Published: 15:42, 13 April 2017
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.”