Vaisakhi Celebrations in Metro Vancouver
Surrey, Vancouver, May 02, 2013
April is the month of Vaisakhi celebration around the globe. Here in the Metro Vancouver area, Vaisakhi as well as the birth of the Khalsa are some of the major highlights for the Indo-Canadian community. In this context, it may be relevant to have a brief background to this celebration from the Sikh perspective.
Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539), founder of Sikhism, travelled widely in India and several other countries preaching a message of the equality of all people irrespective of birth, caste, gender or religion. His message was carried by the nine Gurus who followed him. It was on April 13, 1699, that the tenth and the last of the Sikh Gurus, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), created the Khalsa (the Pure One). Guru Gobind Singh reinforced Guru Nanak’s vision of a society free of caste, inequality, discrimination, prejudice and superstition. This day coincides with the Vaisakhi celebration which augurs the harvesting season. Thus, both Vaisakhi and birth of the Khalsa have become major celebrations for people of Indian heritage everywhere.
Vaisakhi has become one of the most popular celebrations in Canada. In every major Canadian city, this special occasion is celebrated with a great deal of enthusiasm. In a sense, Vaisakhi has become a mainstream celebration in this country. The Nagar Kirtan (Khalsa Day Parade) held in Vancouver on April 13 attracted close to 100,000 participants and the one in Surrey on April 20 brought out more than 200,000 Sikhs and non- Sikhs . It was great to see people from other communities join the South Asian community in celebrating the birth of the Khalsa. Availability of free food and drinks all along the Nagar Kirtan routes (both in Vancouver and Surrey) was a very generous and superb gesture by very dedicated members of our community. This is something that we can all be proud of. The involvement of youth in these celebrations was also very impressive.
In addition to these two major celebrations, Vaisakhi was also celebrated around the Metro Vancouver area by various organizations and schools. Take for example the Queeensborough Middle School (QMS) in New Westminster.
As a result of efforts by the Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) Punjabi classes have been under way at QMS for the past several years. Under the leadership of their Punjabi teacher, Mr.Deep Singh Sangra, the students of the Punjabi classes at QMS did an excellent job in celebrating Vaisakhi in school on April 29. The whole school was buzzing with Vaisakhi related activities. It was great to see the students greet guests with Happy Vaisakhi at the main entrance to the school.
The Punjabi class students did a marvelous job in explaining the significance of Vaisakhi and birth of the Khalsa. They also put on impressive cultural performances before the students, teachers and invited guests. In addition to this, the local Sikh community provided mouthwatering Indo-Canadian refreshments.
It was a commendable way of creating more pride amongst students about their cultural heritage in the Canadian context. Programs, activities and gestures like these go a long way in creating a positive image of our community and enhancing opportunities for cross-cultural understanding. The organizers, QMS and the New Westminster School District must be commended for promoting Punjabi and celebrations like this.
President, Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA Canada)