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READING and WOKINGHAM’S SIKH COMMUNITY CELEBRATE VAISAKHI 2016
Reading and Wokingham’s Sikh community celebrate Vaisakhi – The birth of the Khalsa
Marking the birth of the Khalsa (the pure ones), Vaisakhi is the most important date in the Sikh calendar that falls on 14th of April every year. Vaisakhi is celebrated in all major cities and towns across Britain over the last 40 years. For past 10 years, the Sikh community from Reading and Wokingham region celebrate this event with a Nagar Kirtan (religious procession) which is usually attended by up to 2000 people. This year Vaisakhi will be celebrated on Sunday 1st May 2016. This event is organised jointly by the two Gurdwara’s in Reading and Wokingham. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the free celebrations and join in with the Nagar Kirtan which will begin with prayers and messages for peace. Shabad Kirtan (religious hymns) will be lead by the ‘Panj Pyare’ (Five Sikhs) from Reading Gurdwara (Sikh temple).
The procession will begin from Gurdwara in Cumberland Road at 10.30am and will make its way to the Gurdwara in London Road. Free vegetarian food will then be served during the afternoon; which all are welcome to partake in.
The Nagar Kirtan provides a great opportunity for the Sikh Community to support local charities by raising awareness and greatly needed funds. In the past, this event has supported charities like Berkshire Robot Appeal, The Fire Fighters charity, Help for Heroes, Mayors Charity, Readibus and Reading Mencap. This year the Sikh community will be working to raise funds for “Daisy’s Dream” (http://www.daisysdream.org.uk). Daisy’s Dream supports children and their families who have been affected by the life threatening illness or bereavement of someone close to them.
Vaisakhi promotes friendship, mutual understanding and respect, a message that has particular relevant in this day and age. All are welcome to join this festival, which underlines the core Sikh values of equality, communal harmony and in particular religious tolerance.
Vaisakhi is supported by Thames Valley Police, Reading Borough Council, Wokingham Council and Royal Berkshire Fire Brigade.
Vaisakhi 1st May 2016 – Programme
10.30 am – Start of Procession from Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Reading in Cumberland Road.
01.30 pm – Arrive at Ramgarhia Sabha Reading (RSR) in London Road.
02.30 pm – Return of Procession to Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Reading in Cumberland Road.
Notes to Editors
- What is Vaisakhi?
Vaisakhi, the birth of Khalsa, is the holiest day of the calendar for over 30 million Sikhs worldwide. It is celebrated on 14 April each year. On this day in 1699, Sikhism was born as a collective faith. Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Master of the Sikhs, initiated the Sikhs as the Khalsa by baptising five Sikhs (Panj Pyaras) or the pure and sincere. He bound the Sikhs to a strict code of conduct, with unshorn hair, beard and turban, which gave the Sikhs a distinct identity. Prior to 1699, Vaisakhi was celebrated as a harvest festival across north India.
For Sikhs, Vaisakhi is celebrated as they day of the creation of the Khalsa. Culturally, much of India celebrates Vaisakhi as a harvest festival, something incorrectly associated with the Sikh celebration. Vaisakhi is often also referred to as the Sikh New Year, something which is also untrue.
- How do Sikh’s celebrate Vaisakhi?
Vaisakhi is religious as well as a social celebration, generally Vaisakhi celebration is initiated two days prior to the big day itself, when continues reading of the Holy Scriptures, Guru Granth Sahib Ji, is undertaken. Guru Granth Sahib Ji is read from start to finish, non-stop, and takes 48 hours to perform by the members of the community. On completion, there is big coming together of the community to listen and participate in singing of divine hymns and sharing of food. The Nishan Sahib (Flagpole with Sikh emblem outside all Sikh places of worship) is also changed and a new flag is hoisted at Vaisakhi and all the community shares in this act.
Vaisakhi celebration is concluded with a Nagar Kirtan, which generally takes place few weeks after 14th April. Nagar Kirtan (‘Nagar Kirtan is a Punjabi terms which literally means “Neighbourhood Hymn singing”). The word “Nagar” means “neighbourhood and “Kirtan” is a term describing singing of Shabads (divine hymns). The term refers to the procession of Sikh Sangat (Congregation) through the town singing holy hymns and spreading the message about oneness of all mankind and its obligation and duty to worship a single God.
- Why is Nagar Kirtan relevant to the wider community?
Sikhs have been part of the UK, and Reading, for more than 50 years and are a well established within the mainstream of British life. As a distinct religious group we get mistaken for many other faiths due to ignorance, media misrepresentation and an absence of Sikh religious education. Sikhs believe that all major faiths point to the same Divine Being and every person has the right to practise their faith as long as they do so without offending and harming other faiths. Nagar Kirtan is a way of educating the wider community of our existence, our being part of the wider society within the UK and it also serves to bring all the Sikhs together in a neighbourhood to celebrate and share a very important date in our calendar.
- Route of the procession: See map attached.
- Organisers: Siri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Reading established since 1973 in partnership with Ramgarhia Sabha Reading Gurdwara established since 1976.
MEDIA ENQUIRIES/ ATTENDANCE:
Media wishing to cover this event, or to find out more, should contact the following:
- Gurpal Singh on 0778 700 2520, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Surjit Singh Jutla on 07984216714, e-mail: email@example.com
Nagar Kirtan route: