I always think that Gurpurbs are a wonderful opportunity to share about Sikhi and who we are with the people we work with and the wider community. Below is a short write about Vaisakhi that I shared at work. I found some nice things written on the Internet but nothing that totally satisfied me. So, I took some of the nice things from various articles, added some other things, and put it together. Most people don't want to read too much and are not interested in knowing the full detail, so it is an attempt to give a very brief perspective on what Vaisakhi is about and the key message of Vaisakhi. Please feel free to copy and use or adapt for schools, universities, workplace or local mainstream media. Happy Vaisakhi to everyone!
Happy Vaisaakhi to everyone!
Vaisaakh is the second month in the Sikh Calendar. This month coincides with April and May in the Gregorian or Julian calendar that are used in the West. Vaisaakhi, one of the high holidays on the Sikh calendar, takes place on the first of the lunar month of Vaisaakh, which falls usually 13th or 14th April each year. This year it falls on Monday 14th April, however celebrations take place throughout the whole month.
What is the Sikh festival of Vaisaakhi all about?
Historically a harvest festival in Panjab (northern India), Vaisaakhi also marks the day that in 1699, the “Khalsa” movement - a collective body of initiated Sikhs who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity - was inaugurated by the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
Initiated Sikhs take on a common name, “Singh” (meaning ‘lion’) for men and “Kaur” (meaning “Princess”) for women. Initiated Sikhs also commit to the maintaining a distinct identity and the five Sikh articles of faith or “kakkaars”.
On the Vaisaakhi of 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji formalized the call to all Sikhs to stand up against injustice, caste discrimination, sexism and oppression. Throughout the Khalsa, has helped the down trodden and fought against injustices, not only against Sikhs but other faiths and communities.
Although Sikhs are a minority in India, making up less than 2% of the total population, the Sikhs formed a sizeable portion of the Indian Voluntary Army that volunteered to fight, defend and sacrifice their lives for Europe and Britain’s freedom during both World Wars. Approximately quarter of a million Sikh men fought and died in these Wars, which illustrates the Khalsa’s philosophy and ethos. In this tradition, Vaisaakhi celebrations are an opportunity for Sikhs to revitalize their commitment to break down prejudice and hostility, and to join with others to work collaboratively towards healthier local and global communities.
Vaisaakhi celebrations are more than a celebration of the Khalsa movement; it is also celebration of community, friendship and generosity. Vaisaakhi celebrations include: large colourful processions in cities with large Sikh populations; display of Gatka (Sikh martial arts); setting up Langars (The Guru’s Holy Kitchens) inside and outside of Gurdwaras, which offer free vegetarian meals to the whole community irrespective of religion, colour or gender; and Keertan, sessions dedicated to singing joyful hymns from the Guru’s Holy Writings.