Signifying the harvesting season, Baisakhi greets us every year in April. On 13th April, Baisakhi or Vaisakhi is celebrated with much pomp & show in the Northern region of India. Baisakhi significance is not just limited to it being a festival of harvest. As Baisakhi history goes, it is also a day that commemorates the formation of the Khalsa Panth of warriors under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. The word Baisakhi originates from the month of Vaisakh. It is the second month in the Hindu calendar and during this month farmers prepare themselves for the next season of sowing.
Baisakhi falls on the 13th of April every year and is celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy. After every 36 years, Baisakhi date changes to 14th April. As Baisakhi is celebrated in the month of chaitra, it signifies new beginnings and a New Year as well. On the day of Baisakhi, the Gurudwara is decorated with lights and devotees pay a visit to worship, take a holy dip and be a part of the Langar Seva.
Vaisakhi history or Baisakhi history is an interesting one. The history of Baisakhi dates back to the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru who was publicly executed by Aurungzeb. Guru Tegh Bahadur stood up for the rights of Hindus and Sikhs and was considered a great threat by the Mughal emperor.
After the death of Guru Teg Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh became the next Guru of the Sikhs. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh in 1699 chose the day of Vaisakhi to transform the Sikhs into a family of soldier saints, known as the Khalsa Panth. He is the one who founded the Khalsa in front of thousands at Anandpur Sahib.
During the Baisakhi festival, Guru Gobind Singh came out of a tent carrying a sword. He challenged any Sikh who was prepared to give his life to come into the tent. The Guru returned alone with his sword covered in blood. He then requested another volunteer and repeated the same action four times until five men disappeared into the tent. The crowd was extremely concerned until they saw five men return wearing turbans with the Guru. These five men became known as the Panj Piare, or ‘Beloved Five’. The men were then baptised into the Khalsa by the Guru.
Besides being a festival of harvest, Baisakhi significance also lies in the fact that it is a day to pay homage at Gurdwaras, give offerings to the less privileged people and distribute Kada Prasad amongst each other. Kada Prasad is semolina halwa prepared with desi ghee, whole wheat flour and sugar. Baisakhi significance is not only seen in Punjab but also across the world where the Sikh community resides.
Baisakhi celebration is done in different ways across the country. Hindus take a holy dip to wash away negative energy and begin the New Year with a positive start. This day is also called Mesh Sankranti in Hindu culture. Interestingly, the day is celebrated as New Year in Bengal as well and is called Naba Barsha. Similarly, Assamese celebrate it as Rongali Bihu. Now coming to Punjab, five individuals are chosen to represent the Panj Piaras and a religious parade is organized in the cities. Kar Sewa — volunteering to help at Gurdwaras — is an important highlight of the day and is an expression of modesty. One can listen to the recitation of passages from Guru Granth Sahib, kirtans and traditional songs in Gurdwaras.
From an agricultural perspective, Baisakhi is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Punjab is a rich agricultural state and the Baisakhi celebration is carried out on a big scale here. For them it is observed as the harvest season of the Rabi crops, therefore it is important for farmers in this region. This festival is seen as a day of thanksgiving to the Gods and natural elements that provided an abundance in the harvest. People wear new clothes, prepare delicious feasts and attend Baisakhi fairs. Music, bhangra and gidda performances are also common during this time!
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