Thousands of worshippers came to the centre of Oldbury on Sunday, ahead of a parade put together to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji was the founder of Sikhism and the first of the 10 Sikh Gurus, with his spiritual teaching laying the foundations on which Sikhism was formed.
Celebrations of the anniversary of his birth have been taking place all over the world, with this parade a major part of celebrations in Sandwell.
With excellent weather conditions helping to draw in a large crowd, prayers were made on Civic Square in Oldbury before the parade began to wind its way around the streets of Oldbury and Smethwick.
The parade was organised by Sikh 2 Inspire and Satkar Committee UK, two groups committed to increasing knowledge and understanding of Sikhism and the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Each Gurdwara in the area was visited as part of the parade yesterday and there were representatives of the different places of worship taking part in the parade.
Harvie Singh, who works as security for Smethwick Gurdwara and took part in the parade, spoke about the significance of the birth anniversary and what it means to him.
He said: “The anniversary means so much to me and other people at the Gurdwara as without Gura Nanak, the faith would not exist.
“We try to live our lives through his principals and his teachings, so to parade with everyone means so much.”
The parade, which was a vibrant mix of colour and music, saw people of all faiths and ethnicities coming together in celebration of Sikh culture.
It was held under clear skies and temperatures topping 27C.
After working its way around the streets of Oldbury and Smethwick, the parade came to a conclusion at West Smethwick Park, where a celebration event has been going on all week.
Worshippers and local people joined together in the park to celebrate the life of Guru Nanak, with food and entertainment being provided under a massive marquee tent, and celebrations ran on into the evening.
Call centre worker Sarah Patel, 35, of Hugh Road, Smethwick, swept the roads in front of the lorry carrying the holy scriptures, which headed the procession, all the way from Oldbury.
“It made me feel good,” she said. “There was so much love, people from all communities were waving to us.
“I hugged one of the vicars who came to wave outside her church.
“I can honestly say it’s the one day that it doesn’t matter what age or religion you are, or where you come from, no one judges you, it’s just about love.”
She added: I didn’t expect so many people to be here, it’s been amazing, and for some of us, quite emotional.”
Gursharan Uppal, a 24-year-old Wolverhampton University graduate from Oldbury, helped with the security, walking behind Army and Royal Navy units who took part in the procession.
He said: “This day means a lot to me. It is a way of celebrating our first Sikh’s birthday. It was he who started the langar, the Sikh tradition of feeding people in the community, whatever their faith, for free.”
Accountant Yudhveer Singh, 26, of Wolverhampton, said the milestone 550th anniversary made the event particularly special.
Speaking as he took part in the parade, he said: “It’s a day of great happiness. It is a wonderful day.”
Not everyone who took part was from the Sikh community. People of all faiths were welcomed.
NHS researcher Jacqueline Smart, 55, from Bearwood, said: I came because we’re local. I’ve lived here since 1989. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot, including to India, so I can appreciate a lot of what is going on.
“Also for me, I’ve got friends who are Sikhs so it’s nice to come and be a part of their celebrations.”
Lecturer Lorraine Phoenix, 46, of Hurst Road, Smethwick, agreed. She said: “I’m celebrating my community, it’s a privilege to be here.
“I work at Sandwell College, so this is really important to me, to experience what my colleagues and students have experienced.”
Both women took part in the procession from Manor Road, and brought their children with them. “People have embraced us for taking part,” said Mrs Phoenix.