On April 14, Sikhs across the United States and around the world are celebrating Vaisakhi (or Baisakhi), which is the most significant celebration on the Sikh calendar. In many cities, this celebration includes a Nagar Kirtan (religious procession) through the city, and these are taking place across the country this month.
In Los Angeles, California, Vaisakhi was celebrated on April 7 with a large Nagar Kirtan originating at the Los Angeles Convention Center (pictured above). Similar celebrations are also taking place in California this weekend in Stockton and Selma. On April 27, Sikhs in New York will be celebrating with a Nagar Kirtan as well.
It was at this time in 1699 that the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, created the Khalsa — the Sikh order of initiated saint-soldiers — to formalize Sikh teachings and empower the Sikh community. It was in this event that Sikhs adopted the physical form they are recognized for today, including the articles of faith known as the Five Ks — kes (uncut hair), kangha (comb), kirpan (sword), kara (steel bracelet) and kacchera (long underwear). The Guru also instructed his Sikhs to take on the surnames Singh (meaning “lion”) for men and Kaur (meaning “princess”) for women to eliminate caste distinctions within the community.