Members of Leicester’s Sikh community have shared their excitement ahead of this year’s Vaisakhi festival parade, which will take place in the city for the first time since 2019.
Thousand of Sikhs are expected to march through the city centre on May 1, to mark the Vaisakhi festival, which celebrates the core values of their religion.
Starting at 11am from Leicester’s Holy Bones Road, it is the first time that the parade is set to take place in the city in two years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Vaisakhi event is celebrated to mark the onset of Spring in India, within the Sikh religion. The time of Vaisakhi usually signifies the end of the harvest season, and is an occasion of tremendous joy and festivity for farmers.
It was first recognised in 1699 when Guru Gobind Singh baptised 5 men for their dedication to the religion.
Speaking to Pukaar News, 18-year-old Prabhpreet Minhas, said that it was exciting for people to be able to get together to celebrate the event, following a two-year hiatus.
“Having Vaisakhi after two years of being in a pandemic is so exciting, because we’re finally able to get together as a group – as a collective and spread our joy the same as we used to be able to before, and we can reflect on our cultural and religious ideals as a collective rather than sitting at home individually”, she said.
“The young people are so excited because they can finally get back to the Gurdwara and we can help out and feel that we’re making a difference, not only religiously but in Leicester as well”, she added.
7-15,000 people are expected to attend the popular parade, from all across the Midlands.
The parade will follow a set route from the Holy Bones temple near St Nicolas Circle, along the High Street then up Gallowtree Gate and Granby Street, before crossing the inner ring road near Leicester Station into Highfields, ending in East Park Road near Spinney Hill Park.
Harminder Singh Jagdev, representative for the Gurudwara Council, Leicestershire, said that apart from the cultural and religious significance of the event, he was looking forward to seeing friends and relatives coming together in large numbers after a two-year break.
“I think this year it’s going to be quite exciting for everyone”, he said.
“The energy’s going to be really, really good on the day because people have been stuck in their homes.
“The main thing is the religious significance and the creation of the Khalsa”, he added. “So it’s a time for reflection in ourselves, are we fulfilling those ideals that our gurus have set out for us – that’s a really, really important part of this festival.”
“I think this Vaisakhi will be particularly poignant for people in the community because we’ve had two years of lockdown and it will be such a wonderful occasion to be coming together with the Sikh congregation from the city and beyond, and to share this wonderful festival with the diverse communities of Leicester”, said Kartar Singh, Chair of the UK Sikh Healthcare Chaplaincy.
“Also I think it’s about reflecting on the message of Vaisakhi and what it means to us today.
“We have had the war in Ukraine which is ongoing, the crisis around the cost of living, and I think for many Sikhs when we think about Vaisakhi and we think about the creation of the Khalsa, the question asks what it the responsibility of the Khalsa today and I think many Sikhs in the community will be thinking about what is their responsibility to make the world a better place”.
Vaisakhi has been celebrated in Northern India for many centuries, with the official date for this year falling on April 14.