Every April, millions of Sikhs around the world celebrate Vaisakhi Day, a day that marks both the New Year and the anniversary of one of Sikhism's most important events, the establishment of Khalsa in 1699 with the first Amrit ceremony.
Vancouverites have two Vaisakhi Parades to choose from: the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade, which attracts about 50,000 spectators, and the Surrey Vaisakhi Parade and Celebration, which attracts 300,000 spectators, making it one of the largest Vaisakhi parades outside of India.
The Vancouver metro area also has one of the largest Sikh populations outside of India and the largest Sikh community in the country. In Surrey, most of the city's Asian population are Sikhs, and one of the biggest and oldest gurdwaras (Sikh temples) in North America can be found here as well.
Vaisakhi Day in Sikhism and Hinduism
In 1699, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, formed the Khalsa Panth of warriors to defend religious freedoms, marking the birth of the Khalsa way of living in the Sikh religion. This new way Panth of Sikhism was a pivotal turning point in the religion—one that is celebrated each year during Vaisakhi.
Traditionally, Vaisakhi in Hinduism also marks the beginning of the Solar New Year and is a celebration of the spring harvest. Although it is known by many names—which vary by region and include names like Baisakhi, Vaishakhi, and Vasakhi—the holiday is typically celebrated in much the same way wherever you go.
During Vaisakhi celebrations, the Sikh temples are typically decorated for the holiday, and Sikhs will bathe in local lakes and rivers in honor of the sacredness of rivers in Sihk culture before heading to the gurdwaras to attend kirtans. Additionally, people often gather to commune and share traditional foods with one another.
Similarly, for the Hindu celebration of the Vaisakhi holiday, you can expect to find harvest festivals, bathing in sacred rivers, visiting temples, and meeting with friends and family to celebrate food and good company.
Parades and Celebrations in Vancouver and Surrey
Vaisakhi Day falls on Saturday, April 14 in 2018, and the festivities and parades in both Vancouver and Surrey will take place over the course of the day.
The Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade kicks off at 11 a.m. at the Ross Street Temple, then moves south on Ross Street to SE Marine Drive, west to Main Street, north to 49th Avenue, east to Fraser Street, south to 57th Avenue, east to Ross Street, and finally back to the Temple up Ross Street.
The Surrey parade begins at the Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar Temple in Surrey, and like the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade, the best way to get to Surrey's Parade is by public transit. In addition to the parade and procession, Nagar Kirtan hymns, and floats, there will be free food (graciously prepared by local residents and businesses), live music and rides, and several politicians working the crowds at the Surrey festival.