5th Annual Punjabi American Mela (festival) draws a record 10,000!

Reported by Dr. Narinder Bajwa and Rupaul Ghuman

May 30, 1999

The culture of the land of five rivers was brought to life in Yuba City (Little Punjab) once again. Images of village life were conjured up through mesmerizing folk songs and music; explosions of colors flashed on the stage and all across the fairgrounds as men and women dressed in native garb danced and floated all around. It was once again an event to be remembered.

Thousands gathered at the Yuba-Sutter fairgrounds at the invitation of the Punjabi American Heritage Society. It was a joyous and secular celebration of all that is Punjabi. There were people from all walks of life and from all different religions, all forgetting their differences at least for one day, bound together by the common thread of shared heritage.

The event started with the U.S. National and Sikh Anthems. Then followed songs and dances—"giddha", "bhangra", and even a great demonstration of Sikh martial arts. While some enjoyed this spectacle others walked around enjoying the flavorful foods of Punjab served up hot and fresh by food vendors. Ladies stood shopping for dresses and jewelry; children bought books, videos and momentos. An exhibit dealing with the Punjabi American migration to the Yuba-Sutter area drew a lot of attention—for some it was like taking a journey back in time; for others it was a reminder of sacrifices made by their parents and grandparents so that they, who would come after them, flourished and prospered in this, their adopted land. Another exhibit was presented depicting the history of the Sikh faith, since the festival coincided with the 300th anniversary of Khalsa.

The program culminated with Shaukat Ali, "The Voice of Punjab", singing his most famous songs Challa and Jagga. Another interesting singer, Waheguru Kaur Khalsa (American Sikh), sang devotional songs to rock and raggae music. Malwai Dance was another big attraction. These and other songs brought people up to their feet dancing and clapping. Some cried from the sheer joy and ecstasy invoked by the songs, others smiled quietly held in a trance by the folk songs.

For one day, everyone forgot their worries and cares and got together to drink at this fountain of joy. The Punjabi American mela, which has now become an annual event, is growing and prospering each year. When all was done and the sun finally set, everyone carried away a piece of this happiness to sustain them till the Spring of 2000, when the songs, music, and colors will burst forth again, scattering the seeds of our heritage through time and distant places, keeping the magic of Punjab alive.

This year many important dignitaries have visited the Punjabi American Festival. They include Mayor of Yuba City, Bob Barkhouse, Sutter County Sheriff Jim Denney, Congressman Doug Ose, and State Assemblyman Dick Dickerson. Most of the sponsorship for the mela came from American businesses, including banks, hospitals and other local business. The local newspaper printed a series of articles related to the mela, and also a 12 page supplement on the mela including information about Punjabi lifestyle was included in the newspaper. It was also promoted by the local Punjabi TV show. An award was presented to Honorable Congressman Doug Ose by the Punjabi American Heritage Society President. Shaukat Ali was presented with the Voice of Punjab award by Satnam Tatla for promoting friendship between East and West Punjab. The stage was well coordinated by Asha Sharma.

The Punjabi American Heritage Society has sponsored and hosted the mela each year since 1995 at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds to promote better understanding of Punjabi heritage to other Americans and our own children. This year, about 300 performers participated.



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Assemblyman Dick Dickerson

Congressman Doug Ose presenting awards to children

Yuba City Ladies Gidha

Malwai Dance


Kids singing Sikh National Anthem

Sikh Martial Arts

Blindfolded Chattr Singh putting surma into his eyes with a sword

Mayor of Yuba City Bob Barkhouse

Satnam Tatla presenting Voice of Punjab Award to Shaukat Ali. Dr. Kang and Asha Sharma look on.