14th April 2020   •   article
How British Sikhs celebrated Vaisakhi — their biggest annual celebration — in lockdown

Image: Manjeet Matharoo
This weekend would have been a huge celebration for Sikhs around the world.

Vaisakhi is the celebration of the creation of the Khalsa, the collective of initiated Sikhs, who were established in 1699.

Sikhs across Britain would usually gather together at Nagar Kirtans (street processions), colourful gatherings of religious pride filling the streets. At Gurdwaras they would have Sikh martial arts (Gatka) demonstrations, langar (free food), cultural activities and much more.

But its impossible for Nagar Kirtans to take place under the current circumstances. So many Sikhs had to find alternative ways to congregate... online.

Herrai Singh at Sikh2Inspire told me he was upset at not being able to attend any Nagar Kirtans and stayed at home and prayed there instead.

"This is the Chardikala (high spirits) with which we need to live and stay. We will do Kirtan (hymns) and paath (prayer) at home, and concentrate on Guru Sahib and their teachings."

Sikh2Inspire provided live streams (on Facebook) from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, as well as daily meditation.

Others tried a more collective approach.

Digi Sangat brought Sikhs from across the world in a worldwide prayer called the Mool Mantar (the first hymn in the Sikh scriptures) through their website. They said they wanted to create a digital version of being together.

The British charity Basics of Sikhi broadcast a 'virtual Vaisakhi', which involves 5 days meditation and talks in both English and Punjabi, as a live stream on their YouTube channel.

Some charitable organisations are also taking food packs to the vulnerable who are staying at home to self isolate.

The BBC also had a similar feature.

The image above is from a previous Vaisakhi celebration, not from this year.
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Minreet Kaur is a freelance journalist and broadcaster
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