|Also called||Baisakhi, Vaisakhi|
|Observed by||Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists|
|Significance||The beginning of the harvest season and birth of the Khalsa|
|Celebrations||Parades and Nagar Kirtan|
|Observances||Prayers, processions, raising of the Nishan Sahib flag|
|Date||First day of Vaisakh (usually 13 April, but 15 April in 2011 in the Gregorian calendar)|
Vaisakhi (Punjabi: ਵਿਸਾਖੀ) visākhī), also known as Baisakhi, Vaishakhi, or Vasakhi) is a festival celebrated in the Punjab region. The festival coincides with other festivals celebrated on the first day of Vaisakh, in some regions of India such as Puthandu, the Tamil new year.
The festival is also celebrated by Hindus and Buddhists for different reasons including the start of a new year. People in the Punjab Region regard Vaisakhi as a harvest festival and the Punjabi new year.
- 1 Harvest festival and the Punjabi New Year
- 2 Vaisakhi in Hinduism and Buddhism
- 3 Importance for Sikhs
- 4 Celebration (Vaisakhi)
- 5 Spelling of Vaisakhi in Punjabi
- 6 In other regions of Indian Subcontinent
- 7 Photo gallery
- 8 References
Harvest festival and the Punjabi New Year
Vaisakhi is a harvest festival for Punjabis and, according to the Punjabi calendar, the Punjabi New Year. The Punjabi calendar is based on the Bikrami calendar and is used by all communities. Hindus use the Punjabi calendar as their religious calendar too. Fairs are organised on Vaisakhi day in Punjabi villages.
This day is also observed as the thanksgiving day by the farmers whereby the farmers pay their tribute, thanking God for the abundant harvest and also praying for the future prosperity.
Vaisakhi in Hinduism and Buddhism
For Hindus across the Punjab region and other parts of India, there is another reason to celebrate the first day of Vaisakh. It is believed that thousands of years ago, Goddess Ganga descended to earth and in her honour, many Hindus gather along the sacred Ganges River for ritual baths. The action is centered in the holy cities along the Ganges in north India, or in Srinagar's Mughal Gardens, Jammu's Nagbani Temples, or anywhere in Tamil Nadu. Hindus plant poles (wrapped in flags of gold-embroidered silk) in front of their homes, and hang pots of brass, copper or silver on top.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj on Vaisakhi, in 1875.
Apart from the Sikhs and Hindus, Vaisakhi is an important day for the Buddhists as well. The name is Vesakha, Vaisakha, Vesak or Wesak. It commemorates the Birth, the Awakening and the Enlightened Passing Away of Gautama Buddha who was born as prince Siddharta.
Importance for Sikhs
Vaisakhi is one of the three festivals chosen by Guru Amar Das Ji to be celebrated by Sikhs (the others being Maghi and Diwali which later gave rise to the festival of Bandi Chor Divas during the times of the sixth Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji).
The festival bears a great significance for Sikhs due to the fact that on the Vaisakhi Day in the year 1699, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh laid down the foundation of the Panth Khalsa, that is the Order of the Pure Ones. It is also used as a celebration for those accepting the five Ks.
Vaisakhi is usually celebrated on 13 April, and occasionally on 14 April, in the different regions across the world as the Sikhs migrated overseas.
In Indian Punjab
The main celebration takes place at Talwandi Sabo (where Guru Gobind Singh stayed for nine months and completed the recompilation of the Guru Granth Sahib), and in the Gurudwara at Anandpur Sahib (see picture above), the birthplace of the Khalsa and at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
In Pakistani Punjab
Vaisakhi is widely celebrated by Sikhs in Western Punjab (Pakistan) as well, with festivities centered on the Panja Sahib complex in Hasan Abdal, numerous Gurudwaras in Nankana Sahib, and in various historical sites in Lahore. It is culturally and traditionally regarded as an important and significant Punjabi festival, further exemplified by the thousands of Sikh pilgrims from around the world arriving each year to commemorate the day at the sacred Sikh sites of Nankana Sahib and Hasan Abdal. Further, local Pakistani's offer their well wishes and welcome the incoming pilgrims. In April 2009, the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee announced plans for formally organising the event on a larger scale in the country as well as expressing intentions for elegant arrangements. In 2010, over 20,000 pilgrims were expected to arrive in Pakistan for the celebrations, a significant increase over previous years.
In United States, Canada, and United Kingdom
In the United States, there is usually a parade commemorating the Vaisakhi celebration. In Manhattan, New York City people come out to do "Seva" (selfless service) such as giving out free food, and completing any other labor that needs to be done. In Los Angeles, California, the local Sikh community consisting of more than 20 Gurdwaras holds a full day Kirtan (spiritual music) program followed by a two mile parade in downtown Los Angeles with an estimated 15,000 participants. The local Sikh community in Vancouver, Abbotsford and Surrey, British Columbia, Canada holds its annual Vaisakhi celebrations in the April long weekend, which often includes a Nagar Kirtan (parade) which an estimated 200,000 people attend.
