Vaisakhi marks the foundation of the Khalsa Panth in the Sikh religion.
|Observed by||Sikhs, Punjabis|
|Significance||Foundation of the Khalsa, Harvest Festival|
|Celebrations||Parades and Nagar Kirtan, Fairs, Amrit Sanchaar (baptism) for new Khalsa|
|Observances||Prayers, processions, raising of the Nishan Sahib flag, Fairs.|
|2018 date||Sat, 14 April|
Vaisakhi (IAST: vis?kh?), also known as Baisakhi, or Vasakhi is a historical and religious festival in Sikhism and Hinduism and has its distinct significance for each culture. It is celebrated on either 13 or 14 April every year depending on which calendar is used (Vikram Samvant, Nanakshahi calendar or Mool Nanakshahi Calendar)..
On Vaisakhi day, gurdwaras are decorated and hold satsangs (congregations); community fairs and nagar kirtan processions are held; and people gather to socialize and share festive foods. For people of Punjab, the festival is their traditional solar new year, a harvest festival and they may visit temples, meet friends and party over festive foods.
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 and socialise. This festival in Hinduism is known by various regional names.
Vaisakhi is traditionally observed on either 13 or 14 April, every year according to Vikram Samvant. 14 April is followed by the Mool Nanakshahi Calendar (Sikh Calendar) to allow for fixed dates to represent historically accurate dates. The festival is important to both Sikhs and Hindus. The auspicious day of Vaisakhi is celebrated all over India though under different names and with different set of rituals. People of Assam celebrate April 13 as Rongali Bihu, while those in West Bengal celebrate it as Naba Barsha and Pahela Baishakh in Bangladesh. Bihar celebrates Vaisakhi as Vaishakha in honour of the Sun God, Surya while Kerala celebrates it as Vishu and Tamil Nadu as Puthandu. In Kashmir, a ceremonial bath and general festivity mark Vaisakhi while in Himachal Pradesh devotees flock to the temple of Jawalamukhi and take a holy dip in the Hot Springs.
The spelling varies with region. In Punjab region, Vaisakhi is common, while in the Doabi and Malwai regions, it is common for speakers to substitute a "B" for a "V". Therefore, the spelling used is dependent on the dialect of the writer. (Pronunciation of Vaisakhi.)
For Sikhs, Vaisakhi marks the foundation of the Khalsa community of Sikhs, on 14 April 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, when he created the sword baptism, the pahul or Amrit Sanchar. The Khalsa was founded as an order to protect the freedom of conscience and religion for all, with qualities of a "Sant-Sip?h?" - a saint-soldier.
Subsequent events gave a new meaning to the festival which is, in part, a remembrance of the foundation of the Khalsa Sikh order which 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 guru's martyrdom 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, as it is on this day that 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. This gave rise to the Vaisakhi or Baisakhi festival being observed as a celebration of Khalsa panth formation and is also known as Khalsa Sirjana Divas and Khalsa Sajna Divas. The festival is celebrated on Vaisakhi day (typically 14 April), since 1699. The foundation of the Khalsa Panth was either on 14 April 1699 or 30 March 1699. Since 2003, the Sikh Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee named it Baisakh (Vaisakh), making the first day of the second month of Vaisakh according to its new Nanakshahi calendar.
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.
Sikhs communities organise processions called Nagar Kirtan (literally, "town hymn singing"). These are led by five khalsa who are dressed up as Panj Pyaras, and the processions through the streets. The people who march sing (hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji), make music, chant hymns from the Sikh texts. Major processions also carry Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in reverence.
April 13 has been the traditional Khalsa New Year. According to the Khalsa sambat, the Khalsa calendar starts from the day of the creation of the Khalsa- 1 Vaisakh 1756 Bikrami (30 March 1699).
Pakistan has many sites that are of historic importance to the Sikh faith, such as the birth place of Guru Nanak. These sites attract pilgrims from India and abroad every year on Vaisakhi. Pakistan used to have many more Sikhs, but a vast majority moved to India during the 1947 India-Pakistan partition. Contemporary Pakistan has about 20,000 Sikhs in a total population of about 200 million Pakistanis, or about 0.01%. These Sikhs, and thousands more who arrive from other parts of the world for pilgrimage, observe Vaisakhi in Western Punjab (Pakistan) with festivities centered on the Panja Sahib complex in Hasan Abdal, Gurudwaras in Nankana Sahib, and in various historical sites in Lahore.
