BaisakhiVaisakhi is a long established harvest festival in Punjab that also has religious significance for both Sikhs and Hindus. It falls on the first day of the Vaisakh month in the solar Nanakshahi calendar, which corresponds to April 13 in the Gregorian calendar, except every thirty-sixth year when it falls on April 14.
Vaisakhi is one of the holiest days in Sikhism, commemorating Khalsa, i.e., the establishment of the religion in 1699; as such it also marks the Sikh New Year. It also is observed as the beginning of the new year by Hindus in West Bengal and some other regions of India. The particular significance attached to the occasion shows regional variation. In Himachal Pradesh, Goddess Jwalamukhi is worshipped on Vaisakhi, while in Bihar, Sun-god Surya is honoured. The festival is celebrated as Rongali Bihu in Assam, Naba Barsha in Bengal, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Vishu (or Vaishakhi) in Kerala, and the Sinhalese/Tamil new year festival in Sri Lanka. Besides Punjab, Vaisakhi is widely celebrated as a harvest festival in other northern states of India, such as Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal.
Vaisakhi in SikhismGuru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs founded the Khalsa (Servants of God) at the Vaisakhi gathering in 1699, at Keshgarh Sahib near Anandpur. Guru Gobind Singh, had arranged for followers from all over India to meet him at the Vasakhi Fair in Anandpur.  The Guru asked for a man to step forward who was willing to die for his religion. The crowd thought he was crazy but one man came forward, he entered the Guru's tent, then the Guru came out of the tent - his sword stained with blood. One by one the guru chose four more men to come forward, and one by after another they entered and the Guru emerged alone with his blood stained sword. The crowd was nervous, and mysteriously there was no screaming at all. The five men then emerged from the tent, dressed in robes like the Guru. None of them had been harmed after all!  The Guru put water in a bowl for sprinkling over the five in a simple initiation ceremony. He said prayers as he stirred the water with a short steel sword; symbolising the need for strength. The Guru's wife, Mata Sundri, then came forward and placed some sugar crystals into the holy water or amrit as a reminder that strength must always be balanced by sweetness of temperament. After completing his prayers, the Guru then sprinkled the amrit over the five.  He declared them to be the first members of a new community of equals, to be called the Khalsa, meaning "pure". These "saint soldiers" were to dedicate their lives to the service of others and the pursuit of justice for people of all faiths. The Panj Pyare were asked to wear five distinctive symbols of their new identity, The Five Ks.  In a move to end social divisions the Panj Pyare's surnames were removed by the Guru, mainly because surnames were associated with one's caste - the Guru then gave them (and all Sikh men) the name Singh, meaning "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 emphasize dignity and complete equality. The Guru then knelt before the five and asked them to initiate him. Hence, the Khalsa became a community in which master and disciple were equal.  For Sikhs, this seasonal festival also has great importance as the founding of the Akal Khalsa (Soldiers of the Timeless One) at Anandpur Sahib. The Akal Khalsa played an important role in resistance against Mughal rule. For many centuries after that, the first male child of many Hindu families in Punjab was ordained as a Sikh in order for him to train and become a warrior and fight for the people. Other male children used to take care of the family, parents and the land.
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