Outdoor festival brings kabaddi, free Indian food to Topaz Park

Sikh society’s annual celebration a multi-cultural affair

Participants grapple in a game of kabaddi played at Sullivan Heights in Surrey. Members of kabaddi clubs from the lower mainland will visit Victoria this weekend to compete at the Vaishakhi Tourament at Topaz Park

Participants grapple in a game of kabaddi played at Sullivan Heights in Surrey. Members of kabaddi clubs from the lower mainland will visit Victoria this weekend to compete at the Vaishakhi Tourament at Topaz Park

To play kabbadi is to chant it.

Rarely seen in these parts, the sport of kabbadi is on display at Topaz Park this weekend. The Khalsa Diwan society’s Vaisakhi tournament and festival plans to fill the many fields between Finlayson Street and Topaz Avenue with food and games.

There’ll be plenty of sports and activities, but it’s the unique visual display of kabbadi that draws attention to Victoria’s annual Indo-Canadian celebration.

Two teams of players face each other and send a raider over to gain points by wrestling or breaking through the other team, who defend their territory by joining hands.

The word, “kabbadi, kabbadi,” is chanted by competitors.

“(Canadian Olympian) Daniel Igali used to travel and play kabaddi for money. It’s a fun sport that people enjoy playing and there is even a fair bit of money in it for the players,” said Hardip Sihota, spokesperson for the Khalsa Diwan’s sports committee. After several years of using the gym at Spectrum community school, the support for the annual festival has grown to the point the tournament is moving outside for good.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any kabaddi competitors from Greater Victoria but that could change, Sihota said.

This weekend, Indo-Canadian athletes are coming over from the mainland, including top-notch wrestlers from the elite Miri Piri wrestling club in Abbotsford.

“Vaisakhi is a traditional harvest festival in the Sikh calendar that usually happens in April. But we wait until the weather is a little warmer,” Sihota said. “We invite all the community to come and celebrate. There’s free food and lots of games and play areas for the kids.”

The food is supplied by the Indian Food Market at (Quadra and Mackenzie streets in Saanich) and prepared at the Khalsa Diwan Sikh society temple on Topaz Avenue.

Along with kabbadi, tug of war, weight and power lifting, bench press, volleyball, wrestling and soccer happen between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.