REGINA — It couldn’t have been a nicer day: bright sunshine, warm temperature and little wind as more than 1,000 Sikhs, almost all dressed in traditional orange clothing, paraded two kilometres from the gurdwara (temple/place of worship) to the Saskatchewan Legislative Building where they covered the grounds for a big party celebrating the birth of their religion.
“It’s called Vaisakhi and is part of a big celebration of Sikhism,” explained one of the celebrants. Sikhism originated sometime in the 1500s, but it wasn’t until 1699 that it became established in what is now Punjab state, India.
The parade began at the temple, not far from Regina International Airport. Led by a few members of the Regina Police Pipe Band, followed by four RCMP members in red serge, it made its way down Regina Avenue, a major gateway to the airport, to Albert Street, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, and on to the Wascana Park grounds by the Legislative Building.
Musicians playing traditional instruments and drums played from a colourful float that also contained their holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, and several Baba Ji (priests). Participants frequently joined in the singing, led by the musicians. An honour guard of Sikhs with swords held upright walked alongside the float and stood behind it when it was parked on the road in front of the Legislative Building.
Tent pavilions were set up on the grounds offering free pizza and traditional foods, while others roamed the grounds offering water, chocolate milk and tetra packs of juices to all they encountered. Sharing with others is one of the three basic rules of Sikhism according to a pamphlet being handed out. The others are: earn an honest living and meditate on the essence of the eternal. The pamphlet also described that an initiated Sikh is required to wear five kakaar (articles of faith): long unshorn hair as an act of commitment to and acceptance of God’s will; a kangha (comb) to keep hair well groomed; the kara, an iron bangle, a reminder of the unbroken circle of truth; the kachhera, an undergarment, for self control and chastity; and the kirpan, a sword for upholding dignity and freedom from oppression. Men and women both wear a dastaar (turban) as a crown signifying sovereignty.
The Sikh community is one of the more rapidly growing communities in Regina. It has grown from a few in the 1970s to more than 3,000 today, with most of that occurring in the past five years. The former Athabasca Public School was purchased by the Sikh community in 2013 and serves as its place of worship.