Last Updated: 10th April, 2020

Vaisakhi Festival

Vaisakhi Festival

Vaisakhi is one of the most significant festivals in Punjab. The festival holds religious significance for the Sikh community as the day is associated with the establishment of the Khalsa. Vaisakhi is widely celebrated by the Sikh community in India and abroad. Since Vaisakhi is a harvest festival, it is also important for the farming community.

Establishment of Khalsa Panth - Panj Piare

Vaisakhi and the Beloved Five

  • The first day of the Punjabi New Year coincides with the establishment of Khalsa Panth in 1699 and since then the day of Vaisakhi has been an auspicious one for Sikhs around the world.
  • To spread the message of truth and bravery, the two most important aspects of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh once asked to a group of young Sikhs of volunteer to sacrifice their lives for religion. 
  • Five brave young Sikh volunteered but their lives were spared. The Guru was only testing their integrity. These five volunteers eventually came to know as ‘Panj Piare’ or Beloved Five'.  Modern day Sikhs still celebrate the sacrifice and bravery shown by those gallant young soldiers of Sikhism.
  • Panj Pyare means literally the five beloved. Vaisakhi is the festival which celebrates the formation of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa. It is celebrated on April 14 each year. On Vaisakhi day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh summoned Sikhs from all over India to the city of Anandpur Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh lifted his sword and asked that anyone ready to give his life There was a big silence, but the Guru went on repeating his demand. One Sikh finally came forward and followed the Guru into a tent. Shortly after, the Guru reappeared alone with his sword covered in blood, and asked for a second volunteer. Another Sikh stepped forward and again the Guru took him into the tent, and re-appeared alone with his sword covered with blood. This was repeated until five Sikhs had offered their heads for the Guru. Finally, the Guru emerged from the tent with all five men dressed piously in blue. Guru Gobind Singh called the five Sikhs the Panj Pyare, the Five Beloved Ones.
  • The Panj Pyare were then baptized in a unique ceremony called pahul. Guru Gobind Singh prepared amrit (holy water) in a bowl using a short steel sword. Then the Guru's wife, Mata Sundri, added patashas (sugar crystals) into the amrit. After completing prayers, Guru Gobind Singh sprinkled the amrit on each of the Panj Pyare. The Guru then knelt before the five and asked them to baptize him as well. The Guru proclaimed that the Panj Pyare would be the embodiment of the Guru himself: "Where there are Panj Pyare, there am I. When the Five meet, they are the holiest of the holy."
  • The Panj Pyare were the first members of the new Sikh community called the Khalsa. Guru Gobind Singh gave the Khalsa a unique identity with five distinctive symbols of purity and courage, known today as the Five K's. The Guru gave all Khalsa men the surname of Singh (lion) as a reminder to be courageous. Women took on the surname Kaur (princess) to emphasize dignity. With the distinct Khalsa identity, Guru Gobind Singh gave all Sikhs the opportunity to live lives of courage, sacrifice, and equality. These Sikhs were to dedicate their lives to the service of others and the pursuit of justice.

Interesting facts about Baisakhi

  • The 10th Guru Gobind Singh chose Vaisakhi as the occasion to transform Sikhs into a soldiers known as the Khalsa Panth.
  • Vaisakhi is a Punjabi festival also known as Baisakhi, Vaishakhi, or Vasakhi.
  • People get together, and perform Bhangra and gidda on traditional folk songs and dhol. Men show off their gatka skills (traditional form of martial-arts of the Sikh.)
  • The Sikh community also celebrate it as the day of thanks for abundant harvest, and pray for future prosperity.
  • The gurdwaras are cleaned and decorated. Many people go to the gurdwaras to offer prayers and seek the blessings of the almighty for the prosperous year ahead.
  • Langar (vegetarian food) is organized for the devotees in the gurdwara. All the people whether they are rich or poor are equally served the same food. There is no discrimination followed in the gurdwara.
  • The procession of Guru Granth Sahib is known as Nagar Kirtan is a religious procession accompanied by holy hymns and is an important part of the festival of Baisakhi.

Significance of Vaisakhi

The Sikh community observes the day with great enthusiasm, commitment and devotion. The day is historically very important for the Sikh community. In 1699, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, founded the Khalsa Panth, thus providing the community with a unique identity. The Guru turned the Sikhs into Singhs, a martial community by giving them amrit.

The day witnesses people visiting gurudwaras to offer prayers. Joyful processions are also organized throughout Punjab and in many other parts of India. Thousands of devotees from all India and abroad visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar as well as the Anandpur Sahib Gurdwara where a special celebration is held at Talwandi Sabo.

For the farmers in Punjab, Vaisakhi is a harvest festival. An agriculturally rich state of India, Punjab comprises hard working farmers and lush green fields. Vaisakhi is the time when the rabi crop is harvested; hence, we can say that the festival is a kind of Thanksgiving Day as farmers thank the lord for the wonderful harvest that he has given. They also pray to God to provide them a productive year ahead. The day begins early for farmers. After taking a bath, they dress up in new attire and visit the temple or gurudwara in their neighborhood to offer their prayers.

Darbar Sahib

Customs and Rituals of Vaisakhi

A colorful festival, there are a number of customs and rituals associated with Vaisakhi. The Golden Temple and Anandpur Sahib witness crowds of devotees who come from far and wide to offer prayers and take part in the activities. Many people also visit the gurudwaras located in their neighborhood.

