Vaisakhi, also pronounced as Baisakhi is a historic harvest festival that is celebrated all over the world by Sikhs every year. Not only among the Sikhs but, Vaisakhi is also well recognized in Hinduism as it marks the start of the Solar new year. Vaisakhi has been observed by Sikhs for over a very long span of time. The celebrations are covered by people from around the globe including countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Malaysia. Since the solar months start with the first month being Vaisakha, Vaisakhi can be considered as the first day of this month. It commemorates the beginning of the Khalsa community by the 10th Sikh Guru – Guru Gobind Singh, in the year 1699. This day as always been celebrated as a spring harvest festival by both Sikhs and Hindus. Most of the population refers to it as ‘Vaisakhi’ but people with Malwai or Doabi (different regions of Punjab) often refer to it as ‘Baisakhi’ with a ‘B’.
History of the Vaisakhi Festival
Vaisakhi is a very traditional and historic festival and the events associated with its age back to the year 1699. With the celebration of Vaisakhi, we recall back the most significant events of Sikhism. On this day the last and the tenth Sikh Guru – Guru Gobind Singh initiated the Panth Khalsa tradition. Guru Gobind formed the Khalsa by baptizing the people of the Sikh community and regarded them as the warriors with pure faith to oblige to the duty of protecting the innocents from any form of religious prosecutions. Among the members of the Khalsa, group males were accorded as Singh and the females as Kaur. They followed strict regimens of behavior. They had to avoid any form of adultery, alcohol, halal meat or tobacco items. Until now the Khalsa group is instructed to include the ‘Five Ks’ in their dress code to wear always. These include: their ‘Uncut hair’ (Kesh), a ‘comb’ made from wood (Kangha), ‘bracelet’ of iron material (Kara), pure cotton and non-elastic made ‘undergarment’ (Kacchera), and a dagger made up of iron to defend themself (Kirpan). The members who attire these are devoted to towars ‘Sikh Rehni’ or “The Sikh way of life”. Guru Gobind Singh presented a collective name “Panj Pyare” to Five Sikh men. These men were individually named as − Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh, Bhai Himmat Singh, Bhai Mohkam Singh, and Bhai Sahib Singh Then were baptized with the two-edge sword and given the Khanda di Pahul initiation (also known as Amrit Sanchar or Sikh initiation ceremony) at Anandpur Sahib on April 13, 1699. Therefore we can consider that this festival overall celebrates the birth of the Khalsa Panth community.
Significance of Vaisakhi
Vaisakhi is a very significant festival for Sikhs and Hindus from all around the world. The festival was marked by the origin of the Khalsa group and is still the most important festival among all Sikhs. Its initiation started when the beloved Guru Tegh Bahadur was commanded to be punished to death. His persecution was due to the reason that he declined the orders from the cruel Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb who wanted him to convert himself to an Islamic individual. This adamant decision by Guru Tegh Bahadur led to his execution. The execution of their dear Guru aggravated and triggered the Sikhs who then coroneted Guru Gobind Singh as their tenth Guru. He led them to the historic initiation of the Khalsa community who pledged to remain pure and clean and always safeguard the innocents. This historic formation has always been considered significantly important to the Sikhs. They celebrate it with a new and enhanced zeal every year through prayers, dance and beautiful fairs. The color yellow and orange are known as the Vaisakhi colors. They represent the “spirit of rebirth and sacrifice of the “Panj Pyare” and are symbolic of “joy and celebration”. People celebrating Vaisakhi always adorn themselves in these colors are wearing yellow/orange colored attires.
During the Vaisakhi festival, the Gurdwaras (place for worshiping in Sikhism) are beautifully decorated. People who love the Vaisakhi celebrations can visit the Gurdwaras as it is a place open for all religions. In fact, individuals from all faiths and backgrounds visit Gurdwaras and find it very soothing and calming. The main processions known as Nagar Keertan are carried out by the five Khalsa as mentioned in the history section. These five Khalsa are considered as Panj Pyare. The people join them and march happily on the streets singing hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib.
Many people calmly sit in the Gurdwaras and listen to beautiful ballads popularly called as Dhadi Varas. These ballads remind us of the heroic people who were our saviors and tells us a lot about our history. Free food is distributed among everyone who visits the Gurudwaras and this distribution gathering is called Langar. Vaisakhi also consists of Awat Puri which is an age-old harvest tradition. During these people enjoy a lot as they get together to celebrate the harvest of wheat. Drums are played and at the end of the day, people sing dohe (poetic couplets) to the enchanting drum tunes. The very well known dance form Bhangra is also an important part of Vaisakhi celebrations. People enjoy dancing with their whole hearts to the beats of dholak (musical instrument). Melas or Fairs are organized and many vendors take part in it. Cities like Chandigarh in Himachal Pradesh or Rewalsar, Shimla, Mandi organize fairs. The fairs have interesting rides and ethnic stuff that people sell. All over we can say that Vaisakhi is a bright and happening festival. Sikhs are anyways known to have big hearts and they enjoy everything with full intensity so every year Vaisakhi comes with lots of happiness.