The United Kingdom has a large Sikh community which was established in the 1960s with the arrival of immigrants from the Indian sub-continent, and which increased in the 1970s with refugees from East Africa and in the 1990s with refugees from Afghanistan. The largest concentrations of Sikhs in the UK are to be found in Birmingham in the West Midlands and Southall in west London. The Southall Nagar Kirtan is held on a Sunday a week or two before Vaisakhi, and it attracts approximately 90,000 people to the streets. The Birmingham Nagar Kirtan is held in late April in association with Birmingham City Council, and it is an annual event attracting about 100,000 people which commences with two separate nagar kirtans setting off from gurdwaras in the city and culminating in the Vaisakhi Mela at Handsworth Park.
The Sikh community is a minority in Malaysia, which is why Vaisakhi is not a public holiday. However, in line with the government's efforts to promote integration among the country's different ethnic and religious groups, the prime minister, Najib Razak has announced that beginning 2013, all government servants from the Sikh community will be given a day off on Vaisakhi Day. Vaisakhi 'open houses' are also held across the country during the day of the festival, or the closest weekend to it.
Spelling of Vaisakhi in Punjabi
The word Vaisakhi is spelled as "Baisakhi" when it relates to celebrations of the birth of Khalsa, or to Sikhs particularly. The standard spelling is Vaisakhi with "V" not with "B" . ਵੈਸਾਖੁ ਸੁਹਾਵਾ ਤਾਂ ਲਗੈ ਜਾ ਸੰਤੁ ਭੇਟੈ ਹਰਿ ਸੋਇ ॥੩॥ Vaisaakh Suhaavaa Thaan Lagai Jaa Santh Bhaettai Har Soe ||3|| (Ank/Page: 134 SGGS)
However, in the Doabi and Malwi dialect dialects of Punjabi, it is common for speakers to substitute a "B" for a "V". Therefore, the spelling used is dependent on the dialect of the writer. Serious learners inquiring about Sikhi/Vaisakhi/Birth of Khalsa celebration should inquire whether there is a separate Doabi/Malwi primer - and what literature, written documents are available separately in Doabi/Malwi. Speakers of these dialects have attempted to pay their respect to the Gurmukhi script from which these all have borrowed by writing the Sri Guru Granth Sahib in these dialects. These consist of substitutions of a "B" for a "V".
In other regions of Indian Subcontinent
The first day of Vaisakh is not considered to be a New Year across India but in some regions. Therefore, Vaisakhi coincides with the New Year's Day (according to the solar new year) celebrated by people across the Assam Valley, Kerala, Odisha, West Bengal, Punjab, Haryana, Uttrakhand and other regions of India. In Himachal Pradesh, the Hindu Goddess Jwalamukhi is worshipped on the day, while in Bihar, the Sun-god Surya is honoured. It also celebrated outside India in Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Vaisakhi almost coincides with the festival of 'Vishu' celebrated in Kerala a day after Vaisakhi. The festivities include fireworks, shopping for new clothes and interesting displays called 'Vishu Kani'. These are arrangements of flowers, grains, fruits, cloth, gold, and money are viewed early in the morning, to ensure a year of prosperity. The other festival Vaisakhi almost coincides with is Bohag Bihu which is celebrated in Assam a day after Vaisakhi where the community organizes massive feasts, music, and dancing.
Names by region
The festival is celebrated as:
- Bikhu or Bikhauti in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, India
- Bisu – Tulu New Year Day amongst the Tulu people in India
- Rongali Bihu in Assam, India
- Edmyaar 1 (Bisu Changrandi) - Kodava New Year.
- Maha Vishuva Sankranti (or Pana Sankranti) in Odisha, India
- JurShital (New Year) in Mithila (parts of Nepal and Bihar, India)
- Naba Barsha or Pohela Boishakh in Bengal and Tripura, India, Nepaland Bangladesh
- Navreh in Kashmir, India
- Official Nepalese New Year in Nepal
- Sinhalese New Year in Sri Lanka
- Songkran in Thailand
- Tamil Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, India
- Vishu in Kerala, India
2009 Vancouver Sikh Vaisakhi Festival
Sikh Motorcycle Club at Vaisakhi 2007 Vancouver, Canada
Vaisakhi at Trafalgar Square, London
- "BBC - Religion: Hinduism". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- Glimpses of Sikhism By Major Nahar Singh Jawandha 
- Tribune News service (14 April 2009). "Vaisakhi celebrated with fervour, gaiety". The Tribune, Chandigarh.
- Muhammad Najeeb Hasan Abdal (12 April 2008). "Sikh throng Pakistan shrine for Vaisakhi". Thaindian News. www.thaindian.com. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- "Annual NYC Sikh Day Parade". www.nycsikhdayparade.com. 30 April. Retrieved 22 January 2012. Check date values in:
- "Thousands join Sikh Vaisakhi celebrations in Birmingham". BBC News. 22 April 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
- "Sikh civil servants get Vaisakhi holiday". The Star Online. 8 May 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2013.