Happy Vaisakhi 2018: What is the Sikh holiday? Why is it celebrated?

More than 20 million Sikhs around the world celebrate Vaisakhi every year.

The historic and religious festival is a Sikh and Punjabi tradition, heritage and culture which marks the birth of the Guru Gobind Singh’s Khalsa – the inner core of the Sikh faith – over 300 years ago.

It is additionally a spring harvest festival for the Sikhs where they bathe in lakes and rivers and share festive foods.

Vaisakhi, also known as Baisakhi, is the Punjabis traditional solar new year and harvest festival where they may visit temples before socialising and eating together.

When is Vaisakhi?

Each year, Guru Ji Vaisakhi is traditionally observed on April 14 when the Khalsa was first formed back in 1699.

Sikhs believe that on this day, spiritual leader Guru Gobind Singh called people of the religion to the Indian city of Anandpur Sahib, Punjab.

He is thought to have emerged from his tent and ask if anyone there was willing to sacrifice their head for him.

Someone volunteered and he took them into his tent, later exiting without the individual and a bloody sword – which happened four more times with different people who came forward.

After the fifth time, the Guru walked out of the tent with all five volunteers unharmed.

“This was a test,” he is believed to have said, “to see who has faith in their Guru”.

Guru Gobind Singh called the five men the “Panj Pyare” – meaning the Five Beloved Ones. They were baptised, and once the Guru had finished his rituals, he is believed to have lent down and asked them to baptise him too.

The five men are known as the first members of the Khalsa to this day.

How is it celebrated?

Ever since people have gathered in Gurudwaras (temples), on Vaisakhi Day.

A fresh Sikh flag, known as Nishaan Sahib, is put in place and the flag pole is washed.

There are shared meals called Langar and celebrations with reverence, music and dance.

The processions during the festival which are commemorated by followers of the faith are known as ‘nagar kirtan’.

Five men in ceremonial dress lead a nagar kirtan to represent the Panj Pyare as performers, floats and drummers follow behind.

Is there a Vaisakhi festival in London?

The Sikh holiday will be celebrated with a free event on April 28 in Trafalgar Square, central London, with performances and cultural activities to be expected.

Traditional food and drinks will be available as well as fun children’s activities and Punjabi retail. 

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