Baisakhi is one of the most popular and important festivals celebrated in the state of Punjab and various other parts of India. The festival takes place on April 13 every year, but once in 36 years, it is celebrated on April 14. This vibrant festival marks the commencement of the Sikh New Year. On this day, the farmers thank God for the good crops and offer prayers for bountiful harvest in the next season. The main celebrations of the festival are organized at the Anandpur Sahib and Muktsar. The festival is celebrated by the people with immense joy and performing bhangra and gidda dance.
The history of Baisakhi begins when Guru Teg Bahadur, father of Guru Gobind Singh was killed by the Aurangzeb, a Mughal emperor. After his father's death, Gobind Singh was made the next Sikh Guru. The life of the people was miserable under the rule of Aurangzeb. After seeing the woeful condition of the people and to motivate them, Guru Gobind Singh, in the year 1699 asked the youngsters to come forward to give their life for the country. However, initially none of the men came forward, but after the repeated requests or encouragement from Gobind Singh, five men showed interest. The Guru took them to the tent and dressed them in saffron (yellow) clothes. They were bestowed upon the title of the ‘Panj Pyaras’ (the precious five men). On that very day, beginning of new religion was announced called the 'Khalsa Panth' (today known as Sikhism). The men who were converted into Sikhism were told not to fear anybody other than the God and live life in whatever manner they desire.
Baisakhi is celebrated with great pomp and extreme happiness, especially by the Sikhs. The gurdwaras are cleaned and decorated. Many people throng to the gurdwaras to offer prayers and seek the blessings of the almighty for the prosperous year ahead. Overall, the Baisakhi celebrations are carried out by the Sikhs in a very well planned manner.
In the morning, the Sikh people take bath and wear the new clothes. The Sikh families then assemble at the gurdwaras to attend a specially organized prayer in the morning. After the prayer is over, the devotees are distributed a sweet known as the ‘Kada Prasad’.
In the afternoon, around lunch time, a 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 in Punjabi. It is a religious procession accompanied by holy hymns and is an important part of the festival of Baisakhi. The procession is always led by the Panj Pyare (the five beloved ones who form the central part of the Khalsa), who are dressed in saffron. They are followed by the holy book of the Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib, and other members of the procession. The road through which the procession is to pass is cleared beforehand by the sewadars (volunteers). The procession finally comes to a halt at a particular Gurudwara where Ardas (prayers) is offered.
Any Baisakhi celebration is termed to be incomplete without the memorable dance performances. There are two prominent forms of dance that are performed by the Sikhs – bhangra and gidda. Bhangra is essentially a high energy dance that involves plenty of jumping. It is generally performed by both men and women. Gidda is another folk dance traditionally performed by the women. The dance reflects the celebratory mood of the women and their joyful spirits.
During the prominent festivals, there is a tradition among the Sikh community to wear the bright color outfits. Men wear the kurta, pajama or lungi and a turban on their heads.
The Sikh or Punjabi women have two choices when it comes to getting ready for the festival. They can either wear a salwar-kameez or lehenga–choli.
Sikhs are very fond of eating scrumptious food. On this day, they prepare various kinds of dishes like the potato curry, sarson ka saag, makki di roti, poori, paneer tikkas, vegetable pakora, chicken biryani and lots of delicious dishes.
In Kerala, this festival is known by the name Vishu. It is considered as a festival of happiness, vibrant colors and light. On this day, the farmers celebrate the good harvest and offer prayer to the God for an excellent year ahead. It is considered to be a tradition to get Vishu Kai Neettam (gift) from the elder members of the family.
Baisakhi is considered as a very propitious day in the Bengali calendar. The day is considered as very auspicious by the merchants or traders to open a new business. Bangla Sangeet Mela is organized to discover the budding musicians and singers of the state.
In Assam, the Baisakhi festival is known by the name Rongali Bihu, celebrated for seven days. The very first day of the festival is called Goru Bihu. On this day, the cows are worshipped. It is also considered important to wear the new clothes and seek the blessings of the elderly people in the family.
In Bihar, the festival is locally called as Vaishakha. It is basically celebrated by the people to welcome the New Year. It is considered extremely auspicious by the people to offer the prayers to the Surya Devta (Sun God).