I AM so excited the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi is back this week after two years of Covid.
Vaisakhi, also called Baisakhi, falls on Thursday (14). It is often mistaken as the Sikh New Year, but in actual fact, is a celebration of the founding of the Sikh community, the Khalsa, in 1699. It was originally a harvest festival in the Punjab, but has grown to become Sikhism’s most important festival.
The last Vaisakhi celebration we attended was in 2019. After that, the pandemic meant in-person celebrations did not take place.
I have been so anxious since the New Year, wondering if the nagar kirtan (street procession) will resume. So when I saw a poster announcing its return, I was happy. When I mentioned it to my parents, my father, also known as the ‘Skipping Sikh’, said, “Finally, we can all celebrate together with the community”.
These past two years have been really tough for me. I lost all work in the lockdown and it put a real strain on my mental health.
Being at home with my parents, much as I love them, was hard. My parents love going the gurdwara and celebrating Vaisakhi – it’s a big event for us. During lockdown, I felt depressed and lost. Our place of worship and the community are important to me, and I found it hard to get through the lockdown. However, I am thrilled that I can put the past two years behind me and look forward to celebrating Vaisakhi.
What does Vaisakhi look like for Sikhs and how do we celebrate?
Every morning we pray and on this day, we try to do an extra prayer together as a family – this is called sukhmani Sahib, a prayer of peace.
We then go about our normal day. In the evening, we will go to the gurdwara which is decorated for the occasion in blue and orange. Every weekend there are nagar kirtans – peaceful processions on the streets. We walk for five or six hours in town centres and the roads are normally cleaned beforehand and blocked off for the day.
There are also stalls where people give out food, snacks and drinks free of charge. These are for everyone who attend, as well as for those from outside the community.
The festival is a way to welcome anyone who would like to join in and to understand more about why we celebrate.
It is a vibrant day and it’s wonderful to be surrounded by the community again with no worries about social distancing. We can hug each other again and that’s the one thing I am really looking forward to.
Ramadan and Easter are both in April and it’s lovely to be able to have the freedom to celebrate again.
As a British Sikh woman living in diverse Britain I want to use my voice to highlight Vaisakhi, an important festival that half a million Sikhs in the UK will celebrate.
It’s a big deal for us and we spend days getting ready for the nagar kirtans. Food donations are also made to the homeless, so it’s a time of giving, too.
I can’t wait to sing religious hyms, serve langar and pray together with the community again. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that things are finally getting back to normal.