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Japjeet Kaur is a Yoga Teacher who became a Sikh after a series of spiritual experiences that saw her travel from Belgium to the Golden Temple in India, to find home.

Below is a write up of the interview. 


I never saw any Sikhs when I was growing up. My first exposure to anything related to Sikhi was through my first Kundalini Yoga class. In that class we did Mool Mantar as part of our practice.

 

Next day after that class I kept vibrating Mool Mantar inside. I would wake up in the middle of the night and Mool Mantar would be in my mind.

 

It was different from a song being stuck; it was vibrating, it was doing something inside. Second class, a week later, Gurumantar, some Waheguru Simran, same thing would happen.

A couple of weeks later she introduced us to Jap Ji Sahib, as practiced in Kundalini Yoga. So I started doing that as well, but I was leading a completely different life. I wasn't religious, but I was really being touched by Gurbani without even knowing what tradition it came from. I had no idea it was from a Sikh tradition.

I flew to Delhi, took a train to Amritsar because for some reason I wanted to be there and I arrived in Amritsar on the eve of Guru Nanak Dev Ji's GurPurb. I walked down the steps onto the Pakarma and I put my head down and everything changed.

 

I don't know how long I was with my head down but I was heavily crying when I lifted my head. I felt that my skin stopped existing, sort of merged into something. I don't know how to describe it.

 

I felt very lost with it, because I didn’t know where I was. I was there with a friend and as I lifted my head up and they saw what was happening, my friend said "you've come home, this is where you belong".

We spent about a week in Amritsar and I spent most of my time In Harimandir Sahib. I spent a lot of time sitting on the rooftop, trying to figure out what was happening.

 

I knew that somehow this was home but I never believed in reincarnation. I never believed in past lives - so I couldn’t really make sense of what was going on, even though I had memories of something coming up before that.

 

When everybody was doing Rehras Sahib, I felt very much that was something I knew. As we walked out in the evening, in the shopping street, an old Sikh gentleman came up to me and started talking in Punjabi, I had no idea what he was saying. He calls his son and they gave me a Kara and said it was written on my forehead “you’re a Sikh of the Guru”.

 

He called me into his shop, gave me every single English book on Sikhi he had, made me pay for it - he didn't give them. That was the rest of my trip through India, we were there for a month and I just read all I could. Flew back home, about two months later I started wearing a Dastar, looked for Sangat near me in Belgium and there was a Gurdwara Sahib. A friend of mine said come to England with me, go to a Sikh retreat - you’ll meet Sikhs and that's what you probably need. I think with that retreat things got really established for me. Coming back, after three/four days going back to Belgium it was “okay, I need to move to England, I need to be around Sangat, I need to start giving up my life in Belgium and just really put Sikhi first”.


Mahraj blessed me with Amrit on Vaisakhi 2012, so it's been an ongoing journey ever since. Interesting journey. Definitely not ended yet.

National Media Museum Bradford Exhibition

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The Hola Mahalla exhibition is being shown at the National Media Museum in Bradford from 26 February through to 17 April, on the ground floor opposite the IMAX Cinema.

Using a combination of prints and audio visual content, the exhibition takes the audience on a journey through this unique festival.

At the bottom of this page is a trailer for the documentary film 'Hola Mahalla: The Forgotten Festival' extracts of which will feature in the exhibition.

The film can be ordered on DVD here or to watch on VOD here.

DATES

EXHIBITION: 26 FEBRUARY - 17 APRIL 2016

Open Daily 10am to 6pm

Weekends 10am to 5pm

LATES EVENING: THURSDAY 17 MARCH 2016

6.30pm to 9.30pm

A FREE ticketed event that featured a variety of music performances throughout the night including Dhol players kicking the evening off, live bands, talks and countless other events.

 

Lates is a night of FREE entertainment for over 18's; where you can relax, have fun and experience exclusive shows, activities and talks and access to the museum and its many exhibitions during the evening.

MAKE SOME NOISE-FAMILY WEEKEND 19/20 MARCH 2016

10am to 4pm.

Clap your hands, stomp your feet and prepare your ears, the National Media Museum is about to MAKE SOME NOISE!

Join us to find out how sounds are made, how we hear them and all the amazing ways we can play with sound.

Discover how technology can make sound incredibly fun, and create weird and wonderful noises that you have never heard before.

Free Dhol Workshops

Free Dhol Workshops were held over the weekend.

Workshop Times: 11.30am, 1.30pm 2.30pm

Dhol Performances intermittently from 10am to 4pm.

For more information about the Make Some Noise-Family Weekend click here.

