Baisakhi in Canadian
Canada is one country that
has scored over others in taking Baisakhi celebrations to the
House of Commons, writes Sheeba Singh
Members of the Indian community in Canada gathered in Parliament to celebrate the birth anniversary of the Khalsa
has now become a global festival, thanks to the growing
influence of Punjabi immigrant communities in different parts of
the world. Be it the US or Canada, Germany or England, Australia
or New Zealand, Kenya or Tanzania, if there is one event that
brings the Punjabi community together every year in April, it is
Baisakhi. Everywhere, huge colourful processions are taken out
from places of worship to city centres, where leaders of various
political parties, including, at times, MPs, ministers and
others, make it a point to address the congregations.
Canada is one
country that has scored over others in taking Baisakhi
celebrations to the House of Commons. It started after the
election of the first Sikh turbaned Member of Parliament, Gurbax
Singh Malhi of the Liberal Party, in 1993. Since then, every
year a function is held in the House of Commons. No other
country, including India, has such celebrations inside
Parliament. Incidentally, Canada is one of the few countries
that issued a special commemorative stamp in 1999 to celebrate
the tercentenary of the birth of the Khalsa.
This year also
members of the Indian community gathered in Parliament to
celebrate the 311th birth anniversary of the Khalsa.
A short note on behalf of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, lauding
the Indian community, was read out at the beginning of the
celebrations. With over five lakh Indian immigrants in the
country, and the emerging Indo-Canadian trade, Canada embraces
its diversity and the coming together of different cultures by
valuing such occasions.
Members of Parliament of the Conservative Party Nina Grewal and
Tim Uppal, the event threw light on the importance of building
cooperation amongst Canadian citizens, and was presided by
dignitaries and diplomats from different parts of the world.
There was Gurmant Grewal, three-time member of the House of
Commons and husband of Nina Grewal. Incidentally, Nina and
Gurmant created history when they both were elected
simultaneously to the House of Commons.
After over 300
years of the birth of the Khalsa, as many as 161 countries
participated in the celebration of Baisakhi. Baisakhi Mela, as
the event is called, also introduces its guests to Sikhism, its
core values and beliefs. It is a religion premised around faith
in one God, speaks of love for all other cultures, values and
people despite their differences.
Commissioner of India to Canada Shashi Shekhar spoke of the
recognition of the Indian community in Canada, and the
contributions made by its members to the development of the
country. Indo-Canadians, who have made significant contributions
to both their own community as well as the new nation of their
abode, are symbolic of the multiculturalism in Canada.
was also made of Tiger Jeet Singh, the first Sikh in Canada to
have a school named after him. Only a few weeks ago, Mayor of
Milton in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) had inaugurated one
A bhangra team
enraptured the people by its vibrant performance. Melodious
vocalist Yuvraj Singh, who provided a surreal atmosphere of the
fields of Punjab through his singing, joined the bhangra
performers. A group of young women displayed their skills in
giddha, and added to the jovial display of Punjabi culture.
came to a close with member of Rajya Sabha Tarlochan Singh — a
commendable member of the Sikh community — not only
highlighting the importance of the traditional festival but also
the immense contributions the Sikh community has made worldwide.
His work for advocating rights of the Sikh community are evident
from allocating recognition to Bhagat Singh in Parliament in
India as a historical figure to pushing forth and amending the
Anand Marriage Act. His short, yet inspirational, speech was
about the values of Sikhism, and how it lends hand to bringing
the communities at large together.
welcomed its members from varying cultures and communities of
the world. In fact, he added, one of the first Sikhs came from
the untouchable caste and was welcomed without hesitation. This
is the message that stood out in the evening — welcome
everyone, without caring for any caste. He also highlighted the
spirit that brought Banda Singh Bahadar to Punjab to fight the
then tyrannical rule.
community will be soon celebrating the tercentenary of Baba
Banda Singh Bahadar at Chappar Chirri, near Chandigarh. It was
at Chappar Chiri that Baba Banda Singh Bahadar had defeated the
Nawab of Sirhind to establish the first Sikh state in 1710.
also emphasised the love and respect Canada has shown towards
Indians. It is this level
of respect that has brought more Indians to the country,
including he, even if for a visit. "People choose to come
to this country because of its strength," he said, and
added: "The Canadian Prime Minister’s visit to India and
to Amritsar shows the unity between the two countries."
Emphasising the need for an
everlasting faith in humanity, he claimed that God is neither
divisible, nor can He be monopolised. Baisakhi is a day of
rejoicing, and with his parting words, tuhadi khushboo saanu
aawey, the evening came to an end with applause.