My friend Harminder Bhandal Singh lives in Punjab and every once in a while shares with me wonderful stories about India where she lives with her husband and two beautiful children. She recently read my blog post about Flying Kites http://folkheartpressblog.blogspot.com/2009/09/flying-folktales-i.html and wrote to tell me the post made her, first of all, miss America where she grew up and, secondly, reminded her of Vaisakhi, a harvest festival and one of the most significant holidays in the Sikh calendar.
Being a generous woman (and a dear friend), she said yes when I asked her to write about this celebration for Folkheart Press. So here it is. If you can, please take a few moments to comment on what she has written. I know she’d love to hear what you thought.
In the northern Indian state of Punjab the month of April brings with it a time of harvesting, rejoicing and above it all worship. April is when the entire state celebrates the coming of the harvest of wheat. Wheat is Punjab’s primary crop and the main staple in the Indian diet. The harvest season officially begins on the 13th of April known as Vaisakhi, which is the Birth of the Khalsa (Sikhism). This day is honored throughout the homes and churches everywhere with prayers and colorful festivals.
Almost everyone goes to Gurudwara (church) and then attends a local festival complete with traditional dress, dancing and food. For all Sikhs this is a very important day because this was the day that Sikhism was officially initiated as a religion.
It was on this day over 300 years ago that the 10th Guru of the Sikhs (sri Guru Gubind Singh) called all his devotees to Anandpur Sahib and asked for five heads. He declared on these five heads shall rise a new man. Everyone looked around and thought Guru Ji had gone crazy. However, history noted that out of the crowd stood up five men one by one and each one Guru Ji took with him behind a door and came out with a bloody sword.
It is said that Guru Ji severed the heads of the five men and later with spirit of the Amrit (Immortal drink) brought them back to life. From that forward Guru Ji announced that wherever five Sikhs shall come together and stand as one, I shall be seen in them. That is why to this day whenever anyone takes the Amrit it is given by five Sikhs.
From that day to today Vaisakhi is celebrated with fervor and vigor throughout the entire world. The festivals of Vaisakhi have followed Sikhs all over the World. However the biggest festival even today is in the holy land of Anandpur Sahib. A day when people from all over the world travel to this holy city and pay homage to both Guru Ji and Sikhism.