Sikhs in Ireland? Cool!
Irish Sikh Community displayed their rich cultural heritage this weekend by participating at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, one of the most celebrated events in Ireland.
The Sikh pageant was organised by Irish Sikh Council. With the theme of the parade being ‘Legendaries’, the Sikh community pageant was titled “Portraits of Courage” displaying the sheer valour and the vibrant cultural beauty that marked the golden era of Sikh rule in Punjab.
The two hour parade route was flocked by millions of spectators. Parade was kick-started at Parnell Square on a very positive note and the response received was outstanding. The outfits of both the gatka players and dancers were a fresh addition to the diverse assortment of costumes at the event and did not fail to engage the interest of onlookers. Parade was also watched by Honourable President Mrs Mary McAleese and Prime Minister Mr Bertie Ahern.
All the participants gave brilliant performance and despite the fact that both the Gatka demonstration and the dances were a bit more physically demanding than merely strutting along in the parade, as they required continuous expert body movement and synchronisation, all the participants had trained hard enough and were prepared to deliver their best. The performance also included a 9 feet Sikh warrior puppet and a float carrying the Nagara (Drum) that was specially brought over from UK for the event.
Fortunately enough, the rain too kept off for the two hours, while the cooling light drizzle was rather welcome. The parade drew over half million spectators and was broadcast live in Ireland and Germany. Over 70 TV channels from around the globe including Channel Punjab covered the event.
For a community just establishing itself, the pressure was immense to live up to the expectations of the parade, which is famous for its elaborate floats and colourful performances. Irish Sikh Council collaborated with Baba Deep Singh Gatka Akhara (Ireland), Baba Ajit Singh Gatka Akhara (UK), Soul of Punjab (Ireland) and Asli Baharan Punjab Diyan (UK) to
present well choreographed performance.
A lot of ground work went into preparing the performance. As per Harpreet Singh, President of Irish Sikh Council, “Preparations started from the Day 1 when we submitted application for participation at the parade in September last year. From drafting the theme on paper to presenting the performance at the parade, every member of Sikh community put lot of efforts in making this event a big success. Young children aged 5 and above enthusiastically practiced Gatka, every weekend regularly for nearly 6 months. After- school sessions were demanding on them, yet their enthusiasm and excitement was enough to ward off any lethargy.”
The skills of Irish Gatka team were brushed up by Surinder Singh and Gurmeet Singh Gill of Baba Deep Singh Gatka Akhara. The Bhangra team lead by Jagroop Singh from Soul of Punjab having already given over 60 stage performances were in equally high spirits as their Gatka counterparts in rehearsing for the parade.
Generating finances for the parade participation was another challenge for Irish Sikh Council. “We were provided 50% of funds by the St Patrick’s Festival Office. Raising another 50% was a big challenge. But we were surprised to see the immense support of the Sikh community. The
remaining funds were raised with in days” said Hardip Singh, treasurer for Irish Sikh Council.
“It was not work of a single person. Voluntary service by number of community members and support of the St Patrick Festival Office went a big way in helping organise the pageant. Designing of floats, arranging PA systems, booking training halls, choreography and a lot of other efforts went into preparing for the day”, Satwinder Singh, PR Officer, Irish Sikh Council.
“Sikhs are a law abiding, hardworking and vibrant community and have always given more then their capacity to the countries they live in. Irish Sikhs feel proud to have been part of the national festival of Ireland and thank everyone who helped achieve this.”
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For more information please contact:
President, Irish Sikh Council
Phone: +353 (87) 260 5410
PR officer, Irish Sikh Council
Phone: +353 (85) 729 4425
Irish Sikh Council
Office: 2 Tullyhall Court, Lucan, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Postal Address: PO Box 9828, Dublin 2, Ireland
About Irish Sikh Council (ISC):
Established in July 2004, Irish Sikh Council is a wholly independent and non-profit making organisation that aims to:
- Advocate, campaign and make representations on the concerns and aspirations of the Sikh population, primarily of Republic of Ireland, onmatters of education, race equality, spiritual development, communityrelations and other matters of relevance to the status and development of the Sikhs in Ireland.
- Promote good relations and harmony between the Sikhs and other communities in Ireland; and inform and guide Sikhs in Ireland to contribute and participate actively in the life and development of Ireland.
- Promote responsible ethical and moral values in society.
Irish Sikh Council is involved in
- Working with public bodies and public institutions to create understanding, inclusion and provision for the concerns and aspirations ofSikhs.
- Disseminating and delivering accurate and useful information about Sikhs and Sikh lifestyle to public, voluntary and private bodies primarily in Republic of Ireland and if within scope and resources permitting, internationally.
- Promoting understanding and practice of ethical lifestyle amongst Sikh population in Ireland, based on teachings of Guru Granth Sahib.
- Initiating and supporting projects and activities in partnership with other groups and organisations (public, voluntary or private) which share the same aims and objectives as ISC.
About Sikhs in Ireland:
Sikhs over the years have migrated from Punjab to a number of countries all over the world, and clearly the Republic of Ireland happens to be one of them. Immigration of Sikhs to Island of Ireland started in early 1900's. The earliest immigrants to Northern Ireland were Sikhs who were mainly former members of the British army who arrived in the late 1920s from India via East Africa and Britain. They settled in the city of Derry. There are presently over 219 Sikhs in Northern Ireland (2001 Census), most have come from the Punjab. In 1990 the Northern Ireland Sikh Association was formed and shortly afterwards the Northern Ireland Sikh Cultural and Community Centre was established in the Waterside district of Derry.
In the Republic of Ireland there are about 800-1000 Sikhs, mainly living in and around Dublin, ranging from toddlers of a few months of age to the very elderly. Most are from the migrant generation and have settled comfortably, contributing to Irish society. There is also a small but
significant second generation of Sikhs, born and educated in Ireland. The Gurudwara in Dublin is the main centre, for community get together, prayers and community activities. In year 2004, Irish Sikh Council was established to represent and communicate needs of Sikh community in Republic of Ireland.
Sikhs are well known for their honest hard work and sincerity, two principles given them due regard in all professions. Thus in Ireland, Sikhs hold respectable positions in the areas of medicine, IT, business, the hotel and catering industry and only recently, a considerable number of Sikhs have shown a lot of interest for recruitment in An Garda Siochana. A sizeable portion of Sikhs here, also happen to be the third-level students pursuing various courses in universities such as Trinity College, the Royal College of Surgeons, DIT, Griffith College etc.
Sikhs have integrated exceptionally well in Ireland and have struck quite a good rapport with he Irish people. Ask any Sikh the reason for their smooth transition to the Irish society and the answer inevitably will be, the easy-going nature and warmth common to both the Irish and
Infact, the blend of the Sikhs and Irish culture is more evident in the second generation of Sikhs - who may speak Punjabi at home but perfect their Irish at school; love chips and beans as much as they enjoy Allo-Gobhi and are as busy in their hurling practice as they are in Gurbani
(hymns in Guru Granth Sahib) lessons. All these children are proud representatives of two cultures at the same time -proof enough that the Sikh and the Irish culture do not contradict each other, but infact go hand-in-hand and serve to beautifully complement each other.