Hundreds of Utah Sikhs gather in Taylorsville to celebrate Vaisakhi holiday

Published: Sunday, April 21 2013 7:00 p.m. MDT

Five boys dressed in the original clothing of the Sihk enter the temple during the annual Vaisakhi event in the Sikh Temple of Utah Sunday, April 21, 2013.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

TAYLORSVILLE — Hundreds of Utah Sikhs gathered for prayer, song, celebration and food Sunday in honor of one of the religion’s most revered holidays.

Called Vaisakhi, the religion’s holy day is observed worldwide each April as homage to the yearly harvest and in remembrance of guru Gobind Singh, who in 1699 founded the Sikh identity.

“This is a day of feasting and merriment before the fruitful time of harvest,” pronounced Jagdish Gill, president of the board of trustees of the Sikh Temple of Utah who led services there.

Several young children at the celebration also participated in songs and rituals symbolic of Sikh baptism. Pritpal Tib, whose 5 year-old son was one of five young boys to take part in the ceremony, said this year’s Vaisakhi was a significant milestone for his family.

“It was very touching thing for me. When I was his age, we were too busy struggling to survive (in India),” Tib said. “Here in America, we have enough funds and we have enough time to do that for our son so he can take part in the religion.”

Local Sikhs also celebrated Vaisakhi with a marathon reading of the 1,430-page holy book Guru Granth Sahib, from 8:30 a.m. Friday to 8:30 a.m. Sunday. About 10 readers took turns continuously reading the volume as an emphasis of turning to the scriptures.

“Anytime you want an answer to your question, read (the Guru Granth Sahib) and it will answer you,” Gill said.

Sikhism, a monolithic religion differing from Hinduism, gradually distinguished itself beginning in the 1400s in India. However, according to Sikh tradition, 1699 is the year the religion reached maturity of purpose under the leadership of respected Guru and holy prophet Gobind Singh.

“This was when an identity was given to us,” said congregation spokeswoman Harindar Dhindsa. “We became a religion for humanity.”

While Sikhs use Vaisakhi to celebrate their identity, it’s also an important holiday for different reasons in other religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism. The celebration’s organizers said Sunday that the message of the Sikh religion places a heavy emphasis on inclusion of other faiths.

“Sikhism addresses all (of) the universe, not Sikhs alone. It’s irrespective of creed or religion; it addresses all of us.” Gill said.

Today, there are more than 27 million Sikhs worldwide, including half a million in the United States, making it the fifth largest definitive religion in the world. While Utah’s Sikh community is small, numbering in the hundreds, Taylorsville boasts the largest of any throughout the Intermountain West, including Nevada, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Gill estimated about 250 to 300 local families attend weekly services.

Email: blockhart@deseretnews.com

Twitter: benlockhart89

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