Thousand of Sikhs gather to celebrate 'equality, freedom and justice' for Khalsa Day

Khalsa Day, also known as Vaisakhi, celebrates the Sikh new year and the founding of the Khalsa order of Sikhism.

Also known as Vaisakhi, the occasion celebrates the Sikh new year

The president of the Windsor Gurdwara estimates 10,000 people gathered at Windsor's riverfront to celebrate Khalsa Day. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Thousands of people gathered in Windsor's riverfront to celebrate the 320th anniversary of Sikhism becoming an organized faith.

Khalsa Day, also known as Vaisakhi, celebrates the Sikh new year and the founding of the Khalsa order of Sikhism.

To celebrate the occasion, the Windsor Gurdwara invited the public to parade across Riverside Drive, which saw thousands of Sikhs wear colourful clothing, children sitting in floats decorated in flowers and banners and traditional sword dances.

"This is a very important day for me because everyday I wear this turban and my [Sikh] clothes every day to school. This gives me pride," said Jagdeep Singh Dhillon, a tenth-grade student at Vincent Massey Secondary School.

Before the parade, people gathered in Festival Plaza, lining up in front of a truck carrying the Granth Sahib Ji — the holy scripture of the Sikh faith.

This truck was used to carry the Granth Sahib Ji — the holy scripture of the Sikh faith. Thousands of people lined up in front of it to pay their respects. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"This is where our teachings come from," said Dhillon, comparing it to Islam's Qur'an or Christianity's Holy Bible. "We bow down to them, pay our respects and get teachings from it."

For Harjinder Singh Kandola, president of the Windsor Gurdwara, Khalsa Day is a celebration of "equality, freedom and justice."

"Sikh faith, since its inception, stands for good will of all. But those who do not want equality in this world, they have been against this Sikh revolution," said Kandola, referencing the 1984 massacre of more than 3,000 Sikhs.

Jagdeep Singh Dhillon says his turban is like a 'crown' that he wears with pride. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

The massacre occurred in the aftermath of the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.  More than 3,000 Sikhs are estimated to have died in the anti-Sikh riots.

Kandola said last year's Khalsa Day parade in Windsor saw about 6,000 to 8,000 people attend. He adds that number has been "doubling and doubling" over the years.

"We hope today, we'll have the maximum attendance. We hope to have about 10,000 people here today."

Members of the Sikh faith volunteered their time, distributing food to patrons. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)
An entire tractor-trailer was used to recognize the 1984 Sikh genocide. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)
There was no shortage of refreshments during the parade, including mango lassi, a thick, yogurt-like drink. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)
The parade across Riverside Drive was led by a Windsor police cruiser and members of the Sikh Motorcycle Club of Ontario. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)
Children sat in a truck as it paraded across Riverside Drive, recognizing the Sikh faith as the fifth-largest religion in the world. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)
Sikhs dressed in the traditional blue garb of the Khalsa, which was created as a military order by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)
Have you tried pani puri? They're delicious, crispy crackers dressed up with condiments of the sweet and spicy variety. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)


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