HUNDREDS of men, women and children walked through Huddersfield to celebrate a major religious festival.

They braved the rain to join in the traditional Vaisakhi parade yesterday.

Many were in traditional Sikh dress and some walked in bare feet, despite the weather.

The procession went from the Sikh temple in Springwood and through the town centre. It stopped at the Town Hall to hear an address from Kirklees Mayor Clr Jean Calvert.

She urged the crowd to work towards unity between different cultures.

She added: “The Sikh temple and its community are an intrinsic part of the diverse culture in Huddersfield and the wider Kirklees area.

“Our multi-faith community is one reason why this cultural heritage is so rich and so strong. It plays an important part in promoting harmony and respect across all members of our society.

“The need to promote understanding across faiths is as important now as it was when I began my mayoral year.

“As I come to the end of my time as mayor I hope I have contributed to the work of building bridges between those with different opinions and faiths and that there is indeed more tolerance and understanding.

“I urge everyone here to continue that commitment to working to break down barriers between neighbours and strengthening our ties as a community.”

The parade visited the Hindu temple on Zetland Street in the town centre and Huddersfield Parish Church. It finished at the Sikh temple in Fartown.

Inderpal Randhawa, executive member of the Sikh temple, said: “Visiting different places of worship for other faiths is part of the whole town working together.”

Vaisakhi, an ancient harvest festival in Punjab, commemorates the birth of Sikhism on April 13, 1699. It is the most important festival in the Sikh calendar.

In 1699 the 10th guru, Guru Gobind Singh, chose Vaisakhi as the occasion to transform the Sikhs into a family of soldier saints, known as the Khalsa Panth.

Five men were baptised into the Khalsa, a state of purity. They became known as the Panj Piare, or Beloved Five. Vaisakhi parades are led by groups of five people who symbolise the Panj Piare.

Yesterday’s parade included a float on which Sikh holy men sat, singing passages from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.