Vaisakhi parade returns to Gravesend to celebrate Sikh festival after two-year break
Thousands of people are expected to head to one of Europe's largest Gurdwaras as a celebratory parade marking the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi returns after two years.
The religious and cultural festival is one of the most important dates in the calendar for the Sikh community and usually sees thousands gathering in Gravesend with music, dancing and colour.
But the pandemic put stop to the annual parade through the town, which draws people from all over the world and in 2015 saw then Prime Minister David Cameron and wife Samantha pay a visit. For the past two years, festivities and services moved online instead.
Vaisakhi is a celebration of the creation of the Khalsa – a collective of committed Sikhs who are leaders and defenders of the Sikh way.
It was formed to fight oppression and uphold freedom and basic needs such as food, clothing, education and health for all people.
The Khalsa was first created in April 1699 when the 10th Guru tested Sikhs by asking for volunteers to sacrifice themselves.
The first five who stepped forward and proved their devotion were chosen to form the first Khalsa and were known as the Panj Pyare or Five Beloved.
It is now an annual festival and often marked by a colourful procession known as Nagar Kirtan.
Next week, on Saturday, April 16, 5,000 people are expected to attend the parade through Gravesend town centre which will be the first since 2019.
The route will set off from the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, off Saddington Street, at midday and go past the Ravidas Gurdwara in Brandon Street.
It will then head towards Clarence Place and down Wellington Street before returning to the Gurdwara by about 2.30pm.
The march will be led by the Panj Pyare and flag bearers followed by the holy Sikh scriptures on a special model of the Golden Temple and the congregation will either be walking or on community floats.
Until 6pm there will be a religious festival called Dharmic Mela in the grounds with singing, music, a funfair and charity and business stalls for all to enjoy.
There will also be a celebratory service known as the Gurpurb on Sunday, April 17 at the Gurdwara.
The Gurdwara management team is asking those who want to come along to take a lateral flow test beforehand and if positive to enjoy the celebrations from home by watching their social media broadcasts.
There will be rolling road closures as the procession passes.