Sikhs from around the Lower Mainland gathered in Queensborough on Sunday to celebrate the life, teachings and martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji.
A religious process began at 10 a.m. at the Queensborough temple, culminating at the grounds next to the Queensborough Middle School
New Westminster resident Satnam Singh Sangra said the annual religious procession is held in memory of the martyrdom of the Sikhs' fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who was a staunch advocate for women's rights, opened an asylum for lepers, and institutionalized the concept of "Daswand" or charitable donations.
"He was a social reform in his time," he said. "He accomplished a lot in those times,
in a very conservative society."
According to Sangra, Guru Arjan Dev Ji's popularity among the masses earned him the wrath of the Emperor of India, Jahangir.
"Jahangir threatened the Guru with death if he didn't stop his social and humanitarian work," he wrote in an email to The Record. "The Guru chose to sacrifice his life, but not his principles. The Guru was brutally tortured and breathed his last on May 30, 1606."
Sangra said the community is welcome to attend the celebration and sample free food at the event that's held each year in Queensborough.
"Guru Arjan Dev Ji also supervised the construction of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. He had four doors constructed on each side signifying that people from all directions were welcome to come," he wrote. "Guru Arjan Dev Ji also compiled the holy Sikh scripture; the Guru Granth Sahib. Keeping in line with the cosmopolitan nature of the Sikh faith, Guru Arjan Dev Ji incorporated into the Guru Granth Sahib the spiritual hymns of saints from other faith groups and a diverse range of socio-economic statuses. Guru Arjan Dev Ji was an ardent advocate of a free, fair and equality society - values which we all treasure as Canadians."
Sangra said it's estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people attended the religious celebration that's been taking place for about six years in New Westminster.
"We want to keep continuing to do it," he said. "Each year we find more people from other communities are joining in."
Sangra said celebration begins with a religious procession at the temple. Later people are able to enjoy different delicacies and get information at various booths and tents.