The Sun-Star has thoroughly covered the annual Sikh parade through Livingston, about 16 miles north of Merced on Highway 99. This parade is in celebration of Hola Mahala at the end of March to usher in the spring.
For a video see: http://tinyurl.com/raqp7y
For a series of excellent photos by Lisa James, see: http://tinyurl.com/d7gwrx
The words Hola Mahala stands for "mock fight" and is an organized procession in the form of an army column accompanied by war-drums and standard-bearers, marching from one Sikh temple to another. Sikhs from all over come to Livingston to swell the crowd to over 2,000.
Many, many years ago when I visited India, a Sikh gentleman helped satisfy my curiosity by sending me to the market for six yards of material, which he wound around my head to make a turban. He also gave me an iron bracelet, which he said was good to remove mosquito bites, and a small wooden comb with a tiny tin symbol of a sword to fulfill the requirement of carrying a bladed weapon. Here are my 40-year old souvenirs (the turban is long gone).
My acquaintance Ravinder S. Sethi told me Sikh men are required by their religion to meet the obligation of the five Ks, which are:
1. Kesh = Uncut hair: Following the appearance of Guru Gobind Singh, our 10th Guru, and also a symbol of reminder to the thousands of martyrs killed when not cutting their hair and forcibly being converted to Islam.
2. Kara = Steel Bangle: Worn on the right wrist as a reminder not to do what the Guru does not want you to do (like begging, stealing, etc.)
3. Kanga = A comb to ensure that a Sikh is always clean, neat and tidy.
4. Katch = Boxer type shorts to always keep on (no nudity) and remain chaste.
5. Kirpan = A dagger as a symbol of protecting the weak (remember, Sikhs are warriors from the North Western Frontier of Punjab where invaders constantly tried to penetrate India). The dagger is now a symbol and blunt instrument.
Ravinder says those that don't physically wear a blunt dagger (usually under their shirt), carry a dagger symbol as the one I have on my souvenir comb...or even a pocket knife.
Ravinder suggested looking at this website for details: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/sikhism/customs/fiveks.shtml
Sun-Star reporter Scott Jason thoroughly covered the story of the local Sikh community in 2007, including their local history how they were initially lured by jobs with Foster Farms.