Celebrations marking one of the most important dates on the Sikh calendar have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Vaisakhi, which falls this year on Monday, commemorates the creation of Khalsa, a collective organization of initiated Sikhs.
In recent years, thousands of people have gathered in the cities that are home to the largest Sikh communities in England.
But now the gurdwaras have found ways to bring Vaisakhi into people’s homes.
Two of the biggest events reportedly later this month took place in Trafalgar Square, London, where more than 30,000 people have gathered in recent years, and in Handsworth Park, Birmingham, where up to 100,000 people were expected.
The celebrations in Leicester, Southall and Gravesend were also interrupted.
In London, the mayor’s cultural adviser, Manraj Singh Othi, said that if Vaisakhi had brought together Londoners, Sikhs and non-Sikhs, public safety was the priority.
These feelings were echoed by the Sikh Gurdwaras Council in Birmingham – and in Southall, west London, Gurdwara secretary general Navraj Singh added: “No event on the Sikh calendar should endanger lives. “
At any other time, the celebrations would have included colorful street processions, or nagar kirtans, and free food, or langar, as well as cultural activities, including arts, crafts, entertainment and martial arts.
But this year, the religious cult moved online and the Sikh practice of offering food had to be withdrawn from the community, because people isolated themselves and stayed at home.
In Leicester, this initiative was supported by the Leicestershire Sikh Police Association, which helped cook and deliver meals, distributing between 300 and 400 meals to people each day.
Meanwhile, virtual worship included prayers directly from the Golden Temple of Amritsar broadcast by Sikh2Inspire, meditation and lectures from Basics of Sikhi, and a digital mass prayer Monday, hosted by Digi Sangat.
But there are always mixed feelings.
In Hayes, also in West London, volunteer Sundeep Kaur Gosal said that she missed the vulnerable people that she would usually help with her “spirit and heart”, while Nari Sohal, of Slough, who is Volunteer for the Swat charity, said, “Life looks like it’s stopped. “
However, as reports emerged that ethnic minority communities were the hardest hit by Covid-19, Harjinder Panesar, president of Harrow Sikhs, said that she was relieved that the events had been canceled, adding: “We can come back next year when we have a vaccination. “
Sukhjeevan Singh, of the Sikh Council UK, said that special food production guidelines compiled by the Sikh Doctors Association had been issued to gurdwaras during the pandemic.
Before the covid-19 crisis, the gurdwaras already had “langar managers” who had training in food hygiene, allergen awareness and food handling and hygiene policies, he added.
He said that the gurdwaras serving the langar have registered their facilities with their local authorities in the same way as the restaurants.
In Gravesend, Kent, the gurdwara expected around 10,000 people to celebrate Vaisakhi.
Newly elected president Manpreet Singh Dhaliwal said that, with virtual prayers and food deliveries, the gurdwara had taken langar from NHS workers at several nearby hospitals.
Priest Gravesend Giani Amerjit Singh said it was to say “thank you to all those working on the front lines.”
Hardev Singh Sohal of the United Sikh Association of Liverpool and Guru Nanak Gurdwara said: “We believe that the whole human race is one. We are all equal. Our religion believes in service and humanity. We help everyone. “
He said all Liverpool gurdwaras remain closed and this year he will spend Vaisakhi at home with his daughter.