Toronto awash in sights, sounds and scents of Vaisakhi

Tens of thousands of people converged on downtown Toronto Sunday to honour the Sikh celebration of Vaisakhi.

Nathan Phillips Square was packed with people paying tribute to their religion through song, hymn, food and prayer. Held on April 24, the Vaisakhi commemorates the beginnings of Sikhism which began with philosophies of Guru Gobind Singh born April 14, 1699, in India, the 10th and final Guru (teacher) of the Sikh faith.

Sikhism is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Sikhism originates from the word Sikh, which derives from the Sanskrit root ‘sisya’ meaning ‘disciple’ or ‘learner.’

The day marks a special occasion for many Sikhs living in Toronto like Deljeet Singh.

“The significance of today is honouring Guru Gobind Singh for giving us our identity, it was with him the foundation of our faith was laid,” said Singh. “So it’s important that we can come out here and show our kids and the rest of Toronto what our faith is all about.”

Rama Sibhu is a mother of five and for her it’s imperative that her family come out every year to support the Vaisakhi festivities. She talked of showing her kids the importance of their religion and explained the historical meaning behind the vast display of food offered at the festival.

“I love seeing all of my people here enjoying themselves. Its part of the Sikh culture to be with family and friends first to eat, then to pray as our Guru taught,” said Sibhu.

“I’ve been honouring the festival for the past 30 years and to see how much it has grown in Toronto is really important to me because it shows our strength in unity.”

Federal NDP leader Jack Layton was in attendance and said he was there to show his support and to recognize the positive contributions the Sikh community has made to Canada.

“They’ve been here for 100 years, building the railway, starting up the forestry industry and contributing to our society in so many ways,” said Layton.

“So I’m here to say thank you and to encourage us to recognize human rights for all of us with diverse backgrounds in our country.”

Filed by Matthew Cohen