This past April 22 400,000 people from many places attended the annual 2017 Vaisakhi Day Parade. Vaisakhi is a celebration of the birth of Khalsa. This event is open to everyone, and is a day where people come together as a community. The parade features cultural floats, community performers, live music and free food.
Many of us might attend the parade for the experience and that’s totally fine but I believe that when you go to the celebration you should be educated about what Vaisakhi means and what it did for Sikhs.
Vaisakhi is the festival that celebrates the founding of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa. It is celebrated on April 13 each year, however both the Vancouver and Surrey event takes place on different days. On April 13 1699 Guru (god) Gobind Singh asked Sikhs (any human who faithfully believes in one Immortal being) from all over India to come to the city of Anandpur Sahib. At the gathering Guru Gobind Singh asked Sikhs to support their faith and preserve the Sikh religion. Guru Gobind Singh then lifted his sword and asked that anyone prepared to give his life for his faith to come forward. After his command there was big silence, but Guru Gobind Singh didn’t stop repeating his demand. Then one brave Sikh step out of the crowd and followed the Guru into a tent. Then shortly after, the Guru came out of the tent alone with his sword covered with blood, and asked for another volunteer. Another brave soul came forward again followed the Guru into the tent. Guru Gobind Singh came out of the tent alone with his sword again covered in blood. This was repeated until five Sikhs had stepped forward to offer their heads to the Guru and Sikh religion. Finally, the Guru came out of the tent with the five men dressed in royal blue. Guru Gobind Singh called these five Sikhs the Panj Pyare; this means the Five Beloved Ones. The Guru and his wife baptized the Panj Pyare. Then the Guru knelt before the Panj Pyare and asked them to baptize him as well. The Panj Pyare were the first members of Khalsa, and the new Sikh community. Then the Guru gave all members of Khalsa five symbols of purity and courage. These were the five K’s. Guru Gobind Singh gave all Khalsa men the surname Singh, which means lion; this was to represent their bravery. All women of Khalsa were given the surname Kaur which means princess; this was to emphasize dignity. Guru Gobind Singh gave all Sikhs the opportunity to live their lives with courage, sacrifice, and equality. These Sikhs were to live their lives to the service of others. This is how Khalsa came to be.
The act of giving out free food is called seva, seva the act of selfless service. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was the first Guru to promoted seva in gurdwaras (temples). Langar is a term used in the Sikh religion for the open kitchen where food is served in a gurdwara to all the visitors, without distinction of faith, religion or background, for free. Langar was an idea Guru Nanak adopted, and it upholds the principle of equality between everyone regardless of colour, age, caste, religion, age, gender or social status. Langer is not only served in gurdwaras but can be serviced anywhere. At the Vaisakhi parade local business and other residents open up their own kitchens to people in attendance. They make langar and do seva. They idea langer was ultimately an act that make everyone equal, if you were wealth you ate langer, if you were struggling to make ends meet you ate langer. Everyone was served the same food.
I personally think that in our day and age some people abuse the power of having langer. Some go the Vaisakhi parade just to eat but don’t realize what it means. But then again Guru Nanak wanted to open up kitchens to everyone regardless of their intentions. When you to Vaisakhi parade I encourage you to eat the food but be thankful of the langar being serviced and the seva being done.
Ultimately Vaisakhi is a day where people celebrate the birth of Khalsa.
I encourage everyone to go the next Vaisakhi parade because it is a great experience. I also encourage everyone to do there own seva. It doesn’t have to be at the parade or at a gurdwara; it can be anywhere.