Volunteers at Southampton Gurdwara cooking since 6am to prepare for Vaisakhi

  • WATCH: ITV Meridian reporter Christine Alsford visits a Gurdwara in Southampton who have been cooking all day for Vaisakhi.

Volunteers at a Gurdwara in Southampton have been cooking all day since 6am to prepare for the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi.

Celebrations returned to the south on Thursday (April 14), with festivities planned over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Vaisakhi, also called Baisakhi, is one of the most important dates in the Sikh calendar that celebrates equality and humanity.

It is typically celebrated on April 13 or 14, and fell on Thursday this year.

To celebrate Vaisakhi, many people will gather in Gurdwaras to pray or volunteer by preparing free food for people.

The free food, known as "Langar," is a form of Seva (selfless service) that Sikhs undergo, offering food for society regardless of religion, race and class.

  • People visiting the Gurdwara Khalsa Darbar in Southampton told us why they love the festival

The meaning of the festival varies for Sikhs and Hindus, holding different religious, cultural and regional significance across the world.

Historically, Vaisakhi marked the spring harvest for many South-Asian cultures, such as farming communities in Punjab, in Northern India.

But while some associate it with harvest or the Solar New Year, for Sikhs, the festival celebrates the birth of the religion as a collective faith in 1699.

At this time, the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji chose Vaisakhi as the time to establish the Khalsa - a body of initiated Sikhs.

What is the story of Vaisakhi?

In April 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji wanted to test the commitment of thousands of Sikhs.

He came out of a tent with a sword and asked who would be prepared to sacrifice their lives for their faith.

Five people went into the tent and the Guru came out alone with blood on his sword.

Afterwards, the men came out of the tent unharmed, and had passed the Guru's test.

They became the first members of the Khalsa, known as the "Panj Pyare," meaning the five beloved.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji sprinkled them with Amrit (holy water) in a ritual that became part of the Sikh baptism ceremony.

At the Gurdwara Khalsa Darbar in Southampton, volunteers were seen cooking roti (flat bread), chole (chickpeas) and orange, pretzel shaped sweets sweets called Jalebi. 

People visiting the Gurdwara said they love the way "everyone comes together" including young people who are born and bred in the UK.

The volunteers said Vaisakhi and the Khalsa represent values of "commitment, endurance and selfless service."

The word Khalsa means "Pure and "King’s Own," and the the living form of the Guru, whose members act as God’s representatives on Earth.

  • People at the Gurdwara have been practising Gatka, a Sikh martial art, ahead of a performance on Sunday.

The Khalsa were created to fight oppression, uphold freedom and basic needs for all people, including food, health and education.

Ravi Singh, CEO of international charity Khalsa Aid based in Maidenhead, said: "The revolution which took place in 1699 is timeless! Khalsa ideology is based 100% on humanity without prejudice. Recognise the human race as one."

Public processions, known as a "Nagar Kirtan" are also held in cities across the UK to mark the festival.

It involves singing hymns and there are displays of Sikh martial arts, called Gatka.

On Sunday (17 April), the Southampton Gurdwara will hold a celebration known as a "Mela," with food stalls, art displays, and an essay competition about upholding the qualities of the religion in the Western world.