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A festival of unity

india Updated: Apr 12, 2012 23:09 IST
Devendra K Kaushik
Devendra K Kaushik
Hindustan Times
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Baisakhi is an important festival in northern India for several communities. On this day in 1699, Akal Khalsa Panth (or the community of pure) was established by the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.

Thus, a new religious order known as Sikhism emerged on this day, which preaches equality. Important religious ceremonies such as pahul – something similar to baptism, and suffixing names of persons with Singh for males and Kaur for females were started on this day.

Followers are required always to have five essential items on them: Kesh or uncut hair and beard together with turban; Kangha or wooden comb; Kara or circular iron/steel bangle over right wrist; Kachera or long underwear; and Kirpan a sword. He also created Panj Piyare or five beloved from different caste groups. These five beloved became the first to be baptised.

New Year in the solar calendar also begins this day. Hindu legend associated with Baisakhi is that Goddess Ganga descended to earth on Baisakhi day. Arya Samaj was also founded on this day by Swamy Dayanand Saraswati in 1875. Buddhists believe on this day Gautam Buddha achieved enlightenment at Gaya, under a Mahabodhi tree.

In Punjab particularly, Baisakhi also marks the beginning of the harvesting season. Farmers start cutting their crop on this day. Since agriculture constitute an overwhelming majority occupation of the people, they get up early and after taking bath in holy water, wear new bright clothes of colourful designs, and visit nearby gurudwaras to express their gratitude to the almighty for the bountiful crop and pray for having a better crop next time.

They participate in religious functions specifically held and receive parshada in the form of karha parshad. It is followed by Guru ka Langer — community feast to the people. Men and women dance and sing over the rhythmic beat of dholak accompanying the dance. These dances are known as bhangra and giddha.

Baisakhi procession led by five elder Sikhs symbolising pure souls is taken out in all the major places. It symbolises universal brotherhood.