By Tanya Gupta & Minreet Kaur | BRITAIN |
Celebrations to mark one of the most important dates in the Sikh calendar have been cancelled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Vaisakhi, which this year falls on Monday, commemorates the creation of the Khalsa, a collective body of initiated Sikhs.
In past years, thousands have gathered in the towns and cities that are home to England’s largest Sikh communities.
But now gurdwaras have found ways to take Vaisakhi into people’s homes.
Two of the biggest events that would have been held later this month were in London’s Trafalgar Square, where more than 30,000 have gathered in past years, and Birmingham’s Handsworth Park, where up to 100,000 people were expected.
Celebrations in Leicester, Southall and Gravesend have also been brought to a halt.
In London, cultural advisor to the mayor, Manraj Singh Othi, said while Vaisakhi had brought together Londoners, Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike, public safety came first.
Those feelings were echoed by the Council of Sikh Gurdwaras in Birmingham – and in Southall, west London, gurdwara general secretary Navraj Singh added: “No event in the Sikh calendar should endanger lives.”
At any other time, celebrations would have included colourful street processions, or nagar kirtans, and free food, or langar, as well as cultural activities including arts, crafts, entertainment and martial arts.
But this year, religious worship has moved online and the Sikh practice of offering food was set to be taken out to the community, as people self-isolated and stayed at home.
In Leicester, that initiative has been backed by the Leicestershire Police Sikh Association, which has been helping to cook and deliver meals, distributing between 300 and 400 meals to people each day.
In Gravesend, Kent, the gurdwara had expected about 10,000 people to celebrate Vaisakhi.
Newly-elected president Manpreet Singh Dhaliwal said, along with the virtual prayers and food deliveries, the gurdwara had been taking langar to NHS workers in several hospitals nearby.
Read the full story, ‘Coronavirus: UK’s Sikh Vaisakhi festivals cancelled amid pandemic’, (BBC News, 13 April 2020), here.
(Asia Samachar, 24 June 2020)