British Asia News Network
Aastha K Singhania
Southall London, April 09: Sunday April 07 saw thousands of people come about on the streets of Southall to celebrate the most important Sikh festival, Vaisakhi. A week earlier than its date, people from all over London took part in the Nagar Kirtan, a procession organised by the residents where a copy of the Guru Grant Sahib is also carried in reverence and people march with it, singing hymns from various religious Sikh texts. It started at about 10 am from Park Avenue Gurdwara, going down King Street (Past Sikh Missionary Society), across Havelock Road, turning left onto Norwood Road (by Guru Nanak DarbarGurdwara and Clifton Road Guruwara), and proceeding onto Norwood Hall. The total route covered by the procession was almost 3.5 miles, finishing at almost 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
The dull, murky skies and the rain failed to dampen the spirit of people who came out to celebrate the festivities of Vaisakhi. The festival has its significance in many ways. This day marks the beginning of the Sikh order when the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed for not converting to Islam under the orders of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. This led to the coronation of their tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh when he laid the foundation of the PanthKhalsa, baptising Sikh warriors to defend religious freedom. Another significance of this festival is marking the ripening of the rabi harvest and in turn, marking the Punjab New Year.
The year 2019, specially echoes the centenary of the tragic Jallianwala Bagh massacre when General Dyer from the British troops ordered open firing on peaceful protestors meeting at the Jallianwala Bagh on April 13th, 1919. Mr. Harsev Bains, the National Vice-President of the Jallianwala Bagh Committee of Indian Workers Association GB, with his colleagues was reminding everyone of the day when we lost so many people and how they have been demanding a formal apology by the British Prime Minister. He says, “We raised the demand in 2013 and we have written an open letter and are continuously trying to get the message across to the British Prime Minister to announce a formal apology in the Parliament. We understand the current situation of dealing with problems like Brexit and also know that this would take time but we are determined to get this our way”.
More than 40,000 people on the streets made the procession look beautiful. Where people were remembering a tragic incident that happened 100 years ago, they were also celebrating the new coming by donning colourful Indian outfits and eating the most scrumptious food being given to anyone and everyone, also known as ‘seva’ which refers to selfless service to promote humility which is one of the most basic teachings in Sikhism. Rajinder from Southall reiterated, “There is no better gift than seva and I am here till I have fed the last person to stand at my door step.” The queues were long and I got into one too to help myself to a hot cup of masala chai (tea).
From the distance I could see the beautiful blue coloured darbar carrying the Guru Granth Sahib. A few steps in, and I came across one of the main sevadaars Pawan Deep Singh Soho who said, “The number of people coming out every year keeps growing and I am happy to see them joining the procession and understanding why we celebrate the festival. This is not only for Sikhs but for everyone who wants to join in.” When asked for his comment on the 1919 massacre, he beautifully requests everyone to forget all grudges and celebrate Sikhism as a faith. Balwinder Singh from Southall gets a little emotional in remembering his country, “India is the best and the celebrations will always be different. However, we make sure we keep the spirit alive and try to take Punjab with us wherever we go”.
The Met Police were on guard through the procession and a lot of planning seems to have gone in keeping the order on the day. It is nice to see people come out with their children so the next generation appreciates the sacrifices our predecessors made to keep the religion alive. On this thought, we want to wish you all a very happy Vaisakhi and hope you continue to enjoy the festivities.