BAISAKHI, a seasonal festival popular in the Punjab which takes place on the First day of the solar month of Baisakh (Sanskrit Vaisakha, so called because according to astrological calculations, the moon at this time passes through visakha naksatra or constellation) of the Indian calendar. Traditionally, the festival was celebrated as the harbinger of happiness and plenty being closely connected with harvesting. To ward off malignant spirits ruinous to the harvest, a ritual dance preceded the festivities. In the central districts of Gujrariwala, Sialkot and Gurdaspur as also in parts of Jammu, the popular dance form was, and still is, bhangra.
As some Sikh texts record, Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was born during the month of Baisakh. According to Sarup Das Bhalla, Mahima Prakash, Part 2, Guru Amar Das (1479-1574), at the suggestion of Sikhs led by Bhai Paro, started an annual congregational fair at Goindval on the occasion of Baisakhi. It became customary for distant sarigats of Sikhs to assemble at the seat of the Gurus on every Baisakhi (and Diwali) day. With the inauguration by Guru Gobind Singh of the Khalsa on 1 Baisakh 1756 Bk, Baisakhi became an important festival on the Sikh calendar.
The date then corresponded with 30 March 1699, but owing to the adoption of Gregorian calendar by the British in 1752 and, the difference between the Christian and the Bikrami years since then, Baisakhi now usually falls on 13 and sometimes on 14 April. The Sikhs everywhere celebrate Baisakhi enthusiastically as birthday anniversary of the Khalsa. Akhand paths are recited followed by kirtan and ardas in almost every gurdwara. Community meals form part of the celebrations. At bigger centres congregational fairs, amritprachar, i.e. initiation ceremonies for inducting novitiates into the Khalsa fold, and contests in manly sports are held.
Until the partition of the Punjab in 1947, the largest attended Baisakhi fairs were those of Panja Sahib, in Attock district, and Rminabad, in Gujranwala (now both in Pakistan). The most important venues now are the Golden Temple, Amritsar, Takht Damdama Sahib at Talvandi Sabo, in Bathinda district, and Takht Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib, in Ropar district, all in the Punjab. It was at Kesgarh Fort that conversion of Sikhs into the Khalsa through the administration of khande di pahul, or baptism of the double edged sword, first took place on the Baisakhi day of 1699.
1. Kapur Singh, Parasaraprasna. Amritsar, 1989
2. Cole, W. Owen, and Piara Singh Sambhi, The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and practices. Delhi, 1978