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Bhangra Bash educates Baruch students on the birth of Sikhism

Baruch College’s United Sikh Association hosted its Bhangra Bash, a night of celebratory dancing with deeply rooted traditions. According to an email sent out to club leaders, Bhangra Bash is meant to “spread awareness about, and share richness of Sikh religion with the Baruch community while simultaneously having a great time.”

The origins of the Bhangra are tied to Vaisakhi, a religious holiday commemorating the birth of Sikhism, in addition to a spring festival. Students from other CUNY schools were in attendance as the festivities opened with a blend of modern and traditional music supplied by DJ JP and DJ Karan Verma. Additionally, there was a performance by Soormay. 

The only trouble the club encountered when organizing the event was adhering to the rule that no more than 50 percent of attendees could be non-Baruch students.

According to Dilpreet Singh, USA’s co-events coordinator, about 50 Baruch students practice Sikhism.

When asked why it is important for Baruch to host cultural events, Dilpreet cited the lack of awareness of Sikhism. “One thing that [Baruch] lacks, specifically our Sikh culture, its often not known by many other people. People mistake a turban as being a part of Islam, so we feel that having cultural events specifically for Sikhism is a way to disseminate our values and beliefs,” said Dilpreet.

Because the club has a small membership, Dilpreet appreciates how it unites like-minded individuals and forms close-knit friendships.

USA’s treasurer, Jassandip Shina, values the sense of community fostered by the organization. “A lot of Sikh students that come to Baruch often have a hard time finding their place per se, so this is a club that we try to continue on so all these Sikh students have a place to go hang out and meet other students who are going through the same stuff that they are,” Shina said.

The Multipurpose Room transformed into a frenzied dance hall, with partygoers lifted on top of shoulders and revelers embracing the dance floor. One hour into the program, USA Vice President Rajbir Singh and President Mandeep Kaur welcomed the crowd and detailed the agenda of the night. Rajbir spoke of “a journey through colors, performances, authentic food and the exciting dance of Bhangra,” which is used to celebrate momentous occasions. In this case, the momentous occasion was Vaisakhi.

Kaur captivated the attendees with a retelling of the origins of Vaisakhi. “In Sikhism, Vaisakhi marks the Sikh new year that began in 1699 with the birth of the Khalsa Panth, beginning with the Panj Pyare, the beloved five. The Khalsa, the purest of the Sikhs, represent the pinnacle of sikhism, a point all Sikhs are expected to reach for,” said Kaur.

During Vaisakhi, Sikh temples in the Punjab region of India and across the United States traditionally hold nagar kirtans, which consist of “Sikh hymns, celebrations, vibrant colors, thanking God for the abundance of harvest and prosperity and an overall appreciation for Sikh culture,” Kaur added.

Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th and final Guru of the faith, formed the Khalsa in 1699. He introduced the Five K’s, the five physical symbols of Sikhism that show devotion to the faith. The Five K’s are Kesh, Kara, Kanga, Kaccha and Kirpan. Respectively, these five translate to uncut hair, a steel bracelet, a wooden comb, cotton underwear and a steel sword. These symbols have become foundational tenets of Sikhism.

Following the opening remarks, members of the club served aloo tikkis, chickpeas, Manchurian—sauced cauliflower balls—naan, noodles, rice and shahi paneer. All options were vegetarian dishes that were in compliance with Sikhist virtues.

USA typically holds the Bhangra Bash annually, but failed to do so last year because “there was a lot of miscommunication and not enough drive to continue the same events,” according to Kaur. She hopes this year’s Bash revitalized interest in the joyous ceremony and educated those in attendance about Sikh culture.

Choreographed performers, more food and more dancing ended the night. USA hosts other events discussing Sikhism and Sikh holidays, such as Diwali, and invites students to walk in and learn more.

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