Sikh Americans participate in Rose Parade in California

A sculpted Bhai Ghaneya Singh, a devout Sikh from 18th century, led the float at the 131st annual Rose Day parade in Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 1. The float theme  “Planting Seeds of Hope” draws inspiration from Bhai Ghaneya Singh. 

Thousands of Sikhs and non-Sikhs lined up the five-and-a-half mile parade route down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California, Jan. 1, watching and cheering the spectacular 131st Rose Parade that also featured a Sikh American float for the sixth year in a row.

The Sikh American Float featuring 69,000 roses shared a message of unconditional compassion, selfless service, and peace for all humankind this year. Coffee grounds, lentils, walnuts, cranberries, spices and coconut flakes adorned the 85-foot-long float, titled “Planting Seeds of Hope.”

People waved as the float rolled down the road.

“We feel we are making a difference and seeing a shift in people’s attitudes. Sikhs have said how their neighbors and colleagues are friendlier than before and how the float serves as a great ice breaker to start a conversation,” Minu Kaur Singh, creative director of the Sikh American Float Foundation, told this correspondent.

“Our purpose from the beginning has been to spread awareness and educate people about who Sikhs are and what the turban stands for and see that we are making a difference but at the same time we know we have miles to go before we sleep.”

This year’s parade theme, “The Power of Hope,”celebrated optimism and the Sikh float theme “Planting Seeds of Hope” drew inspiration from Bhai Ghaneya Singh, an18th century Sikh known for giving water to wounded soldiers on the battlefield,regardless of their faith and religion.

A sculpted Bhai Ghaneya Singh led the float with a turban that was covered with light orange fuzzy cut strawflower, dark orange fuzzy cut strawflower and brown coffee.

His face, hands and legs were made of various spices and clothing was of white fine ground rice, light grey light lettuce seed, dark grey dark lettuce seed, light blue and dark blue fuzzy cut statice. A group of 16 young children riding the float were chosen from diverse backgrounds. Singh said 1,400 volunteers worked putting in 11,200 hours to make it a success.

Singh said she starts the process of concept and design as early as February of each year, putting a great deal of thought into how to connect the theme of the parade to Sikh teachings and values.

“Our focus is to share information that is simple, universal, relatable and easy to understand, a task by no means a small feat,” she said.

“Today, the world is facing more lines of division than ever before. However, we cannot lose hope or accept that to be the status quo! Like Bhai Ghaneya Singh, we must continue to plant seeds of love, compassion, and understanding into young minds. Because having compassion for those similar to you is easy — but having unconditional compassion for those unlike you is difficult. Hope never quits!” she said.

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