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Vaisakhi voices in Surrey: What does Vaisakhi mean to you?

‘Vaisakhi is fundamentally about community, progress and celebration’
Wrestler “Thunder from Jalandhar” (aka Parm Singh Athwal).

Prior to Surrey’s large Vaisakhi parade this Saturday (April 20), we asked some people in the community: What does Vaisakhi mean to you?

Moninder Bual, spokesperson for the Surrey Vaisakhi parade:

“Khalsa Sajna Divas is a time to both reflect on the mission of the Khalsa and prepare future paths which will lead to the upliftment of the downtrodden and oppressed peoples of the world. On this day when families and friends gather representing and entire Nagar (community), we get to share in our passion for promoting equality, justice and freedom for all…and just as importantly, to break barriers that seek to divide us. It is a day of celebration where all are welcome to partake and a chance to learn in an atmosphere that promotes inclusion, offers fun and enjoyment, and partners with the City of Surrey to put on an event that the entire world watches.”

Kuljeet Kaila, journalist:

“Vaisakhi to me is a time for the Sikh community to shine and showcase some of its wonderful traits and practices such as serving their community. Sure, local temples are open and giving all year long and around the world. But on Vaisakhi, the parade is a time for all cultures to come together, learn about each other’s faiths, enjoy food, dress up in traditional clothing, give gifts and share the pride of being Canadian. Since I was a kid Vaisakhi was an open event to all and it was always great to see Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike celebrating and sharing. Over the years the amount of seva (serving others) shown at these events is overwhelming and inspiring. I’ve been lucky to have covered it as a journalist over the years and seen it continue to grow. Giving to those that need our help is really helping keep us grounded, grateful and happy and that is at the core of the Sikh faith – one we can all be proud of.”

Anita Huberman, Surrey Board of Trade:

“Vaisakhi is fundamentally about community, progress and celebration, creating community centres, and establishing shared traditions in Surrey. Vaisakhi is a celebration of all that is good in Surrey – celebrating Surrey’s growth!”

Sarj S. Sabharwal,

“In a way Vaisakhi is a time to celebrate beginnings. The beginning of the traditional harvest season (in India) and also the commemorative beginning of the Sikh Identity, the Khalsa (or pure ones). These are the essential reasons we celebrate this time. But for myself, Vaisakhi has also meant something additional, it has been a time to be able to give back to the community. A time to commit to Seva (selfless volunteerism). As a child, my father was very active in the original Surrey (actually in Delta near 116th) Gurdwara. When the Gurdwara moved to the current 72nd and 120th location, my father took the Seva (selfless volunteerism) of changing the flag pole covering (we call the flagpole the nishan sahib). He did this for years, along with my mother who made the covering from fabric that was donated by her and others. The point being that I was raised in house that believed that Vaisakhi was a time of year that meant giving back to the community with a spirit of volunteerism. Whether that be handing out food at the Nagar Kirtan (the parade) or washing dishes at the Gurdwara or even educating non-sikhs as to the origins and importance of Vaisakhi, it was important in someway or other to give back.

“It’s with this spirit that we continue what our parents taught us. It has always been a unifying and proud time for our family. Alongside our food stall that we host every year, we have also made it our mission to elevate the event though marketing campaigns to be promote it as one of inclusivity to all communities and now even more recently taken on a goal to help making the event a sustainable and environmentally aware one. A goal in which we would like to see the event be foam free (and hopefully zero waste) in a few years ( It is this spirit of Seva and community that is what makes Vaisakhi an extra special time for me. I would love to wish everyone a Happy Vaisakhi, as well as Happy Easter!”

Alex Sangha, Sher Vancouver:

“Vaisakhi to me marks the Sikh community gathering from all corners to celebrate inclusiveness and welcoming everyone especially those who are victims of discrimination and marginalization. We are one people and one humanity. In a world where gay people can be brutally stoned to death and killed it is important for groups like Sher Vancouver to continue our advocacy and outreach and participate in the Vaisakhi parade. The Sikh community shines brightly in welcoming us and all peoples when so much of the world is divided and suffering along social, cultural, racial, and religious lines. I hope our inclusive Vaisakhi sets a precedent and is a big step towards more peace, harmony, and love for all the world’s peoples.”

Wrestler “Thunder from Jalandhar” (aka Parm Singh Athwal):

“To me Vaisakhi is a time to celebrate our faith, the Sikh religion. It’s where we spend time with our friends and family, which is tough in this day and age. The parade, which is called the ‘Nagar kirtan,’ brings people from the community together and other cultures, too, and it’s full of beautiful colours and great food. I am proud to be a Sikh so this is the time when we get to celebrate who we are and remember our gurus that made it possible for us to become proud Sikhs.”

The band En Karma:

“Vaisakhi celebrates the birth of Khalsa and the start of the harvest season, so a day of worship and celebration. For us, as a Punjabi band, it’s always been such a great honour to perform on this auspicious occasion as it’s so close to our hearts. Having lived in the UK and Canada we are always so amazed at the Sikh community celebrates, not just among themselves but with all other cultures. The crowds are diverse, spreading love and positivity. Vaisakhi to us is a time to recognize not just one religion but the entire human race coming together. ‘We are all one’ is in line with what Sikh gurus spoke about.”

Balpreet Singh Boparai, legal counsel, World Sikh Organization of Canada:

“Vaisakhi is about celebrating the Sikh values of equality, service and devotion. Growing up, Vaisakhi and the Nagar Kirtan were the highlight of my year. It was a time when I could celebrate my faith and identity with thousands of other Sikhs – a rare opportunity, as I grew up in an area that had very few Sikhs. The sense of community and celebration was something that I deeply appreciated. As the Sikh community in Canada has grown, so has the celebration of Vaisakhi. April is now Sikh Heritage month in Canada and Sikhs take the opportunity to share their faith, history and contribution to this country with their neighbours. Today, my three children look forward to the Nagar Kirtan with as much joy and excitement as I did in my childhood and now have an entire month to celebrate.”

Premier John Horgan (in a statement):

“People in B.C. and around the world are coming together to celebrate Vaisakhi, one of the holiest holidays in the Sikh faith. For over a century, B.C. has been shaped by the Sikh people who have helped build this province. Today, B.C. is home to one of the largest Sikh populations outside India. Vibrant community events and Khalsa Day parades around the province honour the creation of the Khalsa and the values of inclusion, generosity, peace, equality and justice.… Vaisakhi celebrations are an opportunity for everyone to come together, experience the generosity of the Sikh community and share in delicious food, great entertainment and colourful festivities.… On behalf of the Government of British Columbia, to everyone who is celebrating: Happy Vaisakhi! Vaisakhi Diyan Lakh Lakh Vadhaiyan!”

Alex Sangha (left) and friend at a previous Vaisakhi parade.

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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