BY SWARANJIT KAUR
PACOIMA, CA - The Ujjaldidar Singh Memorial Foundation celebrated the 17th annual Sikh Children’s Day competition at the Khalsa Care Foundation here on July 31. More than 300 children registered for this annual event. Celebrated in memory of Ujjaldidar Singh; a bright, young, Amritdhari gursikh who was tragically killed in an unfortunate accident in July 1993 at the age of 16. He was a beloved and cherished member of the Sikh Sangat of Los Angeles. 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.
Various competitions started simultaneously at 8 am in three halls. The Kirtan competition proved to be a very challenging one as 100s of youngsters took part in each of the Kirtan groups. This year, all the age groups, except 0-6, were encouraged to sing in Raag. Each group, starting with 7-10, were given a certain Raag, in which they were asked to sing their Shabads.
The results were just incredible as one after other, 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 various Raags, had to shake their heads from time to time at this unbelievable display of professionalism from these youngsters.
Each group had a number of Harmonium players, Sitar players, and Tabla players. 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 boasted over 100 participants. 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. 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. The topics were ‘The Significance of the 10 Gurus and the Panj Piare in today’s Sikh Society’ to the younger groups and ‘The Importance of The Guru Granth and Guru Panth in Sikhism today’ to the older groups. 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 these various topics through speech and kavita.
The Gatka and Basketball competitions were, as always, a success as children waited in long lines to participate, oblivious to the hot weather. 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, as always, was a great hit with the younger and older participants alike. Many of these hopeful future NBA stars, as young as two years, made basket after basket from the free throw line as the judges and well wishers stood watching and cheering.
This year, the ‘Gurbani Understanding’ section was added to the Gurbani category. The goal of this category is to encourage children to gain a better understanding of Gurbani rather than just memorize and recite it. Participants were asked to translate various parts of 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.
This year, instead of having a guest speaker from outside, the sewadars of the Ujjaldidar Singh Memorial Foundation decided to honor one of its local heroes, Sarbjit Singh, who has dedicated his whole life to serving the Sikh Community and being a positive role model for the Sikh youth of Los Angeles and beyond. Each week, he spends countless hours of his personal life teaching youngsters Kirtan, Sikh history and invaluable life lessons. We are extremely grateful to Sarbjit Singh for his lifetime of contributions to the Sikh Community.
At the end of the long day, youngsters from cities all over California gathered in the main Diwan hall to take trophies home and to make their cities and communities proud. Sarbjit Singh, who is also the Master of Ceremonies at Sikh Children’s Day every year, announced the names of the scholarship recipients. Simerjit Kaur Dhanjan and Harmanpreet Kaur received the well-deserved scholarships of $500 each. The 1st scholarship was given in memory of S. Sujjan Singh Sethi. The second scholarship was dedicated to Ajeet S. Matharu, a young gursikh who recently lost his life in an unfortunate accident while in India. Ajeet Singh was a beloved member of the Sikh community of Fresno. He was very dedicated to all causes related to Sikhism. He will be greatly missed.
Sarbjit Singh announced the winners of each competition. As he announced the names, Mrs. Maninder Kaur, Principal and Director of GNCA Punjabi school in Santa Ana, handed out trophies.
In the end, many individuals (volunteers, judges, teachers, parents and participants) who, every year, selflessly, put aside their commitments in order to make this event a great success, were profusely thanked.
Ikmanjot Singh(5) of Rosemead, Jaspleen Kaur(7) of Corona, Harkiran Kaur(10) of Redlands, Gurpreet Singh(12) of Stockton, Jot Sukhmani Kaur(13) of Placentia and Jasmeet Kaur(16) of Granada Hills stood first in Gurbani understanding in different age groups.
Gurbanti Kaur(6) of Simi Valley, Gurveer Kaur(7) of Fowler, Keerat Kaur(9) of Fowler, Sukhmanjot Singh(10) of Stockton, Ajaypal Singh(12) of Freemont, Karamveer Singh(14) of Moreno Valley, Jasmeet Kaur(16) of Granada Hills and Taranjeet Singh(20) of Covina stood first in Gurbani reading in their respective age groups.
Ekamlee Kaur(4) of Corona, Manat Kaur(6) of Foster City, Gurveer Kaur(7) of Fowler, Keerat Kaur(9) of Fowler, Amrita Priya Kaur(11) of Granada Hills, Jotsukhmani Kaur(13) of Placentia and Jasmeet Kaur(16) of Granada Hills stood first in Gurbani memory in respective age groups.
Manat Kaur(6) of Foster City, Pavit Singh(8) of Redlands, Harkiran Kaur(10) of Redlands, Harveen Kaur(12) of Stockton, Japsimran Singh(14) of Moreno Valley, Rapinder Kaur(15) of Riverside and Sunint Kaur(19) of La Cresenta stood first in Kirtan in respective age groups.