Guide to the Festival of Vaisakhi

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Karah Prasad

Karah Prasad or Kada Prasad is sweet flour based oily vegetarian food that is offered to all visitors to the Durbar Sahib in a Gurdwara (Sikh worship place). This is regarded as food blessed by the Guru and should not be refused. All devotees who visit Gurudwaras on the occasion of Baisakhi Festival to celebrate the birth of Khalsa Panth receive Karah Prasad or Kada Prasad by the sewadars (volunteers). This kada prasad holds a lot of importance in Sikh faith. The religion gives prescribed method of preparation, distribution and the way of receiving kada prasad.

Method of Preparation
According to Sikh religion, Kara Prasad or the “Sacred Pudding” must be prepared following the prescribed rituals. The religion gives strict instructions that only the Karah Prashad, which has been prepared or got, prepared according to the prescribed method shall be acceptable in the congregation.

According to the religion, Karah Prasad should be prepared in the following method:

  • Place for preparation must be swept and plastered.

  • Cooking vessels must be scoured and washed clean.

  • The person preparing karah prasad must bathe and must utter only `Praise to the Guru'.

  • Fill a new pitcher with water.

  • In a clean large iron pan (karah), equal quantities of three contents - coarsely refined wheat flour (semolina), pure sugar and clarified butter or ghee should be put and it should be made reciting the Scriptures.

  • When the karah prasad is ready it should then be covered with a clean piece of cloth.

  • The prasad must be placed on a four-legged clean stool in front of the Guru Granth Sahib.

  • The first five and the last stanza of the Anand Sahib should be recited aloud (so that the congregation can hear).

  • If another vessel of the sacred pudding is brought in after the recitation of the Anand, it is not necessary to repeat the recitation of the Anand Sahib. Offering of the pudding brought later to the sacred Kirpan is enough

Method of Distribution
According to Sikhism, before distribution, karah prasad should be touched with the point of a kirpan, to strengthen it symbolically. The share of the five beloved ones should be set apart and given away before being served to the rest of the congregation. Thereafter, while the general distribution, the share of the person in attendance of the Guru Granth Sahib should be put in small bowl or vessel and handed over. The religion says that giving double share to the person in attendance constitutes improper discrimination. It has also be mentioned that the person who doles out the Karhah Prashad among the congregation should do so without any discrimination on the basis of personal regard or spite. He should dole out the Karhah Parshad equally to the Sikh, the non-Sikh or a person of high or low caste. While doling out the Karhah Prashad, no discrimination should be made on considerations of caste or ancestry or being regarded, by some, as untouchable, of persons within the congregation. Besides, the offering of Karah Prashad should be accompanied by at least two pice in cash.

Right Way to Receive Karah Prasad
Karah prasad is considered sacred in Sikhism and should be accepted with respect and in a proper way. The religion says that the person being offered Karah Parshad in the worship hall should accept it sitting down with cupped hands raised high to help Sewadar to serve with ease. The Prashad should then be transferred to the palm of one hand and eaten with the other hand.

Since, the prasad is prepared with high amount of sugar and oil it may not be suitable people suffering disease like diabetes. If such is a case or if you are not sure about the taste of the prasad, you may say “very small portion” to the Sewadar (volunteer) as he approaches you and before you put up your cupped hands. This is important as according to the religion, the prasad should not be refused or thrown away.

Guru Ka Langar

Langar or community meal is one of the fascination features of Sikh religion. Though langars are prepared everyday in Gurudwaras, they are specially looked forward to on special occasions such as Gurupurabs. A special Langar is also prepared on the occasion of Baisakhi - a festival that marks the foundation day of Khalsa Panth, and everyone participates in it with great enthusiasm and gusto.

What is a Langar ?
In Sikhism, Guru ka Langar stands for community kitchen in or adjacent to a Gurdwara that is run in the name of Guru. Langar can also mean a free, vegetarian-only meal served in a gurudwara. The practice of langar was started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji to break the caste system that was prevalent in India during the 13th and 14th centuries. Hence, both the kitchen and meal is open to all twice a day, throughout the year without any discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status. Hence, in a langar, all people high or low, rich or poor, male or female, all sit in the same pangat (meaning row or line) to share and enjoy the food together. In an attempt to invite all and offend no one, the food in langar is always vegetarian. It usually consists of lentil soup, vegetables, rice and chappatis.

This practice of Langar is one of the Three Pillars of Sikhism and symbolizes the desire of Sikhs to eradicate hunger. The Sikhs are encouraged to donate ten percent (daswandh) of their wealth, time, or resources to a worthy cause, of which Langar Sewa is one. The practice of Langar Sewa is widely followed by Sikhs even in present times. A large number of Sikh families volunteer each week to provide and prepare the Langar. It may be noted that preparing langar is quite a task as there may be several hundred people to feed, and caterers are not allowed. Voluntary helpers (Sewadars) do all the preparation, the cooking and the washing-up.

