Vancouver celebrates Vaisakhi with a hearty parade (with video, gallery)

Published: April 13, 2013


Vancouver Vaisakhi parade

The annual Sikh Vaisakhi parade rolls through Vancouver, B.C. to the delight of thousands of onlookers and participants Saturday, April 13, 2013. Jason Payne/PNG

Always go hungry to a Vaisakhi parade.

Saturday’s Vancouver Vaisakhi parade — the annual celebration of the Punjab harvest time and the birthday of Sikhs (dating back to 1699) — went down in the festival’s trademark style: a slow-paced parade of trucks and floats from 20 different groups within the South Asian community, all alongside food tents and volunteers doling out delicious — and not to mention free — plates of hot meals and treats on every corner.

Pakoras, samosas, rice and curries, jalebi, chips and even pizza was available in endless amounts — there wasn’t an empty hand in the crowd.

Tens of thousands of people braved the damp and cool weather to enjoy the food and celebrations that spanned nearly 10 kilometres from the starting point at the Ross Street Temple, down Southwest Marine Drive, up Main Street to 49th Avenue, east to Fraser Street and back down south to the temple.

Douglas College student Jasleen Minhas took a break from studying for finals to take part in the event she attends every year.

“I have, like, two finals coming up this week and I’m skipping studying to come here,” she said excitedly as she scoped out the parade along Main Street. “That’s how important (Vaisakhi) is.”

Minhas chalks up the excitement to the equivalent of a New Year’s celebration for Sikhs.

“It’s basically the birthday of our religion,” she said.

And while the food is definitely a highlight for Minhas and friends, it’s still an event with big religious significance.

“It’s one way that I can stay intact with my religion, even though I am born here — it’s still something that keeps me rooted,” she said. “You don’t realize how many Indo-Canadians are here until you see this.”

Langara student Anamica Mehta agreed and said Vaisakhi is a way to keep the younger generation “in touch with our roots that are all the way in India — and our family’s heritage.”

But it’s also great to see those from different backgrounds getting involved, she said.

“It shows acceptance of how everyone can still participate in something that’s not maybe theirs,” she said. “And they can kind of learn about it, too.”

For Niranjan Garbe, who just moved to Vancouver in September from Pune, India, to study at the University of British Columbia, the Vaisakhi parade was a refreshing taste of home — even though he’s not Sikh.

“It ignites memories associated to the home country,” he said, adding that similar festivals take place in different states all across Punjab.

“It reminds me a lot of where I come from,” he said. “It’s nice.”

Vancouver Vaisakhi 2013

Picture 1 of 25

Vaisakhi parade preparations get under way at the Ross St Temple with Capt Sidhu, Daljit Uppal , Kashmit Lasoda, Amarjit Rai and Sohan Singh Deo (l-r) in Vancouver, BC., April 11, 2013. (Nick Procaylo/PNG)


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