Canada’s oldest Vaisakhi parade held in Vancouver after three years of Covid-enforced gap

Apr 16, 2023 02:04 PM IST

Vancouver city welcomed back the nagar kirtan with nearly 250,000 thronging to attend the parade. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Ross Street Gurdwara in Vancouver to take part in the celebration

Toronto: Canada’s oldest Vaisakhi celebration returned to the streets of Vancouver on Saturday after three years following a Covid-19 -enforced gap. The city welcomed back the nagar kirtan with nearly a quarter million thronging to attend the parade.

The main float at the Khalsa Day parade in Vancouver, Canada on Saturday. (Source: Khalsa Diwan Society)
The main float at the Khalsa Day parade in Vancouver, Canada on Saturday. (Source: Khalsa Diwan Society)

The Khalsa Day parade is organised by the Khalsa Diwan Society, which was established in 1906, and also operates the historic Ross Street Gurdwara in Vancouver, in the province of British Columbia.

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Organisers were thrilled that the nagar kirtan was back for the first time since 2019, as the Society’s president Kuldip Singh Thandi said, “It was fantastic, people were very excited.”

While over 100,000 came for the 2019 nagar kirtan, which marks the founding of the Khalsa panth, he estimated the crowd this year was nearly 250,000. He said these celebrations made up for the disappointment of the last three years as the parade could not be held due to restrictions caused by the pandemic.

The principal attraction was the main float, which was 55 feet long, and featured the Guru Granth Sahib, the holiest text of the Sikh faith. The event to marked the 324rd Revelation Day of Khalsa, when Guru Gobind Singh established the order.

This is the oldest nagar kirtan outside India, having been held for the first time in 1979, according to the Society’s vice-president Jagdeep Sanghera. He said they were very happy with the “success and turnout” of the nagar kirtan. “There was a lot of appreciation from the congregation, they were very enthusiastic,” he said.

The parade started from the Ross Street Gurdwara at 11am and returned to the temple at around 4.30pm.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the gurdwara on Friday, and later tweeted, “Community is what Vaisakhi is all about – and today at Khalsa Diwan Society in South Vancouver, we came together to celebrate exactly that. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.”

He was accompanied by his Cabinet colleague Harjit Sajjan.

Among those at the nagar kirtan on Saturday was Vancouver’s Mayor Ken Sim, who tweeted, “Had a wonderful time today celebrating the return of Vancouver’s Vaisakhi parade. Thank you to the organisers of today’s festivities for their hard work on such an amazing event, and to all those who attended and embodied the values of service, equality, and compassion.” Nishan sahib, the triangular pennant of the faith, was raised at the gurdwara on Friday.

After cancellations in 2020 and 2021, smaller observations took place last year but were limited to the gurdwara.

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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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