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Vaisakhi celebrated at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association in Williams Lake

Celebrated at gurdwaras (temples) around the world, the festival closes with ceremony, colour

The Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association celebrated Vaisakhi on May 13, with a feast of both culture and food.

The biggest event of the Sikh calendar, Vaisakhi was originally a marking of the start of spring harvest for farmers in the Punjabi region of India.

Vaisakhi is still celebrated around the world and in Canada, members of the Sikh faith community gather at gurdwaras, also referred to as Sikh temples.

Upon arrival, community members are offered food, a key part of the Sikh culture.

Community members sit on the floor on carpets and eat during Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)
Community members sit on the floor on carpets and eat during Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)

“It is our responsibility to help the people who are in need,” explained Bob Sunner, who was there to celebrate with the community.

With high temperatures and blue skies for this year’s event, community members crowded into patches of shade to watch the flagpole ceremony.

Community members watching the flagpole ceremony were packed into patches of shade during Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)
Community members watching the flagpole ceremony were packed into patches of shade during Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)

Each year, the flag and its pole are refreshed, the pole is washed and carefully recovered and a new flag is installed and raised. Five symbolic holy men stand guard while the pole is washed with milk and rinsed with water, then the pole is covered in fabric and wrapped and tied with ribbon.

Harmandeep Kaur, from left, Reet Kaur Sidhu, and Noor Kaur Basi, were enjoying some of the food during Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)
Harmandeep Kaur, from left, Reet Kaur Sidhu, and Noor Kaur Basi, were enjoying some of the food during Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)

A new flag is placed on the pole and held up until the pole is raised.

Hymn singers and five symbolic chosen Sikh were part of the Vaisakhi ceremony and celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)
Hymn singers and five symbolic chosen Sikh were part of the Vaisakhi ceremony and celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)

A bundle of flower petals was also tied into the flag at the May 13 ceremony. Community members watched as the pole and flag were raised and then the petals were released in a shower and children ran out to meet them as they dropped to the ground.

Onlookers watch as flower petals are released from the raised flag during Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)
Onlookers watch as flower petals are released from the raised flag during Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)

In India, gurdwaras are open 24 hours a day and the flag and pole are a symbol for those who are hungry, tired or lost, seeing the flag, they know they can find help within.

At Sri Harmindir Sahib, often referred to as the Golden Temple in English, a gurdwara in the Punjab region of India, 150,000 people are given food every day.

The food offered to the community at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association was plentiful, beautiful and delicious. Trays were piled high with colourful Indian sweets and a range of savoury dishes, including pakoras, samosas and a dish usually served on the streets of India called pani puri or golappa. An interesting food to try and eat, pani puri is delicious.

Harnikk Sihdu was enjoying some of the pani puri with his mom Harprit at Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)
Harnikk Sihdu was enjoying some of the pani puri with his mom Harprit at Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)

A massive spread of food is offered to the community during Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)
A massive spread of food is offered to the community during Vaisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association on May 13, 2023. (Ruth Lloyd photo Williams Lake Tribune)

You start with a crispy deep-fried hollow ball which a person then breaks a hole in and places inside some cooked spiced chickpeas and/or potatoes and then adds chilled tamarind or mint and coriander water. The entire thing should be eaten in one bite, which can be a challenge, but it is a unique dish.

The event at Gurdwara Sahib Western Singh Sabha Association also included three Sikh hymn singers who travel to Vaisakhi celebrations all over to support the festivities.

Gurdip Singh was one of the hymn singers and told the Tribune he has been to many places in both Canada and Australia to perform hymns and is headed to Prince George for celebrations there after he is done in Williams Lake.

READ MORE: Guru Nanak Sikh Temple gathers for Vaisakhi in Williams Lake

READ MORE: Residents enjoy Vaisakhi celebrations in Williams Lake



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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

After moving back to Williams Lake, where I was born and graduated from school, I joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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