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Baisakhi

[ Edit ] Overview

Baisakhi, also called Vaisakhi, is essentially a North Indian Harvest Festival celebrated every year on April 13th and every 36 years on April 14th, marking the beginning of the new solar year.

For the large farming communities of Punjab and Haryana, Baisakhi marks the time for harvest of rabi (winter) crops. For the Sikh community the festival has religious significance, as it was on this day that Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs founded the Akal Khalsa (Community of the Pure) at a ceremony organized at Keshgarh Sahib near Anandpur.

Several other Indian festivals also coincide on the same day as Baisakhi. Some of the other festivals celebrated across the country on 13th/14th April are Naba Barsha in Bengal, Rongali Bihu in Assam, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu and Vishu in Kerala.

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Quick Facts

[ Edit ] When Is

Baisakhi is celebrated annually either on April 13 or April 14.

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[ Edit ] Duration

Baisakhi is only celebrated for 1 day.

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[ Edit ] Where

Baisakhi is celebrated primarily in North India and especially so in Punjab.

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[ Edit ] Also Known As

Vaisakhi

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[ Edit ] Dedicated To

As a Harvest Festival, there is no particular god associated with this festival. 

However, Baisakhi has a special significane for the Sikh religion.

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[ Edit ] Significance

Celebrated as a harvest festival in Punjab and other farming communities in North India.

Baisakhi has significant religious significance for the Sikh community.

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[ Edit ] Legends/History

Significance of Baisakhi for the Sikh Community:

  • Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur
    In 1667, the Mughal Emperor Aurungzeb started levying religious taxes against Hindu Brahmins and shut town their schools and temples in an attempt to get them to accept Islam as their religion. The terrified Brahmins approached Guru Tegh Bahudur, the 9th Sikh Guru to ask for his help and guidance. The Guru decided to go to Delhi, the seat of the Mughal empire, to reach a solution but on the way he was arrested and martyred in front of thousands of followers and disciples who out of fear of Emperor Aurangazeb didn’t come forward to even claim his body.
  • Panj Pyara
    The Guru’s son, Guru Gobind Rai who was 9 years old at this time was deeply impacted by this incident. 24 years later, the desire to instill courage and strength to sacrifice among his fellow men, Gobind Rai became the tenth Sikh Guru. On 30 March 1699, at the call of their Guru, thousands of people gathered at the Anandpur Sahib, the famous Golden Temple of Amritsar. In an attempt to instill courage in his people, Guru Gobind made a powerful speech and revealed his divine mission to them. the end of his speech, the Guru flashed his unsheathed sword and said that every great deed was preceded by equally great sacrifice and demanded one life for sacrifice. After a long pause, Daya Ram, a shopkeeper of Lahore offered himself. The Guru took him inside a tent and appeared out a few minutes later and asked for another head. One by one four more followers - Daram Das - a farmer of Delhi, Mohkam Chand - a washerman of Dwarka (Gujarat), Himmat - a cook of Jagannath (Orissa) and Sahib Chand - a barber of Bidar (Karnataka) offered their heads. Every time the Guru took a person inside the tent, he came out with a bloodied sword in his hand. After a while the 5 men came out in front of the crowd wearing turbans and saffron colored garments. These 5 men were called 'Panj Pyara' meaning 'Beloved 5'.
  • Khalsa Pantha
    The 'Panj Pyara' were baptised in a unique ceremony called 'Khande di Pahul' making them the first members of the Khalsa. The 'Amrit' or water used for the baptism was first given to the 'Panj Pyara', then drunk by the guru and later distributed to the crowd. With this ceremony, all those present, irrespective of caste, creed, sex, social standing or religion, became members of the ‘Khalsa Pantha’ (the Order of the Pure Ones) on Baisakhi day.

    The Guru also gave the surname of 'Singh' meaning lion, to every Sikh and took on the name for himself. From Guru Gobind Rai he became Guru Gobind Singh. He also pronounced that all Sikh women embody royalty and so gave them the surname 'Kaur' meaning princess.

    He also directed all baptized Sikhs of both sexes to wear five K's namely, Kesh, unshorn hair; Kangha, the wooden comb; Karra, the iron (or steel) bracelet; Kirpan, the sword and Kachera, the underwear.  

    He discontinued the tradition of Gurus and asked all Sikhs to accept the Grantha Sahib, the holy text for the Sikhs, as their eternal guide.

