Sikhs in Toronto celebrate Khalsa festival
May 1, 2007 - 2:15:02 PM

Toronto, May 1 - The Sikh community here celebrated the Toronto Khalsa festival, intended to educate other Canadians about the Sikh faith and ensure that their culture is kept alive by new generation Canadian-born Sikhs.

An estimated 40,000 people participated in the parade held Monday, which featured bands, floats and Sikh men brandishing swords.

The mayor of Toronto proclaimed the day as Khalsa Day and praised the Sikh objectives of peace and respect.

Thousands of people were given free meals after the colourful parade, which was dominated by the orange and blue colours of the Sikh religion, the Star newspaper reported.

This year, Varinder S. Gill, a homeopathic doctor here, brought out a brochure explaining the Sikh religion and the use of the turban.

'We need to explain to people who we are,' said Gill, adding that he had been in the Middle East prior to coming to Canada and had 'stones thrown at us' in the Gulf. Canada, on the other hand, has been very welcoming, he said.

The festival, which started with 2,000 participants in 1986, has grown into a huge event attended by important Canadian political leaders.

Bands playing traditional Sikh music entertained people prior to the late-afternoon speeches.

'One aim of the festival is to educate other Canadians about the Sikh religion, but it also helps Sikhs to stay connected to each other,' said dental hygienist Inderjit Lamba, who came to Canada in 1994.

She added that the festival ensures 'that we do not forget our religion and culture'.

Her sister-in-law, Deepinder Lamba, a teacher, pointed out the importance of bringing their Canadian-born children to these events so 'the culture is not lost'.

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