Rules for Making a Langar

  • According to Sikhism, following protocol should be strictly observed while making of the langar:

  • Guru’s Langar must always be vegetarian and should be made up of simple, nourishing food.

  • Strict rules of purity, hygiene and cleanliness must be observed while making of the langar.

  • When preparing food for the Langar, the mouth and nose should be covered by a piece of cloth known as a "parna".

  • The sevadars (selfless workers) should wash hands before beginning to cook langar and never taste it while cooking.

  • The sewadars will normally utter Gurbani and refrain from speaking if possible.

  • Individuals with communicable diseases should not participate in the preparation of Langar.

  • When the Langar is ready, a small portion of each of the dishes is placed in a plate or bowls and placed in front of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and a prayer called the Ardas is performed. The Ardas is a petition to God, a prayer to thank the Creators for all His gifts and blessings.

  • A steel kirpan is passed through each item of food, after the "Guru-Prashad" has been blessed. The blessing of the Langar with Ardas can be done anywhere, in case the Langar needs to be served before the completion of the Gurdwara ceremony.

  • The Langar is not eaten until the Ardas has been recited.

  • After the Ardas is completed, each item of food is returned back to its original pot or container. This is done in a belief that the blessings of the "holy" food are thus passed to the entire Sangat through the Langar.

How is the Guru Ka Langar Served ?
In Sikh religion, there is a following prescribed code of conduct for serving the langar:

  • When serving the Langar, the servers must observe strict rules of cleanliness and hygiene.

  • Servers should not touch the serving utensils to the plates of those they serve.

  • When serving foods by hand, such as chapatis or fruit, the server’s hands should not touch the hand or plate of those they are serving.

  • Those serving should wait until all others have been completely served before they sit down to eat themselves.

  • When distributing food in the langar, sewadar should not be a greedy person. He should not keep a large portion for himself, and should serve Pangat without any prejudice or discrimination. Besides, he should not serve unequal portions.

  • Sewadar should not distribute food without concern for the approved procedure.

  • Person serving the food should not consume anything that is proscribed.

  • Sewadar should never eat without first reciting fapuji.

  • Sewadar should say `Praise to the Guru' before eating.

  • Sewadar should not distribute nor eat food bareheaded.

Etiquettes to be observed while having Guru Ka Langar
Following etiquettes and guidelines must be observed while having a langar:

  • Since many people do not believe in the consumption of meat and eggs, foods of this sort should not be brought into the Gurdwara.

  • Alcoholic/narcotic substances are strictly against the Sikh diet, hence these are strictly not allowed on Gurdwara premises.

  • Head should be covered with a piece of cloth while having langar. It is advisable not to leave any leftovers.

  • Significance of Guru Ka Langar in Sikhism
    The institution of Guru ka Langar has served Sikhism in many ways. It has ensured the participation of women and children in a task of service for mankind as women play an important role in the preparation of meals, and the children help in serving food to the pangat. Langar also teaches the etiquette of sitting and eating in a community situation, which helps harbor, the feeling of oneness in the society.

    In present time, the institution of langar has become an integral part of the Sikh movement. Langars have been established in several countries around the world wherever there are Sikhs and, people of all communities participate in it with enthusiasm.established in several countries around the world wherever there are Sikhs and, people of all communities participate in it with enthusiasm.

Baisakhi Gifts Traditions

There exists a strong tradition of gifting Baiskhi gifts to near and dear ones in the state of Punjab. Since Baisakhi is one the major festivals for Sikhs they go out of their way to greet their dear ones with best of Baisakhi gifts. Days before the festival gift lists for friends and relatives is dutifully prepared in most households to make sure that no one if left out. People believe that exchanging gifts on Baisakhi helps to strengthen relationships and develop stronger bonds of love.

Sending Baisakhi Gifts Online
Due to the fact that a lot many people from Punjab have migrated to foreign countries, there is a huge trend of sending Baisakhi gifts to relatives through online shopping sites. To cater to this huge demand, a large number of Baisakhi shopping sites provide plethora of gift options to the people. Many of them also provide the facility of worldwide delivery of Baisakhi Gifts making it extremely convenient for people to wish their dear ones.

Homemade Baisakhi Gifts
A lot many women in Punjab pamper their loved ones with homemade gifts like sweets especially, laddoos. Those who are skilled also gift embroidered table/bed covers, dresses or cushion covers. Homemade gifts are extremely appreciated because of the personal touch.

