Sikh Community In New York City Celebrates Vaisakhi

Tuesday is Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year festival marked around the world. CBS2's Kiran Dhillon reports on how the community in New York City is celebrating.

Video Transcript

MAURICE DUBOIS: Today is Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year festival marked around the world.

KRISTINE JOHNSON: CBS 2's Kira Dhillon reports on how the community here is celebrating.

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KIRA DHILLON: On one of the holiest days of the year, hundreds of Sikhs are gathering at this church, also known as a gurdwara in South Richmond Hill to mark Vaisakhi. The holiday an opportunity for Sikhs everywhere to come together to celebrate their faith and collective history.

HARPEET SINGH TOOR: For the Sikhs, Vaisakhi is so important.

KIRA DHILLON: Vaisakhi originally began centuries ago as a harvest festival in the Punjab region of India. In 1699, it took on extra meaning for Sikhs, when their 10th guru, Guru Gobind Singh, chose the day to establish the khalsa, the name given to Sikhs who have been baptized.

HARPEET SINGH TOOR: And the Guru Gobind Singh decided that, OK, you know, this is the day when I will the khalsa as a panth. Panth actually means as a group.

KIRA DHILLON: To celebrate what's also the beginning of their new year, the community gathers in solidarity.

RAJWINDER KAUR: We come to gurdwara with the families, with the kids. Pray there. Pray for the whole community. We eat pakoras. Make sweets.

KIRA DHILLON: A highlight of the festival is the annual parade that's taken place every year in Manhattan since the 1980's. One that's been canceled for two years due to the pandemic.

Even though COVID restrictions have changed how Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi, many say the spirit of the festival remains and will not be lost.

RAJWINDER KAUR: It's a real proud moment for us, because we learn what Sikh is, what the braveness is.

- It makes me feel extremely proud that I'm part of a religion that treats boys and girls with equality, and I have the same exact rights as men.

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KIRA DHILLON: Even if it's on a smaller scale, these devotees say they'll use the day to give thanks and pray for the year ahead. In the meantime, they're wishing us all a happy Vaisakhi. In South Richmond Hill, Queens, Kira Dhillon, CBS 2 News.