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Wolverhampton MP hosts parliamentary celebrations for Sikh festival of Vaisakhi

Community champions, politicians and faith leaders gathered in Parliament to mark one of the most auspicious days in the Sikh calendar.

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Seema Malotra MP, Pat McFadden MP, Dr Opinderjit Takhar

The annual festivities, hosted by Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden, saw hundreds pack into the Speaker's House to celebrate Vaisakhi.

It was the ninth time the city MP invited people from across the UK to mark the birth of the Khalsa with a special visit to the House of Commons.

Mr McFadden, who is vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs, said: "I think it's really important to celebrate festivals like Vaisakhi in Parliament, in the heart of our democracy.

"It was a cross-party event and an opportunity to pay tribute to the Sikh community in the UK. I feel very lucky to represent a multi-faith constituency, in a very diverse city.

"It's great that we have an event in Parliament that sends a message out to the whole Sikh community throughout the UK that what that community has done is appreciated, and that they are a very valued part of our country."

Young Birmingham school pupils opened the celebrations - also organised by the British Sikh Consultative Forum - with the singing of traditional hymns before a string of speakers took to the stage.

This included Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhar, from the University of Wolverhampton's Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies, Birmingham MP Preet Gill and Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable.

The parliamentary celebrations also marked the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev Ji and launched the inaugural National Sikh Awareness and History Month.

Feltham and Heston MP Seema Malhotra, who spearheaded calls for a Sikh heritage month, said: "We've come along way since last April when, with cross-party support, I tabled an Early Day Motion calling for the UK to recognises April as National Sikh Awareness and History Month.

"[This] has been established in other countries and has been important and successful in raising awareness, breaking down barriers, and improving cohesion and dialogue."

Vaisakhi will be celebrated by Sikhs across the globe on Sunday, to mark 320 years since the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1699.

This was when the tenth Guru called on individuals to sacrifice themselves as part of his test of faith, with the five volunteers then forming the Panj Pyare (five beloved ones) to lead fellow Sikhs.

Sunday will also mark the beginning of the second month of Vaisakh in the Nanakshahi calendar, adopted by Sikhs.