Baisakhi Gift Ideas

As Baisakhi is one the biggest and most joyous festival for Sikhs in Punjab, there exists a strong tradition of gifting Baisakhi with gifts of love. But how much do they wish to pamper friends and relatives, most people find it extremely difficult to select a perfect gift for Baisakhi. In case, you too are in such a dilemma here are some tips and Baisakhi Gift Ideas to encourage and inspire you:

Fresh Flowers
Delightful bouquets of Fresh flowers are always appreciated as a gift, but in case of Baisakhi these are seen as most appropriate gifts. This is because Baisakhi is a harvest festival and therefore it stands for happiness and prosperity, feelings that can be best described through flowers.

Puja Items
Puja Items are another very suitable gift for the auspicious occasion of Baisakhi. One can go in for designer puja thalis, puja accessories like diyas, diya stands, candle holders, book rest or packs of incense sticks depending on choice and budget. These days, a huge variety of Puja accessories are available on various Baisakhi shopping sites. One can therefore send puja gifts on Baisakhi from the convenience of home and at the click of the mouse.

Sweets / Mithais
Sweets or Mithais are an all time favorite gifts of Indian. They just love to receive delectable and mouth watering gifts from their dear ones. But please keep in mind the specific choice of the recipient and lay special emphasis on the decoration of the box for greater impact.

Dry Fruits
Dry Fruits are admired and appreciated as a gift on festivals because of their rich taste and long shelf life. One can also go in for dry fruit hampers wherein dry fruits come packed in a designer tray or come along with other gifts like show piece or chocolates.

Chocolate Hampers
Chocolate Hampers are an ideal gift choice for Baisakhi especially when you intend to greet kids and teenagers. They would just love you for this. In case you are not sure about the choice of kids, try and get the popular brands and pack a variety of chocolates to be on the safer side.

Household Gifts
Household gifts are an ideal Baisakhi gift when one has to greet Baisakhi to married friends or relatives. One can go in for decorative showpieces, bed covers or crockery items. Gifts of personal use can also be given to close friends or cousins.

Baisakhi Processions

Processions form an important part of Sikh culture and religious celebrations and are taken out by much devotion and enthusiasm on the occasion of Baisakhi - a festival that marks the birth of Khalsa Panth. The most essential aspect of Baisakhi Procession is that Sikh’s most sacred scripture Granth Sahib is taken out with honor by traditionally dressed Panj Piaras or the five senior religious Sikhs who are symbolic of the original leaders. Baisakhi processions move through the streets and lanes of the city and are accompanied by music, singing and chanting scriptures and hymns. Large number of devotees including women, school children, band parties and members of various Sikh religious organizations participate in the Baisakhi processions making them more lively and joyful.

Attractions of Baisakhi Processions or Nagar Kirtans
Nagar Kirtans is the term most popularly used for traditional Processions lead by Panj Pyaras. Here, ‘Nagar’ means town and ‘Kirtan’ is a term that means singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. The term, ‘Nagar Kirtan’ therefore effectively describes the most essential feature of Baisakhi Procession, which is recitation of hymns from Guru Granth Sahib through the streets of the town. During the Baisakhi processions children and youth demonstrate their skills in martial arts to the accompaniment of musical bands, making the event more colorful.

Popularity of Baisakhi Nagar Kirtans can be gauged from the fact that the entire route of the procession is decorated with gates, buntings, streamers and flowers. Everywhere the procession moves, it receives warm reception from the people. Several religious, social and cultural societies besides market associations put up langars and chabeels at different places to mark the event.

Baisakhi Processions end with a discourse by senior members of Sikh religion who enlighten people on the significance of the tradition of Nagar Kirtans on important days in Sikh history. Children are taught to perform acts of charity on this auspicious occasion and are expected to continue to do so all through their life.

For people in the villages of Punjab, Nagar Kirtan is the last opportunity for relaxing before starting of the harvesting of corn. Vaisakhi processions are a special feature of the temples of Anandpur Sahib and Muktsar.

Baisakhi Processions around the World
Baisakhi Processions are carried out with much gusto in countries where there is a significant Sikh population. Vasaikhi Processions of Toronto, Canada is particularly marked. Here, after the morning ardas, procession is lead through important streets of Toronto and culminates with speeches by religious men.

This years festival will take place between11th of April 2008 – 20th of April 2008

With a series of 3 day readings and Guru Ka Langars at each of the Gurdwara’sas of the 11th of April 2008, and ending with the raising of the Nishan Sahib ( Sikh Flag) at the civic Centre and a procession through the Inner city of Southampton on Sunday 20th of April 2008 between 9.30 am and 6pm.

All events will be via the Gurdwara Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji Gurdwara @ 7 St Marks road, contact 02380 393440.

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