Thousands join Sikh Vaisakhi celebrations in Birmingham

image captionThe Vaisakhi festival has been celebrated in Birmingham for 21 years

Almost 100,000 people have taken part in an important Sikh festival in Birmingham.

The annual Vaisakhi celebrations in Handsworth Park included live music, stalls and the traditional Langar free vegetarian feast.

Thousands of people also joined two processions through Birmingham.

The Vaisakhi festival, which has been marked in the city for more than 20 years, is one of the biggest of its kind outside of India, organisers said.

The event marks the formation of the Sikh nation or Khalsa Panth in the 17th Century, and coincides with the harvest festival in India.

Two processions made their way from gurdwaras in Hockley and Smethwick, each led by five Sikhs, representing the Beloved Ones, who were the first to join the order more than 300 years ago.

Cultural calendar

Sharon Lea, from Birmingham City Council, said the Vaisakhi festival showed "how people come together in the city to celebrate their cultural identity".

She added that it had become a key event in Birmingham's cultural calendar.

One of the organisers, Shantose Kaur, said there was an open invitation to everyone in the city to join the festival, no matter what their religious or ethnic background was.

It came on the same day that Dr Bhai Mohinder Singh, from Birmingham, was recognised for his "dedicated work to Roman Catholic-Sikh relations and for his enthusiastic commitment to working for peace among people of all faiths".

In a service at St Chad's Cathedral, Bernard Longley, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, awarded him with the Pontifical Order of Knighthood of St Gregory, on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI.

Dr Bhai Mohinder Singh is chairman of the Nishkam Civic Association, based in Birmingham, and is a trustee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace.

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