Sunderland Sikhs hand out cold drinks to mark Chabeel Day and raise awareness of their culture
Sikhs in Sunderland handed out free refreshments to passers-by in the summer heat as part of a traditional celebration.
The community celebrated Chabeel Day yesterday at the Cloisters in Ashbrooke, and saw about 300 cold drinks, including water, juice and pop, handed out on the corner of Ryhope Road and Mowbray Road.
The event refers to a Sikh tradition, where on hot days in India they hand out cold drinks to the community, in memory of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who became a martyr after being tortured with heat by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1606.
Chabeel Day is celebrated across the world, with thousands of people taking part, and it is hoped that it will further others’ understanding of Sikh history and philosophy.
Paula Dale, general secretary of Sunderland Sikh Association at Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara, said it is the first time they have publicised the event, which they are hoping will get bigger and better each year.
“It ws really good,” she said. “It was very, very successful. We had wonderful feedback and people seemed pleasantly surprised when we handed out drinks to people in cars and pedestrians passing by.
“We started at 11am, handing out cans of pop, bottles of juice, things like that.
“We also had flyers printed that we handed out with the drinks.
“All the feedback we had was very positive – people were surprised and happy.
“We explained to people that this is something that happens in India.
“The month of June can be unbearably hot and people give out sugar water, rose water or whatever is on hand.”
Ms Dale said she believes this sort of event can help bring communities and people of different faiths together.
“It’s just so important to do,” she added. “With everything going on at the moment, it’s good that people in the community can learn about Sikhs and what we do.
“We see no class, colour or creed – to us everyone is a human being.”
There are between 25 million and 27 million Sikhs around the world, about 75% of whom live in the Punjab region of India.
They are forbidden from cutting their hair or eating ritually-killed meat, but do not believe in fasting, wearing a veil for women or living as a monk for men.
Baptised Sikhs are given the last name Singh, meaning lion, for men, and Kaur, or lioness/princess, for women.