On Sunday, we were out walking in downtown Toronto when we suddenly felt that we had been transported to India. Thousands of Sikh men, women and children wearing traditional colours of saffron, yellow and blue filled the street. Apparently around 80,000 to 100,000 people had turned up to participate in the Khalsa Day parade which was proceeding towards city hall.
Khalsa Day usually celebrated on April 13th or 14th, commemorates the birth of the Sikh religion founded in 1699 and marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year. It coincides with the celebration of the harvest festival, Vaisakhi, in northern India and the Punjab, and is also commemorated by Buddhists to mark the passing of Gautama Buddha. I’m not sure why Toronto held the parade on April 27th, perhaps the last Sunday in April?
Hair is held to be sacred in the Sikh religion and men are not supposed to cut their hair or shave their beards. It was a colourful and amazing sight to see so many turbans. The women are not supposed to even pluck their eyebrows but I imagine that only the very religious stick to this rule. One young Sikh man who we fell into conversation with, commented that he had never seen so many Sikhs all in the same place at the same time outside of India. Having travelled through India several times, the only time I’ve ever seen this many Sikhs together in the sub-continent was many years ago when I happened to be in Amritsar on the birthday of Guru Nanak who was the founder of the Sikh religion. According to census statistics, 2.9% of the Toronto population are followers of the Sikh religion.