Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji ki Fateh, the traditional chant of the Sangat, reverberated in the large hall of the Gurudwara at the Dharmasala in Kart-e-Parwan district of Kabul as more than 300 members of the Sikh community gathered there to celebrate Guruparb, the birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion.
The nearly three-hour ceremony on Saturday at the 45-year-old Gurudwara in the district, which is home to most of the Sikh community, was filled with religious chants, prayers and devotional songs.
School children recited their self-composed poems in the honour of Guru Nanak, while several speakers repeatedly conveyed the message of religious harmony, universal brotherhood, peaceful coexistence and humanitarian assistance through their speeches during the ceremony.
India's Ambassador to Afghanistan Rakesh Sood, who was an invitee to the ceremony, conveyed his greetings and good wishes to all members of the community on the festive occasion. "I am impressed by the organisation and your ability to cherish and celebrate the tradition and culture," Sood told the attentive gathering.
He also congratulated the children for composing and reciting poems on the occasion.
Afghan Sikhs moved to Afghanistan generations ago and they feel at home in this country. All of them are fluent in Dari and Pastho with some able to converse in other languages like Uzbeki.
"We are Afghans and think like any other Afghan," said a contented Avatar Singh, a member of Dharmasala management committee, who appears no different from other Afghans with his neatly tied blue turban and shiny and flowing black beard.
Pointing to sizeable presence of Afghan Muslims at the function, Ravinder Singh, another member of the gurudwara management committee, said, "All these are our friends. We treat them as our own brothers and sisters. Though our worship system may be different, we are part and parcel of Afghan society."
Ravinder Singh, who speaks Pastho and Dari fluently, is a fourth generation Afghan Sikh living in Kabul. Though his clothes business keeps him busy through out, he makes it point to come regularly to Gurudwara to pray with his family.
With a broad grin, he said, "This is an important festival for Sikhs. The Guruparb in Dharmasala attracts devotees from Kabul but all over in Afghanistan". For him, functions like Guruparb is also important for renewing the bonds and contacts within the community members.
Guruparb ended with the traditional 'langar' (community meals) served to all the devotees and invitees.