As part of our Good Neighbour campaign, this month we are shining the light on inclusion in the community. This includes ways to celebrate cultures and background and ways that you can connect with more people in your community.
We know that we're stronger and more successful when we support each other and combine the unique perspectives, talents, and wisdom that our different life experiences give us, and we can all take responsibility to fight inequality every day. One of the best ways we can do this is by learning more about our neighbours who live in our communities. As part of our Good Neighbour campaign, we’re sharing stories of the wonderful variety of people living next door and down the street, so that we can all learn to understand each other a little bit better. Today, we’re looking at residents who practice the Sikh religion…
What is Sikhism?
Sikhism is one of the largest religions in the world and is celebrated in many of our communities. Sikhs believe in one God who is their protector and guide. They consider everyone to be equal before God and place significant importance on one’s honourable actions and intentions.
The Guru Granth Sahib is the Sikh holy book and in the UK, Sikhs usually go to the Gurdwara on Sundays. This is when they will listen to teachings based on the holy book, chant and say prayers from the gurus.
Find out more about Sikhism here.
Today we are speaking to Mr and Mrs Virdi based in Chatham, Kent who share with us how they celebrate Vaisakhi, which took place earlier this year.
Vaisakhi started as a harvest festival in the Punjabi region of northern India and has been celebrated for more than 300 years! In 1699, the celebration coincided with the creation of the Khalsa Order. It promotes justice and equality and the creation of a more equal and fair society. Members commit to wearing the five articles of faith and practice daily meditation.
Read more on how Mr and Mrs Virdi celebrate this special holiday and what it means to them below.
Mr and Mrs Virdi, their story…
After a 22-year stint in the army where Mr Virdi was a Rank CQMH (Company Quarter Master Havildar Major), Senior NCOs Rank, and a priest, Mr Virdi made the decision to move to the UK.
“I have always devoted my life to Sikhi and when moving to the UK in 1993 I came as a priest, and I am now based at the local temple on a part-time basis.”
His wife later joined him in the UK in 2000, and they both became Orbit customers in 2010. Mrs Virdi is a housewife with a passion for crochet and knitting which she learnt at a young age and still follows now. They have four children together who are based around the world, two of which are in India, one in Canada and the other is here in the UK.
Read on to see how they celebrate Vaisakhi!
What does Vaisakhi mean to you?
As part of Vaisakhi there is a three-day prayer where the Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Sikh Holy Book) will be read from cover to cover, for the full 72 hour period. This is often in three-hour stints read by each of the priests. As a priest himself Mr Virdi will often attend the temple to take part in the reading. Mrs Virdi would also be heavily involved with the organisations and food coordinations.
“We love to celebrate our ‘Christmas’ by going to the Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) and do Seva (selfless service), whether it's preparing food in the vegetarian kitchen, or listening to prayers and hymns.”
Mr and Mrs Virdi also take part in a Nagar Kirtan. Traditionally the procession is led by the saffron-robed Panj Piare (the five beloved of the Guru), who are followed by the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy Sikh scripture which is placed on a float. At times these Nagar Kirtans can be a long walk from Gurdwara to Gurdwara collecting worshipers on the way. (Example Photo of Nagar Kirtan Provided)
“We celebrate with our community and loved ones and then we end the day with fireworks and a celebration of Langar”
Sikhism is one of the largest religions in the world and it is great to understand how it is celebrated in our communities. Get in touch to share your own background and experiences with your community by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.