New Mexico declares 'Yogi Bhajan Memorial Day'

Indians Abroad/October 25, 2004
By Gurmukh Singh

The state of New Mexico which created history in the US by flying its flag at half-mast for two days (Oct 7-8) in honour of Yogi Bhajan after his death on Oct 6, went a step ahead by declaring Oct 23 as ``Yogi Bhajan Memorial Day.''

Espanola in New Mexico is the headquarter of Yogi Bhajan's Sikh Dharma. From there for three decades, Yogi Bhajan preached yoga and Sikhism in the western hemisphere, converting thousands of whites, blacks and hispanics to the Sikh religion.

The state honour for Yogi Bhajan was announced on Saturday by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson at the memorial service at Espanola for the late spiritual leader.

It was also announced that Yogi Bhajan's widow, Mrs Inderjit Kaur Khalsa, will lead the Sikh Dharma and henceforth will be known as Bhai Sahiba.

Paying homage to Yogi Bhajan at a huge gathering of Sikhs and non-Sikhs from around the world, Governor Richardson said ``Yogiji'' was a man of peace who transcended all boundaries. His legacy would be an inspiration for the coming generations.

Calling Yogi Bhajan his "personal friend and peer'', the Governor remembered his more than two-decades-long association with Yogi Bhajan and narrated he had turned to Yogiji when he lost his bid for the US Congress in 1980. "He advised me to shake every hand.'' That was a real lesson in the art of politics which stood him in good stead, the Governor said, adding that the holy man had later advised him on international issues when he (Richardson) was America's ambassador at the UN.

Yogi Bhajan was a multi-dimensional personality, the Governor said. He was a great spiritual master, a knowledgeable political leader and a savvy businessman whose Sikh Dharma today runs more than a corporations across America. Yogiji brought not only spiritual wealth to New Mexico, but also material wealth, Richardson said.

The Governor told the gathering how US intelligence, through him, had approached Yogi Bhajan for advice during the India-Pakistan tensions in south Asia. ``He was a man of peace. he hated war.. he was very blunt, but always right. He was a leader beyond the Sikh community....,'' he said.

Describing Yogi Bhajan as "a friend of the entire political leadership of this state and the entire political leadership of America," Richardson said he exerted a strong influence on all leaders.

Just two months ago, Richardson, along with three ex-Governors, had attended Yogi Bhajan's 75 birthday which is celebrated as International Peace Day. "This was an important event, not just for New Mexico and the Southwest, but an important event for America and the world.''

Messages from the Indian Prime Minister, US president George Bush and UN secretary-general Kofi Annan were read on the occasion.

Priminent among those who attended the ceremony were the Jathedars of the Akal Takht, Patna and Anandpur, Minority Commission chairman Tarlochan Singh, SGPC secretary Dilmegh Singh, Akali leader Manjit Singh Calcutta.

Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal could not reach due to delayed flights.

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