 

Address

 

National Media Museum,
Bradford,
West Yorkshire,
BD1 1NQ

 

Contact

Tel: 0844 856 3797
Email: talk@nationalmediamuseum.org.uk
Opening hours: 08:30 - 17:00 (Monday - Friday), 10:00 - 17:00 (Saturday) 

Hola Mahalla is a little known Sikh festival that takes place annually in Anandpur, India. Dubbed the Sikh Olympics, it involves sword fights, daring horse stunts and a dab of spiritualism.

This documentary focuses on the festival Hola Mahalla that has been running since the 17th century, showcasing skills such as swordsmanship and daring horse stunts that are with an ever decreasing number of nomadic Sikhs.

Featuring key interviews with Nihang Jatherdar (High Priest) Baba Nihal Singh and Kesgarh Sahib Jathedar, Late Giani Tirlochan Singh. This beautifully shot film takes the viewer on a journey through the festival and Anandpur Sahib, the "City of Bliss", providing a snapshot into a world rarely experienced outside of India and exploring this Forgotten Festival.

 

Exhibition in London - Rich Mix

The Hola Mahalla exhibition will be shown at the Rich Mix in London this May. Previously the exhibition has been shown at the National Media Museum and at Kala Sangam

DATES

EXHIBITION: 4 to 20 May 2016

Open Daily 10am to 9pm

Closed to the public on 18 May.  

Open House Launch: Wednesday 4 May 2016

6pm to 8pm 

Join us on Facebook for this event.

FAMILY event Saturday 14 May 2016

12pm to 3pm.

Join us for a special Hola Mahalla Family event featuring:
* Short films on Hola Mahalla and the Sikh diaspora
* Live music in the form of Kirtan and Katha performed by Sukhy Singh from Birmingham
* Sikh martial arts Gatka, performed by Sahibzada Baba Ajit Singh Akhara

To get a flavour of what this unique festival has to offer check out the trailer for documentary film 'Hola Mahalla: The Forgotten Festival' at the bottom of this page.

Free soft drinks and food will be available.

Join us on Facebook for this event.

 

ADDRESS

Rich Mix

35 - 47 Bethnal Green Road
London
E1 6LA

 

Contact:
Box Office: 020 7613 7498
Office/Admin: 020 7613 7490
Fax: 020 7613 7499
E-mail: boxoffice@richmix.org.uk

To buy the documentary on DVD click here or to watch it online via On-Demand click here.

Hola Mahalla is a little known Sikh festival that takes place annually in Anandpur, India. Dubbed the Sikh Olympics, it involves sword fights, daring horse stunts and a dab of spiritualism.

This documentary focuses on the festival Hola Mahalla that has been running since the 17th century, showcasing skills such as swordsmanship and daring horse stunts that are with an ever decreasing number of nomadic Sikhs.

Featuring key interviews with Nihang Jatherdar (High Priest) Baba Nihal Singh and Kesgarh Sahib Jathedar, Late Giani Tirlochan Singh. This beautifully shot film takes the viewer on a journey through the festival and Anandpur Sahib, the "City of Bliss", providing a snapshot into a world rarely experienced outside of India and exploring this Forgotten Festival.

 

"Sacred Sounds" Sikh participation in WW1

Over the summer I filmed several documentaries linked to the Sikh diaspora, this is the first in a series of shorts I will be releasing to accompany the Hola Mahalla documentary film, trailer at the bottom of this page. 

This Remembrance Sunday I wanted to share something fitting about the Sikh participation in the World War One. The short documentary and article is about “Sacred Sounds” which is an amazing project put together by Dr Nima Poovaya-Smith from Alchemy and the team at SAA UK. It features talented artists made up of Jasdeep Singh Degun, Seetal Kaur Gabir, Prabhjot Singh Gill, Christella Litras, Kirpal Singh Panesar, Keertan Kaur Rehal and Joe Williams.

Musicians Jasdeep Singh Degun, Seetal Kaur Gabir, Prabhjot Singh gill, Christella Litras, Kirpal Singh Panesar, Keertan Kaur Rehal and Joe Williams

Musicians Jasdeep Singh Degun, Seetal Kaur Gabir, Prabhjot Singh gill, Christella Litras, Kirpal Singh Panesar, Keertan Kaur Rehal and Joe Williams

The performance tells “The story of Sikh Soldiers from WW1 using music, vocals and spoken word”. It's an immersive experience and if you ever get the chance to see it performed again I highly recommend it. 

Below is a short documentary I made about the “Sacred Sounds” project. 

