"The Sikh community are having their annual procession through Hitchin Town Centre to celebrate 'Vaisakhi'.
Vaisakhi not only signifies the beginning of the Sikh New Year, it also commemorates the formation of the Khalsa Panth (Sikh Nation) by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
Sikh communities from Hitchin, Letchworth, Stevenage, Baldock and many other towns/villages are participating in the procession.
The decorated main float contains the Sikh Holy Scripture; the 'Sri Guru Granth Sahib' is the eleventh and final Guru of the Sikhs, it is held in the highest regard and is treated as the Eternal Guru, as instructed by Guru Gobind Singh. Priests are present to sing hymns throughout the procession.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth and last Guru, radically changed the face of Sikhism. Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave his Khalsa a unique, distinctive identity. Practising Sikhs are bound to wear the five Kakaars, which is commonly known as the 'Five K's'.
Kesh: uncut hair;
Karra: iron bracelet;
Kangha: wooden hair comb;
Kirpan: symbolic sword;
Kachhehra: long underwear.
On Vaisakhi day 1699, thousands of people of all backgrounds gathered at Anandpur to honour the call from Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Standing with a sword in his hand, the Guru asked which person in the congregation was willing to sacrifice his life for his faith. At first no one stepped forward, but eventually one man came forward and was led into the Guru's tent.
Moments later, Guru Gobind Singh Ji returned holding a bloody sword. He asked the same question again. Another man came forward and this scene was repeated a further three times. A short while later, the Guru walked out of the tent with the five men 'Panj Pyaras' who were willing to offer their lives to 'dharma', their religion.
The 'Five Beloved Ones' were all baptised as the same time from the same bowl, proving to the congregation that everyone was equal.
They became the first five members initiated into the Kalsa, or the 'Order of the Pure'. Guru Gobind Singh Ji then received initiation from the five beloved ones, thus erasing all distinctions between Guru and Sikhs.
The five men leading the procession represent the 'Five Beloved Ones'."
(taken from the FAQs handed out during the procession ~ Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Hitchin)