In our series on Indian festivals, we have now come to the Baisakhi festival - the festival that marks the beginning of the solar year. People in North India, especially in the State of Punjab, thank God for a good harvest. Visits to Gurudwara, Vaisakhi processions and traditional performances are the highlights of the day. Baisakhi has special significance for the Sikhs who on this day in 1699 organized their tenth Guru Gobind Singh Ji order of Khalsa.
Baisakhi is one of the major festivals of Sikhs and is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and gaiety in the state of Punjab and all throughout the world where there is a significant Sikh population. For the large farming community of Punjab, Baisakhi Festival marks the time for harvest of rabi crops and they celebrate the day by performing joyful bhangra and gidda dance. For the Sikh community, Baisakhi Festival has tremendous religious significance as it was on a Baisakhi Day in 1699, that Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru laid the foundation of Panth Khalsa-the Order of the Pure Ones.
Baisakhi Festival falls on the first day of Vaisakh month (April / May) according to Nanakshahi or Sikh Calendar. For this reason, Baisakhi is also popularly known as Vaisakhi. According to English calendar, the date of Baisakhi corresponds to April 13 every year and April 14 once in every 36 years. This difference in Baisakhi dates is due to the fact that day of Baisakhi is reckoned according to solar calendar and not the lunar calendar. The auspicious date of Baisakhi is celebrated all over India under different names and different set of rituals and celebrations. Baisakhi date coincides with “Rongali Bihu” in Assam, “Naba Barsha” in Bengal, “Puthandu” in Tamil Nadu and “Pooram Vishu” in Kerala.
People of Punjab celebrate the festival of Baisakhi with exuberance and devotion. As the festival has tremendous importance in Sikh religion, major activities of the day are organized in Gurdwaras. People wake up early to prepare for the day. Many also take bath in the holy river to mark the auspicious occasion. After getting ready people pay a visit to their neighbourdood gurdwara and take part in the special prayer meeting organized for the day. At the end of the Baisakhi ardas, congregates receive specially prepared Kara prasad or sweetened semolina. This is followed by a guru ka langar or community lunch.
Later, during the day people of Sikh faith take out a Baisakhi procession under the leadership of Panj piaras. The procession moves through the major localities of the city amidst the rendition of devotional songs by the participating men, women and children. Mock duels, bhangra and gidda performances make the procession joyous and colourful.
Celebrations by Farmers
For the large farming community of Punjab and Haryana, Baisakhi marks a New Year’s time as it is time to harvest rabi crop. On Baisakhi, farmers thank god for the bountiful crop and pray for good times ahead. People buy new clothes and make merry by singing, dancing and enjoying the best of festive food. Cries of "Jatta aai Baisakhi", rent the skies as gaily men and women break into the bhangra and gidda dance to express their joy. Everyday farming scenes of sowing, harvesting, winnowing and gathering of crops are expressed through zestful movements of the body to the accompaniment of ballads and dhol music. In several villages of Punjab Baisakhi Fairs are organized where besides other recreational activities, wrestling bouts are also held.
Baisakhi Regional Celebrations
Auspicious day of Baisakhi is celebrated in various regions of India by different names and different rituals. This is because the day of Baisakhi holds special significance for Hindus along with Sikhs. For Hindus, April 13th mark the time for New Year and they celebrate the day with rituals like bathing, partying and worshipping. Another legend associated with the day is that Goddess Ganga descended to earth thousands of years ago on this day. Many Hindus therefore celebrate the day in the honor of Goddess Ganga by taking a sacred dip in the river Ganga. In a relatively much different form, Baisakhi celebrations are marked in the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh. Here, Baisakhi is celebrated twice a year in the months of Vaishakha (April-May) and Kartika (November). People celebrate Baisakhi by worshipping Goddess Jwalamukhi and paying tribute to the deity’s idol near a popular hot spring that issues flames. These different regional ways of celebrating Baisakhi reflect on India’s pluralistic tradition and her rich cultural heritage. Regional celebrations of Baisakhi also portray the unity of people of India in spite of the social, cultural and linguistic differences.
Pictures from the Sikhs celebration of Baisakhi
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