Sikhs bring a splash of colour and music to Leicester
by Tom Mack
More than 15,000 people were drawn to the city centre yesterday for one of the most colourful parades of the year.
The annual Vaisakhi procession saw people from Sikh temples all over the region parade through the centre of Leicester from the temple in Holy Bones, near St Nicolas Circle, to the temple in East Park Road, Evington.
Drums and religious songs reverberated through the streets as the crowds made there way along the three-mile route, with drinks and snacks to keep them going.
The procession was headed by a drummer on the back of a vehicle, followed by more than a dozen barefoot sweepers, clearing the streets with brooms ahead of the flag and sword bearers.
For Sikhs, Vaisakhi commemorates the founding in 1699 of the Sikh community, the Khalsa, and for Hindus marks the start of the New Year.
The first vehicle in the parade, with musicians and the scriptures known as the Guru Granth Sahib, was followed by dozens of school children. Behind them were more vehicles and thousands more people.
As the parade made its way through the city, more and more people joined in.
Gurjeet Kaur, 32, of the Narborough Road area of Leicester, who was there with her family, said: "We come every year and it's always a very happy event.
"People come from a long way away because this is the biggest event of the year for us and although there are others elsewhere in the UK, this is the best.
"There are thousands of people.
"We love coming to follow it through the city and sing traditional songs.
"There are snacks along the way to keep our energy up – lots of samosas and drinks."
Balbir Singh Ram, 40, of Braunstone Town, Leicester, was also there with his family.
He said: "I've done this every year since I was little and it's lovely on days like this when the sun's out.
"A lot of people join the parade as it moves along but a lot of other people, who aren't Sikhs, come and watch, so I think it's a good multi-cultural event as well.
"Leicester City Council and the police always make a big effort and they're to be applauded."
It was the first parade for three-year-old Gurnnoor Singh, of Belgrave.
His dad, Satinder, 42, said: "Last time he was in his pram so this is the first time he's walking and I'm sure he'll make it the whole way.
"It's a long way but we never feel tired because we're celebrating and so everyone's happy.
"It's a very nice event and it's lovely weather, too."
In the last four processions combined, more than £16,000 was collected for charities along the way.
This year the collection was in aid of Anthony Nolan, Leicester General Hospital's kidney unit, the Teenage Cancer Trust, the Sikh Organisation for Prisoner Welfare and the Sukrit Education Trust.
Leicester City councillor Inderjit Singh Gugnani, who represents Knighton ward, was among the organisers of the event.
He said: "The nicest thing about the day is when I see people from other communities opening their doors and being interested in what's happening."