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Sikhs celebrate their new year

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Sikhs celebrate their new year

NEW YEAR : Parades and festivities in Surrey and Vancouver are expected to attract thousands

Jonathan Fowlie

Vancouver Sun

Saturday, April 15, 2006

LOWER MAINLAND I More than 100,000 people are expected to fill the streets of Newton and east Vancouver today in celebration of Vaisakhi, the Sikh new year and anniversary of the founding of the Khalsa order.

"[Vaisakhi is a time to celebrate] the birth of our identity and remember who we are and what the true philosophy of the Khalsa of the Sikh religion is," Sukhpreet Singh, coordinator of the Surrey Vaisakhi parade, said Friday as he helped with final preparations.

Khalsa, meaning "pure," refers to those who have been baptised in a ceremony called Amrit Sanchar.

"It's a time for us to celebrate our success here in Canada," Singh added, saying the Surrey parade has grown to become the largest Vaisakhi celebration in North America.

Singh said Vaisakhi is one of the most important festivals in the Sikh calendar, and that it is celebrated around the world every year on or near April 13.

He explained the celebration marks end of the harvest in India and the beginning of the new spring year.

"At the end of the season they celebrate once they've got all their stock. They celebrate because that's when they've made all their money," he said.

Singh said Vaisakhi is also a marker of the day in 1699 when the 10th Sikh religious teacher, Guru Gobind Singh, founded the current Sikh identity, or the Khalsa.

"That's the day we were given the five articles of faith and the turban," Singh said.

Singh added the Surrey celebrations, which start at 9:30 a.m. at the Dasmesh Darbar Temple at 128th Street and 85th Avenue, have become the largest in the continent because of Surrey's strong Sikh community.

"Surrey has the largest population of Sikh's outside the Punjab," he said, adding he expects close to 80,000 people at today's event.

"Everyone invites their friends family and relatives from all over Canada."

Similar celebrations will also take place in Vancouver today, with between 35,000 and 40,000 people expected for a parade beginning at the Ross Street Temple, organizers said Friday.

Kesar Bhatti, manager of the Khalsa Diwan Society, which organizes those celebrations, said the day will begin at 9 a.m. with speeches from political leaders and other invited guests inside the Ross Street Temple.

He said the parade begins at 11 a.m. and will weave through east Vancouver until mid-afternoon.

Both parades will feature food, music and floats, organizers say.

Bhatti said Friday one of the busiest parts of the Vancouver route, and the best place for spectators, will be on Main Street between 49th and 57th.

"There are a lot of food stalls there," he said. "People will distribute [samples] free of charge."

In Surrey, the parade will be followed by speeches and other festivities. Singh said events are planned for well into the night featuring services, food, rides and fireworks.


© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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