Vaisakhi Celebrations at Winnipeg South Sikh Center Gurdwara on April 13th, 2010
Vaisakhi falls during mid-April every year and was traditionally celebrated with the first harvesting of the crops for the year. On April 13th, 1699 Guru Gobind Rai created the order of Khalsa by 'initiating' five people by giving them 'khandeh bateh da amrit' or pahul (nectar) and then partook the amrit from these five to be himself initiated. Since that day Vaisakhi is celebrated all over the world as the birthday of the Khalsa. As history has it, The Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, embarked on a policy of religious persecution and set upon the process of Islamization of India. The Brahmins were his primary target as he levied unethical religious taxes and shut their temples and places of learning based on suggestions that once the Brahmins converted others would follow. The Brahmins, particularly the inhabitants of Kashmir, looked for some dynamic leadership to fight this subversion and approached Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675), the ninth in the line of Sikh Gurus for guidance on combatting the atrocities committed by the Aurangzeb. The Guru was arrested and later martyred by Aurangzeb after torturing him and his companions for espousing the cause of brahmins. Guru Teg Bahadur offered his life for the freedom of conscience and conviction of anyone belonging to a faith other than his own.
His spirit of sacrifice and courage was kindled into the heart of Gobind Rai who on Vaisakhi Day in 1699, addressed the congregants and after his inspirational discourse, flashed his unsheathed sword and said that every great deed was preceded by equally great sacrifice: He demanded one head for oblation. After some trepidation one person offered himself. The Guru took him inside a tent. A little later he reappeared with his sword dripping with blood, and asked for another head. One by one four more earnest devotees offered their heads. Every time the Guru took a person inside the tent, he came out with a bloodied sword in his hand.
Then the Guru emerged with all five men dressed piously in white. He 'initiated' (baptised) the five in a new and unique ceremony called pahul, what Sikhs today know as the baptism ceremony. The Guru asked those five baptised Sikhs to baptise him as well. He then proclaimed that the Panj Pyare - the Five Beloved Ones -- would be the embodiment of the Guru himself: "Where there are Panj Pyare, there am I. When the Five meet, they are the holiest of the holy."
At the same time the Guru gave his new Khalsa a unique, indisputable, and distinct identity; offering them the five emblems of purity and courage known as Five Ks: Kesh, unshorn hair; Kangha, the wooden comb; Karra, the iron (or steel) bracelet; Kirpan, the sword; and Kachera, the underwear. The constitution of the Panj Pyare was a living example of his desire to do away with social prejudices based on caste and creed as he amalgamated high and low castes into one. Among the original Panj Pyare, there was one Khatri, shopkeeper; one Jat, farmer; one Chhimba, calico printer/tailor; one Ghumar, water-carrier; and one Nai, a barber. The Guru gave the surname of Singh (Lion) to every Sikh and also took the name for himself. From Guru Gobind Rai he became Guru Gobind Singh. He also pronounced that all Sikh women embody royalty, and gave them the surname Kaur (Princess). With the distinct Khalsa identity and consciousness of purity Guru Gobind Singh gave all Sikhs the opportunity to live lives of courage, sacrifice, and equality fihgting injustice in all walks of life.
Vaisakhi would be celebrated at the Winnipeg South Sikh Center on April 13th, 2010 begining at 5PM in the evening with changing of the 'Nishan sahib' and followed by Kirtan Darbar from 6-8PM. Guru Ka Langar would follow. People from all walks of life and faith are invited to join the Sikh population of winnipeg in celebration of the birthday of the Khalsa.
Everyone is invited to write about what "Vaisakhi" means to them. Selected writings would be posted on the website.