I discovered the “Sacred Sounds” project over the summer and missed it's initial performance at Opera North but caught the next two performances at a Gurdwara in Leeds and Bradford. It's a very unique project that offers something different while exploring Sikh participation in the First World War. At less than 2% of the Indian population at the time, Sikhs made up around 20% of the British Indian Army which is a staggering statistic. I was keen to interview Nima about the project and explore this area. During the research for my documentary about the Sikh festival Hola Mahalla I'd discovered how the British saw Sikhs as a warrior race, and were keen to include them in the army. There were discussions about having a Sikh Battalion once again before the election but that topic seems to have gone dormant along with other pre-election talking points. 

It's good to see the various centenary projects explore and celebrate Sikh participation in the First World War. It's great to hear their stories and for people to be given a chance to pay their respects to these warriors that fought in a battle away from home. It's a shame that it's still not common knowledge that Sikhs and other minority groups fought in both WW1 and WW2. Hopefully projects like “Sacred Sounds” will help bridge that knowledge gap. 

From a warrior perspective Sikhs may not be at the same stage they once were, its interesting to look back around 100 years and see how the Sikh diaspora has evolved. What will the next hundred years have in store for us?

Below is an extended interview with Nima about the project. 


"I'm Nima Poovaya-Smith, the director of Alchemy and curator of “Sacred Sounds”, Sikh music traditions and the First World War.

Dr Nima Poovaya-Smith - Alchemy

Dr Nima Poovaya-Smith - Alchemy

“Sacred Sounds” has several elements in it or several factors that made me think of this project in the first place. The obvious one of course being the fact that it is centenary of theFirst World War.

And then it was the timeless beauty of the Shabads themselves. Amongst all holly scriptures, this is the largest body of verse I know that is set to song. Thats meant to be sung and is seen as a direct spiritual channel to the creator, to God. 

Looking at a number of images of Sikh soldiers from the First World War. There was something about the self containedness, the dignity of the soldiers that struck me quite forcibly.

And I wondered what role the Shabads had in infusing them with fortitude and courage to face the First World War in countries that they had no experience of. In climates they had no experience of. And there were three key images that particularly caught my imagination. 

One was of sikh soldiers performing Kirtan, in a French barn in 1915, it didn't look a particularly comfortable place but again you saw that aura of self possessions and self containedness and I knew something special was happening.

 

And then on the march in Mesopotamia in 1918 theres another image which I think is better known of Sikh soldiers marching with the Guru Granth Sahib aloft on top of one persons head with a Chor Sahib being wafted over the Guru Granth Sahib. And its almost like its a sequential images. 

 

The next image I saw of them was again in Mesopotamia, again 1918, again the same photographer Ariel Varges. They are sat around the elevated Guru Granth Sahib performing Kirtan. 

Then I discovered a number of folk songs from the First World War notably of women singing about the war and they had a very different take on the war. They didn't understand why their men had to fight in a war that was not exactly their war and those songs were penned of grief, of loss and anger. We thought it would be quite an interesting thing to mingle the two and to also have elements of spoken word with the Shabads and with images. 

India on the whole had contributed nearly 1.5 million combatants and none-combatants, just under half of them came from the Punjab. This includes Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, but even then it was a disproportionately heavy figure. And out of these around 97 thousand or so were Sikhs who fought in the First World War. When you consider they comprise only 2 percent of the population, that is a staggering figure.  


Tabla

Tabla

Then there was the musicianship of the artists, the contemporary artists of today. I knew I had fantastic vocalists, fantastic musicians both of the Sikh faith and not of the Sikh faith who we could bring together to create this project. 

Kirpal Singh Panesar who is an absolute maestro when it comes to a variety of stringed instruments particularly the Esraj, the Taos and Dilruba. 

Kirpal Singh Panesar

Kirpal Singh Panesar

 

Jasdeep Singh Degun is a very good sitarist and of course both of them are marvelous vocalists. 

Almost coincidentally I had heard Keertan Kaur Rehal and she has such a golden voice and Prabhjot is only eighteen years of age and plays with great virtuosity. He plays the tabla of course, and the nagara as well as the dholki. 

Prabhjot Singh Gill and Joe Williams

Prabhjot Singh Gill and Joe Williams

 

For the spoken word elements I was particularly keen to have the actor and spoken word artist Joe Williams. He has what I call a basso profundo voice, its extremely deep, its beautifully articulated. So we thought it would be fantastic to have someone like him come and do the narrative. 

Christella Litras is a vocalists and a music producer, as a musician in her own right and she and Joe, they love being exposed to new challenges, to new music traditions, so we brought them in. and I think that has worked extremely well. 

