What is the Vaisakhi Sikh festival?

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A huge Sikh festival is being held in Leeds today, with a parade from Chapeltown to Millenium Square to mark Vaisakhi, but was is Vaisakhi?

Vaisakhi is the the Sikh New Year festival and it is one of the most important dates in the Sikh calendar.

Vaisakhi Parade leaves the Sikh Temple on Chapeltown Road, Leeds...20th April 2019.Picture by Simon Hulme

Vaisakhi Parade leaves the Sikh Temple on Chapeltown Road, Leeds...20th April 2019.Picture by Simon Hulme

Sometime spelt Baisakhi the event marks the start of the Punjabi New Year, and also marks 1699 - the year when Sikhism was born as a collective faith.

Vaisakhi has been a harvest festival in Punjab in northern India many centuries.

In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh chose the festival as the moment to establish the Khalsa, that's the collective name given to Sikhs who've been baptised.

How is it celebrated?

Vaisakhi Parade leaves the Sikh Temple on Chapeltown Road, Leeds...20th April 2019.Picture by Simon Hulme

Vaisakhi Parade leaves the Sikh Temple on Chapeltown Road, Leeds...20th April 2019.Picture by Simon Hulme

To celebrate Vaisakhi, Sikhs will visit Gudwaras which will have been especially decorated for the occasion.

Many people enjoy parades and special processions through the streets called nagar kirtans.

Music is also an important part of the celebrations

'Nagar' means town and 'kirtan' means the singing of hymns from the Guru Grath Sahib, which is the Sikh holy book.

The book is carried in the processions in a place of honour.

Celebrations always include singing and music, as well as reading aloud scriptures and chanting hymns.

Many Sikhs also choose Vaisakhi as the day to be baptised in to the Khalsa brotherhood.

What's happening in Leeds?

Leeds' Sikh community will celebrate the festival of Vaisakhi with the annual Vaisakhi parade, finishing in Millennium Square on Saturday April 20.

The Sikh community pass through Chapeltown on floats, visiting several religious temples along the way, before the procession heads into the city centre.

Vaisakhi is the Sikh celebration of the foundation of the Khalsa and is based on Punjabi traditions.

The finale of the parade has become a popular event in Leeds' cultural calendar, and everyone is invited to watch singing and martial arts displays in Millennium Square and enjoy free Indian food from the mobile Langar kitchen.

First even provide a double-decker bus to transport Sikhs not taking part in the parade into the city behind the procession.

Route and timings

The parade begins at around 10am at The Sikh Temple on Chapeltown Road. The procession heads up to Harehills Lane, passing the Gurdwara Hargobind Sahib Ji, before stops at the Gurdwara Guru Kalgidhar Sahib on Cowper Street and the Ramgarhia Board at the bottom end of Chapeltown Road.

They then enter the city centre and head to Millennium Square along The Headrow. The festivities in the square begin at around 1pm.

There will be rolling road closures along Chapeltown Road, Harehills Lane and The Headrow during the parade.

The procession then returns to Chapeltown from 3pm onwards.

Full route: Brandon Way, Chapeltown Road, Newton Road, Harehills Lane, Avenue Hill, Harehills Avenue, Chapeltown Road, Sheepscar Street South, Regent Street, Eastgate, The Headrow, Cookridge Street

Return route: Portland Crescent, Portland Gate, Cookridge Street, Clay Pit Lane and Chapeltown Road.

Buses may be delayed during the parade but will not be diverted.