Happy Baisakhi

On April 14, to celebrate the arrival of spring, cultivators in Punjab will enjoy a wheat harvest at the second largest Sikh festival, Baisakhi. Over 2,000 Sikh pilgrims from all across the world, such as India, Canada, US, UK and Australia, will arrive at Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassanabdal to participate in the festival which bears great significance for Sikhs because in 1699 on the day of Vaisakh the 10th guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, laid down the foundation of the Khalsa Panth, considered as the community of the ‘pure ones’.

Sikh pilgrims gathered around Gurdwara Sri Punja Sahib in Hassanabdal. PHOTOS : RASHID ALI<br /><br />

According to Sikh tradition, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, came to Hassanabdal for the first time in the month of Vaisakh (April/May) along with Bhai Mardanaji and stayed under a tree at Gurdwara Punja Sahib. On the front of the hillside there is a meditation chamber related to the 15th century Muslim saint, Baba Wali Kandhari. It houses the imprint of the hand or punja believed to be that of Guru Nanak. This is the only reason why this gurdwara is known as Punja Sahib.

The festival is celebrated with a great deal of feasting, bhangra, folk music and fairs. Locals dress up in their finest clothes and sing and dance to folk music. There are also races, wrestling bouts and acrobatics. In the morning, Sikhs visit the gurdwara to attend special prayers. Most Sikhs strive to visit the revered Golden Temple in Amritsar or Anandpur Sahib. Of all the rituals involved in Baisakhi, the ritual of Bhog (literally ‘delight’) is the most significant, in which the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs, is bathed with milk and water, placed on a throne and read out to followers. At noon, the karah prasad (pudding made from butter, sugar and flour), is offered to the guru for his blessings. It is then distributed among members of the congregation. The ceremony culminates with a special guru ka langar or a community lunch. People sit in rows with their heads covered as volunteers serve them a vegetarian meal.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 12th,  2015.