Thousands of Sikhs from Kent and S E London took part in a colourful Nagar Kirtan (procession) around central Gravesend to mark the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi with many local residents lining the streets to watch.
Thousands of Sikhs from Kent and S E London took part in a colourful Nagar Kirtan (procession) around central Gravesend to mark the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi with many other local residents lining the streets to watch. Gravesend, Kent, UK
At the start of the procession a large crowd gathered at the recently completed Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara and watched as the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Scriptures) were ceremonially carried out to be place inside a model of the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple of Amritsar) on one of the floats at the head of the procession.
Ahead of this, at the very front of the procession was a flower-decorated lead car, followed by an open lorry carrying the large Nagara drum and its beaters. Behind this marched five Sikh men carrying the Sikh standard (Nishan Sahib) closely followed by five more with raised swords, the Panj Pyare, representing the five Sikhs baptised at Ananpundur in 1699 by the last living human Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, the founding of the 'Khalsa'.
Behind the Guru Granth Sahib came the walking congregation (Sangat) led by Punjabi School children, then the women and after them the men, along with various vehicles carrying the elderly. After the religious Vaisakhi procession were lorries with cultural, social and sports groups, including Bhangra groups the Guru Nanak Football Club and children from local primary schools.
Slowly the procession made its way through the main shopping streets of Gravesend, with many small groups of Sikhs on the way handing out free vegetarian food and drink. I enjoyed some delicious vegetable curry with a strong mint flavour as well as some very sweet chai and a couple of vegetable samosas, but there were also plenty of treats for the children, lollipops, soft drinks and sweets.
There was a large crowd waiting for the procession in the area around the Ravidas Gurdwara, a rather smaller building in a side street, where there were some very busy stalls serving free food and a shoulder to shoulder line of people handing out packets of crisps, soft drinks, and other treats - and even at least one handing out more healthy bananas.
I watched the end of the procession go past the civic centre on its way back to the Gurdwara before catching a train home. The Vaisakhi celebrations at Gravesend continue tomorrow with the main religious service in the Gurdwara.