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Culture

Baisakhi: Celebration of Birth of Khalsa

March 27, 2022 05:42 PM
Takhat Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo, Bhatinda
Dr Amrit Kaur

  Baisakhi is celebrated on the first day of the solar month of Baisakhi. It is termed as 'Baisakhi' because as per astrological calculations at this time the moon passes through visakha nakshatra or constellation of the Indian calendar. This festival falls when the farmers have just finished harvesting of the wheat crop. In Sikh history, the celebration of Baisakhi can be traced back to the time of Sri Guru Amar Das Ji (1479-1574), the third Guru of the Sikhs i.e., to more than 470 years. As per historical records, a group of Sikhs under the leadership of Bhai Paro, who had received initiation at the hands of Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji (1504-1552) the Second Guru of the Sikhs, suggested to Sri Guru Amar Das Ji to start an annual congregation fair of the Sikhs. Sri Guru Amar Das Ji welcomed the suggestion and initiated an annual congregation of Sikhs on the occasion of Baisakhi at Goindval Sahib which now falls in District Tarn Taran of Punjab. From then onwards Sikh sangats started assembling at the seat of Guru on every Baisakhi. At times when he was away from the main seat, Baisakhi was celebrated wherever he was. For example, in 1660 when Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib had left Goindval Sahib for a visit to Kashmir, Baisakhi was celebrated at Sialkot (Now in Pakistan) in the home of Nand Lal Puri Ji, grandfather of Haqiqat Rai Ji (1724-1742) who was martyred in 1742 at a young age of 18 years under orders of Zakriya Khan, the governor of Lahore. Haqiqat Rai Ji was first chained to a pillar and caned until he became unconscious and then on 29 January 1742 he was executed. Haqiqat Rai Ji was martyred on the Basant Panchmi day, 29 January 1742. His body was cremated near the mausoleum of Shah Bilaval, 3km east of  Lahore. Until the partition of India in 1947 throughout the year the pilgrims visited the shrine built on this site to pay their homage to the young martyr.

Up to 1947 i.e., the partition of the country the largest Baisakhi gatherings took place at Panja Sahib in District Attock and at Eminabad in District Gujranwala, both of which are now in Pakistan.

The Five Sikhs who received amrit at the hands of Guru Sahib were henceforth called 'Panj Piaras' (the five beloved ones).  These 'Panj Piaras' administered nectar to Guru Sahib. Thus, was created the Khalsa, each member of which was directed to carry five marks of distinction - hair, like ascetics as a pledge of dedication, steel bracelet to denote the universality of God, a comb to keep the hair clean, underwear to denote chastity and a kirpan (steel dagger) to defend the oppressed persons. Baisakhi henceforth came to be celebrated as the birthday of the Khalsa. 

Until 1752 Baisakhi coincided with March 30. The Baisakhi of 1699, which also fell on March 30, brought a turning point in Sikh history. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs chose this auspicious day to create Khalsa. The first Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji had envisaged a community that rises above the distinctions based on caste, creed, class, and sex.  The work of transforming man initiated by him was continued by the following eight Gurus and culminated in the Creation of Khalsa by the Tenth Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Anandpur Sahib, the city of bliss which now falls in District Roper of Punjab.  Sikh religion founded by Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji propagated belief in one Supreme God who is also the Creator and envisaged a new social order distinguished by its emphasis on liberty, equality, and fraternity. The Tenth Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave the final shape to this religious order. For this occasion, he sent word to Sikh sangat living in far and near places in India to assemble at Kesgarh Fort, Anandpur Sahib on the Baisakhi day i.e., March 30, 1699. On the morning of this eventful day Guru Sahib with a divine fire in his eyes and an unsheathed sword in his right hand called for such a Sikh to come forward who was ready to lay down his life for the sake of dharma i.e., righteousness. At his call Bhai Daya Ram Ji, a descendent of Bhai Paro, who was a Khatri by caste and belonged to Lahore stood up to offer his head. Guru Sahib took him to an adjoining tent, severed his head from his body and returned with his blood-stained sword. Guru Sahib then gave a second call at which Bhai Dharam das Ji who was a Jat by caste from Hastinapur near Delhi stood up. He was also taken to the same tent and the same action was repeated. At the next three calls by Guru Sahib, Bhai Mahakam Chand Ji a washerman from Dwarka in Gujrat, Bhai Himmat Ji a jheevar from Jagan Nath Puri in Orissa, and Bhai Sahib Chand Ji, a barber from Bidar in Karnataka rose. They were also conducted one by one to the adjoining tent. As the eye witness account of this event given by Abu Ulla Tarani in his book in Urdu, which Sikh historians have used as one of the reference books and which in addition to being available in Punjab is also available in Aligarh Muslim University, Uttar Pradesh reveals that Guru Sahib then poured water in a large steel bowl without handles and started churning it into amrit (nectar) with a khanda i.e. a two-edged sword. Side by side Guru Sahib recited the holy verses. Mata Jito Ji Guru Sahib's wife added patasas (sweet round sugar crystals) to this water. Thus, was prepared amrit. Guru Sahib sprinkled the nectar first on the head and then the rest of the body of Bhai Daya Ram Ji, who became alive. Guru Sahib asked him to say "Vahiguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vahiguru Ji Ki Fateh" (Khalsa belongs to God and God is always victorious). The whole action was repeated on the other four devoted Sikhs who also became alive. It may be noted that Abu Ullah Tarani was first a Brahmin and then got converted to Islam and became an agent of Emperor Aurangzeb to spy on Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji.  He was posted at Anandpur Sahib and pretended to be a Brahmin, wore a cotton dhoti, a sacred thread, and put a Brahmin’s mark on his forehead. At Anandpur Sahib be lived with Guru Sahib's gardner named Gulaba.

