A man wearing a turban standing on a sports field and smiling

Griffith Sikh Games attract thousands to regional NSW to celebrate sports, food and culture

About 15,000 people gather in a regional Australian town for one of the country’s most popular Sikh sporting events, but with food being such a staple of the cultural event, there’s a massive effort underway to feed everyone…for free.

The Sikh Griffith Games draw people from all over Australia and beyond to the southern New South Wales town to watch the athletes compete on the Queen’s birthday long weekend.

But while sport is the main drag card, people also turn up to celebrate the culture and food, with this year’s event organizers bringing two tons of onions, three tons of flooring and 700 liters of milk for the two-day event.

This was made possible by support and donations from Sikh communities across the country, said Griffith City Council member and event organizer Manjit Lali.

“Three or four years ago, we couldn’t keep up with the demand, so now we’re getting help from the cities as well,” he said.

Manjit Lali says Sikh games are for the whole community to enjoy.(ABC Riverina: Romy Stevens)

We are “one community”

Gurdarshan Singh is from the Sikh community in Melbourne and first went to the Games – also known as the Griffith Shaheedi Tournament – 10 years ago to help out.

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

A man in a blue head scarf stirs a large pot of food with a stick
A large amount of food is prepared for the Sikh Games and then distributed for free.(ABC Riverina: Romy Stevens)

It is the 24th time the Games have been held, having been canceled in the past two years due to COVID-19.

“They started it 26 years ago and the community started coming here to commemorate all the martyrdom, which we call martyrs,” Singh said.

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

“We got more than 700 liters [of milk] For the day [and] We cook about 700 bread bags.”

One of the principles of the Sikh community, he said, is to support “everyone”.

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

Celebration of culture

Kamal Maan traveled from Melbourne to attend the Sikh games, but originally came 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 Corfu)

She immigrated to Australia to give her children a better future and believes that games give them a chance to learn about their culture.

“This kind of event, going to the temple, teaching them the traditions and everything, they will learn the culture,” said Mrs. Maan.

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

“We would love to see our community here in Griffith every year,” said Mr. Rakhra.

He also did the translation on behalf of Mrs. Kaur, who speaks very little English.

“I love it,” said Mrs. Kaur.

“Thank you very much for bringing us here.”

A man in a black turban with a boy in a black jacket and a woman in a white hat
Maninder Singh’s mother [far right] He traveled from India to attend the Sikh Games.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corfu)

affinity for agriculture

Mr. Lally said Griffith developed a very large Sikh community because the weather and farming were similar to northern India.

“The agricultural country is like Griffith and Lytton and the surrounding areas,” he said.

“Sikh communities love farming; that is why we settle in farming communities.

“it’s hot here [and] The cold here is cold, just as it is at home too.”

He said that while it might be called the Sikh Games, the event was open for the entire community to enjoy.

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

Three women and four children sitting on a picnic mat
Sikh games are a celebration of food, sports and culture.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corfu)

The traditional sports on display

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

However, the most popular attraction is the Punjabi sport, kabaddi, a physically demanding competition that is best described as a mixture of wrestling and rugby.

He sees an attacker entering the opponent’s half of the court and trying to touch one or more members of the other team, then returns to his half before he can be wrestled.

A man wearing a jacket with a logo written on it
Athletes travel from all over Australia and beyond to compete in the Sikh Games.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corfu)

Kabaddi player Bhola Singh is originally from North India and now lives in Adelaide.

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

“We do weight lifting exercises once a week, or twice as time permits, but mostly like running, pull-ups, and push-ups.”

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