In a colourful celebration that engages the senses, Kelowna’s Sikh community will this weekend host an event that brings together all races and religions.
The Okanagan Sikh temple is putting on its sixth Vaisakhi parade Saturday, starting at 11 a.m.
It’s an event that has grown exponentially each year, showing both development in the Sikh community and the bonds being forged with non-Indo Canadians.
“There are thousands that come,” said Paramjit Philip Patara, president of the temple.
Vaisakhi, he explained, is one of the most significant holidays in the Sikh calendar.
It marks the harvest of winter crops in the Punjab region and the start of a new year. Farmers celebrate the fruits of their labour, give thanks and pray for prosperity in the future.
It’s also remarkable in the religion as it’s when the Sikhs gained a distinct identity.
“It’s a celebration of human rights—that’s what it’s about,” said Patara, explaining that religious strife in India hundreds of years ago gave way to the Sikh tenets, which focus on religious freedom.
“The Sikh community is about defending the defenceless and standing up for your own and other people’s rights. That’s the basics behind it. That’s what the celebration is all about.”
It’s fitting, then, that so many from such different walks of life have come to embrace the celebration.
“Last year, my daughter brought her friend who is of Jewish faith and they were both in the parade,” said Coun. Mohini Singh, who has connection to both the Sikh and Hindu communities.
“And you should see my fellow councillors. They all come dressed in Indo clothing…This is what Canada is about, though.
“It’s about coming together in respect and celebration of our cultures.”
Singh has been in Canada for 25 years and she said the changes she has seen have been tremendous.
“Our buying power has increased, our numbers have increased, families have grown and we now have a generation of Canadian kids who were born here,” she said.
“Now we are not the new immigrants. Most of us are established we have homes and we are able to live healthy balanced lives. “
An example of that change can be seen the agricultural community.
When she was a reporter, Singh used to head down to the South Okanagan, where Portuguese families owned many of the farms and orchards.
Now, she said, many farms are held by Indo Canadian families.
“Punjabis have a natural attraction to the land and they love agriculture,” she said, highlighting how the parade fits in with local culture.
“This parade is significant in that it shows how the community has grown and how we are taking pride in who we are. “
And many celebrations specific to the holiday will be on display during the Saturday event.
“There will be a lot of food along the parade, people will have stalls set up in their driveway, where they’ll be giving away lots of things—mostly food,” Patara said.
They even have an ice-cream truck giving away ice-cream for two hours.
Beyond the food, there’s also the parade which will feature Bhangra and Gidda dance by men and women respectively. This very popular traditional folk dance is performed in groups on the fast beat of dhol (drum).
Dancers perform everyday farming scenes of sowing, harvesting and gathering of crops through movements of the body to the accompaniment of a ballad.
“Everybody is welcome—everybody in Kelowna,” Patara said.
For more information about road closures caused by the event, check the website kelowna.ca/road report.