Vaisakhi holds deep meaning for Nanaimo’s Sikh community

NANAIMO – Ancient harvest festival holds deep cultural and social importance for Sikhs around the world.

Throughout much of April, Sikhs in Nanaimo have joined the followers of their religion around the world in celebrating Vaisakhi, a holy day that traces its origins to ancient India.

Vaisakhi, a harvest festival celebrated in India for thousands of years, took on its religious significance in 1699 and is the most important holy day in the Sikh religious calendar. Officially the Khalsa order was created on Vaisakhi Day, March 30, 1699.

“Vaisakhi is the birthday of Khalsa,” said Shiv Sharma, community spokesman. “It was Siri Guru Gobind Singh ji, the 10th Guru of Sikhism, he formed Kalhsa in 1699.”

The literal translation for “Khalsa” from Punjabi to English is “pure,” but also refers to the collective body of all initiated Sikhs or those who attained Khalsa through baptism. A man who has been initiated into the Khalsa adds the title Singh, which means “Lion” to his name and a woman receives the title Kaur, “Princess.”

Vaisakhi also commemorates the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre, also known as the Massacre of Amritsar, April 13, 1919, when British troops opened fire on a crowd of unarmed Indians who had gathered for a Vaisakhi celebration. Hundreds were killed and hundreds more injured. The incident triggered Mahatma Gandhi’s commitment to Indian nationalism and independence from British rule.

“We have a big parade this Saturday (April 16) in Vancouver and the second one is on the 23rd in Surrey,” Sharma said.

About 300,000 Sikhs will attend those festivities, which includes the giving of food and gifts to the crowds.

Sikhs in Nanaimo observed Vaisakhi at the Gurdwara Sahib Miri Piri Darbar temple at 305 Prideaux St. Friday and Saturday, which included meditation and recital of the Sikh holy scriptures.

“Sunday we are having a big get-together with the people coming here and free food and all that sort of thing,” Sharma said.

Everyone is welcome to Vaisakhi festivals and observances.

“Everybody can come, plus there is no need to donate. You can have free food and enjoy yourselves,” he said. “You can come upstairs and listen to the reciting, plus we have projectors with English translations so that everybody can understand.”

Gurdwara Nanaimo, the Sikh Temple at 328 Third St., will hold Vaisakhi services Friday to Sunday (April 22-24) for Sikhs not attending festivities in Surrey.

Sharma will speak about Vaisakhi, on his radio program Apna Sur Sangeet (Our Tune and Music), which airs 2-4 p.m.

Nanaimo News Bulletin