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Vaisakhi celebrations underway in Gravesend

Men, women and children have been taking part in the annual procession Photo:
Flagbearers are an important part of the day's proceedings

The annual celebrations to mark the Sikh festival of Vasiakhi are underway in the Gravesham area of Kent.

Historically 'Vaisakhi 'marked the spring harvest for the farmers and communities in the Punjab area of Northern India. The organisers of today's events say that most of the Sikhs in Gravesham originate from Punjab, signifying the importance of the celebration to Sikh communities in Kent.

The religious festival marks the Sikh New Year, and the birth of the religion in its current form. In a tradition of togetherness, members of other communities are also invited to take part in the festivities.

"On behalf of the Management Committee I would like to invite all the residents of Gravesham to attend the festivities which will be taking place at the Gurdwara and in the Town Centre.

The Sikh community has a long and proud history here in Gravesham and we always welcome and appreciate the support of all our partners and the local community in making Vaisakhi such a colourful and inclusive spectacle for all to enjoy."

– Davinder Singh Bains, President of the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara
People walk through the streets of Gravesend in the Nagar Kirtan procession

The Sikh faith, as it is practiced today, was created on Vaisakhi Day in 1699 by the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who established the Khalsa Panth (the community of committed Sikhs).

The walk through the streets is called the Nagar Kirtan procession. Nagar means town, and kirtan is a process of singing hymns from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. The procession began at the Gurdwara temple and passed through the town centre in Gravesend.

Women taking part in the parade

"The Vaisakhi celebrations in Gravesham are some of the biggest in the Country and it is a great testament for all concerned that they have evolved from just being a Sikh celebration to one involving all communities regardless of faith. With recent atrocities still fresh in our minds Vaisakhi is a wonderful example of how faith can bring diverse communities together to celebrate as one all that binds us together as a community in Gravesham"

– Gurvinder Sandher, CEO, Kent Equality Cohesion Council

More celebrations will take place on Sunday.