Sikhs from around the world converge at Surrey Vaisakhi parade

More than half a million people attended a Vaisakhi parade in Surrey, B.C., on Saturday, which organizers say is the biggest celebration of the Sikh festival in the world.

The Surrey Khalsa Day Vaisakhi Parade began at the Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar Temple on 85 Avenue Saturday morning, and the parade wound its way through several city streets over the next few hours.

Surrey RCMP estimated more than 550,000 people attended the parade, according to an emailed statement sent around 3:30 p.m. PT on Saturday afternoon.

Vaisakhi celebrates the creation of the order of the Khalsa in 1699, a defining moment in Sikh history that gave the Sikh faith its final form. It is a holy day that marks the New Year, according to festival organizers.

The festival is marked by colourful processions, as well as the practice of serving free meals to the community in acts of seva and langar, two significant aspects of the Sikh religion. 

People serve food in a line.
Sharing food, particularly with those who are less fortunate, is a central belief in Sikhism. (Maurice Katz/CBC)

Festivities, including floats, food and music, are open to people of all cultures and drew Sikhs from all over the world to Surrey.

Amandeep Kaur says she travelled from the Sikh-majority Punjab region of India to attend the parade on Saturday.

Kaur said, amid crowds of people, that “joy and togetherness” made it feel like home.

Imran Hayre says she missed last year’s parade — the first to take place after three years of COVID-19 restrictions — and wanted to make sure she was there this year.

“Surrey is such a multicultural place and it’s amazing to see people coming together,” she told CBC.

A family adorned in bright colours smile and laugh in a crowd.
Vaisakhi marks the New Year in the Sikh faith and celebrations are open to people of all cultures, organizers and attendees say. (Maurice Katz/CBC)

Hayre was helping serve thousands of pakoras (fritters) at the festival, and says family in Victoria and Bellingham, Wash., came to town as well.

“It’s a beautiful thing that so much of our community has immigrated to this country and we can make such a loving thing happen in our new country,” she told CBC.

The importance of Vaisakhi as a day for religious reflection and expression was a central theme for many in attendance.

Several Sikh organizations in B.C. expressed concern earlier this month when Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke said “700,000 people partying for a day is a lot of fun” when referring to the celebrations.

Men on motorcyles walk and ride in a crowd.
Members of the Sikh Motorcycle Club walk and ride in the Vaisakhi parade on Saturday. (Maurice Katz/CBC)

“Khalsa Revelation Day is a faith celebration, not a party,” the Sikh Community of B.C. wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on April 10.

“Her misrepresentation of the event is disappointing and irresponsible,” the post read.


Posted in CBC