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Sikh festival Vaisakhi starts in Gravesend

The Sikh festival of Vaisakhi started in Gravesend today with dancing, prayers and the raising of a ceremonial flag. 

The Sikh community has previously said everyone is invited to enjoy singing, martial arts, Indian food and a colourful procession in a bid to unite communities during the annual celebrations this weekend.

Historically, Vaisakhi marks the spring harvest for farmers and communities in Punjab in northern India, from where most of the Sikhs in Gravesham originate.

Energetic youngsters danced in the Community Square. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
Energetic youngsters danced in the Community Square. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council

It also celebrates Vaisakhi Day in 1699 when the 10th guru of the Sikhs, Gobind Singh Ji, established the Khalsa Panth, the community of committed Sikhs, and created the faith as it is practised today.

Gurvinder Sandher, chief executive of Kent Equality Cohesion Council, said: “The Vaisakhi celebrations in Gravesham are some of the biggest in the country.

Festivities kicked off in Community Square. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
Festivities kicked off in Community Square. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
Last year's Vaisakhi celebrations. Picture: Ruth Cuerden
Last year's Vaisakhi celebrations. Picture: Ruth Cuerden

“Vaisakhi is a wonderful example of how faith can bring diverse communities together.”

"With recent atrocities still fresh in our minds Vaisakhi is a wonderful example of how faith can bring diverse communities together to celebrate as one all that binds us together as a community in Gravesham.”

The opening ceremony included prayer. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
The opening ceremony included prayer. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
A previous Vaisakhi festival. Picture: Steve Crispe
A previous Vaisakhi festival. Picture: Steve Crispe

Festivities began today with Vaisakhi on the Square, in Community Square in front of the Civic Centre, between 11am and 1pm.

The Sikh flag was raised before prayers and a short programme of entertainment.

Families have been enjoying the celebrations in the sunny. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
Families have been enjoying the celebrations in the sunny. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council

Volunteers then handed out free vegetarian Indian food.

The centre piece of the celebrations will be the brightly coloured Nagar Kirtan procession on Saturday, which is likely to attracts thousands of participants and observers.

Dancers entertained the crowds this morning. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
Dancers entertained the crowds this morning. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council

Nagar means town and kirtan means the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book.

The procession will start at the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara at midday and pass through the town centre, this year on a slightly different route along Saddington Street, The Grove, Milton Road, King Street, Garrick Street, Darnley Road, Arthur Street, Wrotham Road, Zion Place, Windmill Street, Clarence Place, Parrock Road and Wellington Street.

A youngster watches the celebrations. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
A youngster watches the celebrations. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council

The procession is expected to return at about 2.30pm.

The day will finish with an open air community celebration on the Guru Nanak Sports Field in Trinity Road with a funfair, Sikh martial arts, interactive activities for children, information stands, food stalls and a stage programme where religious songs will be performed by internationally renowned artist Sukshinder Shinda.

The flag was raised in Community Square to mark the start of Vaisakhi. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
The flag was raised in Community Square to mark the start of Vaisakhi. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council

The main religious service to celebrate Vaisakhi will be held inside the Gurdwara on Sunday morning.

Davinder Singh Bains (Shinde A1), 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 attend the festivities.

The Gurdwara during a previous Vaisakhi festival. Picture: Nick Johnson
The Gurdwara during a previous Vaisakhi festival. Picture: Nick Johnson

"The Sikh community has a long and proud history here in Gravesham and we always welcome and appreciate the support of all our partners and the local community in making Vaisakhi such a colourful and inclusive spectacle for all to enjoy.”


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