Surrey, Canada: Vaisakhi is one of the most important days of the year for Sikhs, a holy celebration marking the birth of the Khalsa fraternity, a new year and the Punjab harvest festival.
TheSikh parade commemorates the birth or establishment of Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Sikh Guru, in 1699.
Khalsa – meaning pure – refers to the baptism ceremony all Sikhs are expected to go through as part of their own personal spiritual evolution.
As per reports despite poor weather, more than 400,000 people joined the city’s 19th annual Sikh New Year festival and commemoration of the foundation of the Khalsa panth of warriors, its largest turnout ever. B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark and B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan attended, two days after trading barbs during the provincial election’s first debate.
Spokesman Moninder Singh said the procession moved slower than usual as revellers packed the streets outside Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar on 128th Street and 85th Avenue, where it began.
He said the inclusive nature of the event held special meaning this year, after a recent wave of populist, anti-immigration sentiment swept through the U.S. and Europe. The founders of the Khalsa fought against persecution and to defend religious freedoms.
“Their primary purpose became to uphold values of inclusion, equality and tolerance,” Singh said. “And they were ready to risk their lives for it at the time.”
Singh said one way Vaisakhi helps cut through such intolerance is the many tonnes of food brought to sidewalks by local businesses and families. Like a langar in a gurdwara — a common kitchen in the Sikh place of worship — free food is served to all visitors, regardless of their faith or background.
“The idea behind it is that if you sit and eat with someone, you’ll talk,” Singh said. “You’ll break barriers if you’re face-to-face and you’ll learn about one another.”
As well, the parade brings people of all faiths together, including Hindus, who also celebrate Vaisakhi, Muslims and a sizable contingent of Christians — who sometimes hand-out written materials.
Singh said he believes most Canadians outright condemn discriminatory behaviour and want to feel connected to their neighbours by attending such events.
“I feel that we have a much better grounding in Canada where we can approach one another,” he said.