Although Vaisakhi concurs with the first harvesting of the crops for the year – considered as a celebrating harvest festival in North India.Sikhs have a specific reason for celebration. On this memorable Baisakhi day (March, 30 of A.D.1699), Guru Gobind Singh Sahib called a big meeting at Kesgarh Sahib near the City of Anandpur Sahib. Between fifty to eighty thousand Sikhs attended this meeting. When all were expecting to hear words of comfort and consolation from the lips of their Guru, they were perturbed to see him with a drawn sword in his hand and say ‘ Is there anyone here who would lay down his life for Dharam?’ There was a big silence, but the Guru went on repeating his request. At the third call Daya Ram, from Lahore, rose from his seat and offered himself. The Guru took him into an adjoining enclosure and soon after came out with blood dripping, sword in hand. Flourishing it before the gathering, he asked again, ‘Is there any other Sikh here who will offer himself as a sacrifice (for the cause of dharma)?’ At this Daram Das, of Delhi (Haryana side) came forward and was taken into the enclosure. The Guru again came out with the blood-stained sword, and made his previous demand. In the same way three other men stood up, one after another, and offered themselves for the sacrifice. One was Mohkam Chand, of Dwarka (Gujarat State); another was Himmat, of Jagannath (Orissa State); and the third was Sahib Chand, of Bidar (Karnataka State). The Guru, after dressing the five in handsome clothes, brought them from the assembly.
These five were then administered ‘Khande di Pahul’ , the double-edged Sword Amrit. They were then knighted as Singhs, as the Five beloved ones, the first members of the Order of the Khalsa. The Guru then asked them to administer the Pahul to him in the same manner in which he had given the Pahul to them, and it was done so.
The Guru said that whenever and wherever five baptised Sikhs come together, the Guru would be present. All those who receive Amrit from five baptized Sikhs will be infused with the spirit of courage and strength to sacrifice. Thus with these principles he established Panth Khalsa, the Order of the Pure Ones.
At the same time the Guru gave his new Khalsa a unique, indisputable, and distinct identity. The Guru gave the gift of bana, the distinctive Sikh clothing and headwear. He also offered five emblems of purity and courage. These symbols, worn by all baptised Sikhs of both sexes, are popularly known today as Five Ks: Kesh, unshorn hair; Kangha, the wooden comb; Karra, the iron (or steel) bracelet; Kirpan, the sword; and Kachera, the underwear.
Unlike most of other faiths where only the clergy are in uniform, all Sikhs are enjoined to always wear their uniform of faith at all times and to adhere to the ideals of the “Sant-Sapai” Saint-Soldier; to practice their belief always (rather than on just a particular day or time ie: just Sunday or Friday); to maintain and protect the cosmic balance in the world; to guard against tyranny, discrimination, evil and injustice. These five articles of faith distinguish a Sikh and are essential for preserving the life of the community founded on nothing but truthful living.
The Five Ks, or panj kakaar/kakke, are five items which display and show the wearer’s conviction to the Master and are a constant reminder of the adorner’s love for the high principles set by their Leader and Commander-in-Chief; faith in the Khalsa; deep conviction to Satguru – the “timeless true Guru”; putting the values of the Khalsa above one’s personal and materialist needs; the willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the value set by the Sikh Gurus.
- Kesh: (uncut hair) A Sikh is to maintain and adorn this natural God-given gift. To work with nature and not against it. The Kesh was covered with a turban, Keski or Chunni to keep it clean and manageable.
- Kanga (wooden comb) for the maintenance and ongoing upkeep of Kesh. A reminder to regularly maintain the body and mind in a clean and healthy state.
- Kara (steel bracelet or bangle): Symbolises an unbreakable bond with God. It is a constant reminder that the Sikh is a servant of the Lord. He or she must only do His work in accordance with the Holy Scripture; to abstain for wrong-doing at all times.
- Kachhera (cotton underwear) Standard, Naturally Comfortable, dignified attire reflective of modesty and control. A sign of a soldier; ever ready; dignified and highly mobile.
- Kirpan (a small sword) A sign that a Sikh is a soldier in “Akal Purakh’s (God’s) Army” (Akal Purakh de fauj); to maintain and protect the weak and needy and for self defense. Never to be used in anger.
The Sikhs uniform unifies and binds a Sikh to his/her commitment to the true, universal, social and temporal principles defined and amplified by the ten Sikh Gurus and laid down in Sri Guru Granth Sahib at all times.
The Nagar Kirtan
Vaisakhi is celebrated in much the same way as Gurpurbs. Gurdwara’s are decorated and visited. Many Sikhs choose to be baptised into the Khalsa brotherhood on this day.
The festival is marked with nagar kirtan processions: processions through the streets (nagar means “town”) which form an important part of Sikh religious celebrations.
Kirtan is a term meaning the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib/ Sri Granth Sahib Ji. This is more than scripture of the Sikhs. The Sikhs treat it as a living Guru. The Guru Granth Sahib means “The Supreme Scripture Enlightener,” which was recognised as the guiding scripture and spiritual leader of the Sikh community in October, 1708.
Celebrations always include music, singing and chanting scriptures and hymns. The Guru Granth Sahib is carried reverentially into the Gurdwara. The processions are led by the Panj Piaras. The Guru Granth Sahib will be carried in the procession in a place of honour.
At the Gurdwara, the Nishan Sahib – the holy flag or exalted ensign – a symbol representing the values of the Sikh faith is cleaned with the pure substance of Yogurt. The Sikh pennant is made out of saffron-coloured, occasionally out of blue-coloured. The cloth is triangular in shape, normally each of the two equal sides being double of the shorter one. The pennant is stitched to the mast sheath at the top which is also of the same cloth. The symbol shown on the flag is the Khanda – In the centre of the insignia is the two-edged sword which symbolises the Creative Power of God which controls the destiny of the whole universe. It is the Sovereign Power over life and death. One edge of the Sword symbolises divine justice, which chastises and punishes the wicked oppressors; the other edge symbolises Freedom, and Authority governed by moral and spiritual values.
On the outside of the two-edged sword, we can see two swords: On the left is the Sword of Spiritual Sovereignty (Piri); On the right is the Sword of Political Sovereignty (Miri). There must always be a balance between the two, and this balance is emphasised by a circle inside. This circle is what is called a Chakra. The Chakra is a symbol of all embracing Divine Manifestation, including everything and wanting nothing, without beginning or end, neither first nor last, timeless, Absolute. It is the symbol of oneness, of Unicity of Justice, Humanity and the Immortality.
In 2008 the Sikhs will be celebrating the 300th Gugaddi Divas of Guru Granth Sahib Ji. In October, 1708 Guru Gobind Singh Sahib ji, bestowed the Gurgadi (spiritual, social, political leadership and throne of enlightener) to Guru Granth Sahib Ji.