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‘The Skipping Sikh’ Is Urging People To Keep Exercising In Coronavirus Isolation
Vaisakhi, which this year falls on Monday 13 April, commemorates the Amrit Ceremony of Initiation which took place in 1699 and marked the ‘birth’ of the Sikh Nation. Traditionally, Sikh communities celebrate the festival by visiting their local Gurudwaras, which are decorated especially for the occasion.
There are also street processions, known as the Nagar Kirtan, led by the sacred Sikh scriptures and often including displays of the Sikh martial-art ‘gatka’ and the serving of plentiful free food – known as ‘langar’.
With all places of worship closed as part of the UK government’s social distancing measures and group gatherings not permitted during lockdown, community leaders and families are adapting how they mark this year’s Vaisakhi.
Some Gurudwaras will be streaming their services online or on community TV channels, says Singh Ubhi, while in the West Midlands, people are already using the hashtag #VirtualVaisakhiWM to wear traditional Sikh shades of orange or blue and post pictures on social media in a show of solidarity – and much-needed colour.
Manjit Kaur Kang, also from Birmingham, and co-chair of the RBS Sikh Network, welcomes these virtual celebrations.
“Vaisakhi 2020 will be an unprecedented occasion for many Sikhs with the absence of visiting the Gurudwara, family gatherings and partaking in the annual Nagar Kirtan,” she says of the challenge.
“[But] as Sikhs, we are reminded to always be in ‘Chardi Kala’, a mental state of positivity, optimism and joy even during times of adversity. Through this fantastic initiative, we can all get involved, share these positive and uplifting messages and bring communities together.”
Vaisakhi celebrations will continue in people’s homes during lockdown with households who are isolating together also praying together, watching services online, and volunteering where it is safe and possible to do so.
In particular, volunteers will direct the free food of ‘langar’ towards the most vulnerable at this time, whether that’s serving the homeless or delivering meals to hospitals and care homes – both for patients and frontline workers.
As Amrick Singh Ubhi says: “During these challenging times we must remember all those on the frontline who are serving humanity [and] remember those who have lost their lives or lost loves ones to the pandemic.”
Narinder Kaur Garcha, 44, from Tividale, is one of many in her West Midlands community who eagerly awaits Vaisakhi each year.
“I dedicate most of my spare time to programmes including the Nagar Kirtans,” she tells HuffPost UK. “This year due to the pandemic we are having to press pause. However, if we can save lives and ease pressure on the amazing NHS, this is ‘seva’ [the Sikh concept of selfless service] in itself.“
“I am pleased to see the number of Gurudwaras that are using social media platforms so we can still partake in listening to prayers online. Whilst I will miss celebrating with the community this is only short term.
“I look forward to seeing the doors of our Gurudwaras open in the not too distant future.“