This year Vaisakhi falls on Wednesday 13th April, and later that month GemArts and Gateshead Visible Ethnic Minorities Support Group host their annual celebrations at Gateshead Civic Centre on Saturday 23rd April, marking this special date in the Sikh calendar. (Call 0191 440 4124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your tickets)
Vaisakhi is a long established harvest festival in Punjab. It falls on either the 13th or 14th April every year. Vaisakhi is one of the holiest days in Sikhism, commemorating Khalsa, and it marks the Sikh New Year. It is also observed with different significance attached to it in different parts of India.
Vaisakhi in Sikhism
Vaisakhi is one of the biggest celebrations of the year for the Sikh community. It is one of the holiest days in Sikhism, commemorating KHALSA, the establishment of the Sikh religion. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikh founded the Khalsa at the Vaisakhi gathering is 1699 at Anandpur. Guru Gobind Singh had arranged for followers from all over India to meet him at the Vaisahki fair in Anandpur. He asked for five people to come forward who were willing to die for their religion. After the prayers he sprinkled AMRIT – water with sugar (strength must always be balanced by sweetness of temperament) and stirred with a steel sword (symbolising the need for strength). He declared them to be the first members of a new community of equals, to be called Khalsa, meaning pure. They will dedicate their lives to the service of others and the pursuit of justice for people of all faiths. These five people were called the PANJ PYARE, and were asked to wear five distinctive symbols of their new identity, the five ‘k’s and a turban.
- Kesh (long uncut hair) – The long uncut hair symbolises chivalry, saintness and courage.
- Khanga (comb)- It is needed to keep the long hair set and tidy, symbolises cleanliness.
- Kirpan (sword)-A sword is a symbol for royalty and knighthood
- Kara (iron bracelet)-Symbol of everlasting love for God. It is round like a ring and therefore no beginning or end.
- Kachera (underwear)-Specially tailored shorts and symbolises purity and restraint.
TURBAN: The turban has great significance in Sikhism. Apart from looking smart and handsome, it is considered the CROWN of a Sikh. It is true to say that without a turban there is no Kaur or Singh just as without a crown there is no king or queen.
To end social divisions, the Panj Pyara’s surnames were removed by the Guru, mainly because surnames were associated with ones cast – the Guru gave them (and all Sikh men) the name SINGH, meaning the “lion”, a reminder of the need for courage. At the same time, the Guru gave all Sikh women the name or title Kaur, meaning “princess” to emphasise dignity and complete equality. The Guru then knelt below the five and asked them to initiate him. Hence, the Khalsa became a community in which master and disciple were equal.
Vaisakhi brings a unique message of tolerance, harmony and equality amongst Sikh communities. In a modern day society, it is clear to observe the equality amongst all citizens, regardless of their class, colour and gender through Sikhism. By working together communities can strengthen themselves with a wide understanding of the rich diversity they are surrounded by.
As far as farmers are concerned, Vaisakhi is not a religious occasion for them, it is the time to harvest the crops especially wheat. On Vaisakhi farmers thank God for the beautiful crop and pray for good times ahead. People buy new clothes, sing, dance and enjoy the best of festival food.
For more information on our Vaisahki Celebrations event taking place on Saturday 23rd April visit here. We’ll see you on the dance floor!
Image credit: Mohammed Rayaz