Guide to the Festival of Vaisakhi

Celebrations in Golden Temple

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Celebrations in Golden Temple

Baisakhi celebrations are particularly marked at the Golden Temple or Sri Harimandir Sahib Gurdwara at Amritsar - the most sacred centres for Sikh community. For it was here at the Anandpur Sahib, the famous Golden Temple that the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh laid the foundation of Khalsa Panth on a Baisakhi Day in 1699. Sikhs from around the world strive to visit their revered shrine to participate in the grand Baisakhi celebrations organized here.

About Golden Temple
Golden Temple or Darbar Sahib (Divine Court) is the popular name for Harimandir Sahib (meaning Temple of God) gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar in Punjab. The gurdwara was founded by the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ramdas and completed by his successor Guru Arjan Dev.

Situated in the middle of a square tanks, Golden Temple looks awesome with its glistening gold covered exterior. It has entrances and doors on all four sides so that people from all caste and creed may enter it from any direction. A broad causeway traverses the pool to reach the Temple that rests on a massive square platform in the middle of The Pool of Nectar. On a Baisakhi day, water is drawn from all the sacred rivers of India and poured in to the huge tank that surrounds the Golden Temple.

Significance of Golden Temple for Sikhs
The Golden Temple has always been a rallying point for Sikhs throughout its history for following main reasons:

  • It was here in the year 1699, that the Tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh laid the foundation of Khalsa Panth.

  • The first edition of the Holy Book of the Sikh's The Guru Granth Sahib was installed here in 1604 with Baba Buddha as the first granthi (caretaker of the book).

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
Located just 400 meters north of the Golden Temple is the Jallianwala Bagh where the historic massacre took place on April 13, 1919 when India was under British rule and was struggling for independence.

Thousands of people had gathered at Jallian Wala Bagh to celebrate Baisakhi. The British General Dyer was the Lieutenant Governor of the province in 1919. He had banned all meetings and demonstrations led by Indians against the economical set back by World War I. General Dyer personally led the troops to the sight and ordered his men to open fire without any warning. It resulted in the death of 379 and injured more than 1200 innocents. Outraged by this gory incident, Gandhiji, called for a nation wide strike and started the Non-cooperation Movement, which became an important mile stone in the struggle for India´s Independence. Today this ground has been changed to a park and it has a pleasant garden. At the east - end of the garden there is a large memorial built in memory of those who died here.

When is Baisakhi ?

Baisakhi 2008 is on April 13, Sunday

The auspicious festival of Baisakhi is celebrated on first day of Vaisakh month (April-May) according to the Nanakshahi calendar. Hence, the festival of Baisakhi is also popularly known as Vaisakhi. According to Gregorian Calendar, Baisakhi falls on April 13 every year and on April 14 once in 36 years. This variation in date is due to the fact that date of Baisakhi is reckoned according to the Indian solar calendar and not the lunar calendar.

Time for Harvest of Rabi Crop
Vaisakhi marks the beginning of the new spring year and the end of the harvest of rabi crop in India. The festival is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm in agriculture dominated state of Punjab and Haryana. Here, farmers thank God for the bountiful harvest and pray for prosperity in the coming year. To celebrate the day, people wake up early and take a dip in the holy rivers. Soon after, cries of “Jatta aai Baisakhi" rent the skies as the people of Punjab attired in their best clothes break into the Bhangra dance to express their joy.

Astrological Significance of Baisakhi Date
The date of Baisakhi has major astrological significance as it marks the sun’s entry into Mesh Rashi. Some people therefore know Baisakhi as Mesha Sankranti. The auspicious date of Baisakhi is celebrated as 'Rongali Bihu' in Assam, 'Naba Barsha' in Bengal, ‘Puthandu’ in Tamil Nadu, 'Pooram Vishu' in Kerala and ‘Vaishakha’ in Bihar.

Significance of Baisakhi Date in Sikhism
The date of Baisakhi festival has tremendous significance in Sikhism. They celebrate the festival as a collective birthday of the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh and the foundation of the Khalsa (the Sikh brotherhood) in 1699. Sikhs all over the world celebrate the day with lot of enthusiasm and joy.

Sikh Calendar

In present times, Sikh community use Nanakshahi Calendar and have left the use of Bikrami calendar which is said have lot of flaws. Starting from in 1999, all religious holidays for Sikh is observed according to the newly modified Nanakshahi Calendar. The years of the Nanakshahi calendar start with the birth of Guru Nanak Dev in 1469. Year 1998, is therefore, considered Nanakshahi 530. The modified calendar is based on the length of the tropical solar year instead of the lunar cycle. This ensures that the dates will not fluctuate from year to year, as was the case with the previously used Bikrami Calendar. Hence, the calendar helps Sikhs to correctly represent their historic events and move forward with a calendar of their own.

According to the Nanakshahi Calendar, Sikh New Year begins with Chet 1. This corresponds to March 14 in Gregorian or Common Era calendar. Nanakshahi calendar is gaining popularity in the Sikh diaspora and is likely to become the de facto standard of the Sikhs worldwide just as Christians have Gregorian calendar, Muslims have Hijri calendar, Hindus have Bikrami and Saka calendars and Bahais have their own distinct calendar.

In a Nanakshahi calendar or Sikh Calendar, the first day of each month is known as Sangrand, and correlates to dates on Common Era calendar as shown below

Date in Nanakshahi

Date in Common Era

Chet 1

March 14

Vaisakh 1

April 14

Jeth 1

May 15

Harh 1

June 15

Sawan 1

July 16

Bhadon 1

August 16

Asu 1

September 15

Katik 1

October 15

Maghar 1

November 14

Poh 1

December 14

Magh 1

January 13

Phagan 1

February 12

The month of Phagun has 30 days in ordinary year, and 31 days in a year in which the month of February has 29 days. As a result, during a leap year, the corresponding dates of Phagun from March 1 to March 13 will differ by 1 day from those of the same month in non-leap years.

Seasons in a Sikh Calendar
Sikhs divide their year into following six seasons:

Name of Season

Corresponding Months

Vasanta (spring)

March and April

Grishma (summer)

May and June

Varsha (the rains)

July and August

Sharad (autumn)

September and October

Hemanta (winter)

November and December

Shishira (the cool season)

January and February.

In Sikhism, the full-moon day is given importance as it was on the full-moon day of Kartik that Guru Nanak was born. Besides, as most Sikhs in Punjab have some association with agriculture, the harvest season has been accorded great importance. Two of the most important Sikh festivals, Baisakhi and Lohri, are linked to agriculture. Both these festivals are based on the solar calendar and thus fall on the same day every year.

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