Vaisakhi

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

Updated: June 18, 2020



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. Vaisakhi is the solar new year for many Hindus. It is a harvest festival, an occasion to bathe in sacred rivers such as Ganges, Jhelum, and Kaveri, visit temples, meet friends and take part in other festivities. It is usually celebrated on 13 or 14 April every year.


Significance of Vaisakhi:

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.

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.

Celebration of Vaisakhi:

It is usually celebrated on 13 or 14 April every year. 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.

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. Vaisakhi festival is known by various regional names in other parts of India. 

Sikh New Year:

Vaisakhi has been the traditional Sikh New Year which is observed in the Punjab region.

Nagar Kirtan:

The processions through the streets called nagar kirtan which literally means "town hymn singing" are led by five khalsa who are dressed up as Panj Pyaare. The processions also carry a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib in reverence and the people march sing, make music, sing hymns from the Sikh texts. 

Harvest festival:

Vaisakhi is a harvest festival for people of the Punjab region that is celebrated by Sikhs and Punjabi Hindus. Vaisakhi marks the ripening of the rabi harvest and also marks the Punjabi new year. This day is observed as a thanksgiving day by farmers. The farmers pay their tribute, thanking God for the abundant harvest and also praying for future prosperity.

Aawat pauni:

Aawat pauni involves people getting together to harvest the wheat. It is a tradition associated with harvesting. Drums are played while people work. At the end of the day, people sing dohay to the tunes of the drum.

Fairs and dances:

The folk dance, Bhangra which traditionally is a harvest dance is an important aspect of harvest festival. Vaisakhi fairs take place in various places, including Jammu City, Kathua, Udhampur, Reasi and Samba, in the Pinjore complex near Chandigarh, in Himachal Pradesh cities of Rewalsar, Shimla, Mandi and Prashar Lakes  to mark the new year and the harvesting season.

Bikhoti festival:

In Uttrakhand, people takes a dip in holy rivers during the Bikhoti Festival. The custom involves beating symbolic stones representing demons with sticks. The fair is celebrated in various major centres including Sealdah, Bageshwar and Dwarahat and involves singing and dancing, accompanied by local drums and other instruments.

Vishu:

Vaisakhi coincides with the festival of 'Vishu' celebrated in Kerala a day after Vaisakhi. It falls on the first day of Malayali month called Medam. The festivities include fireworks, shopping for new clothes and interesting displays called 'Vishu Kani'. Hindus make arrangements of flowers, grains, fruits which friends and family visit to admire as "lucky sight" (Vishukkani). Giving gifts to friends and loved ones, as well as alms to the needy, are a tradition of Kerala Hindus on this festive day. Malayali Hindus seek to view the golden blossoms of the Indian laburnum (Kani Konna), money or silver items (Vishukkaineetam), and rice. Children plat firework, people wear new clothes (Puthukodi) and the eat a special meal called Sadya, which is a mix of salty, sweet, sour and bitter items. The Vishu arrangement typically includes an image of Vishnu, typically as Krishna. People also visit temples on the day.

Bohag Bihu:

Bohag Bihu or Rangali Bihu marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year on 13 April which is celebrated for seven days. 

Maha Vishuva Sankranti:

Maha Vishuva Sankranti marks the Oriya new year in Odisha which is popularly known as Pana Sankranti. Celebrations include various types of folk and classical dances, such as Chhau dance. A liquid mixture of jaggery, mango, pepper and other ingredients are prepared which is called Pana. A pieces of Neem branches with leaves is hang in front of their houses which believed to have health benefits.

Pahela Baishakh:

The Bengali new year is celebrated as Pahela Baishakh on 14 April every year which is celebrated as a national holiday in Bangladesh. Also known as Nobo Barsho, it is the first day of the Bengali month of Bongabdo. To celebrate the event fairs are organised which provides entertainment including the presentation of folk songs.

Puthandu:

Puthandu, also known as Puthuvarusham or Tamil New Year, is the first day of the month Chithirai on the Tamil calendar. On this day, Tamil people greet each other by saying  "Happy new year". Households clean up the house, prepare a tray with fruits, flowers and auspicious items, light up the family Puja altar and visit their local temples. People wear new clothes and youngster go to elders to pay respects and seek their blessings. After that the family together have a vegetarian feast.

Jurshital:

In the Mithal region of Bihar and Nepal, the new year is celebrated as Jurshital. It is traditional to use lotus leaves to serve sattu which is a powdered meal derived from grains of red gram and jau (Hordeum vulgare) and other ingredients to the family members.

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