Baisakhi,is New Year's Day in Punjab. And, like New Year across the world, it's celebrated with much gusto. The day, besides being the start of a new year, is also a harvest festival, as it marks the maturing of the winter crop- and the last major festival before farmers roll up their sleeves and begin harvesting the grain.
For the Sikhs, Baisakhi holds even greater significance as it commemorates the day, in 1699, when the tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, founded the Khalsa Panth.
Baisakhi is popular in Assam as Rongali Bihu, and in Kerala it is known as Vishu.
Significance of Baisakhi
It was on this day that Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa Panth; distributed amrit (nectar) to his first group of followers (Panj Piaras) converting them into Sikhs and forming the Sikh community.
Baisakhi holds significance for the farmers as it marks the time for harvest of the rabi crop and on this day farmers express their gratitude to God for good yield.
Apart from being a harvest festival as well as the significant foundation day of the Khalsa Panth, Baisakhi holds importance for other reasons too. It is believed that on this day, i.e. 13th April, the sun makes an entry into Mesh Rashi. Typically Baisakhi is celebrated every year on 13 April with the festival date falling on 14 April once every 36 years.
Legend also has it that on this day Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment at Bodhgaya, which is why the day holds significance for the Buddhists.
Traditions and Celebrations
In Punjab, Baisakhi is celebrated with the utmost fervor and exuberance. The Punjabis celebrate by dancing the Giddha and Bhangra in gay abandon in the fields. On this auspicious day, traditionally, the Sikhs pay a visit to the Gurudwara and pay their respects. Religious discourses and kirtans are held at gurudwaras, and karah prasad is distributed. Langar or community lunch is also held at gurudwaras. Volunteers serve meal to the public.
On Baisakhi Day, in honor of the Panj Piaras, religious procession is set out in which five men walk in front of the holy book, with sword in their hands. These men are the religious heads who are second only to the gurus. Devotional music is played during the procession, and hymns are sung, both along the way and at gurudwaras.
Dressed in their distinct folk attire, both men and women express their joy by dancing the Bhangra and Gidda.
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