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Sikhs celebrate festival of Vaisakhi

By Frank Flegel

05/31/2017

Sikhs in Regina took to the streets May 20, parading from their Gurudwara (temple) to the Legislative Building grounds, celebrating the festival of Vaisakhi, which marks the founding of the Sikh community. Sikh men riding Harley Davidsons occasionally gunned their engines to attract attention. (Photo by Frank Flegel)

REGINA — Sikhs in Regina took to the streets May 20, parading from their Gurudwara (temple) to the Legislative Building grounds. Regina City Police vehicles with lights flashing blocked side streets as the parade made its way down Regina Ave., the main road to the airport, then briefly onto Albert St., a main north/south artery before entering the Legislative Building grounds. A secondary road to the grounds had to be used, as the main entrance road is undergoing re-construction.

This wasn’t another demonstration against government policy, but a celebration of the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi. It celebrates the founding of the Sikh community (the Khalsa). It is marked by people in festive garments, singing, dancing, and food.

A colourful trailer contained male singers and drummers surrounding the Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib, the central religious scripture. Loudspeakers carried the voices of female singers. A small troop of RCMP officers in red serge and one wearing a turban rather than the traditional Stetson hat escorted the trailer.

At least four Sikh men riding Harley Davidson bikes preceded the trailer, occasionally roaring their engines and attracting attention to that part of the parade. Children carried a large banner promoting their Punjabi school and a group of adults supported another large banner promoting basic Sikh beliefs and practices. Lines of people, all wearing colourful costume — men in colourful turbans, women in graceful, flowing gowns — walked on the sidewalks in front of the Legislative Building and greeted the parade as it entered the grounds.

The parade itself was made up mostly of people in costume, many carrying banners and flags.

Several food tents were set up east of the Legislature and all food and cold drinks were offered free of charge. Several Sikh men roamed the grounds and offered food and bottled fruit drinks to anyone attending the celebration, bystanders and participants alike. Sharing is one of Sikhism’s tenets.

There were no formal speeches or greetings; it was simply party time for any and all who wandered around the grounds on a warm and sunny spring day. Several people of note, however, were taking part in the festivities: Interim Saskatchewan NDP Opposition Leader Trent Wotherspoon, member of Parliament and Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, and Senator Pana Merchant with husband Tony were among the politicians mingling with the crowd.

According to the internet, Sikhism is the ninth largest monotheistic religion in the world. Regina’s Sikh community has grown exponentially over the years to the point that their community is large and active enough to successfully carry out a large celebration and parade. This year’s effort was only their second annual celebration.

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