the parking lot was packed with cars and vans bringing children from all over California, and beyond, for this very special event.
At 8 am, various competitions started simultaneously in three halls. The Kirtan competition, as always, proved to be a very challenging one. All the age groups, except 0-6, were encouraged to sing in Raag. Each group, starting with 7-10, was given a certain Raag, in which they were asked to prepare their Shabads. The results were just incredible as one after another, the youngsters took the stage and enthralled the amazed Sangat with their impeccable understanding of Raag and their melodious Shabads sung in beautiful voices. Even the judges, most of whom were professional ragis and experts on the various Raags, had to shake their heads often at this unbelievable display of professionalism from these youngsters. The group Kirtan Competition, held at the end of the day was truly inspiring. The youngsters in the groups looked beautiful in their colorful “uniforms” mainly of orange, blue and white. Each group had a number of Harmonium players, and Tabla players as well as other accompanying instruments such as the Sitar and Violin. The participants awed the judges and Sangat alike as they displayed their vast knowledge of Kirtan, Raag, Sur and Taal. The large diwan hall was filled to capacity as these youngsters delivered the guru’s message to the sangat with their beautiful voices.
The Tabla competition was equally inspiring and kept the Sangat glued to their ‘seats’. Judges and many members of the sangat could be seen tapping along on their knees as they watched this incredible group of youngsters perform the rhythmic, and very difficult, taals that they had, no doubt, practiced for countless hours. Some of the participants chose to recite the taals as they played. Once again, the judges, all of whom were professionally trained Tabla players, were astonished by these youngsters’ performances.
The Kavita and Speech competitions also left the judges and sangat speechless. It was hard to believe that youngsters ranging in age from two to 20, born and raised in this country, could speak so eloquently, and with so much knowledge and power on the difficult topics that were assigned. Many members of the sangat were moved to tears as children, as young as 2 years of age, walked up to the podium and displayed their knowledge of the various topics through speech and kavita.
The Gatka and Basketball competitions were, as always, a success as children waited in long lines for participate, oblivious to the heat of the summer day. The young Gatka players looked beautiful in their Cholas and dastaars as they displayed their amazing Gatka skills to the judges and the Sangat members who stood watching. The basketball competition, once again, was a great hit with younger and older participants alike.
About 100 participants took part in the 3 Gurbani categories— Reading, Understanding and Recitation. Participants in the Gurbani Understanding competition were asked to translate various parts of the different Banis. The judges were in awe as the youngsters demonstrated their vast knowledge of the various Banis. In the Gurbani reading and reciting competitions, youngsters displayed their knowledge of reading and reciting (out of memory) as many banis as they knew. Judges were pleasantly surprised as many children, as young as three, knew all the banis and could recite them without any help. They were also impressed with the Punjabi reading level of children who were as young as 5 years of age.
At the end of the long day, youngsters from cities all over California and beyond, gathered in the main Diwan hall to take home the well deserved trophies. First, Sardar Sarbjit Singh, the Master of Ceremonies at Sikh Children’s Day each year, announced the names of the three highly accomplished scholarship recipients. They were Harnoor Kaur from Anaheim, Kiranjit Kaur from Clovis, and Jasmeet Kaur from Granada Hills.
After the Scholarship distribution, Sarbjit Singh, with his enthusiastic nature, went on to announce the winners of each competition. As Sarbjit Singh announced the names, Sardar Jaswant Singh Ji, a prominent member of the Fresno Sikh community who teaches Gatka and Kirtan to the Sikh youth, handed out the well-deserved trophies. The list of winners, for all categories, can be found on our website; www.ujjal.org.
In the end, we would like to thank the many, many individuals (volunteers, judges, parents and participants) who, every year, unselfishly, put aside their commitments on this day in order to make this event a great success. We would also like to thank all the parents and teachers who spend countless hours to prepare the children for the various competitions. May Waheguru Ji continue to bless you all. For more information about Sikh Children’s day or other activities of the Ujjaldidar Memorial Foundation, please visit us at www.ujjal.org or call the sewadars of the Ujjaldidar Singh Memorial Foundation at 818-773-0161. See you all next year.