A culture of giving and a celebration of Canadian values will dominate this year’s mammoth Vaisakhi parade in Surrey, which is expected to draw around 300,000 people from the Pacific Northwest.
Held annually to commemorate one of the most important religious events on the Sikh calendar, the Surrey celebration is one of the largest Vaisakhi or Khalsa Day parade in the world outside of India.
For Surrey, where one-third of its residents are of South Asian descent and where the immigrant population is increasing by 1,000 people each month, the Vaisakhi celebration is an opportunity to showcase the city’s diversity.
This year’s event will attract top BC politicians who are in the midst of campaigning for the May elections.
“For many, Vaisakhi marks the beginning of a new year. It’s a time for families, friends, and neighbours to celebrate together - and we can be proud that B.C. is home to some of the largest celebrations in North America” said Premier Christy Clark.
“To all those celebrating Vaisakhi, may you enjoy it to the fullest with your loved ones.
“Lakh Lakh Vadai!”
"The Sikh community in Canada has had a long journey to peace, justice, freedom and prosperity over the past 100 years. Gurudwaras are the spirit of the Sikh community that keeps Sikh culture alive and thriving. Our province is enriched by the generosity and philanthropy of gurudwaras and organizations in our communities,” said BC NDP leader John Horgan
B.C. Sikh’s community is front and centre when it comes to community service, supporting charitable causes and providing relief aid and their efforts will be on full display this Saturday.
At this year’s parade, organisers expect over 2500 participants representing 20 community organizations to participate in the events with thousands more celebrating the spirit of Vaisakhi
The Surrey parade, which will begin and end at the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar on 85th Ave., flows with the float carrying the Guru Granth Sahib, the religious text of Sikhism.
Along the route there will also be live music and dancers,
If Surrey boasts one of the biggest Vaisakhi parades outside of India, Vancouver has the distinction of being the oldest such event in B.C.
Malkiat Dhami, president of the Khalsa Diwan Society, said organizers are noticing more non-Indo-Canadian people revelling in its festival atmosphere and tasty food in the Vancouver event.
Dhami couldn’t confirm attendance but said it felt like this year’s crowd in Vancouver was even bigger than the approximately 125,000-150,000 people who showed up last year.
In Surrey an economic study based on the 2014 Surrey Vaisaskhi Parade showed the event generated close to $30 million in spending by visitors from out of town.
The study which was commissioned by Harbinder Singh Sewak, publisher of The South Asian Post, has also found that the 2014 parade is estimated to have contributed between $6.6 million and $12.3 million in GDP for the provincial economy, supported between 116 and 215 Full Time Equivalent jobs, and contributed between $2.3 million and $4.4 million in tax revenues for federal, provincial and municipal governments.
Based on the estimates of the parade, between $2.6 million to $4.5 million worth of food and beverages were served; The average length of stay was 7 days for visitors from the rest of BC, 15 days for visitors from the rest of Canada, 15 days for visitors from the US, and 30 days for other international visitors.
Q: What are the origins of Vaisakhi?
A: Although Vaisakhi has traditionally been a harvest festival in Punjab and across South Asia for centuries, the day has a very special significance for Sikhs. On Vaisakhi Day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh created the Order of the Khalsa. The Khalsa are those Sikhs who have accepted the Sikh initiation or “khande kee paahul” and commit to live their lives in the service of humanity and the spirit of equality and compassion. The founding of the Khalsa was a seminal event in Sikh history which gave the Sikh faith its final form.
Q: What is a Nagar Kirtan?
A: The word nagar means town and kirtan is singing of hymns. A nagar kirtan refers to a Sikh parade that is led by the Punj Pyare (the five beloved ones, who represent the first five Sikh to have been initiated) and the Sri Guru Granth Sahib or the Sikh scripture, which is placed in a decorated float. The congregation follows the parade while singing hymns and verses from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, along with displays of the Sikh martial art gatka and distributing free food (langar). The nagar kirtan begins and concludes with a religious service and the serving of langar.
Q: What is the significance of the orange and yellow colours?
A: Yellow and orange are the traditional colours of Vaisakhi. They represent the spirit of rebirth and sacrifice of the Punj Pyare but are also a colour of joy and celebration. When Vaisakhi is celebrated in Punjab, the golden yellow wheat fields are ready to be harvested.
Q: Who can participate in Vaisakhi celebrations?
A: Everyone. The Sikh faith considers all persons to be equal, regardless of gender, race, nationality or class. Sikh gurdwaras are open to all people. The langar or community meal is also offered to both Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike.
Q: Is there any special dress I should wear?
A: The only requirements to visit a Sikh gurdwara are that visitors take off their shoes and cover their heads. Any intoxicants such as tobacco products or liquor are also not permitted on the premises. – World Sikh Organisation of Canada