What is Vaisakhi in Sikhism:
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.
1. How do Sikhs 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.
2. 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.
Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Reading established since 1973 in partnership with Ramgarhia Sabha Reading Gurdwara established since 1976.
Nagar Kirtan route: