Johannesburg, May 8: Over 2,000 people from diverse backgrounds today attended the largest ever Vaisakhi Mela organised here in South Africa by the United Punjab Association.
Scores of expatriate and South African-Indian dance groups and singers entertained the crowds at the all-day event which ended with a Bhangra bash late into the evening.
"Our Gurudwara Sahib in Sandton has had support from all the communities in South Africa from the day we started ten years ago," said Harbinder Singh Sethi, Chairman of the organisation associated with the first major Sikh temple in South Africa.
"We are very proud that the Sikhs, the Punjabis, the Muslims, the Hindus, and Christians all get together at the Gurudwara Sahib; and this Mela shows that we are all united and will celebrate our culture together," Sethi added as he explained how Vaisakhi was the celebration of the New Year with lots of fun and colour.
Members of the Punjabi community took to the stage to highlight the vibrant and colourful traditional folk dances of Punjab, while local groups performed a wide range of Bollywood items and songs in Hindi and Punjabi.
Deputy High Commissioner of India, Dr S Janakiraman, who was the chief guest at the event, said that the objective of Vaisakhi to celebrate happiness, joy and building the community had been achieved.
"I can see a diverse group of people gathered here to celebrate the Punjabi New Year, which though celebrated on a different day, still shows our insistence on unity in diversity, a tradition that reminds us of our origins and Indian culture," Janakiraman said.
"This event has now become part of the South African annual calendar and we are going to make sure that we support you because what this event does is to give us an opportunity to learn more about your culture," said renowned African poet Zolani Mkiva, who has in the past rendered items in praise of former President Nelson Mandela.
"We are one nation and we have a common history which was born many decades ago and which inspires us," Mkiva added before reciting a poem composed especially for the Vaisakhi Mela.