Festival Unveils Sikh Faith

April 28, 2007

Author: Rebecca Rosen Lum

Source: Contra Costa Times


What began as a harvest festival in rural Punjab has become an opportunity for Sikhs to explain their faith throughout the Diaspora -- particularly in post-Sept. 11 America.

The Vaisakhi Festival links two New Years, overlaying a religious holiday on a seasonal celebration. At a time when farmers celebrated their harvest, a Sikh guru on April 13, 1699, established Khalsa, a ritual baptism. Whether one celebrates Vaisakhi as a religious or agricultural festival depends to some extent on a rural or urban locale.

In the United States, Vaisakhi has taken on a third meaning. Sikhs use its themes of moral purity and universal love to forge bonds with other ethnic and faith groups.

On April 15, Sikhs piloted their holy book on a float through the streets of Stockton, where an interfaith crowd numbering in the thousands gathered to watch the Vaisakhi parade.

This weekend, festivals in Concord, San Jose and Vallejo will perform dual duty as cultural holidays and social overtures.