BY INDIRA PRAHST
MORE than 400,000 people flocked to last Saturday’s Khalsa Day Parade in Surrey organized by the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar – the largest Vaisakhi parade outside of India.
The gray skies and rain did not water down the robust celebrations; in fact, the rain brought people together in different ways when crowds huddled under tents while sipping chai and eating fresh pakoras. From the perspective of attendance, forging bonds with different communities and celebrating the birth of the Khalsa, it was a resounding success.
People of all cultures and religions joined in the occasion and according to President Dewinder Singh Grewal, remembering the creation of the Khalsa in 1699 is important “because it is the basis of what the Sikh faith is formed on and to also fight inequality around the world.”
This year’s procession featured 20 floats representing Sikh schools, Khalsa School, the Keertan kart, Gatka float, Shaheed Mewa Singh, other cultural associations, and humanitarian organizations. Kids Play had a very large float this year and a young volunteer wore the Kids Play mascot outfit which drew many young kids to their float. The most important float in the procession according to gurdwara spokesperson Moninder Singh, is the one that carries the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Holy Scripture) which was beautifully decorated and adorned with love and grace for Khalsa Day.
The expression on people’s faces reflected profound joy in doing seva by giving out food that they had especially prepared for this jubilant occasion. The spirit of Vaisakhi and celebration of the birth of the Khalsa were felt throughout the day, with families enjoying the food and watching the floats or listening to speeches.
On the main stage a raft of speakers spoke on diverse topics ranging from the birth of the Khalsa to human rights issues and Khalistan. What was new this year was a newly decorated, Khalistan float, which was shaped like a military tank under the banner of a newly formed group “Sikh Liberation Front,” with historical representations of 1984. This year, education about Sikh history was at the forefront including the newly erected Operation Blue Star tent, next to Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar.
Some of the Sikh youth and elders told me that the floats at the Khalsa Day Parade raise awareness about Punjab, because it is where Sikhism originated. Satinderpal Singh Gill, a senior member of the gurdwara, said to me: “If we take out the pictures, Sikhs may forget about 1984, but when we see the pictures they may learn about why Sikhs sacrificed their lives, it is an important reminder of Sikh history.”
People at the Khalsa Day Parade felt it was a great event, and both the past president, Gian Singh Gill, and the current president noted that they were content to see such large numbers from diverse faiths celebrate and remember the birth of the Sikh faith which Guru Nanak Ji started and the creation of the Khalsa Panth by Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
I remember Gurdwara President Grewal’s words last year to me that the Khalsa Day “is a very special day for us at the gurdwara where we have more than 150 people that get baptized on that day.” This year, among those taking Amrit was Satinderpal Singh Gill’s young grandson. Gill said: “I am happy with my achievement. My eight-year-old grandson asked, ‘Can I have Amrit?’” He did on the morning of the Khalsa Parade. Gill said that he hopes more Sikh youth will become Amritdhari, follow the Panth and remain brave. He added: “Guru Gobind Singh Ji, when he created the Khalsa, he did so also for brave people who believed in one God, never feared death and would always be willing to fight for rights.”
More photos of the Khalsa Day Parade by Indira Prahst, Sukhwant Singh Dhillon and Natasha Combow on this website.