Joe Williams

Joe Williams

One final point, in one of the opening sequences is Prabjot, he beats on the nagara, and then he starts playing on the tabla, and then you have Kirpal Singh Panesar come in on the esraj, and Joe then narrates a poem called the Gift of India” which perhaps not many people have heard of. It was written by a woman poet in 1915, an Indian woman poet called Sarojini Naidu and that was a poem I was familiar with, so it was a bit of my childhood coming to the fore as well – where she says: 

Is there ought you need that my hands withhold,
Rich gifts of raiment or grain or gold?
— The Gift of India by Sarojini Naidu (India, 1915)

“Is there ought you need that my hands withhold, Rich gifts of raiment or grain or gold?
 Lo! I have flung to the East and the West, Priceless treasures torn from my breast”. (Read the poem in full below)

And when I matched the statistics to this very eloquent poetry, it was quite extraordinary because India's contribution had not just been in its young men, and a country mourning its many dead, but it had also been in the form of minerals, you know mica, manganese, iron ore. It had been in the form of hard cash, and plenty of it. It had been in the form of military hardware and livestock. So there were different strands coming together for different people.

I think the dominant emotion in terms of audience response is that they were very moved, because I think what we have tried to create is an atmosphere of great delicacy. The Shabads are foregrounded in all their power and glory. And the Shabads have acted as sort of luminous framework through which all the other elements take place. So the first reaction is one of people being moved and by this I include Sikhs as well as none Sikhs.

And then I think the second one is of surprise, because some of the elements startle them, some of the images startle them, some of the statistics surprise them.

And the third one we're very pleased about that, people have said its a fresh and distinctive approach and I have to at this point pay credit to the other major Sikh based projects on the First World War that have taken place last year and this year, and they've been excellent. So we had to find a different angle and of course with Kiran (SAA-UK) and me belonging to the art sector it was inevitable that was a route we would take."


Is there ought you need that my hands withhold,

Rich gifts of raiment or grain or gold?

Lo! I have flung to the East and the West

Priceless treasures torn from my breast,

And yielded the sons of my stricken womb

To the drum-beats of the duty, the sabers of doom.

Gathered like pearls in their alien graves

Silent they sleep by the Persian waves,

Scattered like shells on Egyptian sands,

They lie with pale brows and brave, broken hands,

they are strewn like blossoms mown down by chance

On the blood-brown meadows of Flanders and France

Can ye measure the grief of the tears I weep

Or compass the woe of the watch I keep?

Or the pride that thrills thro’ my heart’s despair

And the hope that comforts the anguish of prayer?

And the far sad glorious vision I see

Of the torn red banners of victory?

when the terror and the tumult of hate shall cease

And life be refashioned on anvils of peace,

And your love shall offer memorial thanks

To the comrades who fought on the dauntless ranks,

And you honour the deeds of the dauntless ones,

Remember the blood of my martyred sons!”
— The Gift of India by Sarojini Naidu (India, 1915)

To buy the documentary on DVD click here or to watch it online via On-Demand click here.

Hola Mahalla is a little known Sikh festival that takes place annually in Anandpur, India. Dubbed the Sikh Olympics, it involves sword fights, daring horse stunts and a dab of spiritualism.

This documentary focuses on the festival Hola Mahalla that has been running since the 17th century, showcasing skills such as swordsmanship and daring horse stunts that are with an ever decreasing number of nomadic Sikhs.

Featuring key interviews with Nihang Jatherdar (High Priest) Baba Nihal Singh and Kesgarh Sahib Jathedar, Late Giani Tirlochan Singh. This beautifully shot film takes the viewer on a journey through the festival and Anandpur Sahib, the "City of Bliss", providing a snapshot into a world rarely experienced outside of India and exploring this Forgotten Festival.

Commissioned artist JAG LALL visits the Hola Mahalla exhibition

Jag Lall made it to the Hola Mahalla exhibition currently running at Kala Sangam in Bradford over the weekend.

Jag was commissioned to produce the following piece of Art for the exhibition based on a photograph I took at Hola Mahalla.

You can order the prints of it by clicking here.

Whilst he was in Bradford I managed to film an interview with him that I will be sharing soon. Jag was here as part of the Bradford Literature Festival that we currently have running in the city. It's really positive to see events like this come to our city and good exposure for the exhibition as it broadens the audience beyond Bradford.

Jag had produced some art for a book of poems by Sir Mohammad Iqbal (1877-1938) that had been translated from Urdu to English. I was intrigued to discover that the Sir Mohammad Iqbal has composed a poem called 'Nanak' about the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. I'll be doing a bit of research on this and hope to share some information soon.

I also managed to get a few pictures with Jag.

I'll be sharing the filmed interview with him in a few days.

You can see a trailer of the Documentary by clicking here.

To buy the documentary 'Hola Mahalla: The Forgotten Festival on DVD click here or to watch it online via On-Demand click here.

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The exhibition can be seen at Kala Sangam, Bradford click here for more information. 

Thanks

D