Celebrated In: India in Spring Season
Celebrated By: Sikhs (Hindu)
Baisakhi, a historical religious harvest festival is predominantly celebrated in Sikh and Hindu community. It is also popularly known as Vaishakhi or Vaisakhi. Vaisakhi festival is mainly celebrated in the first month of Hindu lunar calendar. The festival of Vaisakhi holds a lot of importance for Sikhs and is a famous festival in the state of Punjab. Baisakhi, a rural and harvest festival of North India, which marks the beginning of the solar year (New Year) is mainly celebrated in Punjab with great pomp and enthusiasm. For the Sikh community, the day also marks the celebration of the foundation day of Khalsa Panth (Sikh brotherhood) by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
On this auspicious day, the Panj Pyaras (five senior Sikhs) who are symbolic of the original leaders take the holy book of Sikhs Guru Granth Sahib in a grand procession. The occasion is celebrated at Talwandi Sabo, the place where Guru Gobind Singh stayed for nine months to complete the recompilation of the Guru Granth Sahib in the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Water from all the sacred rivers of India is collected and then it is poured in to the huge tank surrounding the golden temple on the day of Baisakhi.
All the devotees adorn a festive mood and perform the traditional Punjabi dance of Bhangra and Giddha with the beats of the dhol and wearing colourful clothing. After the traditional dance performances, the day is spent with near and dear ones by exchanging gifts and preparing a lot of special traditional Punjabi food.
Baisakhi Legend and Celebrations:
Guru Gobind Singh had added a new dimension to Baisakhi. Legend is that, Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa Panth on this day by gaving a final impetus to the course of the earlier nine Gurus of Sikhism. The establishment of the Khalsa Panth holds a great significance for Sikh community, as the 10th Guru Gobind Singh roared in front of the huge congregation of crowd, asking them to come forward to die for the cause of the Humanity. Five men eventually came forward to give their lives. However Guru Gobind Singh did not kill them, rather the men became the first five members of the Khalsa group after baptized by Guru Gobind Singh. The five men represented the Khalsa with five symbols of 'purity and courage'. Those were called five K's; the Kesh (uncut hair), the Kangha (comb), the Katchera (underwear), the Kara (steel ring) and the Kirpan (sword). It was on Baisakhi day that Guru Gobind Singh bestowed his first batch of five disciples with Amrit(nectar) making them Singhs. After the festival of Baisakhi in 1699 the tradition of the Gurus was ceased to continue and the Granth Sahib was declared the eternal guide of the Sikhs.
Another legend is closely related to the Harvest Festival; the time for the harvest of Rabi Crops which is celebrated with great pomp and enthusiasm in Punjab. The people of Punjab largely depend on agriculture farming. On Baisakhi day people dress themselves in colourful festive attires and rejoice on the occasion by performing the dances of Bhangra and giddha on the tune of the dhol. Farmers celebrate by eating special traditional Punjabi foods and enjoy having lot of fun before they start harvesting from the next day. Baisakhi has different names in different states of India; Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Vishu in Kerala, Rongali Bihu in Assam, Naba Barsha in Bengal and Vaishakha in Bihar.
Another legend is that on this day all Sikhs gathered to receive Guru's blessings at Goindwal on the day Guru Amar Das had first institutionalized the festival of Baisakhi as one of the special days in Punjab. This day also holds a lot of importance for Hindus as it is on this day in 1875 that Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj. Arya Samaj comprises of a sect of reformed Hindus who follow the Vedas for spiritual guidance by discarding idol worship. On this auspicious day Gautam Buddha also attained enlightenment or nirvana under the tree named Mahabodhi in the town of Gaya.
People observe the religious rites and rituals during this festival typically at a Gurdwara. The Sikh community’s Holy Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib is given a milk bath and after that the sanctified book is kept back on the throne. Moreover the holy verses from the scripture are chanted to recreate the traditional procession held in 1699. The holy songs are also sung, which are known as kirtans during the rituals of Baisakhi. A procession led by five Sikh priests which is followed by dancers and drummers with the frequent chanting of 'Wahe Guru', 'DegTegFateh' and 'Bole So Nihal’, are also carried out on the special occasion. People from all the age groups join the religious congregation. Karah Prasad is distributed among all devotees after completing all the rites and rituals of Baisakhi. People prepare a special type of vegetarian food to grace the values of the occasion.
The Significance of Baisakhi
Baisakhi marks the beginning of New Year, predominantly in the northern states of India. Baisakhi is celebrated usually on a fixed date. In Kerala, Baisakhi is named as "Vishu" and in the state of Tamil Nadu; it is popularly called as "Puthandu"
To begin the auspicious day of Baisakhi, devotees take dip in the holy rivers just around the break of dawn. On this day Sun enters Aries, the first sign of Zodiac which signifies the beginning of the New Year.
It also holds the significance of the end of harvest of the main crop in India. During Baisakhi the farmers offer special prayers to thank the Almighty for bestowing them with good fortune and seek blessings for a better crop the next year. Baisakhi also marks a lot of social gathering where friends and relatives meet each other to enjoy the delicious meals and rejoice the occasion.
Baisakhi in Punjab
Punjab is the land of Green Revolution, as farmers grow healthy crops as compared to the other parts of the country. On this day, people start cutting their harvested crops. T People adorn their traditional Punjabi attire; both men and women celebrate the day of Baisakhi by performing one of the most energetic dance forms of India, Bhangra and Gidda. Sweets are prepared at home and distributed among friends and relatives and people make merry by forgetting old rivalries.