The Annual New York City Vaisakhi Day Parade

Sikh Parade
Sikh Parade in New York City. Bo Zaunders / Getty Images

Vaisakhi Day is the single most important Sikh holiday of the entire year. Thousands of Sikh participants from around the world, as well as public spectators, attend the annual New York City Vaisakhi Day parade festivities.

What Is the Annual Vaisakhi NYC Sikh Day Parade?

The New York City (NYC) Sikh Parade is an annual event celebrating the historic Vaisakhi Day, in commemoration of the birth of the Sikh Nation. The original 1699 initiation ceremony sponsored by Tenth Guru Gobind Singh involved initiates drinking the immortal nectar of Amrit administered by the original five beloved Panj Pyare. The initiation ceremony instituted a strict moral code of honor and created the courageous Khalsa Warrior sect to stand up against tyranny and oppression.

What Are the Main Features of NYC Vaisakhi Parade Festivities?

The Sikh Cultural Society of Richmond Hill New York, a non-profit organization hosts the NYC Sikh Day Parade with an aim of educating the public about Sikhs and Sikhism, banishing misconceptions, and fostering positive community relationships. The annual Vaisakhi Day event includes a float bearing the Guru Granth Sahib the Sikh's holy scripture. The main features of the Vaisakhi Day Parade festivities include:

  • Floats are accompanied by marchers representing by various gurdwaras.​
  • Kirtan is performed by ragis singing devotional hymns while riding on floats.
  • Martial arts demonstrations are put on by the daring members of Gatka troupes.
  • Langar, free vegetarian food, and non-alcoholic drinks are available to everyone.

Who Can Attend the Annual NYC Sikh Day Parade?

Everyone is invited to attend the NYC Sikh Parade Vaisakhi event (with the exception of street vendors so as to comply in accordance with city ordinances):

  • Sikhs: Gurdwara members and Sikhs of every age from around the world are encouraged to attend the annual NYC Sikh Parade.
  • Interfaith: Members of Interfaith communities are welcome to march along as participants in the annual NYC Sikh Day Parade
  • Public Officials: Elected members of public office are welcomed and encouraged to participate in the NYC Sikh Day Parade.
  • General Public: Everyone who wishes to observe is very welcome and encouraged to eat free langar at every opportunity.
  • Law Enforcement and Security: The presence of NYPD and NYC Consumer Affairs officials are an integral part of the NYC parade that helps to keep both participants and the public safe.

When Does the Annual NYC Sikh Day Parade Take Place?

The NYC Sikh Parade is a Vaisakhi Day celebration event honoring the birth of the Sikh nation that has been held annually since 1987. The parade occurs during the latter part of the month of April which corresponds to the beginning of Vaisakh, a Nanakshahi month of the Sikhism calendar. The New York City (NYC) Sikh Parade is usually scheduled to take place on a Saturday during the latter part of April.

Where Does the Annual NYC Sikh Day Parade Take Place?

The Annual NYC Sikh Parade takes place in Manhattan New York and lasts for approximately five hours. The parade route may vary slightly from year to year. The parade covers about ​a mile-long route along Manhattan's Madison Ave, beginning somewhere between 40th and 36th Streets and ending somewhere between 23rd and 25th Street at Madison Square Park.

Typical NYC Sikh Day Parade Schedule

  • 12 noon - Everyone assembles together as Guru Granth Sahib is ceremoniously installed upon a float which will head up the NYC Sikh Day Parade.
  • 12:15 pm -  All participating floats and marchers line up in an orderly fashion behind the float bearing the scripture of Guru Granth Sahib.  
  • 1 pm - Parade procession begins. The Panj Pyare lead the float upon which Guru Granth Sahib has installed heads out on to Madison Avenue. Floats and marchers continue along Parade route until reaching Madison Square Park where Langar is served.
  • 5 pm - Parade ends and clean up seva begins.

Parade Floats

Floats entered into the NYC Vaisakhi Day parade are sponsored by various gurdwaras, both local, and from all around the United States. Sikh devotees pay their respects and offer donations which serve to cover various expenses involved. An amazing amount of completely voluntary coordinated efforts and contributions go on behind the scenes to make the NYC Annual Sikh Day Parade a spectacular success.
 

NYC Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan Day Parade

The NYC annual Vaisakhi Day parade is a Nagar Kirtan event that features Ragis riding on floats along the streets of the entire parade route. Ragis singing devotional hymns selected from the scripture of Guru Granth Sahib along with other Vaisakhi day hymns appropriate to the occasion.

Parade Participants

Participants representing the five beloved Panj Pyare dress in colorful ceremonial attire. The colors of traditional bana most prominently featured are eye-catching turbans and cholas with flaring skirts in various shades of blue, orange or yellow, and white. Participants primarily carry swords or Nishan Sahib flags.

Parade Langar

Tens of thousands of individual meals are prepared by participating gurdwaras. Free meals are available at Manhattan Park. Prashad, almonds, sweets, and treats are handed out to all along the parade route. Amazingly ​​delicious vegetarian Indian food, disposable eating utensils, and drinks of all kinds (excepting alcoholic beverages) are available to each and every parade participant as well as all spectators absolutely free of cost. Everyone is heartily encouraged to eat their fill.