April 13th

16 April 2020, 3:30 AM

- Written by Masoom Grover


April 13, affirms a lot of ancient, religious, political and cultural significance for India and its citizens. Contrary to the popular beliefs of thirteen being the number of rebellion and evil in Christianity, holds a very different rather auspicious place in Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

April 13, every year is celebrated as Baisakhi across the northern Indian subcontinent especially in the regions of Punjab and Haryana by the Sikh community. It is a joyous day for the farmers as they harvest their winter rabi crops and celebrate the occasion of prosperity.

The day is made remarkable by various Baisakhi fairs and folk performances of bhangra and gidda by exhilarated men and women dressed in vibrant attires.

Baisakhi has originated from a Sanskrit term called Vaiśākha, which denoted a month of the Hindu calendar corresponding to April- May. It marks the beginning of a new year according to the Hindu Solar calendar. Various ancient and religious legends revolve around this day which makes it a momentous day in order to be celebrated annually in India and also by the Sikh diaspora across the globe.

Legends have it that on this day the king, Siddhartha Gautam achieved nirvana under the Bodhi tree in the town of Gaya in Bihar. He became a spiritual leader and the preacher of Buddhism and came to be known as Gautam Buddha by his disciples.

It is also believed that in 1875, on the day of Baisakhi, the establishment of Arya Samaj; a sect in the Hindu community that discarded idol worshipping and became followers of Vedas, by Swami Dayanand Saraswati took place. According to some popular legends, it is also a day when goddess Ganga came to the earth, making this day equally important in Hinduism.

This day, however, holds greater value in Sikhism. It commemorates the founding of the Order of the Khalsa. This started in 1675 when the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur was publicly beheaded by the Mughal ruler Aurungzeb as he fought against the injustice done to Hindus and Sikhs. After his death, his son, the tenth Guru, Guru Govind Singh pledged to engrave the emotions of courage and strength to sacrifice amongst his fellow men. Therefore, on the day of Baisakhi of 1699, March 30, he established the Khalsa Panth, “the Order of the Pure Ones”. He also granted the title of Panj Pyare, “the Beloved Five” to the first five men who volunteered to sacrifice their lives. He called them the first five Singhs and adorned them with Kesari (saffron) turbans and attire to identify them with a ceremony called pahul by making them consume the sacred nectar, Amrit. He also recognized five emblems of Sikhism to provide the Khalsa with a unique identity; Kesh, uncut long hair, Kangha, the wooden comb, Kirpan, the dagger, Kada, the iron/steel bracelet and Kachha, the undergarment. The Khalsa surpassed any type of caste-based discrimination as the Panj Pyare consisted of men from various castes. Guru Govind Singh Ji granted the name Singh, lion to the Sikh men and Kaur, the royal princess to the Sikh women. The distinction of identity and consciousness of purity provided by Guru Govind Singh Ji, the Sikhs were offered to live a life of courage, sacrifice and equality. Hence, embarking the day of great significance in their religion.

Apart from the ancient, cultural and religious importance, it also marks a very significant political event in the history of our country.

The British infiltrated India under the disguise of East India Company and later, in the early 18th century colonized our country. During its tenure of 200 years of imperialism, the British government tortured and exploited Indians to infinite degrees. However, the most agonizing wounds of all was that of April 13, 1919. On this day, the historical garden of Amritsar; the Jallianwala Bagh witnessed one of the most brutal incidents in the history of mankind. This was the time when villagers gathered in thousands to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi and to hold a peaceful protest against the arrest and deportation of two major national leaders by the Imperial government. It was then, the then acting brigadier, General Reginald Dyer blocked the entrance of the Bagh and commanded his troops to open fire on the unarmed civilians. The lack of accountability and the level of brutality stunned the entire nation and ignited the feeling of nationalism among the people. The day which was meant to be the day of joy and celebration turned into a nightmare for the entire nation, especially for the families of the martyrs in 1919.

To mark this historic event and to pay a tribute to all those who lost their lives in the massacre, a memorial has been constructed in the Jallianwala Bagh along with a martyr’s gallery and museum.

The day of Baisakhi has witnessed a lot of light and darkness in all these years, however, the spirit of the festival still kindles in the hearts of the people of India and defines their courage and never-ending zeal to celebrate life.

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(The Times Of India 2020)

(educalingo 2020)

(The Holiday Spot n.d.)

(dgreetings 2020)

(drikPanchang n.d.)

(SCFI- Society for the Confluence of Festivals of India n.d.)

(SikhNet n.d.)

(utsavpedia n.d.)