This year Vaisakhi will be celebrated on Friday 14 April, and we asked Kartar Singh to tell us a little about this auspicious festival and how he will be celebrating this year.

Kartar Singh is a community champion who is the first Sikh appointed as a Lead Chaplain in the UK, and an executive member of the Sikh Council UK. He has been involved in community and interfaith relations for over 10 years, and worked with several programmes involving Near Neighbours, including the Catalyst Programme.

Vaisakhi marks the creation of the Khalsa by Sri Guru Gobind Singh in the year 1699 at the city of Anandpur, Punjab. The Khalsa is a fraternity of Sikhs (female and male) who have willingly given their commitment to dedicate their life to the transformation of the world around them. Central to this is the championing of human dignity, rights and freedom, the challenging of oppression and the establishment of a world where the basic needs of everyone are provided; from food and drink to healthcare, education, shelter and security.

Vaisakhi marks the beginning of a shared journey which Sikhs willingly take on in faith and trust. By uniting all people on the ideals of truth, compassion and equity, Sikhs believe they can achieve these great ideals and transform the world in which they live. The Khalsa are given a unique identity and distinct appearance which include: five Kakaar (Articles of faith) that serve as symbols of the Khalsa’s qualities of sovereignty and dedication, a crown in the form of a Dastaar (Turban) and royal surnames (Singh for men, and Kaur for women).

The Sikh Gurus taught that social change must be built upon a personal transformation, so many Sikhs and particularly the Khalsa will individually and collectively spend time in introspection and meditation to reflect on their personal and shared journeys; reconnecting with the message of Kirat Karo (Honest Labour), Naam Japo (Meditation) and Vand Shakko (Sharing) and invigorate their commitment for the year ahead. Vaisakhi is also time for the Khalsa to come together and discuss the challenges of the day, whether it be poverty, growing social inequality or a humanitarian disaster in order to develop a collective response.

Whilst the festival is marked particularly on Vaisakhi day, celebrations and activities will be spread across the month of April. Around the world and across the UK, many Sikhs will gather together in Nagar Kirtans (Processions) in which they will travel across their city singing hymns led by the Guru Granth Sahib and sharing the Vaisakhi message. Across the Sikh community there will be many social action projects and charitable works initiated, and at home there will be lots of laughter, food and celebration.

At the Gurdwara, the day begins before dawn with the Prakash (Illumination) when the Guru Granth Sahib is opened and a Hukhamnama (Message for the Day) is read. The day is then filled with Gurbani (Prayer) the singing of Kirtan (Hymns) and Katha (discourse) and many Sikhs come throughout the day from before sunrise until after sunset, so they can pray, reflect, participate in food from the Langar (free communal kitchen open to all) and celebrate together. On Vaisakhi many Sikhs who wish to join the Khalsa fraternity may attend an Amrit Sanchar (Initiation ceremony) and giving their commitment to live by the values and vision of the Khalsa and will join the collective journey of personal and social transformation.

This Vaisakhi I will be spending much time reflecting on my journey over the last year, being with my family and dear friends in the Gurdwara, participating in charitable initiatives and volunteering at the Nagar Kirtan. It will be a time of rejuvenating myself in the love, compassion and joy of being on a shared journey of hope and faith, so that together we can create a kinder, fairer and fulfilling world for all.