Harvest in India is a colourful festival. Every state celebrates it in its own way. The name given to it differs according to the language and custom followed. However, one thing that can be seen common throughout the country is the jubilation and excitement of the people. One such famous celebration is the Baisakhi which is popular in the northern India, especially Punjab. This festival is enthusiastically celebrated by the Sikh communities following religious sentiments. It is also celebrated in Canada as there is quite a decent population of this community.
The date of Baisakhi is calculated as per the Sikh csalendar, which follows the solar calendar. Hence, the first day of the harvest month, which is known as Vaisakh is observed for this festival. It is important to the Sikh, Hindus, and the Buddhists. Therefore, it is celebrated all over the country with different names, and traditions.
Legend of Baisakhi
The Sikh celebrates Baisakhi to commemorate the foundation of the Khalsa Panth by Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Sikh Guru. The reasons behind establishing the Panth was to encourage people in fighting against the enemy and to infuse the feeling of brotherhood among people.
It was on this day that Guru Gobind Singh called all the Sikhs to unite under one principle and raise their arms against Aurangazeb, who was keen on spreading Islam in India. The historic gathering took place on March 30, 1699 at Keshgarh Sahib near Anandpur. The speech delivered by the Tenth Sikh Guru at the congregation excited the people to sacrifice their life for the sake of religion and its people.
Here, the Guru selected the first five men who came forward at his call to lay their lives for a better cause. Those five were named as Panj Piara by the Guru which means 'beloved five.' They were christened by the Guru as 'Singh,' mean a Lion. The Guru also changed his surname from Rai to Singh. This united people regardless of their caste and social status under one name and culture.
The Hindus believed that on this auspicious day, Goddess Ganga blessed the earth with its divine water. One more important event that occurred on this day in 1875 is the foundation of the Arya Samaj by Swami Dayanand Sarawati. The Buddhists honour this day because Lord Buddha attained Nirvana after years of meditation. Therefore, Baisakhi is also celebrated as Budha Purnima in India.
Agriculture has been the primary occupation of India since ages and Punjab is one of the agricultural state known for the production of Rabi crops. The Punjabis celebrate this festival with lots of fun and energy. Since the occasion has a twofold importance both from the religious perspective and the harvest, the enjoyment is devotional and inspirational.
Waking up early and getting ready for the prayer in Gurudwar is the common scene in every household of Punjab. People dress in new clothes and assemble in the worship place for Satsang. They listen to the Guruwani with much interest and devotion. After the prayer and offering, the Kara prasad is distributed among people. A langar or community lunch arranged in Gurudwaras on this day. Punjabi halwa is very famous since it is cooked in pure desi ghee. The feast is open to all regardless of their faith and religion.
A procession is also organized on this day. It starts from the Gurudwara and passes through major locations inhabited by the Sikh communities. Devotional songs are sung throughout the way. All the participants perform bangara and indulge in mock duels to display their skills of sword-fighting.
This day is also the new year day. This is time for the harvest of the Rabi crop. The farming community thank the god for providing good crop and for the coming period of the year. The bhangara dance is the highlight of this festival which is enjoyed by dancers, and viewers all around the world. The sound of the drum, the steps and the energy of dancers makes the dance more joyous to watch. Women perform giddha which is another famous dance form of Punjab. All the energies preserved for the festival is applied in the dance at this festival. The cry of joy is expressed through chanting "Jatta aai Baisakhi." The dance style inculcates all the expression and farming steps such as sowing of seeds, winnowing and collecting crops. In villages, fairs are organized where the wrestling competition is held. The fairs also include other recreational activities for all age people.
For Hindus, Baisakhi is the day to receive spiritual guidance from the Vedas. Buddhists celebrate it by observing fast and meditation. The Punjabis enjoy this auspicious day by displaying their skills in dance, martial arts and engaging in devotional activities and arranging langar in Gurudwara to feed all who has come to pay reverence Guru Gobind Singh.
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