The Prince of Wales has praised the work of British Sikhs during the Covid-19 crisis as the lockdown forces the community to celebrate the religious festival of Vaisakhi at home.
Vaisakhi commemorates the creation in 1699 of the Khalsa, the collective body of initiated Sikhs, by Guru Gobind Singh.
Marked on April 13 this year, celebrations in London’s Trafalgar Square later this month have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Param Singh, a Sikh technology and business consultant from London, said he celebrated the festival by watching a live Vaisakhi programme on YouTube.
“The charity City Sikhs used Zoom to bring together people sharing poetry, kirtan (spiritual hymns) and interfaith messages from across the UK,” Mr Singh told the PA news agency.
“As a result, Vaisakhi 2020 has been a more reflective and meditative occasion.
“One of the positives is that it is nice for families to have the opportunity to spend much more time together.”
Speaking in a video posted to Twitter, the Prince of Wales offered his sympathies with families and friends unable to celebrate together.
He said: “I did just want to convey my heartfelt best wishes to you all and to tell you just how much my wife and I are thinking of you at this very special time of year.
“I know that Vaisakhi is an occasion when, in happier times, families and friends come together, to celebrate the birth of the Khalsa and to renew their bonds of community.
“This year, of course, due to the current public health crisis, such gatherings will not be possible.
“I can only imagine what a great sadness that must be for so many of you.”
"In these challenging times, the Sikh community is making an extraordinary and invaluable contribution to the life of this country, and to so many others, just as it has always done."— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) April 13, 2020
A message from HRH to Sikhs in the UK and across the Commonwealth, on the festival of Vaisakhi. pic.twitter.com/MK8e8D0rby
Charles hailed the “vital role” that Sikhs were playing on the “front line” of the crisis.
“Whether in our hospitals or in other key roles; or through the remarkable work that is being done by gurdwaras to support local communities and the most vulnerable,” he added.
He also highlighted the “heart-warming reports” of other faith groups working together to share resources and offer “support and friendship”.
“In all this, it seems to me, Sikhs so marvellously embody the values on which Guru Nanak founded your religion, over five centuries ago: hard work, respect and selfless service to those less fortunate than yourselves,” Charles said.
He continued: “At the same time, I know that many of you are suffering personally from the cruel effects of this pernicious virus, or tragically have lost those you love.
“I can only say that my heart goes out to you under such very difficult circumstances.
“In these challenging times, the Sikh community is making an extraordinary and invaluable contribution to the life of this country and to so many others, just as it has always done.
“So, my wife and I just wanted you to know how grateful we are, and how much your outstanding efforts are admired by us all.
“We both send you our heartfelt best wishes for a happy, safe and peaceful Vaisakhi.”