Streets of Leeds are a blaze of colour as Sikh community stages annual Vaisakhi celebration

They came in their hundreds for one of the most spectacular – and colourful – occasions in the Leeds calendar.

Wednesday, 24th April 2019, 11:28 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th April 2019, 11:30 am
The Vaisakhi parade leaves the Sikh Temple on Chapeltown Road.

An estimated 2,500 people flocked to a sun-kissed Millennium Square today as the city's Sikh community celebrated the annual festival of Vaisakhi.

Many of those present had walked to the city centre as part of a parade that set out from the Sikh Temple on Chapeltown Road this morning.

The Vaisakhi parade leaves the Sikh Temple on Chapeltown Road.

It wound its way along Harehills Lane and Sheepscar Street South before travelling along Eastgate, The Headrow and Cookridge Street en route to Millennium Square.

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At the head of the procession was a truck bearing a 20-inch-diameter 'battle drum' called a nagara which was played throughout the course of the journey.

Many of those in the parade – which included floats, flatbed lorries and even a double-decker bus – were dressed in the Vaisakhi colours of yellow and orange.

People soaking up the atmosphere in Millennium Square this afternoon included Puneet Tayal, from Roundhay, who was with his wife Sanehlata and children Parth, 11, and Rushika, four.

Today's Vaisakhi celebrations in Leeds.

He said: "It is good to know the whole city is embracing this. You have a lot of non-Indian people here and they will see inclusivity and a vibrant culture."

Other attendees included Mangal Singh, from Gipton, who was with his children Yuvraj, nine, and Parneet, five.

He said: "It is an important day for telling other communities who you are and it is something we look forward to every year. Everyone is welcome."

The crowds in Millennium Square were treated to performances of traditional music as well as a display of a martial art named gatka.

People gathered for the Vaisakhi parade in Leeds today.

They also heard from the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Graham Latty, who paid tribute to the role played by the Sikh community in city life.

Other speakers included Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton, who told the event: "My dear friends, I can honestly say that it is half of my life that I have been coming to celebrate this day with you.

"Thirty two years ago I first came, I was 32 years old, now I am double that age but I am still here and I hope, please God, that I will be here in another 32 years.

"I wish you all well, have a glorious day, God is shining upon us with this great weather, enjoy yourselves, happy Vaisakhi."

Vaisakhi, which celebrates baptism and rebirth, is a long established harvest festival in the Punjab region of India.

One of the holiest days in the Sikh calendar, it marks the creation of the Khalsa, the formalisation of the Sikh faith in 1699.

The parade was scheduled to set back off from Millennium Square bound for Chapeltown at about 4pm.