The Griffith Sikh Games draw thousands to the NSW region to celebrate sport, food and culture

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Around 15,000 people converge on a regional Australian town for one of the country’s most popular Sikh sporting events, but with food a central ingredient in the cultural event, a colossal effort is underway to feed everyone. . free.

The Griffith Sikh Games draw people from across Australia and overseas to the southern New South Wales town to watch athletes compete over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend .

But while sport is the main attraction, people also attend the celebration of culture and gastronomy. Event organizers this year trucked in two tonnes of onions, three tonnes of soil and 700 liters of milk for the two-day event.

Griffith Councilor and event organizer Manjit Lally said it was made possible through support and donations from Sikh communities across the country.

“Three or four years ago we couldn’t keep up with demand, so now we also get help from cities,” he said.

Manjit Lally says Sikh games are for the whole community.(ABC Riverina: Romy Stephens)

We are ‘a community’

Gurdarshan Singh comes from Melbourne’s Sikh community and first went to the games – also known as the Griffith Shaheedi Tournament – 10 years ago to help out.

He said the event was created to honor the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the Sikh faith and values.

A man wearing a blue scarf stirring a large jar of food with a stick
A large quantity of food is prepared for the Sikh games and then distributed free of charge.(ABC Riverina: Romy Stephens)

This is the 24th time the games have taken place, after being canceled for the past two years due to COVID-19.

“They started 26 years ago and the community started coming here in remembrance of all the martyrs, who we call Shaheeds,” Mr Singh said.

“We were advised to bring tea, coffee, hot milk for everyone.

“We have more than 700 liters [of milk] for today [and] we bake about 700 packages of bread.”

He said one of the principles of the Sikh community was to support “everyone”.

A man tackles another man in front of a crowd
Kabaddi is a traditional Punjabi sport played during the event.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

A celebration of culture

Kamal Maan came from Melbourne to attend the Sikh Games, but is from Punjab in northern India.

A woman wearing large gold earrings standing near a sports field
Kamal Maan lives in Melbourne but is originally from Punjab in northern India.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

She emigrated to Australia to give her children a better future and believed the games gave them a chance to experience their culture.

“These kind of events, going to the temple, teaching them the traditions and everything, they will learn the culture,” Ms. Maan said.

Maninder Singh Rakhra is from Canberra and brought his mother, Manjeet Kaur, who traveled all the way from India to attend the Sikh Games.

“We love seeing our community here at Griffith every year,” Mr. Rakhra said.

He also translated for Ms. Kaur, who spoke little English.

“I love it,” Ms. Kaur said.

“Thank you so much for bringing us here.”

A man wearing a black turban with a boy wearing a black sweater and a woman wearing a white cap
Maninder Singh Rakhra’s mother [far right] traveled from India for the Sikh Games.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

An affinity for agriculture

Mr Lally said Griffith had developed a very large Sikh community because the climate and agriculture were similar to those in northern India.

“Farm country is like Griffith, Leeton and surrounding areas,” he said.

“Sikh communities love agriculture; that’s why we settle in farming communities.

“The hot is hot here [and] the cold is cold here, just as it is with us too.”

He said that although it may be called the Sikh Games, the event was open to the whole community.

“I encourage all other communities to come for the long weekend.”

Three women sitting with four children on a picnic mat
The Sikh Games are a celebration of food, sport and culture.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

Honoring traditional sport

The Sikh Games feature a range of different sports, such as football and volleyball, and unique sports like musical chairs.

The most popular attraction, however, is the Punjabi sport, kabaddi, a physically demanding competition best described as a mix of wrestling and rugby.

It sees a raider enter the opposing half and try to tag one or more members of the other team, then run back to their own half before being grappled.

A man wearing a jacket with a logo that reads
Athletes travel from all over Australia and overseas to compete in the Sikh Games.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

Kabaddi player Bhola Singh hails from northern India and now lives in Adelaide.

He said most kabaddi players in Adelaide are truck drivers and it is difficult to balance training with family, work and social life.

“We do strength training once a week, or twice whenever the weather permits, but mostly like running, pulling, doing push-ups.”

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