On Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending the Vaisakhi celebration at the Sikh Center of Pacific Coast Gurdwara in Selma, California, which brought together a large gathering of Sikhs from the Fresno County area for a Nagar Kirtan (religious procession). It was very well attended and the atmosphere was quite festive. A local television station covered the celebrations in Selma, which you can watch here. I certainly enjoyed my first visit to this Gurdwara and celebrating with them the most significant event on the Sikh calendar. It was at this time 314 years ago that the Khalsa order was created by the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, giving the Sikh community the form and function for which they are still recognized today.
The official date of Vaisakhi was this past Sunday, however the Sikh community in the United States join the celebrations taking place around the world throughout the month. As early as last week, a Nagar Kirtan was held in Los Angeles, California and similar celebrations have been taking place all over the country. Just two hours north of Selma, another Nagar Kirtan was held in Stockton, California, on Sunday — home of the oldest Gurdwara in the United States.
While some Sikh celebrations in the country (such as those above) are a long-standing tradition in their communities and are on a grand scale, other communities celebrated anew. Sikhs in the Seattle, Washington area celebrated their first Vaisakhi event at the Gurdwara Sikh Center of Seattle, located in Bothell.
In Niskayuna, New York (near Albany), Sikhs celebrated Vaisakhi throughout last weekend at the two-year old Niskayuna Gurdwara Sahib, which culminated on Sunday. This house of worship is home to a congregation of about 150 Sikh families.
The Sikh community in New Jersey also celebrated Vaisakhi at the Sikh Sabha of New Jersey Gurdwara in Lawrenceville on Sunday.
Such events were not limited to Sikh houses of worship. Last week, Sikh students at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, held their annual “Turban Day” to raise awareness about the Sikh community by inviting people on campus to experience wearing a turban in public.
Finally, recognition of Vaisakhi wasn’t limited to just the Sikh community, as federal, state and local legislators around the country took time to congratulate their Sikh constituents on their celebrations. The Sikh Coalition has shared Vaisakhi proclamations and resolutions that were offered by various levels of government, from the US Congress to local city councils.
Vaisakhi celebrations will continue in the United States for the next several weeks. Nagar Kirtans are scheduled in New York City on April 27 and in Redding, California on May 4th.
Read more here about the history of Vaisakhi and the metamorphosis of the Sikh people in 1699.