The Five Sikhs who received amrit at the hands of Guru Sahib were henceforth called 'Panj Piaras' (the five beloved ones).  These 'Panj Piaras' administered nectar to Guru Sahib. Thus, was created the Khalsa, each member of which was directed to carry five marks of distinction - hair, like ascetics as a pledge of dedication, steel bracelet to denote the universality of God, a comb to keep the hair clean, underwear to denote chastity and a kirpan (steel dagger) to defend the oppressed persons. Baisakhi henceforth came to be celebrated as the birthday of the Khalsa. 

Until 1752, Baisakhi was celebrated on 30 March. But because of the adoption of Gregorian calendar by the Britishers in 1752, Baisakhi mostly fell on April 13 but sometimes it fell on April 14. 

On April 14, 1999 the 300th Birth Anniversary of the Khalsa was celebrated at Anandpur Sahib with great pomp and show and on this occasion, millions of Sikh pilgrims came to Anandpur Sahib from all over the world to pay their obeisance. On this occasion, the Sikh Sangat came to Takht Sri Damdama Sahib enthusiastically not only from all nooks and corners of the country but also from all over the world to pay their obeisance and seemed like a slow-moving flood of people all over the Gurudwara complex. The highlight of the programme was baptisation of Sikhs through khande-di-pahul (amrit). Urban and rural Sikhs, male and female, young and old came to get baptized. The langar (community meal) was served throughout the day and night for three days. After every 15-20 minutes the new pangat entered the langar hall and during the peak meal hours, each pangat included about 2500 pilgrims. As per the tradition of Sikhism, the pilgrims sat next to one another to partake off food irrespective of their religion, caste, sex, political status, and economic status. The pilgrims, who had travelled by cars, jeeps, trucks, trolleys, and buses covering long distance in some cases taking 2-3 days, seemed jubilant in becoming part of the buoyant spirit which prevailed.

Baisakhi is mainly celebrated at (i) Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Talvandi Sabo, District Bathinda (Ii) Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib, District Roper and (Iii) Golden Temple, Amritsar.  The main event of Baisakhi celebrations at all the three places is administering amrit i.e the baptismal water which marks the entry of the person into the fold of Khalsa. On Baisakhi Sikh sangat comes from far and near places to get baptized. On every Baisakhi all over the world in various Gurdwaras Akhand Paths are recited which are followed by kirtan and ardas. The langer i.e community meal is served throughout the day and night.

Currently, the main venue of Baisakhi celebration is Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib, Talvandi Sabo, District Bathinda where in addition to the religious programmes, various political parties organise their conventions. On April 14, 2003 i.e., on the Baisakhi day Nanakshahi Calendar was released. This calendar considers the birthday of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in 1469 as its starting point.  Earlier the Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Jews had their own calendars but Sikhs did not have their own calendar. According to this calendar in 2004 Baisakhi fell on 1 Baisakh, 536 Nanakshahi year which fell on April 14. 

Every year Baisakhi is celebrated with great pomp and show at (i)Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Talvandi Sabo, District Bathinda (ii) Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib, and (iii) Golden Temple, Amritsar At Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib the pilgrims are especially intrigued to have a darshan i.e. holy glimpse of the weapons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji which are repeatedly displayed one by one along with their historical background.  Several Sikh missionary organisations and publishers of books relating to Sikh history put up their bookstalls. Within the Gurudwara complex, the traffic moves very slowly showing that quite a significant number of pilgrims take interest in religious

books. All the pilgrims are in a festive mood. The spirit of Khalsa seems to be enkindled.

This year, the 323rd Birth Anniversary of Khalsa is being celebrated all over the world on April 14, 2022.

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa

Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

 Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Talvandi Sabo, District Bathinda, Punjab

Dr. Amrit Kaur Retd. Professor Punjabi University Patiala, Punjab India

Amritkaurchd40@gmail.com

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