Joyful festival of Baisakhi is celebrated with lot of charm and gusto in the vibrant state of Punjab. People perform set Baisakhi customs and traditions for the day with sincerity and devotion. Since Baisakhi is celebrated as the birth of Guru Gobind Singh - the Tenth Sikh Guru and the foundation day of Khalsa Panth, major activities for the festival are centred on gurdwaras - the Sikh place of worship. As a harvest festival Baisakhi is celebrated in open fields with energetic bhangra and gidda dance by gaily dressed men and women of Punjab.
Baisakhi Rituals at Gurudwaras
People following Sikh faith wake up early in the morning on a Baisakhi day and pay visit to gurdwaras to attend special prayer meetings. While most Sikhs strive to visit the revered Golden Temple or Anandpur Sahib, where the Khalsa was pronounced, those who are unable to do so visit their neighbourhood gurdwara.
At a gurdwara, the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs is ceremonially taken out and is given a symbolical bath with milk and water. After these simple rituals, Guru Granth Sahib is placed on its throne with care. The book is then read out to the followers gathered in the gurdwara.
Just as on a Baisakhi Day ceremony held in 1699 under the guidance of Guru Gobind Singh where Panch Pyaras or the Five beloved ones chanted verses, five priests going by that name chant verses recited by the five originals. Similarly, just as Guru Gobind Singh Ji had used amrita prepared in an iron vessel to bless the panch pyare, even to this date amrit or holy nectar is prepared in an iron vessel and is distributed amongst all gathered after the chanting of sacred verses. As a tradition, devotees sip amrita five times and take a vow to work for the brotherhood, the Khalsa Panth. Religious songs (kirtans) are sung after the amrit is drunk for the spiritual upliftment of those gathered.
At noon, after the Baisakhi ardas, the Karah Prasad or sweetened semolina is offered to the guru for his blessings. It is then distributed to the congregation. The ceremony culminates with a special guru-ka-langar or the community lunch. People sit in rows with their heads covered as volunteers serve them with vegetarian meal.
Later, during the Baisakhi day, sacred Guru Granth Sahib is taken out in a procession. At the head of the procession are the Panj Piaras, symbolizing the journey made by the five fearless devotees from their homes to Anandpur, to be baptised by Guru Gobind Singh. Baisakhi processions are attended by men, women and children alike with faith and enthusiasm. The procession moves through major localities of the city and is welcomed by citizens and members of social and cultural societies. Colourful bhangra and gidda dance apart from mock duels are performed during Baisakhi processions. Another fascinating part of Baisakhi celebrations is the accompaniment of drummers, bands playing religious times, devotees singing religious songs and men swinging swords.
Loud Sikh chants of 'Bole so nihal', 'Deg teg fateh' and rhythmic chants of 'Sat nam' and 'Wahe guru' ring out from the middle of the singing and drumming. Some men may wear the headgear (bana) of Guru Nanak, others that of Guru Gobind Singh.
In their discourse at the end of the ceremony, Sikh religious leaders strive to promote the feeling of charity amongst people, especially children in honor of Guru Gobind Singh.
In some places, especially Punjab, such processions are taken out even before Baisakhi.
Celebrations in the Fields
Since Baisakhi is also celebrated as a harvest festival, farmers in Punjab celebrate Baisakhi with energetic performance of bhangra and gidda dance. Men and women clad themselves in their traditional Bhangra dress and dance to the beat of dhol in a joyful festive atmosphere.
Vibrant Festival of Baisakhi is considered to be an extremely important festival in India for number of reasons. Apart from being important for the farmers as a harvest festival, the festival is of prime importance in Sikhism as a foundation day of Khalsa Panth. Besides, auspicious Baisakhi day is of importance for astrological reasons too !!
Astrological Significance of Baisakhi
The festival of Baisakhi falls on April 13 every year and April 14 once in every 36 years. Change in date is because of the fact that date of Baisakhi is reckoned according to the solar calendar. Astrologically, the date of Baisakhi is significant as marks sun’s entry into Mesh Rashi. For this very reason, many people also know Baisakhi as Mesha Sankranti. The auspicious date of Baisakhi is celebrated all over India under different names and rituals. It is celebrated as 'Rongali Bihu' in Assam, 'Naba Barsha' in Bengal, ‘Puthandu’ in Tamil Nadu, 'Pooram Vishu' in Kerala and ‘Vaishakha’ in the state of Bihar.
Significance of Baisakhi for Farmers
For the agriculturally rich state of Punjab and Haryana, Baisakhi marks the time for harvest of Rabi (winter) crops and is therefore extremely significant for the farmers. Baisakhi Festival is also celebrated as a Thanksgiving Day festival in these states. After waking up early and dressing themselves in new clothes, farmers visit temples and gurdwaras to express gratitude to God for the good harvest and seek blessing for ensuing agriculture season. Farmers also celebrate Baisakhi by performing energetic bhangra and gidda dance and participating in Baisakhi Fairs.
Significance of Baisakhi in Sikhism
Baisakhi is of major importance for the people following Sikh faith. As it was on a Baisakhi Day, in the year 1699 that the Tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh founded Khalsa Panth or the Order of Pure Ones and gave a unique identity to Sikhs. On the same day the guru administered amrit (nectar) to his first batch of five disciples making them Singhs, a martial community. By doing so, he eliminated the differences of high and low and established that all human beings were equal.
Sikhs celebrate Baisakhi by participating in special prayer meetings organized at gurdwaras. They also carry out joyful Baisakhi processions to mark the day.
Significance of Baisakhi in Other Religions
The day of Baisakhi is of significance for the Hindus as it was on this day in 1875 that Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj - a reformed sect of Hindus who are devoted to the Vedas for spiritual guidance and have discarded idol worship. Besides, Baisakhi day is of relevance for the Buddhists as Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment and Nirvana on this auspicious day.