Vaisakhi: The Story
Vaisakhi is celebrated with reverence, music and dance.
This year it falls on the 14th of April. The Sikhs celebrate this festival as a collective birthday of the “Khalsa Brotherhood” which was created by Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, in the year 1699. In Punjabi culture, Vaisakhi also marks the harvest time.
Here is the story.
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of Sikh’s, called together a huge crowd of over 50,000 Sikhs to join him for a meeting on Vaisakhi Day, in 1699. When all were expecting to hear words of comfort from the lips of their Guru, they were surprised to see him with a drawn sword in his hand, announcing:
‘I want a head.’
There was a big silence, but the Guru went on repeating his demand. Twice more the Guru issued his invitation to the crowd. Then one man, Dya Ram, a khatri from Lahore, came forward. Guru Gobind Singh took him into his tent. After a while he came out by himself and in his hand was a sword covered in blood! The crowd gasped and started to disperse.
Then the Guru asked again and amazingly another man, Dharam Das, a Jat from Delhi, stepped forward and went into the tent with the Guru. Yet again the Guru came out of the tent alone, with blood on his sword. The Guru asked for another volunteer,and Mokham Chand – a washer man from Dwarka, stepped forward and went into the tent similarly followed by Sahib Chand – a barber from Bidar. Finally when a fifth man, Himmat Rai – a water carrier of Puri, stepped forward and went into the tent with the Guru, the crowd wondered how many more men must die.
But this time to everyone’s joy, the Guru came out of the tent with his sword and the five men walking behind him, still alive!
‘This was a test,’ the Guru explained, ‘to see who has faith in their Guru”.After dressing the five in handsome clothes, the Guru declared that they were the “Panj Piaras” or his “Five Beloved”. Coming from different Hindu castes, they became the first members of the new “Khalsa Order” and he gave them the last name of “Singh” while the women were called “Kaurs” meaning “princess”.
The Guru then put water in a steel bowl to which Mata Sundri, his wife, adding some sugar. While saying his prayers he stirred the water (amrit) with a short steel sword (symbolizing strength) and sprinkled it over the five in a simple initiation. The purpose of adding sugar to the water while stirring with a sword is to remind the Khalsa that strength must always be balanced by a sweetness of temperament.
The Guru then asked the Five Beloved’s to now initiate him in the same way as he had done, so that he too could become a member of the Khalsa Panth, with the words:
“The Khalsa is the Guru, the Guru is the Khalsa”
That day amrit was given to thousands of people in the crowd who committed to believe in One God and treat all people as equal.
All Sikhs were ordained to wear five distinctive symbols of their new identity:
- Kes – Uncut hair – Uncut hair and beard, as given by God. To sustain him or her. The turban is like a crown of spirituality.
- Kanga – A small comb in the hair, a reminder of the importance of cleanliness
- Kara – A steel bracelet, a reminder of a link to God and godly ideals – The wristband is a sign of restraint. A simple band, it indicates that the wearer is a devotee of the Guru, and reminds the wearer to hold to the truth and be free of material things.
- Kirpan – A sword for self-defense and the protection of the weak – The sword is an emblem of courage and defence. The Khalsa is committed to defend the fine line of truth.
- Kaccha – A modest and specially designed cotton undergarment – A modest and specially designed cotton undergarment.
- Kanga – A wooden comb to properly groom the hair as a symbol of cleanliness
From this time on, people have gathered in Gurudwaras (temples) on Vaisakhi Day.
A new Sikh flag, Nishaan Sahib, is put in place and the flag pole washed. There are shared meals called Langar and celebrations. Sikhs have their own holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. Written, composed, and compiled by the Sikh Gurus themselves, the Guru Granth Sahib serves as the ultimate source of spiritual guidance for Sikhs. Men and women can both be initiated into the Khalsa. A baptized Sikh must observe and follow a strict code of conduct, as a sign of their commitment to follow the Sikh way of life. They must:
- Worship only one God
- Recite five prescribed prayers “banis” (hymns) everyday
- Read the Guru Granth Sahib
- Wear and observe the significance of five Ks
- Live a truthful life and treat all humans as equal
- Abstain from intoxicants and halal meat
- Maintain a high moral standard
Click to Enlarge – A young Sikh becomes Khalsa as he takes Amrit administered by Nihangs during Hola Mohalla in Anandpur Sahib Pic courtesy: Nick Fleming
Click to Enlarge – The Sikh Symbol “The Kanda”
The reason why Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa was to instill in the people, qualities of courage, self respect and confidence, for during the tyrant Mughal rule, the people had turned into submissive cowards. By giving them the gift of the Khalsa Rehat, he ensured that a Sikh would always fight for the weak against tyranny and injustice.
Think about what we are devoted to. What would we give for it? Is it worth being devoted to? Will it bring happiness? Will it last? Will it help people?
Adapted from www.creni.org