Vaisakhi

Vaisakhi is an ancient harvest festival celebrated in the Punjab as Sikh New Year based on Hindu Solar calendar.

Updated: October 4, 2018

Vaisakhi is an ancient harvest festival celebrated in the Punjab as Sikh New Year based on Hindu Solar calendar. Vaisakhi is a very significant day for people of Punjab, especially the Sikhs.

Vaisakhi is not only a harvest festival but also a religious festival for the Sikh community. Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi as the day of the formation of the Khalsa.
It is usually celebrated on 13 or 14 April every year. On this day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Sikh Guru, established the Khalsa. He eliminated the difference between higher and lower caste communities and declared that all human beings are equal. The festival coincides with other new year festivals celebrated on the first day of Vaisakh in other regions of the Indian Subcontinent such as Pohela Boishakh, Bohag Bihu, Vishu, Puthandu among others. The festival is a remembrance of the foundation of the Khalsa Sikh order. This was started after the ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur was persecuted and then beheaded under the orders of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, after he stood up for freedom of religious practice and refused to convert to Islam. The martyrdom of guru triggered the coronation of the tenth and last Guru of Sikhism, and the formation of the sant-sipahi group of Khalsa, both on the Vaisakhi day.

The Vaisakhi festival Khalsa tradition started in the year 1699. This is because on this day the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh laid down the foundation of the Panth Khalsa, that is the Order of the Pure Ones, by baptizing Sikh warriors to defend religious freedoms. Vaisakhi was also the day when colonial British empire officials committed the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on a gathering, an event influential to the Indian movement against colonial rule. A special celebration takes place at Talwandi Sabo, where Guru Gobind Singh stayed for nine months and completed the recompilation of the Guru Granth Sahib, in the Gurudwara at Anandpur Sahib the birthplace of the Khalsa, and at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
On Vaisakhi, Gurdwaras are decorated and hold kirtans. Sikhs visit and bathe in lakes or rivers before visiting local Gurdwaras. Community fairs and nagar kirtan processions are held, and people gather to socialize and share festive foods.
Vaisakhi marks the ripening of the rabi harvest in Punjab. This day is observed as a thanksgiving day by farmers. On this day farmers pay their tribute, thanking God for the abundant harvest and also praying for future prosperity. The harvest festival is also characterized by the folk dance, Bhangra which traditionally is a harvest dance. 

For many Hindus, the festival is their traditional solar new year, a harvest festival, an occasion to bathe in sacred rivers such as Ganges, Jhelum and Kaveri, visit temples, meet friends and party over festive foods. This festival in Hinduism is known by various regional name in other regions of India including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. However, this is not the universal new year for all Hindus. For some, the new year festivities coincide with the five day Diwali festival such as those in and near Gujarat. For others, the new year falls on Ugadi, Gudi Padwa and Cheti Chand, which falls a few weeks earlier.

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