Surrey Vaisakhi parade: Sikh youths participate with pride

  •, Surrey (BC)
  • |
  • Updated: Apr 21, 2013 17:14 IST

The annual Vaisakhi parade of Surrey showed that Sikh youths are still impressively rooted in their religion and culture as hundereds of thousands of them came out in their best Indian dress to celebrate the Punjab harvest time and the birthday of Sikhism, dating back to 1699.

"I think we're more involved than the older generation is," 19-year-old Sharon Bains said matter of factly as she took a break from the parade to eat some of the delicious and free Indian food dispensed along the sidelines.

"Our parents have always taught us to be religious and I don't think we would ever lose touch with this just because our parents have taught us in a good way to practise it properly", she added.

Harman Aujla from Delta hopes to have the same influence on her nine-year-old, who she brings with her to the parade every year.

"It's their choice if they want to take part or not," she said. "But still, we have to teach our religion."

"We cannot forget our roots, where we came from," she says.

The Sikh youth do more than just participate in the festivities, though - many of them volunteer and help with the overall event planning for Saturday, according to Vaisakhi organizer Moninder Singh.

"Watching them get involved is a source of pride," he said. "I think they're looking for outlets and they're starting to find them . . . coming in and taking over the temples."

"It gives them an opportunity to actually take action . . . [and it] keeps them inspired throughout the year."

But Vaisakhi is still celebrated the same for both the young and old - it's a message of giving back to the community, fighting against injustices and standing up for anyone's rights, regardless of caste, creed or religion.

"This is the pinnacle of the Sikh calendar," said Burnaby resident Indy Panchi as he watched the parade progress along 82nd Avenue.

"It's such an important day."

While he loves the ambiance and said the event is a great time to get together with the Indo community and reunite with friends, he mainly comes for religious purposes: "To show solidarity with the Sikh nation," he said.

By early afternoon, Singh estimated crowds to have already surpassed the 200,000 of last year - reaching 220,000 on Saturday.

And among them was one esteemed and holy guest: one of the five priests from Anandpur, India's birthplace of the Khalsa.

"It's his first time abroad," Singh said of Jathedar (loosely translated as "community leader") Tarlochan Singh's travels to Surrey.

According to Singh, the priest arrived on Saturday morning just in time to celebrate the largest Vaisakhi event outside of India.

"Somebody coming from that high a position, coming down to meet this community, I think it's very much a source of inspiration," said Singh, who equated the priest's holiness to that of Catholicism's Pope.

"The work that we're doing here is paying off community wise - that we're getting recognised."


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