Each year Vancouver celebrates a very important, and colourful, day on the Sikh calendar: Vaisahki. I've had the pleasure to attend the Vaisahki celebrations over the past several years, and today will be no exception. I'm heading down to the corner of Main Street and 49th Avenue this morning to see a few friends, meet some new folks and to sip chai and nibble on naan bread.
I've got a head scarf that I'll dig out for the occasion as well. While the streets will teem with people in Vancouver, the celebration on Sunday in Surrey will be even larger.
Here's a little background on the Sikh celebration.
Vaisakhi (Punjabi: ਵੈਸਾਖੀ or ਵਸਾਖੀ, vaisĝkhī, is, as well, known as Baisakhi), it is a very important day for Sikhs and one of the most colourful events in the Sikh calendar. It occurs during mid-April every year and traditionally concurs in Punjab with the first harvesting of the crops for the year. So, historically, it has been a very joyous occasion and a time for celebration. However, since 1699, it had marked the very significant religious event of the creation of the Khalsa.
Vaisakhi falls in the Nanakshahi calendar on the first day of Vaisakh month and marks the sun's entering Mesha Rasi (this fact is called Mesha Sankranti, i.e. the solar transit into Aries). Vaisakhi is therefore determined by the solar calendar. Baisakhi usually falls on April 14, and on April 15 once every thirty-six years, however it has now been agreed for Vaisakhi to always fall on the 14th of April. It is not, as is commonly believed, a New Year for the Sikhs. This Sikh New Year is celebrated on the 1st day of Chet which usually falls on March 13, a month earlier.
The best advice I can give someone trying to get to the Vancouver parade and celebrations is to ride a bike or take transit. The area fills up with cars quickly and there is literally no parking to be found. Consider yourself forewarned!
Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade and Celebration
When: Saturday, April 14, 2012
Where: The parade starts at 11am at the Ross Street Temple (8000 Ross St at 64th), moves south on Ross Street to SE Marine Drive, then west to Main Street, north to 49th Avenue, east to Fraser Street, south to 57th Avenue, east to Ross Street and then returns to the Temple.
Happy Vaisahki, Vancouver! Enjoy the day.