Festivals in India are liberally sprinkled in the texture of the daily life.The monotony of the long, dull, dreary life is broken once in a while by the onset of a festival which brings in colour, gaiety and fun to the routine life. Baisakhi is the most predominant Sikh festival which has both religious and social significance.
Celebrated in the mid of April,more precisely either on 13th / 14th of April,this festival marks the arrival of the harvest season. This day becomes relevant in the context that the rest of the India celebrates it as their New Year since it marks the beginning of the Indian solar calendar. In Assam it is Bohaag Bihu, in Kerala it is Vishu, in neighboring Tamil Nadu it is Pongaland in Bengal it is Poila Baisakh. Whatever be the name, it is celebrated across the length and breadth of the country with rich delicacies, dance and music. Nowhere are the celebrations as grand/ boisterous as the land of Punjab.
It is marked by a ritualistic bath, followed by special prayer ceremony in the Gurudwara. It becomes double celebration for the Sikhs since it also symbolises the birth of Sikh brotherhood and Sikh unity as it was precisely on this day in the year 1699 that the tenth and last Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh unified the Sikhs and deemed them as the ‘Khalsa’ or the Pure Ones.
Five men were called upon to protect this brotherhood and designated as the ‘beloved five’ to symbolise that every great deed in history was preceded by equally great sacrifice and in commemoration of this day , five men walk in front leading the processions with swords drawn . The seeds of valour andresilience for which the Sikhs today are known for was sown on that particular day. Everyone who drank the holy water / ‘Amrit’ which was used by the Guru to bless those five men organically became members of the ‘KhalsaPanth’ or the order of the pure ones regardless of their caste, creed or sex. The Guru also ordained that hence Sikhs shall be known by the five Ks they carry: ‘Kesh’/ long uncut hair,’Kanghi‘/ comb,‘Kripaan’ / dagger, ‘Kacchha’ / shorts and ‘Kada’ / bracelet. The Guru Granth Sahib was accepted in a formal ceremony as the leading religious guide to show the Sikhs the path of righteousness.
Once the rituals are over, the actual celebration takes over which is marked by community meals, music, dance and festivity. ‘Bhangra’ is a staple feature of this celebration, which is avigorous dance form incorporating in itself the elements of the entire cultivation process in synchronisation with beats of drum starting from ploughing, tilling, sowing, weeding and the ultimate harvesting.Everyone is dressed in colourful, vibrant clothes and fairs are held at different places called ‘Baisakhi Mela’ to add to the joy and bonhomie.
This festival encapsulates in its essence the arrival of the harvest season , the promise of the Khalsa movement and the onset of the Hindu New Year. It is a festival which ushers in a period of material prosperity and spiritual awakening.