In the Province of British Columbia, large, local Sikh communities in the cities of Vancouver, Abbotsford, and Surrey hold their annual Vaisakhi celebrations in April, which include two Nagar Kirtan (parades). The Vancouver parade starts at Ross Street Temple and makes its way through the traditional Punjabi market in South Vancouver. One week later, the festival in Surrey is one of the largest such celebrations outside of India, having attracted over 200,000 people in 2014, over 350,000 in 2015, and approached 400,000 in 2016. The 2017 attendance in Surrey reportedly topped 400,000, causing organizers to consider future distribution of the festival over several days and local cities, particularly in areas of economic disadvantage which would benefit from the generous charitable efforts seen during Vaisakhi celebrations. Record attendance was again experienced in April, 2018 in the 20th annual Surrey Vaisakhi parade, with the RCMP officially estimating the crowd at over half a million people in a city with a 2016 census population of 517,887. Starting at the Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar Temple (12885 85th Avenue in Surrey), the parade features a variety of floats, community groups, free food, live music and dancers and performers, and travels along 124th Street, turns left onto 75th Avenue, continues on 76th Avenue, onto 128th Street, then back to the Temple.Kelowna's annual Vaisakhi parade is held a week after Surrey's parade each year and begins and ends at the Sikh Temple on Rutland Road.Victoria's all-day Vaisakhi celebration features a parade that begins and ends at Gurdwara Singh Sabha, 470 Cecelia Road. The 2018 celebrations on April 29 will be the first held in Victoria in over 100 years.
In the Province of Ontario, the Toronto Vaisakhi Parade is held in April, starting at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds and traveling east to Toronto City Hall, finishing almost three hours later. Following the parade, dignitaries address the gathering until late afternoon. In the city of Malton, a three-hour Nagar Kirtan parade winds from Morning Star, Goreway, Derry Rd, & Airport Rd to Malton Gurdwara Sahib. In the city of Brampton, the Gurudwara Sikh Sangat temple and Gobind Sarvar Gurmat School hold Vaisakhi cultural events such as yoga, pagh (turban) tying, storytelling, and food fairs.
The United Kingdom has a large Sikh community originating from the Indian sub-continent, East Africa and Afghanistan. The largest concentrations of Sikhs in the UK are to be found in the West Midlands (especially Birmingham and Wolverhampton) and London. The Southall Nagar Kirtan is held on a Sunday a week or two before Vaisakhi. The Birmingham Nagar Kirtan is held in late April in association with Birmingham City Council, and is an annual event attracting thousands of people which commences with two separate nagar kirtans setting off from gurdwaras in the city and culminating in the Vaisakhi Mela at Handsworth Park.
Amongst Sikh and Hindi populations in the United States, there is usually a parade commemorating the Vaisakhi celebration. In Manhattan, New York City people come out to do "Seva" (selfless service) such as giving out free food, and completing any other labor that needs to be done. In Los Angeles, California, the local Sikh community consisting of many gurdwaras holds a full day Kirtan (spiritual music) program followed by a parade.
The Sikh community, a subgroup of the Malaysian Indian ethnic minority race, is an ethnoreligious minority in Malaysia, which is why Vaisakhi is not a public holiday. However, in line with the government's efforts to promote integration among the country's different ethnic and religious groups, the prime minister, Najib Razak has announced that beginning 2013, all government servants from the Sikh Malaysian Indian community will be given a day off on Vaisakhi Day. Vaisakhi 'open houses' are also held across the country during the day of the festival, or the closest weekend to it.
2009 Vancouver Sikh Vaisakhi parade
Sikh Motorcycle Club at Vaisakhi 2007 Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Vaisakhi is a harvest festival for people of the Punjab region. In the Punjab, Vaisakhi marks the ripening of the rabi harvest. Vaisakhi also marks the Punjabi new year. This day is observed as a thanksgiving day by farmers whereby farmers pay their tribute, thanking God for the abundant harvest and also praying for future prosperity. The harvest festival is celebrated by Sikhs and Punjabi Hindus. Historically, during the early 20th century, Vaisakhi was a sacred day for Sikhs and Hindus and a secular festival for all Muslims and non-Muslims including Punjabi Christians. In modern times, sometimes Christians participate in Baisakhi celebrations along with Sikhs and Hindus.
Aawat pauni is a tradition associated with harvesting, which involves people getting together to harvest the wheat. Drums are played while people work. At the end of the day, people sing dohay to the tunes of the drum.
The harvest festival is also characterized by the folk dance, Bhangra which traditionally is a harvest dance.
Fairs or Melas are held in many parts of Punjab, India to mark the new year and the harvesting season. 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.
