Baisakhi Greetings to the entire Sikh world, their friends
and people of all faiths and spiritual traditions
SPIRIT AND FESTIVAL OF BAISAKHI
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
April 14, 2012
Kanwal Prakash Singh
Baisakhi is the one of the most important and transforming events in the Sikh history, and this year marks its 313th commemoration. Besides its enormous religious significance as a landmark event in the Sikh history, Baisakhi heralds the beginning of harvest time in the State of the Punjab. The Punjab is the birthplace of the Sikh religion, the fifth largest faith in the world. Baisakhi also coincides with the first day of the first month, Baisakh, of the Indian Calendar and generally falls in mid-April. Baisakhi is one of the most joyous and colorful cultural festivals of India and is gradually becoming a major global cultural celebration.
On this day, March 30, 1699, at the Baisakhi gathering at Anandpur Sahib, located in the foothills of Himalayan mountains, the Tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, organized the young Sikh faith into a formidable Brotherhood of Khalsa (an Army of the Pure, saints and soldiers). He organized a baptismal ceremony and invited the followers of Guru Nanak, the Sikh Founder, to embrace a distinct visual identity with five sacred articles of faith; to uphold the sacred and inalienable rights of equality, justice, human dignity of all living beings: recognizing all humanity as One Brotherhood, One Race; and the right of self-defense against tyranny, oppression, and injustice towards anyone. The Guru commanded his followers to bear arms and honor the five sacred articles of Sikh faith that included uncut hair covered with a turban and to carry the unifying last name of Singh (lion) for males and Kaur (princess) for female members of the Sikh Brotherhood.
Baisakhi 1699 became a remarkable moment in Sikh faith history and is regarded as renewal, revival, and resurrection of a people that were beaten down by the events and tyranny of ruthless rulers of the time. This set in motion the emergence of a new fearless race of people. In time, the Sikhs became the legendary guardians and defenders of the Gateway to India, which for centuries was an open corridor to invading armies, looters, and plunderers of India’s honor and fortune.
Today, Sikhism is the fifth largest faith with over 30 million followers worldwide, nearly a million in the U.S.A., serving in every field of endeavor. They are hardworking, daring and innovative, with strong family values, and proud to honor the sanctity of other faith traditions, cultures, and communities. Sikhs are committed to serving the nations, which are their new homes.
Throughout the Sikh homeland of the Punjab and Sikh Diaspora spread across all continents today, much like Easter, Baisakhi is an occasion for family gatherings. Colorful parades through the streets of cities and towns, with much pageantry and religious fervor, highlight the days before the festival. People go on pilgrimages and attend prayer services at the holiest shrines decorated with electric lights and earthen lamps placed along the sacred pools associated with Sikh temples. The festivities invariably include massive fireworks in the evening witnessed by enthusiastic throngs that number into hundreds of thousands, and the sacred compounds resound with jakaras (joyous acclamations). At the major Sikh historic sites and temples, in many instances, laser displays have replaced the traditional fireworks.
At community and family Baisakhi cultural celebrations, the festivities will include traditional folkdances of Bhangra and Giddha, delicious Punjabi food and treats, dancing to the famous, robust, and rocking Punjabi music. In recent years, there has been a concerted effort to invite friends and honored guests from other faiths and ethnic communities to these annual celebrations.