AN ancient Sikh festival was celebrated in Darlington this weekend.

Worshippers marked the Vasaikhi festival at the Darlington Gurdwara with ceremony, prayer, song and recitations.

The doors of the elaborately decorated Gurdwara were thrown open to the community, with councillors, church officials and residents joining in the celebrations.

The festival marks the 1699 founding of the Khalsa tradition, based around the teachings of ‘the Five Beloved’.

It celebrates the first five members of the Khalsa tradition, named Compassion, Justice, Empowerment, Stealth and Saahib, meaning ‘master of all’.

The five – who came from different social classes and backgrounds - are said to have battled against tyranny, oppression and social inequality.

Representations of the five watched over Sunday’s flag changing ceremony, which saw worshippers cleanse the Gurdwara’s flagpole by rubbing it with yoghurt water before hoisting the new flag.

Khalsa initiates held recitations throughout the festival while three sisters sang to those in attendance.

All visitors were invited to enjoy a vegetarian feast and learn more about the Sikh traditions.

Gurdwara volunteer Kulvanth Kaur said: “We have enjoyed opening our doors to the community.

“We’ve conversed with visitors about our beliefs and learned about theirs and hope to do this again.

“The festival had a great community feel and ensured Sikh ideals and history were refreshed in people’s minds.

“Our beliefs are all about equality and humanitarian ideals.”