BAISAKHI

For Sikhs it holds special significance, as on this very day their 10th guru, Guru Gobind Singh, organized the order of Khalsa and gave a new impetus to the teachings of the earlier nine gurus. As this is an auspicious day many people go for baptism in gurudwaras all over India. As far as the tradition is concerned it varies from family to family.

Baisakhi Festival is celebrated as the Sikh New Year and the founding of the Khalsa Panth. History of Baisakhi finds its roots in the Baisakhi Day celebrations of 1699 organized by the Tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh to form Khalsa - Brotherhood of Saint Soldiers to fight against tyranny and oppression.

Known as 'Khalsa Sirjana Diwas' (the birth of khalsa), Baisakhi today is celebrated not only by Sikhs and Punjabis, but by all communities with equal enthusiasm. It is celebrated when the Rabi crop ripens, Festival of Baisakhi is not confined to villages and fields only, but now has an urban presence too.

The real celebrations are in the villages of Punjab when the crop is harvested. In Anandpur Sahib (the birth place of Khalsa) Baisakhi meals are organized in large numbers. In the cities people visit gurudwaras with the family. Not only Sikhs, but people of other communities also visit the gurudwaras to take a holy dip and savour the langar and kadah prashad.

On this day the gurudwaras are illuminated and there is a 48-hour akhand path and bhog. The day is usually marked with kirtan, kadah prashad and langar. Womenfolk prefer to dress up in white suit with orange dupatta on this day while going to the gurudwara.


Story behind Baisakhi

The celebration of Baisakhi Festival began with the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru who was publicly beheaded by Aurungzeb, the Mughal ruler. Aurungzeb wanted to spread Islam in India and Guru Tegh Bahadur stood up for the rights of Hindus and Sikhs. The Mughals therefore saw him as a threat.

After the death of Guru Teg Bahadur, his son, Guru Gobind Singh became the next Guru of the Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh wished to instill courage and strength to sacrifice among his fellow men. For this, Guru Gobind Singh called on the historic Baisakhi Day congregation of Sikhs at Keshgarh Sahib near Anandpur on March 30, 1699.

When thousands of people assembled for Guru’s blessing, Guru Gobind Singh came out of the tent carrying an unsheathed sword. He gave a powerful speech which infused courage amongst fellowmen. At the end of the speech he said that every great deed was preceded by equally great sacrifice and demanded if anyone was prepared to give his life. On the Guru’s third call, a young man offered himself. The Guru took the man inside a tent and reappeared alone with a bloodied sword. Guru Gobind Singh asked for another volunteer. This was repeated for another four times until a total of five Sikhs had gone into the tent with the Guru. Everyone present was worried and though that Guru Gobind Singh has killed five Sikhs. Then, Guru presented all the five men before the people. Every one present was surprised to see all five men alive and wearing turbans and saffron-coloured garments.

These five men were called Panj Piara or 'Beloved Five' by the Guru. The Guru blessed them with a Pahul ceremony. In an iron vessel, the Guru stirred with a sword called Khanda Sahib, the batasha that his wife, Mata Sundari Ji had put into water. Those present, recited verses from scriptures as the Guru performed the sacred ceremony. The water was now considered the sacred nectar of immortality called amrit. It was first given to the five volunteers, then drunk by the guru and later distributed amongst the crowd. With this ceremony, all those present, irrespective of caste or creed, became members of the Khalsa Pantha (the Order of the Pure Ones).

The Guru regarded the Panch Piaras as the first members of the Khalsa and the embodiment of the Guru himself. With the constitution of the Panj Piara, the high and low castes were amalgamated into one since among the original Panj Piara, there was one Khatri – shopkeeper ; one Jat, farmer ; one Chhimb - , calico printer ; one Ghumar - water-carrier and one Nai - a barber. The Guru gave the surname of Singh (Lion) to every Sikh and also took the name for himself. From Guru Gobind Rai he became Guru Gobind Singh. This was seen as a great step in national integration because at that time, society was divided on the basis of religion, caste and social status.


Harvest Festival

Baisakhi Festival marks the time for the harvest of Rabi crops and is therefore celebrated with utmost joy and enthusiasm in the state of Punjab, where agriculture is the predominant occupation of the people. To celebrate the occasion, people dress themselves gaily and perform the joyful bhangra and giddha dance on the tune of the dhol. Farmers in Punjab celebrate Baisakhi Festival to hilt by feasting and merrymaking before they hit on tiring but joyful task of harvesting from the next day.

As a harvest festival, Baisakhi is also celebrated by different names and with different rituals in several regions of India. Regional celebrations of Baisakhi are marked as Rongali Bihu in Assam, Naba Barsha in Bengal, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Vishu in Kerala and Vaishakha in Bihar.

~~~~  OM ~~~~