April is the time of year when Sikhs around the world celebrate the festival of Vaisakhi, one of the most important dates in the Sikh calendar. The festival marks several important events including; the time Sikhi was created as a collective Dharam (faith) in 1699, the spring harvest festival and the Punjabi New Year.
This year is even more poignant for the Sikh community as it will be Commemorating the 550th Prakash Purb of Guru Nanak Dev Ji (birth anniversary) of the first Sikh Guru and the founder of the Dharam. There will be events held worldwide to mark the 550th anniversary throughout the whole of 2019.
The Birmingham Vaisakhi open air celebrations, considered by many as the largest in Europe, will be taking place on 28th April 2019 culminating in Handsworth Park. The event is planned and organised by Council of Sikh Gurdwaras in Birmingham (CSGB) and the Gurdwaras from Sandwell and the Black Country. CSGB is an umbrella organisation of 15 Gurudwaras in Birmingham, with its primary object to cater for the welfare of the Sikh Community. It was established some 30 years ago. One of its main activities has been to bring together partners to stage the Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan and a Mela in the Handsworth Park. The CSGB has been doing this for the last 28 years at a cost in the region of one hundred thousand pounds which is raised by the support of Gurdwaras, sponsors, partners and sangat (congregation).
The Vaisakhi Celebrations have become a landmark event in Birmingham. To mark the 28th year of the event, the Sikh community is determined to making the occasion even more grand and memorable and invite all to join them. Chairman of CSGB, Amrick Singh, said, “With Maharaj Ji’s blessings we are glad to see this event go from strength to strength. The support of Gurdwaras, our partners, all the volunteers, stall holders and advertisers make this event what it is. There is a huge debt of gratitude to all for organising this landmark event in the City and contributing their time, resources and finances to bring the event to fruition.”
“We are proud to host such a large and diverse gathering every year. The Birmingham area has a population of over one million, making it the largest local council area in the country and we know people travel in to the area from much further than Birmingham. It is astounding to know that over a hundred different languages are spoken in Birmingham and in some wards of the city up to 80% or residents are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. Birmingham is a growing city that has the youngest average age of the core cities of Europe, with almost half of the population under 30 years of age.
Birmingham’s Vaisakhi celebrations have always been a demonstration of community cohesion in practice. CSGB continue to engage with people of all faiths and background of our great city to ensure peace, harmony and unity for all. The whole ethos of the event is about promoting community and family spirit, a sense of unity, sharing, interfaith and cohesiveness; something very much needed at this time.
To this end, we are proud to share and invite all attendees to experience Guru Ka Langar (free food selflessly prepared and served by volunteers), visit the Gurdwara in the Park, see the trading and information stalls, the children’s funfair and many more exciting events on the day.”
Vaisakhi commemorates the Amrit Ceremony of Baptism which took place in the year of 1699 on the first day of the month of Vaisaakh. It was on this day that the Tenth Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, created the order of the Khalsa, requesting his disciples to come forward to give their heads for the causes of justice and righteousness. The Amrit Ceremony of Baptism marked the ‘birth’ of the Sikh Nation, graced with a strong sense of self-discipline and a moral code of conduct, the Khalsa was tasked with the responsibility of defending all those who were suffering at the hands of tyrants and dictators, to serve the downtrodden, to uplift the oppressed and to see humanity as one common people of equals regardless of caste, religion, gender or colour.
With the seasonal timing of Vaisakhi, many South-Asian cultures celebrate it as the harvest festival. However, in 1699 for Sikhs the reason for celebration changed to mark the birth of the Khalsa, the collective of initiated Sikhs.
It was during an annual harvest gathering that the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, created the order of the Khalsa. Guru Gobind Singh Ji requested five people to come forward to sacrifice themselves to Him. The men who came forward came to be known as the Panj Pyare, most commonly translated as the five beloved ones.
Each of the men who stepped forward to be initiated into the Khalsa were from different castes. They were individually reborn through the Amrit Sanchar initiation ceremony and given names representing the qualities a Khalsa should have; Daya (compassion), Dharam (righteousness), Himmat (courage), Mokham (determination) and Sahib (sovereignty). With this initiation the Panj Pyare also adopted a distinct based on the wearing of the five kakars (Ks); kesh (unshorn hair), kanga (wooden comb), kirpan (small sword), kashera (underwear) and kara (iron bangle).
They also took on a moral code of conduct which included a pledge to defend the weak and protect the innocent.
Once Guru Gobind Singh Ji initiated the Panj Pyare, he in turn asked them to initiate him, in a rare case of someone of regal leadership giving powers to their followers. Sikhs have been celebrating Vaisakhi annually in the City in the traditional form of street processions known as Nagar Kirtans, making them an established part of British culture.
Nagar Kirtans are used to showcase aspects of Sikhi to wider communities. ‘Nagar’ translates as town and ‘Kirtan’ refers to the singing of spiritual hymns. Nagar Kirtans are led by the holy Sikh scriptures, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Eternal Living Guru, along with five Khalsa, representing the Panj Pyare.
As well as singing hymns, Nagar Kirtans may also see displays of the Sikh martial-art (Gatka) on display, as well as having free offerings of food throughout, representing the concept of langar.
The two processions will start at 09.30am from Baba Sang Gurdwara, Smethwick and the other from Ramgarhia Sikh Temple, Hockley
For Stall bookings, Adverts in the official CSGB Magazine or Ads on the big screen in the park, also for corporate sponsorship deals please visit our website: https://vaisakhibirmingham.co.uk/
Call CSGB Vaisakhi Hotline: 07380 194106.
To support your Vaisakhi Event we invite you to donate :
BARCLAYS ACCOUNT NAME: The Council Of Sikh Gurdwara Birmingham
SORT CODE: 20-09-03
ACCOUNT No. 10883514