Thousands return to Gravesend to celebrate Sikh festival of Vaisakhi

Watch ITV's Charlotte Wilkins' report from Gravesend. She spoke to  Manpreet Singh Dhaliwal, President of the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara.

For the first time in two years - more than five thousand people have taken part in the parade through Gravesend - to mark the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi. 

Festivities took place at the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara - one of the largest in Europe - throughout the day and into the evening.

The celebratory parade, known as Nagar Kirtan, had been suspended for two years because of Covid.

But thousands came from all over the region to watch and take part in the march, led by the Panj Pyare and flag bearers followed by the holy Sikh scriptures on a special model of the Golden Temple.

The religious and cultural festival is one of the most important dates in the calendar for the Sikh community.

Worshippers enjoying the sunshine at the Gurdwara

Vaisakhi is a celebration of the creation of the Khalsa - a collective of committed Sikhs who are leaders and defenders of the Sikh way.

It was formed to fight oppression and uphold freedom and basic needs such as food, clothing, education and health for all people.

The Khalsa was first created in April 1699 when the 10th Guru tested Sikhs by asking for volunteers to sacrifice themselves.

The first five who stepped forward and proved their devotion were chosen to form the first Khalsa and were known as the Panj Pyare or Five Beloved.

There will also be a celebratory service known as the Gurpurb on Sunday, April 17 at the Gurdwara.