THOUSANDS of Sikhs are parading through the streets of Bradford today to celebrate the most important event of their calendar year.

Organisers said up to 5,000 people would be joining in the annual Vaisakhi celebration parade, which celebrates the creation of Sikhism as a collective faith in 1699.

This year's procession began at the Gurdwara Amrit Parchar Dharmik Diwan, on Peckover Street, and will visit each of the city's six gurdwaras in turn.

Known as the Nagar Kirtan, the procession involves people walking through the streets singing hymns from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.


This year's parade was led by drummers and brass musicians, followed by standard bearers carrying flags and a lorry carrying the Holy Scriptures and musicians and singers performing devotional hymns.

The bulk of the procession then followed on foot, turning the Shipley Airedale Road, which was closed to traffic, into a sea of orange as the parade made their way towards Wakefield Road and the first stop at the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Dev Ji, on Usher Street.

The Vaisakhi marches have been happening in Bradford for the past three decades, and Dr Harjap Singh Pooni, one of the main coordinators of the event, said it was always a special day.

"The Vaisakhi is the biggest event of the Sikh calendar," he said.

"It was on this day in 1699 that Guru Gobind Singh held a special ceremony in Punjab and a new nation was created.

"As well as the Sikh community, we have leaders from other faith communities as well, and being a lovely day, we are expecting more than 5,000 to join us at some point during the route.

"The atmosphere is ecstatic, it is difficult to describe. It is such a joyous occasion and everyone is in a happy mood.

"People chant hymns and it is like a mela, but a religious event."

The parade is set to finish back at the Gurdwara Amrit Parchar Dharmik Diwan at around 3pm.