'Precious moment' as Whitehorse's Sikh community celebrates Vaisakhi

·2 min read
Ravjot Singh, left, and Gurpreet Kaur, right, read from the Guru Grath Sahib, the Sikh holy book, in Whitehorse over the weekend.  (Chris MacIntyre/CBC  - image credit)
Ravjot Singh, left, and Gurpreet Kaur, right, read from the Guru Grath Sahib, the Sikh holy book, in Whitehorse over the weekend. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC - image credit)

Whitehorse's Sikh community celebrated their religious holiday of Vaisakhi over the weekend.

Vaisakhi is a three-day gathering that symbolizes the New Year and recognizes the establishment of Khalsa, or Sikhism, in 1699.

For three days, members of the Sikh community read hymns from the Guru Grath Sahib, the Sikh holy book, continuously.

"To read the entire book takes approximately 50 hours," said Inderjeet Singh.

Singh has lived in Yukon for five years and sits on the Yukon Sikh Society's board.

'Having a place where we can all get together and celebrate occasions like this it's obviously very important,' said Inderjeet Singh of the Yukon Sikh Society.
'Having a place where we can all get together and celebrate occasions like this it's obviously very important,' said Inderjeet Singh of the Yukon Sikh Society.(Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

"It usually goes in two-hour shifts," said Singh.

"Some people can only sit one. Some people can go longer and then we rotate."

'First time ever' in Yukon

Singh described the weekend celebration as "a precious moment" for members of the Sikh community in Yukon.

"I think this is the first time ever in the history of Yukon that we have an Akhand Paath, or three-day function, going at this level," he said.

"Everybody from the community is welcome to join and be a part of this. Before, there might have been events like this, but more on a personal level or family level."

The third and final day of Vaisakhi is called Bhog.

"Usually at the end of that it's like a big event," Singh said.

"So everybody gathers and we can do certain prayers with music and usually there's a big feast with the whole community."

Kudratjot Singh, Ravjot Singh, Ushpreet Singh Khalsa & Gurdeep Pandher singing hymns and playing music over the weekend in Whitehorse.
Kudratjot Singh, Ravjot Singh, Ushpreet Singh Khalsa & Gurdeep Pandher singing hymns and playing music over the weekend in Whitehorse.(Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

However, the COVID-19 pandemic limited their options.

"So, not as big of a gathering," Singh said.

"And for the food part, it's going to be controlled in a way that as much as possible will control the contamination and stuff like that."

Approximately 360 people attended the Vaisakhi celebration at different points through the weekend.

"It can't be bigger than this, especially being the first time," said Singh.

"Having a place where we can all get together and celebrate occasions like this, it's obviously very important."