Several Indian festivals coincide with the harvest time and Baisakhi is one of them. Baisakhi is celebrated by the people of Punjab with vigor and joy. It is celebrated by different names and with different rituals almost all over India, when the Rabi crop is ready for harvesting. Baisakhi is also the day when the tenth Guru of the Sikhs – Guru Gobind Singh, founded the ‘Khalsa Panth’, over three hundred years ago.The festival of Baisakhi in India is celebrated in the Hindu month of Vaisakh (April-May), giving the name of Vaisakhi. The usual date of Baisakhi is the 13th of April, though it may vary by a day or two. The festival marks starting of the harvest season in Northern India and is also considered auspicious for marriage.
Baisakhi is celebrated throughout the state of Punjab in northern India and marks the start of the solar year when the sun enters Aries, the first sign of the Zodiac. As a holy day, many of the devout start the day with a dip in the holy rivers at the sun’s first rays rise over the horizon. It is also traditionally the time of the year when the harvest is gathered and the festival is a reward for all the hard work and toil in the fields.The festival is a joyous occasion that is characterised by singing, dancing and feasting in celebration of a good harvest .The Baisakhi festival in India is also characterized by a number of fairs that are organized on the day. The usual features of the Baisakhi are the performance of the bhangra and gidda dance.
Baisakhi has a special meaning for the Sikhs. On this day in 1699, their tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, organized the order of the Khalsa. He discontinued the tradition of Gurus in Sikhism by declaring the Granth Sahib to be the eternal Guru of all Sikhs. To form the Khalsa Panth he asked his followers to volunteer to be ready to lay down their lives to save others. Five volunteers of five different castes were made the Panj Piaras, who would lead the rest.
On this day also, Guru Arjan Dev was martyred by the Muslim rulers who, in barbaric cruelty, threw him alive into a cauldron of boiling oil.
Again, on this day in 1875, Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj. A reformed sector of Hindus who are devoted to the Vedas for spiritual guidance and have discarded the idol worship.
This day is of immense religious import to the Buddhists because Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment or Nirvana under the Mahabodhi tree in the town of Gaya on this auspicious day. The day is also known, as Buddha Purnima in some parts of the country.
Baisakhi Celebrations all over India
Baisakhi day is observed as the Naba Barsha (New Year) in Bengal. On April 14, the people take a ritual bath in the River Ganga or any other river or a nearby tank and decorate their houses with rangoli (floral patterns) drawn at the entrance of their homes with a paste made of rice powder.
In Assam, this is the day for the Rongali Bihu, which is a chance for the young people of the state to dress up in their traditional finery and dance the night away. There too, this is the harvest festival, which allows the farmers to relax and enjoy before they take up the task of harvesting their crop.
A number of fairs, or melas are organised at this time of the year. The otherwise sleepy villages wear a festive look at this time, with cattle fairs being held all over the place. Don’t forget to taste the mouth-watering delicacies like ice cream, flossy sugar lollipops and chaat (a spicy concoction), consumed in large quantities by the young and old alike with great relish. Quaint wooden and clay toys vie with exquisite handicrafts and mundane household goods for shelf space. People come from far and wide to attend these annual fairs and join in the general hustle and bustle of the day.
The holy book of the Sikhs, ‘Granth Sahib’ is taken in a procession, led by the ‘Panj Pyaras’ (five senior Sikhs) who are symbolic of the original leaders. The occasion is celebrated with great gusto at Talwandi Sabo, where Guru Gobind Singh stayed for nine months and completed the recompilation of the Guru Granth Sahib and in the Golden temple in Amritsar. On Baisakhi day, water is drawn from all the sacred rivers of India and poured in to the huge tank surrounding the golden temple.
Baisakhi festival is celebrated twice a year in Himachal Pradesh in the honor of Goddess Jwalamukhi. In the months of Vaishakha (April-May) and Kartika (November), the Himachalis worship the Goddess whose image near a hot spring issues forth flames.
In the South, Baisakhi is celebrated to mark the Tamil and Telugu New Year. In a ceremonial march, people take out wooden chariots in a procession. The temples in Kerala celebrate Pooram festivals usually in honor of Vishnu at this time. Among them, the Pooram observed in the Vaddakunathan Swamy (Shiva) temple of Trichur is famous.
The Bihar State celebrates festivals like – the Vaishakha (April) and Kartika (November) in honor of the Sun God and Surya God, at a place called Surajpur-Baragaon. This is essentially a village where, according to an ancient practice, people bathe in the temple tank and pay obeisance to the Sun God while offering flowers and water from the sacred river Ganga.
Baisakhi festivities are colorful and vibrant, and it is also the right time to visit the states of Punjab and Haryana to see the lively celebrations and some famous fairs.