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[ Edit ] Traditions And Celebrations

In the Sikh Community

  • Rituals at Gurudwaras
    In the early hours of the morning, devotees wear new clothes after their bath and go to their nearby gurudwara. Most Sikhs hope to be at the Golden Temple where the Khalsa was originally established on this day. At the gurudwara the holy book of the Sikh, the Guru Granth Sahib is ceremoniously taken out and given a symbolical bath with milk and water. The book is then placed on its throne and read out to the followers gathered in the gurdwara.

    Later some parts of the Baisakhi day ceremony of 1699 are then recreated. Amrit or holy nectar is prepared in an iron vessel and then distributed to all present. Religious songs are sung and special prayers are conducted at the gurudwara. By afternoon prayers and discourses are completed and kada Prasad (sweetened semolina) is distributed. The ceremony ends culminates with a special guru-ka-langar meaning community lunch which is prepared by volunteers. People sit in rows with their heads covered as the volunteers serve them a delicious vegetarian meal.
  • Baisakhi Procession
    A high point of Baisakhi celebrations is the Baisakhi procession called nagar kirtan. The sacred book, the Guru Grantha Sahib is taken out in a colorful  and enchanting procession headed by the Panj Piaras.The procession moves through the streets of the city or town playing religious tunes, accompanied by dhol (drum) players with men, women and children participating in the bhangra or gidda dace, and shouting out chants of 'Bole so nihal', 'Deg teg fateh' and rhythmic chants of 'Sat nam' and 'Wahe guru'.

In Punjab and Haryana
Farmers wake up early in the morning and go for a bath in the pond or river and then visit temples or gurudwaras, depending on their faith, to thank God for the harvest and pray for prosperous and good times in the future. 

On Baisakhi, the villages are full of color and vibrancy. Men and women go to their fields dressed up in beautiful finery and wearing traditional jewellery to celebrate the occasion. As a tradition men dress up in colourful lungi, kurta and pagri while womenfolk clad themselves in colorful and ornate salwar kameez or lehenga. Cries of “Jatta aayi Baisakhi” are heard everywhere. The high point of Baisakhi celebrations in villages is the performance of the traditional folk dances bhangra by men and gidda by women. The energetic dance is simple in movement and is performed in groups on the fast beat of the dhol (traditional drum). Dancers perform everyday farming scenes of sowing, harvesting, winnowing and gathering of crops. 

At several places in Punjab colorful Baisakhi Fairs are held to celebrate the day. Some of the major attractions at these fairs are the wrestling bouts, singing and acrobatics, performance of folk instruments and dances.  Food stalls and shops selling trinkets are also popular attractions. 
Later in the day, families and friends meet to exchange greetings and sit down for an elaborate and lavish meal.

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Festival Fun

[ Edit ] Food / Recipes

In Sikhism the food served in the gurudwara or the prasad distributed in the gurudwara have strict rules associated with them. Mainly these rules are about hygiene and respect. Karah Prasad and food at the langar have guidelines laid down by the religion and are mentioned below.  

"Karah" or "Kada Prasad"
A sweet flour based food that is blessed by the Guru, the kara prasad is offered to all visitors at the Gurdwara and should not be refused. The kada prasad holds a lot of importance in Sikh faith. The method of preparation, distribution and the way of receiving kada Prasad is specifically mentioned in the religion. 

Method of preparation:

  • The area for preparation must be swept and cleaned.
  • Cooking vessels must be scoured and washed clean. 
  • The person preparing karah prasad must bathe and must utter only `Praise to the Guru'. 
  • A new pitcher is to be filled with water. 
  • In a clean large karah (iron vessel), mix equal quantities of coarsely refined wheat flour (semolina), pure sugar and clarified butter or ghee while 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 for the congregation to hear. 
  • If another vessel of the kara Prasad is brought in after the recitation of the Anand, it is not necessary to repeat the recitation of the Anand Sahib. Offering the pudding brought later to the sacred Kirpan is enough. 

Method of Distribution:

  • Before distributing the kara Prasad, it should be touched with the point of a kirpan, to symbolically strengthen it.
  • The share of the Panj Pyaras should be set apart and given to them before serving the rest of the congregation. 
  • While distributing to the congregation, the share for the person in attendance of the Guru Granth Sahib should be put in small bowl and handed over. Giving double or an unequal share to the person in attendance constitutes discrimination. 
  • The person doling out the Kara Prasad among the congregation should do so without any discrimination or spite. He should dole out the Kara Parsad equally to Sikhs, the non-Sikhs. The offering of Kara Prasad should be accompanied by at least two pice in cash.

