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Jakara Reaches Out To Sikh Children


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Around and around they went, as boys wearing traditional patkas and girls in colorful chunnis and kerchiefs sat in circles reciting poems and nursery rhymes.

"Plant Sikhi with your heart, plant so strong it never falls apart. Give it water and let it grow, throughout the world, let them know," the children recited in unison. "We are proud, we are strong. To the Sikh Quam we belong!"

More than 100 children gathered Saturday at the Sikh Temple on Tierra Buena Road for the fourth-annual Jakara, a national movement to encourage engagement with the Sikh culture through education, research and community outreach. Counselors in their late teens and early 20s guided the children, ages 5 to 15, through a series of games, workshops and tour of the gurdwara.

"I think it's kind of amazing," said Nurkamal Nagra, 7. "We have competitions and we play games and we learn neat things about the gurdwara."

She loves learning about Sikhism, but she said it takes effort to remember it all.

"It's fun to learn about it. God is Sikhi and he thinks we should learn about it, too." she said. "The things about god and everything about the gurdwara, they just pop into my head."

Some children started the morning with a game of hangman, guessing letters that spelled out "Jakara camp" and other related terms.

"I know it! I know it!" shouted Jaskaran Judge, 8, guessing a term from a few scant letters: "Sikhism."

Inside the temple, the children practiced proper gurdwara etiquette, taking off their shoes and covering their heads before entering. In socks or bare feet, they padded one-by-one to the throne of they holy book, clasped their hands together, dropped to their knees, placed their palms on the floor and touched their heads to the carpet.

The "matha tek," is a symbol of offering up one's head, mind and freedom to the Guru Granth Sahib, explained a counselor. The students also practiced "chaur sahib," the act of waving a fan of horse or yak hair over the holy book, and talked about the "chanani," the covering that blankets the holy book.

Amrin Mann, 6, demonstrated how to receive the "degh" or "parshad" blessing, holding out both palms as he bowed down to his knees, and then high-fiving his counselor after he did it correctly. He said he was loving his first Jakara camp.

"I thought it was gonna be fun, and it turns out, it is!" he said.

The temple resonated almost deafeningly with the children's chanting, as youths and elders battled back and forth. The counselors would egg them on, hollering out "Bole sone haal," a war cry still used to rally spirits and enthusiasm for the guru, and the children would yell back "Sat siri akal," which means "God is true."

Most of the students live in Yuba-Sutter but some come from as far away as Sacramento and Williams, like Manjot Kaur's three children, Charndeep, 13, Amrit, 12 and Iqubal, 6.

"They live here and go to English school and forget my language — Punjabi — and Sikhi," Kaur said for why she brought them to camp. "They tell me, 'You have to teach us, we forget Sikhi.' I always tell them, 'You want to learn? Keep learning.'"

In line with the theme of planting Sikhi within their hearts, the children later planted lima beans into cups, which they would take home to water and watch grow.

"Does a plant ever stop growing? No." Counselor Harjit Singh, 19, told his class. "And that's Sikhi. It's like a redwood tree that lives really long."

Singh was eager to be a counselor at his first Jakara.

"As a kid, I never got the chance to go to these camps, so I want to make it special for them," he said.

The best part is watching the joy on their faces as they eagerly absorb the lessons, Singh said.

"If they see how fun and how great this religious could actually be, I think they will be more willing to follow it for the rest of their lives."