by Dr. Amrit Kaur*
Baisakhi is celebrated in Punjab on the first day of the solar month of Baisakh. It is termed as 'Baisakhi' because as per astrological calculations at this time the moon passes through visakhi naksatra or constellation of the Indian calendar. This festival falls when the farmers have just finished the harvesting of the wheat crop.Baisakhi is celebrated in Punjab on the first day of the solar month of Baisakh. It is termed as 'Baisakhi' because as per astrological calculations at this time the moon passes through visakhi naksatra or constellation of the Indian calendar. This festival falls when the farmers have just finished the harvesting of the wheat crop. In the Sikhs history, the celebration of Baisakhi can be traced back to the time of Sri Guru Amar Das Ji (1479-1574), the Third Master of the Sikhs, i.e. to more than 470 years. As per historical records, a group of Sikhs under the leadership of Bhai Paro, who had received initiation at the hands of Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji, the Second Master of the Sikhs, suggested to Sri Guru Amar Das Ji to start an annual congregation fair of the Sikhs. Sri Guru Amar Das Ji welcomed the suggestion and initiated an annual congregation of Sikhs on the occasion of Baisakhi at Goindval Sahib which now falls in District Tarn Taran District of Punjab. From then onwards Sikhs Sangats started assembling at the seat of the Guru on every Baisakhi. At times when he was away from the main seat, Baisakhi was celebrated wherever he was. For example in 1660 when Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib had left Goindval Sahib for a visit to Kashmir, Baisakhi was celebrated at Sialkot (Now in Pakistan) in the home of Nand Lal Puri Ji, grandfather of Haqiqat Rai Ji who later became a martyr. Up to 1947 i.e. the partition of the country the largest Baisakhi gatherings took place at Punja Sahib in Attock district and at Eminabad in Gujranwala, both of which are now in Pakistan.
Until 1752 Baisakhi coincided with March 30. The Baisakhi of 1699, which also fell on March 30, brought a turning point in the Sikh history. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs chose this auspicious day to create Khalsa. The first Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji had envisaged a community which rises above the distinctions based on caste, creed, class and sex. The work of transforming man initiated by him was continued by the following eight Gurus and culminated in the Creation of Khalsa by the Tenth Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Anandpur Sahib, the City of Bliss which now falls in District Ropar of Punjab. Sikh religion founded by the first Guru Sahib propagated a belief in one Supreme God who is also the Creator and envisaged a new social order distinguished by its emphasis on liberty, equality and fraternity. The Tenth Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave the final shape to this religious order. For this occasion he sent word to Sikh sangats living in far and near places in India to assemble at Anandpur Sahib on the Baisakhi day i.e. March 30, 1699. On the morning of this eventful day the Guru with a divine fire in his eyes and an unsheathed sword in his right hand called for such a Sikh to come forward who was ready to lay down his life for the sake of dharma i.e. righteousness. At his call Bhai Daya Ram, who was a Khatri by caste and belonged to Lahore stood up to offer his head. Guru Sahib took him to an adjoining tent, severed his head from his body and returned with his blood stained sword. Guru Sahib then gave a second call at which Bhai Dharma Dass a Jat by caste from Hastinapur near Delhi stood up. He was also taken to the same tent and the same action was repeated. At the next three calls by Guru Sahib, Bhai Mohkam Chand a washerman from Dwarka in Gujarat,
Bhai Himmat Das a jheevar from Jagan Nath Puri in Orissa and Bhai Sahib Chand, a barber from Bidar in Karnataka rose. They were also conducted one by one to the adjoining tent. As the eye witness account of this event given by Abu Ulla Tarani in his book in Urdu, which Sikh historians have used as one of the reference books and which in addition to being available in Punjab is also available in Aligarh Muslim University, reveals that Guru Sahib, then poured water in a large steel bowl without handles and started churning it into amrit (nectar) with a Khanda i.e. a two-edged sword. Side by side Guru Sahib recited the holy verses. Mata Jito Ji Guru Sahib's wife added patasas (round sugar crystals) to this water. Thus was prepared the amrit. Guru Sahib sprinkled the nectar first on the head and then the rest of the body of Bhai Daya Ram, who became alive. Guru Sahib asked him to say "Vaheguru ji ka Khalsa Vaheguru ji ki fateh"(Khalsa belongs to God and God is always victorious). The whole action was repeated on the other four devoted Sikhs who also became alive. It may be noted that Abu Ullah Tarani was first a Brahmin and then got converted to Islam and became an agent of Emperor Aurangzeb to spy on the Tenth Guru. He was posted at Anandpur Sahib and pretended to be a Brahmin, wore a cotton Dhoti, a sacred thread and a Brahmin's forehead mark. He lived with Guru Sahib's gardner named Gulaba.
