Vaisakhi, Even 3 Weeks Later, is Still a Gorgeous Spring Mela


Members of the Sikh National Center Building and Organizing Committees at the Vaisakhi Mela this past Saturday.
Photos: Jawahar Malhotra


Click here for Photo Collage


By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: It didn’t seem to matter that the actual day of Vaisakhi had passed by over three weeks ago, it was what the masses believed in and the spirit with which they celebrated when they gathered together last Saturday, May 7 at the Sikh National Center’s 20-acre site north of Beltway 8 between Gessner and Fairbanks-North Houston.

For Sikhs, Vaisakhi has special significance as the day in 1699 when Guru Gobind Singh laid down the foundation of the Panth Khalsa and the five K’s which are sacred tenets of the faith. But in the Punjab, it is also a harvest festival coinciding with the Spring equinox and is celebrated with much gusto, especially in villages across the Punjab and North India, with melas, dances and lots of food.

It was no different for the estimated 2,000 people who came to the SNC site this Saturday under bright, blue skies and crisp weather to the completely free event to meet and greet each other, pray at the small Gurdwara and enjoy food and games. This year, in place of the grassy and muddy field of last year, a new, large concrete parking lot has been built that can accommodate a multitude of cars.


And between the lot and the covered basketball court, the wide expanse was the site of all the games scheduled for this year that were washed out last year due to the rains. There was a steady stream of teams – some from as far away as Dallas – of young men competing for the top prizes of $1,100 each in the volleyball and kabaddi tournaments. And there were more fun games for the younger children, like the tug-of-war; 50 meter race, 3-legged race, sack race, spoon race, shot putt, musical chairs and basketball.

On the far side of the basketball court, a row of spectators watched as the young men and teenagers rushed from one goal post to the other; while others cooked hot jalebis and pakoras for a unending line of people, a booth sold women’s salwar-kameezes and the devoted went inside to receive blessings and to partake of the langar that went on for three hours.


A tug-of-war brought in many young participants

Off to the other side, a carnival atmosphere took care of the whims of the younger tykes with inflatable moon walks and slides, pony rides, and kiddie trains. And a safe distance beyond the volleyball court, two stalls served cotton candy at one end and gol gappe at the other.


Spectators got into the thrilling volleyball and kabaadi tournaments.

All this within sight of the permanent Gurdwara that is being built and is getting completed slowly every day, just a stone’s throw away from the southbound feeder road The exterior of the building is completely built up, but much still remains to be done like the cast stone, marble tile inlays and window glazing which are expected to be finished by mid-summer. The interiors haven’t even been started, but you can already get a feel for the flow of the space with the two curving staircases rising from the ground floor and a row of tall glass windows giving a view of the freeway which will form the backdrop for the altar.

A slice of Punjab, if you could imagine it, in a corner of the Bayou City.