The Sikh Parade is part of a three-day Sikh Festival that has been held annually in Yuba City since 1979. The streets along the parade route are lined with booths full of food, all of which is free to everyone - honoring one of the three main pillars of the Sikh religion: sharing one's earnings with others who are less fortunate. (The Sikh Temples also honor this idea by serving free food to the needy every day of the year.) Susan loves Indian food - the spicier the better - so for her, the food is one of the main attractions. I can't eat even the mildest spicy-hot food, but there are always enough Indian dessert foods, fresh fruits, fruit juice bottles, and sodas to keep me happy.
The rain this year did not appear to reduce the size of the crowds at all. It did make for some interesting sights, however. We saw at least as many people wearing trash bags as makeshift raincoats as people wearing real raincoats - and many of those trash bags were worn over exquisite-looking salwar kameez. We also saw quite a number of people wearing canvas flour bags on their heads, most of them decked out in otherwise gorgeous outfits. The flour bags were being given away for free as well; we brought one home, although neither of us attempted to wear it as a hat. It's labeled "Sher: Desi-style Durum Atta - Whole Wheat Atta - Besan - Sweet Corn Flour" and has a picture of a lion. At one point before the parade reached us, Susan remarked to me that she wished she could someday be able to look even half as dignified when wearing a flour bag on her head as a particularly solemn, proud-looking, sixty-something-year-old woman who had just walked past us did. More than one of the people we saw wearing flour bags on their heads did manage to convey the distinct impression that they were wearing royal crowns of jewels instead.
So other than the odd clothing combinations, and the plywood makeshift bridges provided so people could cross the giant rain puddles to reach some of the booths of free food, everything about the parade proceeded exactly the same as it would probably have done if it hadn't been raining. There may have been slightly fewer floats this year than last year, but certainly the impression remained the same.
The first float of the parade is always preceded by about two dozen or so Sikhs walking backward while sweeping the street with brooms. They walk backward along the entire 4.5-mile parade route, sweeping the street as a demonstration of religious devotion.
Okay, there was one more difference brought on by the rain: the first float is not normally wrapped in plastic like this.
The first float has special religious significance; it carries the Guru Granth on a throne. Sikhism had ten previous gurus. The fifth guru, whose name was Arjan Dev, compiled the writings of the first four gurus, along with his own and some that he selected from other religions, into a book called the Granth. Later gurus added additional writings. When the tenth guru, whose name was Gobind Singh, died in 1708, he named the Granth - the book of gurus' writings - as his successor and ordered that the book should sit on the guru's throne forever after. So this float carries the book on its throne, along with the book's human attendants. And as a result, this float was the only float that got its own float-sized clear plastic raincoat.
Shortly before the first float arrived, a man asked us to cover our heads until after the first float passed. I was wearing a hooded jacket because of the rain, but Susan was wearing an unhooded jacket. (She had her umbrella with her.) So she took off the jacket and wrapped it around her head in the style of the Sikh women's head-coverings (commenting to me that if people give her delicious free food, she's willing to adjust her head-coverings to please them). She received so many looks of approval from elderly Sikhs for this that she decided to continue wearing it for the entire parade. Sadly, I did not get a picture of her wearing it.
It is apparently a special honor to walk next to the first float.
Most of the floats were familiar from last year. They came from various Sikh Temples throughout northern California and occasionally from as far as Oregon, and the floats were often replicas of the temples they came from.
The River Valley High School Punjabi Club is from Yuba City, so these students didn't have to travel far at all.
These people came from Roseville, near Sacramento - about a 45-minute drive.
The people carrying the Dasmesh Darbar Sikh Temple banner came all the way from Salem, Oregon - nearly a nine-hour drive.
Several floats depict the violence that was perpetrated against Sikhs during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
One float supplied balloons to the crowd.
Another simply carried a giant Sikh symbol.
These guys did a sort of dance, standing in a circle, holding hands and waving their arms.
The text on this float says "Kaur is Princess" in the green box in the middle. In the lower left box, it says, "When you take 'amrit' you are told to consider Guru Gobind Singh as your father and Mata Sahib Kaur as your mother. By joining the Khalsa you abandon all previous chains of linkage. You become the direct descendants of Guru Gobind Singh and Mata Sahib Kaur. You become their sons and daughters. The Khalsa becomes your family. Thus, from the day you are born to the day you die your name remains the same. You do not have to change it due to marriage. Unfortunately, the tradition of using the 'Kaur' surname has all but disappeared amongst Sikh women. It is either dropped, in favor of caste surnames, or misused as a middle name." In the lower center box, it says, "The importance of 'Kaur' is truly inexpressible. It is something very unique in the history of the world." I can't tell exactly what the text in the other boxes says, but it all seems to come from the article reprinted on this page on SikhiWiki.
This next float was covered with extremely gory photographs of Sikhs who were murdered or horribly injured in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Some un-gory photographs were also used, mainly at the tail end of it.
The Sikh Youth of America for Khalistan did not look particularly youthful.
Sat Sangat seems to roughly translate to "the company of fellow devout Sikhs."
When we were leaving, I briefly caught up with the start of the parade, where the backwards-walking people with brooms were.