Indian mission in London celebrates Baisakhi with bhangra and tribute to Sikh tenets

The High Commission of India in London organised a vibrant Baisakhi celebration this week, complete with bhangra music and diaspora organisations reflecting upon the inclusive message of Punjab’s traditional harvest festival.

Bhangra dance at Indian mission in London
Bhangra dancers at the Baisakhi celebrations hosted by the Indian High Commission in London. Photo courtesy: X/@HCI_London

Indian High Commissioner to the UK Vikram Doraiswami and Deputy High Commissioner Sujit Ghosh were among senior diplomats who adorned turbans for the festive occasion.

They hosted a large gathering of parliamentarians, community leaders and well-known artistes, including British Punjabi musician Channi Singh, at India House on April 9 evening, though the actual date of Baisakhi is April 13.

Hindi story writer Tejinder Sharma and Punjabi poet and scholar Talwinder Singh Dhillon opened the proceedings to set the context of the festival and its universal message of peace and harmony.

“Baisakhi is made up of the words ‘Basal’, which means getting together, and ‘Fasal’, which means the harvesting of crops, making up this historic springtime festival,” said Dhillon, as he reflected upon the history of the festival marking the birth of the Khalsa in the 17th century.

Baisakhi celebrations at the Indian mission in London
These Baisakhi celebrations have been attended by many notable Indian-origin personalities, including politicians, in the United Kingdom. Photo courtesy: X/@HCI_London

Virendra Sharma, Britain’s veteran Member of Parliament of Indian heritage from the predominantly Punjabi constituency of Ealing Southall in west London, spoke of the occasion as symbolic of the “immense contribution” of the Sikh community to the United Kingdom.

“The spirit of service can be witnessed everywhere, whether it is in the contribution of our gurdwaras, the local business community or individuals,” he said.

Fellow Labour MP and Padma Shri recipient Barry Gardiner and British Punjabi peers Baroness Sandy Verma and Lord Rami Ranger were among others who addressed the gathering.

The speakers also reflected upon the more sombre association of Baisakhi during the British Raj, the day of the festival in April 1919 when General Dyer shot at an innocent gathering in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, killing thousands.

Baisakhi brings to me a few important lessons. The first point that I take from it is the understanding of Sikhi — the idea of being a voyager in the quest of truth. It means none of us has knowledge of the truth, but we are seeking it… I invite you to celebrate with me and my colleagues, the festival of Baisakhi in its truest, most fundamental meaning of celebrating it in the tradition of Sikhi.

Indian High Commissioner to the UK Vikram Doraiswami
High commissioner V Doraiswami
Indian High Commissioner V Doraiswami addresses the Baisakhi gathering. Photo courtesy: X/@HCI_London

“We must remember that the basis for what the great [Sikh] Gurus were teaching us was rationality, practicality. What is sewa if not practicality; it is about recognising the common humanity in each of us,” he added.

Baisakhi, which falls on a Saturday this year, was also celebrated by thousands during the annual Nagar Kirtan in Southall over the past weekend. It continued to be marked by diaspora groups across the UK through the course of this week.