Bhangra dance performances are among the entertainment planned for this Sunday’s Vaisakhi Mela happening at the Saanich Fairgrounds.

Indian celebration offers a cultural immersion at Saanich Fairgrounds

Community invited to check out family oriented Vaisakhi event

For members of the Sikh community, the centuries-old festival of Vaisakhi marks the beginning of the new year, the birth of the Khalsa and the completion of the wheat harvest.

While local residents with the non-profit India Canada Cultural Association may not be as directly involved in agriculture as their forebearers, the marking of this special time of year in Greater Victoria offers numerous opportunities to experience Indian food, traditional dance and other cultural activities.

Not so ironically, this Sunday’s Vaisakhi Mela (a Sanskrit word meaning gathering, or to meet) is happening at the Saanich Fairgrounds, a Central Saanich venue tied directly to agricultural celebrations.

The free gathering at the fairgrounds represents the festival side of Vaisakhi, one of the most important cultural events of the year globally for members of the Sikh community – Hindus, Buddhists and Tamils also celebrate, but in slightly different ways. The festival also includes special prayer services and events at the gurdwaras (temples).

It’s primarily about family, says Serena Rai, a Victoria resident who has danced the traditional Indian bhangra style since she was five and performed often at such celebrations.

“We’re a close group. We all kind of pull together and work well as a group in order to make it a fun event for everybody,” she says.

While the mela has plenty of outward cultural appeal, Rai, as part of the younger generation, also appreciates the efforts being made to maintain her ethnic Indian heritage.

“It’s so important to look at what our elders are doing for us as a community,” she says of Vaisakhi-related events. “It makes me very proud to know my children (will be able to participate), as this is being passed from generation to generation.”

Gordy Dodd, a well-known Greater Victoria merchant and president of the India Canada Cultural Association, noted that the marking of Vaisakhi can have many beneficial elements.

“(This) celebration is about sharing and family,” he said.

“I firmly believe that when a community gathers in sharing its food, culture, music, art and dance, then our whole community of Victoria gains a sense of tranquility, equality and belonging that is spiritually healing for all of us.”

The Vaisakhi Mela, running from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 1528 Stelly’s X Rd. in Central Saanich, features a market, authentic Indian food stalls, henna tattoo applications and a variety of free children’s activities.

There will be outfit, food and decoration contests for attendees to take part in. From an entertainment standpoint, there will be various musical and dance performances and competitions, headlined by members of the Apna Virsa (translates to our cultural roots), which is billed as the region’s premier Punjabi arts and culture group.

According to Khushia Gill, the coach and leader of Apna Virsa, “Cultural dance knows no race, colour or ethnicity; only talent and passion.” and this groups remarkable energy and synergy symbolizes this way of dance.

The ICCA is mandated to celebrate and raise awareness about the power, diversity and colour of India’s rich culture. For more than 40 years, the society has worked towards creating bridges between the Indo-Canadian community in Greater Victoria and other cultural groups.

Getting there and back

For people wishing to attend Vaisakhi events in Saanichton but looking to avoid driving, transportation will be provided from various locations.

• Vehicles will leave the Khalsa Diwan Sikh Temple at 1210 Topaz Ave. at 11:30 a.m., noon and 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Departures from Saanich Commonwealth Place are at noon, 12:30, 2, 3 and 4 p.m.

• Vehicles also leave Mayfair Centre from the Toys R Us entrance at noon, 1 and 2 p.m., while departures from Sizzling Tandoor at Uptown happen at 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.

• Regular return times from the fairgrounds begin at 12:30 p.m. and run every 15 minutes starting at 4:30.

Just Posted

Saanich driver races to Chairman’s Trophy in Mission

Bill Okell has driven the same race car for 44 years

Local school districts gear up for the new back to school season

Seismic upgrades, inclusion and student safety are priorities

Camosun’s continuing education site a quick hit

Hundreds of courses available to launch new career opportunities

B.C. police watchdog investigating high-speed crash in Victoria

Police watchdog called in after dramatic early morning crash at Bay and Douglas intersection

VIDEO: RCMP officer killed in the line of duty remembered ‘through the laughter of children’

Sarah Beckett Memorial Playground opens with ceremony in Langford

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Vancouver Island man dead after reported hit-and-run incident

Oceanside RCMP seek public’s help gathering information

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Most Read