Baisakhi is the Sikh New Year’s Day as it is not just a Spring-time harvest festival but also a day that is commemorative of the formation of the Khalsa Panth of warriors under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
Every year it is celebrated on 13 April and after every 36 years, on 14th April.
The word Baisakhi comes from the Hindu calendar month of Vaishakh. It is the second month in the Hindu calendar that begins with the month of Chaitra and ends with Falgun or Fagun. This is the time when the farmers in the northern part of India have harvested the season’s crops and are gearing up for the next season’s sowing.
On this day. Gurdwaras wear a festive look as they gear up to welcome the footfall of thousands of devotees. Sikhs take a holy dip in nearby ponds or lakes and don festive gears. Nagar kirtan processions are carried out, food-charity or Langar Seva is held.
Nagar Kirtan is the procession of Guru Granth Sahib – the holy book of Sikhs. This religious procession is carried out by devotees chanting or singing holy hymns. The procession is always led by the Panj Pyare (the five beloved ones who form the central part of the Khalsa), dressed in saffron. They are followed by the holy book of the Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib, and other members of the procession. Sewadars or volunteers help clear beforehand the road through which the procession is to pass. The procession arrives finally at the designated Gurudwara where Ardas or the prayer is offered.
For the non-Sikh Hindus too, it is a holy day. A number of people mark it as a day to take a dip in a river or lake and then visit a temple, It is a day of making and sharing sweetmeats and dance and festivity.
Incidentally, Baisakhi – in its own local flavour, is observed in Bengal, Assam (Rongali Bihu) and Bihar too.
Sadly, it is also commemorative of the day in 1919 when an uncouth British colonial officer General Dyer opened fire on thousands of Indians at Jallianwala Baug in Amritsar. The death of thousands of festive revellers by the haul of bullets shocked the world and also set the narrative for independence from the foreign rule that ultimately cam by in 1947.