One of the most prominent and significant rituals observed on the day is giving a ceremonial bath to the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. After the bath, the holy book is placed on the throne. It is then read to the devotees who listen with the utmost devotion.

The Panj Pyare, the five beloved ones, form the central part of the festivities. The Panj Pyare chant verses from the holy book, a tradition that dates back to 1699 when the original Panj Pyare chanted verses under the guidance of Guru Gobind Singh. The tradition of preparing amrit, which too is followed till this day, dates back to 1699. The amrit is distributed among the devotees, who take a sip for five times and also take a pledge to work for the brotherhood. Religious kirtans, which are sung by devotees, are also a special highlight of the day.

The day also witnesses the offering of the Karah prasad to the Guru after ardas. Following this, the prasad is distributed among the devotees. A guru-ka-langar, which is a community lunch, is also organized at the gurudwara. Volunteers serve vegetarian food to the devotees, who sit in a line with their heads covered.

Folk Dances of Punjab

Vaisakhi Processions

Vaisakhi processions are an integral part of the festival and are undertaken later in the day. Attended by men, women and children, Vaisakhi processions are wonderful sights to behold. The procession has a symbolic meaning for the Sikh community as it depicts the journey that was made by the panj pyares from their homes to Anandpur Sahib where they were baptized by Guru Gobind Singh. The procession moves from one locality to another and is watched by people of all faiths. The vibrant processions also comprise the colorful folk dances of Punjab – bhangra and gidda - as well as mock duels. Bands playing religious tunes also accompany the procession while devotees can be seen singing religious songs. Men can also be seen wielding swords. At the processions, religious leaders encourage people to take a pledge that they would work to bring peace, harmony and universal brotherhood.

Vaisakhi Processions

Vaisakhi Fairs

The main attraction of Vaisakhi are the fairs that are held in Punjab as well as in many other parts of the country. People from across the globe visit these fairs to witness the numerous attractions that they have to offer. The fairs offer visitors with a glimpse of the rural life of Punjab. Men, women, and children dress in their very best and attend the fairs with a lot of enthusiasm. Some of the activities that one can get to see at the fairs are singing and dancing performances, races and wrestling events. Numerous stalls are also held where many items are sold such as bangles, local handicrafts, toys and many other products that are of domestic use.
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Vaisakhi Mela

Festivity of Vaisakhi

  • Punjab has an agrarian economy and Vaisakhi signifies the beginning of the plowing season in the region. The celebration begins with people shouting "Jatta aayi Vaisakhi" to each other.
  • The day is full of religious rituals and Punjabis follow their traditions properly. The celebration begins with the devotees taking early bath in the morning and gathering at gurudwaras to listen to the recitation of Granthsahib. 
  • The Granthsahib, the religious book of Sikhs, is purified in the morning with milk and water. Then the ‘Granthi’ or the holy book reader would read specific text from the book which the devotees will listen earnestly.
  • The ritual of drinking and sprinkling ‘amrit’ is performed and it is prepared in an iron vessel separately. Devotees will sip into the ‘amrit’ five times as per the tradition.
  • Community meals are organized at the langars or community kitchens where Sikhs irrespective of their socio-economic status sit with each other and eat. Some of the dishes prepared in Guru - ka – Langar are dal, sabji, curd, roti/chapatis, and a dessert made of semolina.
  • On Vaisakhi, people take out processions to honor the ‘Panj Piare’. The revellers gather at village fields to perform ‘bhangra’ and ‘gidda’, well known folk dance forms of Punjab.
  • Rural sports such as bullock races, bull fights, and mock wars are organized to entertain the onlookers. People participate in these fares in bright and new clothes.
  • The day long celebration concludes with families gathering together to share meals and wishing each other a happy and prosperous new year. 

Harvest Festival of Punjab

Vaisakhi Celebration

The festival of Vaisakhi instills a pure sense of joy and enthusiasm especially in the northern parts of India – Punjab and Haryana. During Vaisakhi celebration, the farmers get jubilant as it is the time for them to reap fruits for entire year’s hard work. It is the harvest festival, marking the harvest of rabi crops. The farmer’s produces are bountiful and that is why they look forward to celebrate Vaisakhi with full enthusiasm. A festival mainly for the Sikh population of Punjab and Haryana, Vaisakhi marks the foundation day of Khalsa Panth by Guru Gobind Singh (tenth Sikh Guru).
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Festivity of Vaisakhi

Vaisakhi Songs

Tana tanak,
Teri bodi mere hath,
Meri gutt tere hath,
Maeno rakhna e rakh,
Maeno kadna e kad!
Maeyon tere naal vasiyan,
te hor koi vase vi na
Maeyon tere naal kattiyan,
te hor koi kate ve na

Ambarsare diyan vardiyan ve maen khaani haan
Tu karenda ardiyan te maen sehni han
tana tanak........... te hor koi kate ve na

Ambarsare diyan chole ve maen khaani haan
Tu tarda-tar bole te maen sehni han
tana tanak........... te hor koi kate ve na

Ambarsare diyan papard ve maen khaani haan
Tu karenda aakard te maen sehni han
tana tanak........... te hor koi kate ve na

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