Correct way to receive Karah Prasad:

  • Karah prasad is considered sacred and should be accepted with due respect and in a particular way. The  person being offered Karah Prasad in the worship hall should accept it sitting down with cupped hands raised high to help volunteer serve with ease. The Prasad 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 cases or if one is not sure about the taste of the prasad, one may request the volunteer for a very small portion, as he approaches but before putting up ones cupped hands. This is important as the prasad should not be refused or thrown away after it has been given.

Langar
Guru-ka-langar stands for community kitchen in or next to a gurudwara, which serves vegetarian food free of cost and is run in the name of the Guru. The practice was started by Guru Nanak Dev to break the caste system during the 13th and 14th century. So to this day the kitchen is open twice a day, to all persons irrespective of religion, caste, color, creed, age, gender or social status.

The practice of Langar is one of the 3 pillars of Sikhism. The Sikhs are encouraged to donate 10% of their wealth, time and resources to a worthy cause of which Langar Sewa is one. The volunteers take care of the preparation, cooking and the washing up of dishes for the hundreds of people who come for the langar. The food at the langar is usually lentil soup, vegetables, rice and chappatis.
There are strict rules relating to hygiene and respect to God that needs to be observed during the preparation of a Langar. 

Rules for making a 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 the food, the mouth and nose should be covered by a piece of cloth known as a ‘parna’.
  • The sevadars or volunteers should wash their hands before they begin to cook the langar and they should never taste the food while it is being cooked. 
  • The volunteers must utter Gurbani or 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 to br placed in a plate or bowls and placed in front of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and a prayer called the Ardas is to br performed. The Ardas is a petition to God, a prayer to thank the Creator for all His gifts and blessings. 
  • A steel kirpan is to be passed through each item of food, after the "Guru-Prasad" 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 to be 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 is thus passed to the entire congregation through the Langar. 

Rules of serving:

  • When serving the Langar, the server must observe strict rules of cleanliness and hygiene.
  • Servers should not touch the serving utensils to the plates of those they serve.
  • When serving food by hand, such as chapatis or fruit, the server’s hands should not touch the hand or plate of those they are serving.
  • hose serving should wait until all others have been completely served before they sit down to eat themselves.
  • When distributing food in the langar, the volunteer should not keep a large portion for himself, and should serve congregation without any prejudice or discrimination. 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 chant `Praise to the Guru' before eating. 
  • Sewadar should not distribute nor eat food bareheaded.

Rules of eating at a Langar:

  • Food like meat and eggs should not be brought into the Gurudwara.
  • Alcoholic/narcotic substances are strictly against the Sikh diet, hence these are 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.

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[ Edit ] Music / Dance

Punjab has a very rich folk culture which comes to life on Baisakhi. Baisakhi being a harvest festival the folk songs generally talk about the joy of the farmer who is happy with his bountiful harvest. Most folk songs are sung to the beat of the 'dhol' or 'dholik'.

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[ Edit ] Gift Tradition

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[ Edit ] Others

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[ Edit ] Other Information

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SMS & Greetings

[ Edit ] SMS Wishes

Nachle gaale humare saath
Ayi hai Baisakhi khushiyon ke saath
Masti mein jhoom aur kheer-poore kha
Aur na kar tu duniya ki parwa.
Baisakhi Mubarak Ho!!

 

Suraj se achha tara koi nahi,
Jaisa hai rishta humaraa dusraa koi nahi!
Chahe saari duniyaa me dhund lo.
Mere jaisa pyara, aur tere jaisa aawaraa aur koi nahi!!
BAISAKHI Ki Shubh Kaamnayein.

 

May you come up as bright as sun,
As cool as water and as sweet as honey.
Hope this Baisakhi fulfill all your desires and wishes.
Happy Baisakhi !!

 

Nachle gaale humare saath
Ayi hai Baisakhi khushiyon ke saath
Masti mein jhoom aur kheer-puri kha
Aur na kar tu duniya ki parwa.
Baisakhi Mubarak Ho!!

 

I wish you a very Happy Baisakhi.
May Wahe Guruji accept your good deeds,
bring all the years full of love and contentment.
May you come up as bright as sun,
as cool as water and as sweet as honey.
Hope this Baisakhi fulfill all your desires and wishes.
Happy Baisakhi!!

 

Khushboo teri yaari di saanu mehka jaandi hai,
teri har ik kitti hoyi gal saanu behka jaandi hai,
saah taan bahut der lagaande ne aun - jaan vich,
har saah ton pehle teri yaad aa jaandi hai.
Happy Baisakhi!!


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[ Edit ] Greetings

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