Baisakhi Date 2016
Wednesday 13 April
Baisakhi or Vaisakhi is one of the most important harvest festivals of North India celebrated with great fervor in Punjab and other states where Punjabi community lives. This festival also marks the beginning of Sikh new year commemorating the establishment of ‘Khalsa’ (Pure) sect in 1699 by the Tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. The Baisakhi festival is also celebrated in Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. However, the Punjabi Baisakhi is the most popular harvest fests popular due to its joyous celebration which touches even the other communities.
Baisakhi festival is celebrated on the first day of Nanakshahi or Sikh Calendar’s Vaishakh month which corresponds to the months of April-May. Unlike the other Hindu festivals whose date fall on different days every year, the date of Baisakhi falls on April 13 every year and on April 14 after every 36 years. This is because Baisakhi festival is celebrated according to solar calendar and not the lunar calendar. In fact, Baisakhi is celebrated in many Indian states as their new year day. These are ‘Bohag Bihu‘ or ‘Rongali Bihu’ in Assam, ‘Naba Barsha‘ or ‘Poila Boishakh’ in Bengal, ‘Puthandu’ in Tamil Nadu and ‘Vishu’ in Kerala. The dates of all these festivals fall on either 13th or 14th April every year.
What is Baisakhi- The Importance of Festival
There is much more importance of the festival of Baisakhi than just being a harvest festival of Punjab. It is a day commemorated by the Sikh community as the foundation day of ‘Khalsa Panth’ (khalsa sect) established by their last Guru Gobind Singh to eliminate all the differences between high and low and to make all human beings equal to each other.
If one seeks the answer to the question as to what is Baisakhi then the answer would be- Baisakhi is one of the harvest festivals of Punjab which marks the end of harvest season that begins with Lohri festival. It is also the foundation day of Khalsa Panth of Sikh religion and the Sikh new year. Thus the importance of Baisakhi lies in the fact that it is not only a religious festival but is also one of the most significant days for Sikhism as a community.
As Baishaki is the day of founding Khalsa Panth by Guru Gobind Singh who initiated this sect by giving Amrit to the first five Khalsa called ‘Panj Pyaare'(The Five Beloved), the Sikh Amrit (baptism) ceremony of initiation is held in Gurudwaras all over the world.
Amrit Ceremony – Initiation to Become Khalsa
Those who want to get baptized visit the five Sikhs who represent the original Panj Pyare in Gurudwaras. This Amrit initiation ceremony lasts for several hours. As Panj Pyare make the Amrit (nectar) by mixing sugar into a bowl of water, they keep on reciting prayers. They then administer this Amrit made by them to those who want to get baptized according to the recommended Sikh rituals.
Initiates have to promise that they would not cut their hair and will always wear the five articles of Sikh religion. These five articles are popularly known as Five K’s – Kesh (hair), Kangha (comb), Kadha (a metal bangle), Kaccha (specified cotton underwear), and Kripan (a curved sword). They also agree to follow the principles of the Sikh religion. After a intiate becomes ‘Amritdhari’ (One who has become Khalsa by taking Amrit from Panj Pyare), it gets mandatory for him to tie a turban every day.
At many places- not only in Punjab but all over India and the world, many Sikhs carry their sacred Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Holy Book regarded as their Guru) in a ceremonious procession. They place the Guru Granth Sahib on a float or a truck decorated with flowers, flags and other such things. The paj Pyaare lead the parade wearing saffron robes. They carry swords and/or Sikh flag (Nishan). The first float carries the holy scripture and several attendants.
The Sikh devotees participate in the procession and walk while singing hymns and playing Sikh bhajans (devotional songs) on loud speakers. Many of the participants perform Sikh martial art, Gatka, holding wooden sticks or swords. The participants are offered drinks and snacks by others on the way. The procession ends upon returning to the Gurdwara. The sacred Guru Granth is ceremoniously placed back inside the Gurdwara. Sikh men and women volunteer to prepare meals in the Gurudwara’s free kitchen called ‘Langar.’ Here food is available for all people whether Sikh or not.
Baisakhi Festival Celebration
There are different ways of celebrating Baisakhi by the farmers, Sikh community and all Punjabi people. Baisakhi is a harvest thanksgiving day for the farmers of Punjab. After taking religious baths in ponds and rivers, they visit ‘Gurudwaras’ (temple of Sikhs) and give thanks to their Gurus (spiritual leaders) for the good harvest and prosperity bestowed upon them. They also pray for the coming year.
In the villages of Punjab, the men and women get ready with vibrantly colored dresses and go to the field to celebrate Baisakhi. They perform their traditional Punjabi folk dances and songs. Men do Bhangra dance and women perform their traditional Giddha dance. The beats of dhol (traditional Indian drum) and the loud cries like ‘Jatta aayi Baishakhi’ (Jatta, Baisakhi has arrived) fill up all the surroundings bringing in energy in the whole atmosphere.
Not only in villages but in the cities and towns of Punjab too, people celebrate Baisakhi by merry-making and performing Bhangra and Gidda dances. Baisakhi Mela (Fairs) are also organized at several places where people participate great enthusiasm. In Baisakhi mela, apart from bhangra and Gidda performances, Sikh traditional martial arts are also performed. Food stalls offer traditional Punjabi and other foods which are relished by the people in these fairs. People send Baisakhi cards and SMS greetings to wish ‘Happy Baisakhi’ to their relatives and friends all over the world.