The Five Sikhs who received amrit at the hands of Guru Sahib were henceforth called 'Panj Piaras' (the five beloved ones). These 'Panj Piaras' administered nectar to Guru Sahib. Thus was created the Khalsa, each member of which was directed to carry five marks of distinction-hair, like ascetics as a pledge of dedication, steel bracelet to denote the universality of God, a comb to keep the hair clean, underwear to denote chastity and a kirpan (steel dagger) for defence. Baisakhi henceforth came to be celebrated as the birth-day of the Khalsa.
Until 1752, Baisakhi was celebrated on 30 March. But because of the adoption of Gregorian calendar by the British in 1752, Baisakhi mostly fell on April 13 but sometimes it fell on April 14. On April 14, 1999, the 300th birth anniversary of the Khalsa was celebrated at Anandpur Sahib with great pomp and show and at this occasion Sikh pilgrims came to Anandpur Sahib from all over the world to pay their obeisance.
Baisakhi is mainly celebrated at (i) Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Talvandi Sado, District Bathinda (ii) Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib at Anandpur Sahib, District Ropar (iii) Golden Temple, Amritsar. The main event of the Baisakhi celebration at all the three places is administrating of amrit i.e. baptismal water to enter the fold of Khalsa. The Sikh sangats come from far and near places to get baptized. On every Baisakhi, Sikhs recite akhand paths which are followed by Kirtan and ardas. Langar i.e. community meals are served.
Currently, the main venue of Baisakhi celebration is Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Talvandi Sado, District Bhatinda where in addition to the religious programmes, various political parties organise their convection. On April 14, 2003 i.e. the Baisakhi day Nanakshahi Calendar was released. This calendar considers the birthday of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in 1469, as its starting point. Earlier, the Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews had their own calendar but Sikhs did not have their own calendar. According to this calendar in 2004 Baisakhi fell on 1 Baisakh, 536 Nanakshahi which fell on April 14. The Sikh sangats came to Takht Sri Damdama Sahib enthusiastically from all nooks and corners of the country, and seemed like a slow moving flood of people all over the Gurudwara complex. The highlight of the programme was baptisation of Sikhs through khande-di-pahul. Urban and rural Sikhs, male and female, young and old came to get baptized. In the langar hall community meals were served throughout day and night for three days, after every 15-20 minutes the new pangat entered the langar hall and during the peak meal hours, each pangat included about 2500 pilgrims. As per the tradition of Sikhism, the Pilgrims sat next to one another to partake off food irrespective of their religion, caste, sex, political status, official status and wealth status. The pilgrims, who had travelled by cars, jeeps, truck-trolleys, and buses covering long distance in some cases in 2-3 days, seemed jubilant in becoming part of the buoyant spirit which prevailed.
Every year Baisakhi is celebrated with great pomp and show at Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Talvandi Sado and Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib. At Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib the pilgrims are especially intrigued to have a darshan i.e. holy glimpses of the weapons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji which are repeatedly displayed one by one along with their historical background. Several missionary organisations put up their book stalls. Within the Gurudwara complex the traffic moves very slowly showing that quite a significant number of pilgrims take interest in religious books. All the pilgrims are in a festive mood. The Spirit of Khalsa seems to be enkindled.
This year, the 317th Birth Anniversary of Khalsa was celebrated all over the world on April 13, 2016.
*Retd. Professor of Education, Punjabi University, Patiala. Punjab, India.