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Spectacular Sikh Vaisakhi festival set to unite Gravesend in a sea of noise and colour

By Lizzie Massey

Thousands of people are expected to converge on Gravesend this weekend for the annual Sikh Vaisakhi festival.

Another massive street party and a host of religious ceremonies will light up the town, which has celebrated Vaisakhi every year since 1999.

Equalities officer and police commissioner candidate Gurvinder Sandher was at Community Square on Thursday morning to help mark the festival's arrival in Gravesend with a well attended flag raising ceremony.

Some of Gravesend's Sikh community prepare for the flag raising.
Some of Gravesend's Sikh community prepare for the flag raising.

Mr Sandher is involved with planning and organising the event every year and is hoping it will once again bring people together.

"The celebration is not just for the Sikh community in Gravesham, it is a celebration for all the communities in Kent," he said.

"What you will find over the weekend is not only the Sikh community but other people from different faiths coming along from around to join in the celebrations, and that is something we are really proud of.

A traditional prayer was observed before the flag was raised.
A traditional prayer was observed before the flag was raised.

"We look forward to welcoming the communities of Kent and the borough to celebrate Vaisakhi with us."

Last year Prime Minister David Cameron was among those who visited the town to enjoy the celebrations and this week a Secretary of State popped into the Gurdwara ahead of the massive street party and religious ceremonies.

MP Amber Rudd, head of energy and climate change, was supporting another police commissioner candidate, Matthew Scott, who was canvassing in New Road.

David and Samantha Cameron attended last year's celebrations.
David and Samantha Cameron attended last year's celebrations.

She took the opportunity to head down to the temple and hear all about its role within the community and the plans for the weekend.

Historically, Vaisakhi marks the spring harvest in Punjab in Northern India – where most Sikhs in Gravesham can trace their roots back to.

In 1699, on Vaisakhi Day the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, established the Khalsa Panth (the community of committed Sikhs) and created the faith as it is practised today.

Plenty of entertainment is promised.
Plenty of entertainment is promised.

Each April, Gravesend comes alive with impressive displays.

The Nagar Kirtan procession is due to start from the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara at noon on Saturday and return at about 2.30pm.

Various streets in the town will be closed. People are advised to park outside the town.

Sikh Vaisakhi festival.
Sikh Vaisakhi festival.

The passenger ferry from Tilbury has vessels travelling back and forth all day for people coming over from Essex.

After the parade, there will be an open-air community celebration on the Guru Nanak Sports Field which will include a funfair, Sikh martial arts, interactive activities for children, information stands, food stalls and a stage programme where religious songs will be performed by a host of international acts including Lehmber Hussainpuri, Nirmal Sidhu, Jordan Sandhu and Sharmilla.

The main religious service in the Gurdwara to celebrate Vaisakhi is on Sunday morning.

There were plenty of drinks and nibbles to satisfy the crowds.
There were plenty of drinks and nibbles to satisfy the crowds.

Davinder Singh Bains (Shinde A1), the president of the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, said: “On behalf of the management committee I would like to invite all the residents of Gravesham to come and attend the festivities.

“The Sikh community has a long and proud history here in Gravesham and the celebrations for Vaisakhi have evolved from just being a Sikh celebration to one involving all communities regardless of faith.”

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