April is Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month and the city will host its annual Nagar Keertan (meditation) Celebration, also known as the Sikh Day Parade, in Manhattan Saturday.
It is one of the largest parades to celebrate Sikhism in the country, according to United Sikhs, a non-profit that aims to help minority communities across the world.
The parade will stretch from Madison Avenue and 36th St. to Madison Avenue and 26th Street, according to the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill. The celebration is from noon to 4 p.m. on April 28.
Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, according to Jatinder Singh, the national director of Sikh Aid, a non-profit.
“They say Sikhs and potatoes are found everywhere in the world,” joked Singh.
The monotheistic religion has three primary principles, according to Singh.
“No. 1 is humanity and service, No. 2 is hard work and sharing, and No. 3 is meditation.”
The religion started 550 years ago in Punjab, India, but after a Sikh genocide in the country during 1984, followers of the religion dispersed around the world.
“Thousands of Sikhs were murdered and burnt alive,” said Singh.
The Sikh place of worship is called a Gurudwara and followers wear turbans as a symbol of honesty, compassion, generosity, humility, equality and protection, according to Singh.
Similar to a policeman wearing a uniform, a Sikh person wearing a turban is a sign that an individual can come to that person for help if they are need, according to Singh.
Before the 1984 genocide many Sikhs migrated to the United States 125 years ago, and were some of the first Indians to arrive in the country, said Singh.
“We’ve migrated here in the 1890s,” said Singh.
Most of the borough’s Sikhs live in Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Ozone Park and to a lesser degree Jamaica, said the Sikh director.
A spokesman for United Sikhs said the parade would be followed by the fifth annual Vaisahki 5K race on Sunday at Victory Field in Forest Park in Woodhaven. The Vaisakhi is a festival marking the beginning of spring.
Victory Field is between Myrtle Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, according to www.vaisa
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose