Analysis: In lockdown, the Sikh Festival of Vaisakhi

MSM Photographics Events and Wedding Photography

By Minreet Kaur

We are three weeks into lockdown and I feel quite strange inside because the biggest Sikh festival Vaisakhi would be taking place today. Vaisakhi is the celebration of the formation of the Khalsa Panth, the pure warriors, under Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh guru, in 1699.

It’s quite sad but I accept the hukam, which means God’s will, and understand it is what it is and whatever is happening is also God’s plan.

We understand we need to stay home to help save lives. We have been serving the community by making exercise videos to send out to my community, so that through this difficult time they get to stay active and healthy.  Here’s one of me being beaten in a race by my 73-year-old father, Rajinder Singh, who is becoming famous as the Skipping Sikh.

While we are indoors, I see the lovely flowers blooming, the skies are blue and the pollution seems to be so much less than ever. I can actually take a full breath when running and see so much beauty in front of me . . . nature.  I am content with the current situation and so are my parents.

We know Vaisakhi will come again and in the meanwhile we can build on our relationship with God even more, pray more as a family and we can learn more about our faith and the message from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Holy Scripture.

Khalsa Panth were given power to be politically and civically engaged and to combat injustice in the world around us, but to have this engagement guided and fuelled by our understanding of religion.

Normally at this time we would be visiting the Gurdwaras, places of worship that would be beautifully decorated for the occasion. People of all faiths and backgrounds are also welcome to enter and celebrate with us.

During Vaisakhi, processions called Nagar Kirtan are led by five Khalsa known as Panj Pyare, the beloved ones. There would be singing of Kirtan – hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib – listening to history sung in ballads, called Dhadi Vaars, and the sharing of food with all, called Langar.

The traditional colours of Vaisakhi are yellow and orange, which represent the spirit of rebirth and sacrifice of the Panj Pyare. The colours are also symbolic of joy and celebration, which is why they are worn by those at the festival.

It’s a time for the Sikhs to come together and celebrate. This year, though, it will be very different with Nagar Kirtans postponed. Now Sikhs are preparing to bring virtual Vaisakhi to our homes.

There are a few charities who will be setting up live streams from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, as well as daily meditation. There are videos for children on how to make parshad (blessed food). So, there’s something for everyone available online.

Digi Sangat, an online community, has asked Sikhs to recite a worldwide prayer called the Mool Manter so that they have the sense that they are still sitting together and praying.

Sikh charitable organisations are providing a free mobile food service for the vulnerable. The Sikh Council is providing a support helpline for elderly people and also communicating to families about how funerals are to be carried out.

Ranjit Seehra, from Ramgarhia Gurdwara in Derby, said: “It was with great sadness that we had to postpone this year’s Vaisakhi celebrations. Normally people would visit the Gurdwara, take part in the Nishan Sahib ceremony [changing the flagpole and covering and flag] and then walk around the city with many thousands in the Nagar Kirtan.

“The Ramgarhia Gurdwara in Derby, along with the other Derby Gurdwaras, has postponed the events and once the situation is back to normal we will hold the celebrations associated with Vaisakhi.

“Meanwhile, we are planning to take Vaisakhi online using video conferencing and social media to bring Sangat, the congregation, together. While it is sad to be postponing Vaisakhi celebrations in 2020, all Sikhs aspire to live in a state of Charhdee Kalaa, uplifted spirits, and so will still be celebrating in their own homes and sending positive messages to their families and friends.”

This has affected my parents and me. The sense of being in isolation and feeling distant, not being able to go to the Gurdwara or any of the Nagar Kirtans.

But we are grateful for everything and appreciate what we have. Let’s remain positive, let’s pray more and let’s come together and be better people once we are out of lockdown!

In the words of the Ardaas, the final prayer, Nanak naam chardi kala, teraa bhane sarbat da bhala which means “blessings for everyone”.

Have a blessed Vaisakhi and remain in chardhi kala – optimism and joy – always.