Inderjeet Singh | Surrey, Canada | Asia Samachar | 8 May 2015
In his latest entry for his column Surrey-pur Spin, Inderjeet Singh looks at the marvel of the Canada city’s massive Vaisakhi celebration. It attracts some 260,000 people, pumps in C$20m to the local state’s economy. Now, that’s one big party!
Although I have my personal opinions on Nagar Kirtans, its place within the Gurmat, and how Vaisakhi should be celebrated, allow me to share with the readers of Asia Samachar how the Sikh community celebrated Vaisakhi this year in Surreypur, Canada.
It commemorates one of the most important days of the Sikh calendar, Vaisakhi – the creation of the Khalsa. Surreypur celebrated this significant event with the customary Akhandh Paath (complete reading of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib), Nishan Sahib seva (renewing of the Khalsa flag), as well as the lively and celebratory Nagar Kirtan (Khalsa Day parade) on Saturday, April 18th.
This parade has been held in Surreypur for the past 16 years, bringing together 260,000 people in the largest Khalsa Day parade held outside India. It is estimated that this Nagar Kirtan contributes more than C$20 million to the B.C. economy every year (City of Surrey estimates). It is a combination of religious and culturally rich events, including gatka (Sikh marshal art), decorative floats, food and drinks, compliments of the local residents and businesses, which graciously keep the flow of warm cha (Punjabi tea), samosas (vegetable dumpling) and other delicious eats coming throughout the day.
A little background. Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar has been organizing this Nagar Kirtan since 1999. It has grown from a 60,000 people event to a 260,000 one (official RCMP estimated turnout for 2014). Hence, organizing an event which attract a quarter million people is no small feat. It involves a whole range of considerations from security, health-related issues, safety concerns, securing permits for food distribution and approvals for road closures. And there is the cleaning up that takes place right after the event as the Nagar Kirtan route is opened to traffic by 6pm on the same day.
This is easily the City of Surrey’s largest and most successful tourist event. The entire community, not just Sikhs, joins in to commemorate this joyous occasion. To give the readers an idea of the scale of this Nagar Kirtan, there approximately 145 stall on both sides of the road in a stretch of 1.5 – 2 kilometers. These stall are not only manned by Sikhs, but by the local community like banks, supermarkets, the Surrey food bank and numerous radio stations, who all come out to participate and add to festivities. It is in this general stretch of road that accommodates the quarter million people mentioned earlier. This is one big, loud and merry street party!
This years Nagar Kirtan also featured the Sikh Cadets, members of the newly minted 3300 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps (RCACC) which is sponsored by the Surrey-based “Friends of Sikh Cadets Society” to provide a dynamic program for youth. Locally known as the Sikh Cadets, the 3300 RCACC, open to all aged between 12 and 18, is Canada’s first army cadet program sponsored by the Sikh community. It was formally inaugurated last year and today is the fastest growing cadet unit in British Columbia.
In some cultures, religious festivities are celebrated by having an open-house, where non-friends are invited to celebrate, add to festivities and consume their ethnic cuisines. The Nagar Kirtan in Surreypur is an open-street celebration, which welcomes the entire Surreypur community and treats it to an experience to remember.
Inderjeet Singh is a Malaysian Apna, now residing in Surrey, Canada. He has always been active in Sikhi-related activities. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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FROM THE SAME AUTHOR:
Surreypur – Where everybody knows your name! (Asia Samachar, 11 April 2015)
Sikh lady runs for Surrey mayorship (Asia Samachar, 13 Nov 2014)