Sunday, 18 April 2010

VAISAKHI


The annual Vaisakhi parade has, in the past few years, become one of the most notable faith community events in Leicester. Its route takes it through the city centre from Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Holy Bones (starting at 1130) then on eastward to Guru Teg Bahadur Gurdwara in East Park Road (ending at 1430). Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi  as the holiest festival of their calendar. It commemorates the founding of the Khalsa (the community of saints) by Guru Gobind Singh, tenth and final living Guru, in 1699.

The Leicester Mercury (Monday 19 April) reported the parade thus:
Sun smiles on festival day as 20,000 Sikhs celebrate in Leicester
Streets were transformed into a rainbow of colour as thousands of worshippers from all over the country flocked to Leicester to mark the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi.
Up to 20,000 people yesterday joined a parade in glorious sunshine led by five Panj Piara, or the beloved ones, while crowds lined the streets and music rang out from decorated floats.

The procession started at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Holy Bones at 11.30am and snaked its way through the city for about three hours before arriving at the Guru Teg Bahadur Gurdwara, in East Park Road.

Vaisakhi is one of the most important dates in the Sikh calendar, celebrating harvest time in India and marking the creation of the Khalsa, the Sikh baptism ceremony.

Steward Kuldip Kooner said: "It's a very important event and the parade also helps teach other communities as well as ours what it is all about."

Kam and Suky Garcha, of Scraptoft, joined in the parade with their children, Simran, 13, and Kamran, 11.

Mrs Garcha, 40, said: "It's nice to bring the kids to make sure they learn about our religion and it's a beautiful day as well."
Gita Bagrah, of Braunstone Town, also attended with members of her family.

The 38-year-old said: "I haven't been for a few years because I work shifts . I got the opportunity to come and I didn't want to miss out again because it's a great way of getting the community together."

Jaspal Minhas, president of the Leicestershire Asian Business Association, also took part. "I join in whenever I can and I think it's fantastic how the community comes together. It's one of the biggest events in the Sikh calendar and it's a great way to celebrate."

Spirits were high as the colourful procession lit up the streets.

Gurmeer Singh, 19, of Evington village, said: "So many people have come from outside – Peterborough, Manchester, London – which shows how big it is.

"It's a really enjoyable, peaceful and spiritual day for us."

Teacher Gurwinder Obhi was taking part in the parade with pupils from the Khalsa Education Centre, in East Park Road.

"It's important for the children to celebrate," she said.
Kawalpreet Singh, 23, one of dozens of volunteers helping to hand out refreshments, said: "It's taken lots of hard work but it's worth it."
Mohinder Singh Sangh, president of the Guru Teg Bahadur Gurdwara, said: "It's a beautiful day and thousands of people have turned up."

While I wouldn't claim to have walked in the parade today, I did trail along behind it for 20 minutes or so.

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