According to Aziz-ud-din Ahmed, Lahore used to have Baisakhi Mela after the harvesting of the wheat crop in April. However, adds Ahmed, the city started losing its cultural vibrancy in 1970s after Zia-ul-Haq came to power, and in recent years "the Pakistan Muslim League (N) government in Punjab banned kite flying through an official edict more under the pressure of those who want a puritanical version of Islam to be practiced in the name of religion than anything else". Unlike the Indian state of Punjab that recognizes the Vaisakhi Sikh festival as an official holiday, the festival is not an official holiday in Punjab or Sindh provinces of Pakistan where Islamic holidays are officially recognized instead. On 8 April 2016, Punjabi Parchar at Alhamra (Lahore) organised a show called Visakhi mela, where the speakers pledged to "continue our struggle to keep the Punjabi culture alive" in Pakistan through events such as Visakhi Mela. Elsewhere Besakhi fairs or melas are held in various places including Eminabad and Dera Ghazi Khan.[note 1]
Vaisakhi at Trafalgar Square, London
The first day of Vaisakh is also celebrated in Hinduism. The first day of Vaisakh marks the traditional solar new year and it is an ancient festival in Hinduism which predates Vaisakhi in Sikhism. The harvest is complete and crops ready to sell, representing a time of plenty for the farmers. Fairs and special thanksgiving pujas (prayers) are common in the Hindu tradition.
The first day of Vaisakh marks the solar new year, also known as Mesha Sankranti. It is the New Year's Day for Hindus in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana,Punjab, the people belongs to Jammu region and other parts of India. However, this is not the universal new year for all Hindus. For some, such as those in and near Gujarat, the new year festivities coincide with the five day Diwali festival. For others, the new year falls on Ugadi, Gudi Padwa and Cheti Chand, which falls a few weeks earlier.
It is regionally known by many names among the Hindus, though the festivities and its significance are similar. It is celebrated by Hindus bathing in sacred rivers, as they believe that river goddess Ganges descended to earth on Vaisakhi. Some rivers considered particularly sacred include the Ganges, Jhelum and Kaveri. Hindus visit temples, meet friends and party over festive foods.
Vaisakhi coincides with the festival of 'Vishu' celebrated in Kerala a day after Vaisakhi. 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.
The Bikhoti Festival of Uttrakhand involves people taking a dip in holy rivers. A popular custom involves beating symbolic stones representing demons with sticks. The fair is celebrated in various major centres including Sealdah, Bageshwar and Dwarahat and involves much singing and dancing, accompanied by local drums and other instruments.
Vishu is the Hindu new year festival celebrated on the same day as Vaisakhi in the Indian state of Kerala, and falls on the first day of Malayali month called Medam. The festival is notable for its solemnity and the general lack of pomp and show that characterize other Hindu festivals of Kerala such as Onam.
The festival is marked by family time, preparing colorful auspicious items and viewing these as the first thing on the Vishu day. In particular, Malayali Hindus seek to view the golden blossoms of the Indian laburnum (Kani Konna), money or silver items (Vishukkaineetam), and rice. The day also attracts firework play by children, wearing new clothes (Puthukodi) and the eating 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 or Rangali Bihu marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year on 13 April. It is celebrated for seven days Vishuva Sankranti (Mesha Sankranti) of the month of Vaisakh or locally 'Bohag' (Bhaskar Calendar). The three primary types of Bihu are Rongali Bihu, Kongali Bihu, and Bhogali Bihu. Each festival historically recognizes a different agricultural cycle of the paddy crops. During Rangali Bihu there are 7 pinnacle phases: 'Chot', 'Raati', 'Goru', 'Manuh', 'Kutum', 'Mela' and 'Chera'.
The Bengali new year is celebrated as Pahela Baishakh on 14 April every year, and a festive Mangal Shobhajatra, started by students of Dhaka University in Bangladesh in 1989, is organized in West Bengal, Tripura and Bangladesh. This celebration was listed in 2016 by the UNESCO as a cultural heritage of humanity.
The festival is celebrated as a national holiday in Bangladesh. Also spelled Pohela Boishakh is also known as Nobo Barsho as it is the first day of the Bengali month of Bongabdo. Fairs are organised to celebrate the event which provide entertainment including the presentation of folk songs.
On this day, Tamil people greet each other by saying "Puttu vttukka?!" or "I?iya puttu nalvttukka?!", which is equivalent to "Happy new year". The day is observed as a family time. 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, then the family sits down to a vegetarian feast.
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 (powdered meal derived from grains of red gram and jau (Hordeum vulgare) and other ingredients) to the family members.
The new year falls on or about the same day every year for many Buddhist communities in parts of South and Southeast Asia. This is likely an influence of their shared culture in the 1st millennium CE. Some examples include: