Vesakhi celebrations back in full swing with month-long events
To celebrate Vesakhi this year, the Sikh community here has planned a month's worth of initiatives, including a new movement to raise the number of women in community leadership roles.
Festivities kicked off last Saturday (Apr 9) with the light-up of Geylang Lorong 29 - the home of one of the seven gurdwaras here - and will conclude with a cultural and sporting event on April 30 at the Singapore Khalsa Association.
On Thursday (Apr 14), which is Vesakhi day, celebrations began with the culmination of a three-day continuous congregational prayer at the Sri Guru Singh Sabha at Wilkie Road. A similar prayer event will take place in the evening at the Sri Guru Nanak Satsang Sabha in Katong.
The month-long celebration comes as the more than 12,000-strong Sikh community here marks this year's anniversary of the birth of the Khalsa after muted celebrations over the past two years due to Covid-19.
"The congregation has sacrificed a lot in the past two years...now that measures are almost back to before for religious places of worship, we wanted to celebrate the festival of Vesakhi in a big way that will be memorable for everyone, Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike," said Mr Deep Singh, president of the Pardesi Khalsa Dharmak Diwan in Geylang.
In the evening, the Central Sikh Gurdwara Board (CSGB) will sign a memorandum of understanding with the National University of Singapore on a visiting professorship in Sikh studies aimed at promoting academic scholarship in this field both in Singapore and abroad.
This is the first Sikh professorship to be set up in Singapore and Southeast Asia. The CSGB said it is aiming to raise S$1.2 million for an endowment fund to support the visiting professorship. Donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Government.
On Thursday, the Gurdwara Sahib Yishun will also launch a coffee table book as part of its Vesakhi day celebrations. The book traces the history of the place of worship from its founding in 1925.
The Sikh community will also host Minister for Community, Culture and Youth Edwin Tong on Friday when he visits the Khalsa Dharmak Sabha gurdwara to partake in langar and observe Vesakhi celebrations.
Langar refers to the community kitchen of a gurdwara. Free vegetarian meals prepared by volunteers in Sikh temples are served to all, regardless of religion.
For the last two years, the Sikh community has had to cope with measured prayer sessions during Vesakhi and be restricted in some of the usual ways of congregational praying, noted Mr Harpal Singh Bajaj, president of the Sri Guru Nanak Satsang Sabha in Katong.
Also launched earlier this month was a new initiative called EnKaur by the Sikh Advisory Board to study ways to increase female representation in the Sikh community.
The EnKaur working committee, which is made up of 21 Sikh women from diverse backgrounds, will study the reasons behind low representation of women in Sikh community organisations and initiatives, including at the leadership levels, and how to create greater opportunity for women to contribute.
Vesakhi marks the anniversary of the birth of the Khalsa - or concept of a Sikh community - a key event in the establishment of the Sikh religion and identity.
Literally meaning "pure", Khalsa refers collectively to all Sikhs who have received Amrit (ambrosial nectar) through the Amrit Sanchar (initiation) ceremony.
This year's celebration will be a big morale booster for the community after the past two years, where key festivals had to be sacrificed due to the pandemic, said former MP Inderjit Singh, who chairs the Coordinating Council of Sikh Institutions.
"Vesakhi has always been a key event for the Sikh community here," he said. "We are fortunate to be able to come together this year to celebrate it in a big way again after the uncertainty the last two years."
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now