Vancouver nagar kirtan

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Khalsa Diwan Society

8000 Ross Street Sikh Gurdwara

10 AM - 4 PM

Surrey Nagar Kirtan

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar

12885 85 Avenue

9 AM - 6 PM

Vaisakhi holds a deep spiritual meaning for Sikhs around the globe, including in BC. 

On Vaisakhi Day in 1699, the Khalsa, a community of initiated Sikhs, was established by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Sikhs in British Columbia have been celebrating the formation of the Khalsa since the early 1900’s. The Khalsa symbolizes freedom and equality.

According to The Sikh Coalition, The Khalsa is expected to be visible and easily identifiable with the 5 Ks:

  • Kes - uncut hair

  • Kanga – wooden comb

  • Kara - iron bracelet

  • Kirpan – sword

  • Kachera – cotton under-trousers

Khalsa women take the last name “Kaur,” meaning prince and men use the name “Singh,” meaning lion, associating them with Sikhs’ sovereign nature. 

While Sikhs make up only 2% of India’s population, they are the majority of people of South Asian descent in BC. This is partly due to Sikhs’ record high British Indian military involvement in the mid 1800’s through to the end of WWII. Sikhs in BC celebrate the ideals of freedom, equality and identity with Nagar Kirtan parades.


1. What is happening at the Nagar Kirtan parade?

The primary purpose of the parade is to allow individuals access to the Sikh spiritual guide on the main float, Guru Granth Sahib Ji, while sharing in the preparation and consumption of free food (Langar) and serving humanity through selfless service (Seva).

During the parade, you will also experience Kirtan (when hymns from Guru Granth Sahib Ji are sung) and Sikh martial arts (also known as Shastar Vidya). Shastar Vidya is a martial art using various types of weapons like wooden sticks, steel swords, shields, etc.  The martial arts continue to remind the community to defend themselves and defend those who are marginalized and cannot defend themselves.

2. How many people attend?

The Vancouver Sun reported that nearly 500,000 people attended the Surrey parade in 2018, including visitors from all over the world. You can see more in this story by Global News.

3. What is the significance of the Khalsa?

The Khalsa was formed by Guru Gobind Singh Ji (the Sikh community’s last spiritual teacher in human form) to give the Sikhs a distinct identity and compel them to stand up to injustice. This was a time of strife. This formation allowed people, regardless of caste, gender or religious background to come together. The Khalsa was given a unique identity, where one would stand out in a crowd of a thousand.

4. Why is there free food?

Free food or Langar was started by the first Sikh Guru as a way to build community, cultivate compassion and encourage selfless service.  It serves to break down social and economic barriers as all are welcome to sit as equals to share a meal. The food is prepared and paid for by volunteers. In Vancouver, this tradition carries forward in every Gurdwara. On top of that, Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen carries on the tradition of Langar by serving the downtown East side residents of Vancouver on a regular basis. 

5. What are the floats for, and what is the significance of the Guru Granth Sahib?

The main float at the front carries the Guru Granth Sahib.  It is the Sikh Canon initially compiled by the 5th Guru, and the final version compiled by the 10th Guru. The scriptures are revered as the 11th and eternal Guru. The Sikh Canon contains the writings of six Gurus, Sufi and Bhakti (now commonly associated with “Hinduism”) saints, and bards. This truly marks the Sikh faith as unique and true to its message of equality for all.

6. What are people singing and what type of music is being played?

The Guru Granth Sahib contains Shabad (poetic wisdom and revelation) that is set to Raag (classical) music and is intended to aid in the individual’s spiritual meditative experience of the one non-dulalistic form that gives light to all (Ik Oankar). 

7. Why do 5 Sikhs lead the parade?

The 5 Sikhs are in service of the “5 beloved” who were the first 5 to give their heads to the 10th Guru on Vaisakhi 1699. They were then initiated by a ceremony and declared the first members of the Khalsa order. 

8. What do Sikhs believe?

Sikhs believe in one divine form is the creator of all. They believe this form is present in all of creation as an active force (Ik Oankar). Humans can experience and connect with this divine force through many ways including Simran (meditation), Kirtan (devotional music), Shabad (divine wisdom set to poetry). These methods help one conquer the ego and realize the oneness of the universe and beyond. Sikhs believe in freedom of religion for all people and human rights for all.