Baisakhi marks the beginning of the harvest of rabi crops and is celebrated with extreme zeal in Punjab. Though this auspicious day is celebrated and called by different names all over India – ‘Rangoli Bihu’ in Assam, ‘Naba Brasha’ in Bengal, ‘Puthandu’ in Tamil Nadu, ‘Pooram Vishu’ in Kerela and ‘Vaishakha’ in Bihar and western india. Baisakhi is considered the most auspicious and important festival for number of reasons. Apart from farmers, Baisakhi is of prime significance for Sikhs in Northern India as this marks the day when Shri Guru Gobind Singh paved the way for the ‘Khalsa Panth” – The path for pure ones.
As per a legend, the ninth Sikh Guru, Shri Teg Bahadur fought against Mughal invasion in India and beheaded Aurangzeb to stop Mughals in their path. After his death his son, Guru Gobind Singh became the Guru of Sikhs. To instil valour and strengthen the battle against the Mughal invaders he called for a Sikh congregation at Keshgrah at Anandpur on March 30 1699. With thousands of Sikhs assembling at his call, he spoke with great fervour to inspire his men with courage. Waving his sword in air, he called upon his followers to be ready to offer great sacrifice for their country. He further asked his followers to present themselves as a sacrifice. Five men came forward. Shri Gobind Singh took them to tent and came out with his sword trickling blood. The stunned silence of congregation burst into rapturous cries when the five men came out of the tent wearing the saffron clothes and turbans on their head holding the battle swords ready for the call. These men are known as original ’Paanj Pyares’ meaning the ‘Five Loved Ones’. They all hailed from different backgrounds – Jat, Shopkeeper, Barber, Printer and a Water bearer, but they were united as a Paanj Pyare family destroying the societal boundaries of casteism. The event marked the beginning of the order – Khalsa Panth.
As a tradition, every one wakes up early on Baisakhi and dress in new clothes. Families visit nearby temples and Gurudwaras seeking blessing of Guru Granth Sahib and praying for good ensuing harvest. Most people strive to visit Anandpur as their holy pilgrim site. At the Gurudwara, the holy book – Guru Granth Sahib is taken out for symbolic bath and rituals. Holy verses are chanted and kirtans played by Paanj pyaares, followed by offering ‘amrit’- holy water to disciples.
In the afternoon, volunteers help out in the community lunch –‘Langar’ where the meal along with ‘Karah Prasad’ – sweetened semolina is served to people. In the evening the holy book, Guru Granth Sahib is taken out for a procession lead by Paanj Pyares symbolising their journey to Anandpur. The procession is moved through major city locales and is a colourful culmination of celebrations with Bhangra and Gidda and devotional chants of ‘Sat Nam’ and ‘Wahe Guru”, filling the surrounding with divine spirituality.
Baisakhi also signifies the day when Gautaum Buddha attained Nirvana. On Baisakhi in 1875 Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded Arya Samaj – a transformed sect of Hindus following teaching from Vedas for spiritual upliftment. This makes Baisakhi as the most auspicious day to begin new undertakings for Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists alike.