Festival facts: Baisakhi

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By Louise Tellamteacher and freelance writer

Explore the origins of Sikhism and the founding of the Khalsa

baisakhi2

What is Baisakhi?

Introduced by the third Sikh Guru, Amar Das (1479-1574), this was originally a celebration of the New Year for some Hindus, but the Guru set it aside as one of two annual Sikh festivals. Following the founding of the Khalsa (the brotherhood of Sikhs) in 1699, Sikhs also began to celebrate the anniversary of this event at this time. Because of the month of year in which it falls, Vaisakh, this festival is sometimes called Vaisakhi. This year Baisakhi falls on 14 April.

Why is Baisakhi celebrated?

On Baisakhi Day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and final living Guru, called a meeting of all Sikhs across India, at Anandpur. Throughout their history, the peaceable Sikhs had often been fiercely opposed, physically attacked and killed. The Guru sought to unite all Sikhs in a movement to help them draw strength from each other in the face of opposition and be prepared to fight – even die – defending their faith, if necessary. Following what some people describe as a miraculous event, the brotherhood of the Khalsa was formed. Five men from a range of backgrounds, who became known as the Panj Pyares, demonstrated through their courage, their devotion to their faith. They were baptised into the brotherhood in a sacred ceremony and given five signs of their faith, known as the five Ks, to outwardly show their commitment. While those belonging to the Khalsa are now a minority among Sikhs, many Sikhs follow the principles that the brotherhood are committed to uphold. Baisakhi celebrates the origins and principles of the Khalsa.

Versions of this traditional story for children, together with details of the five Ks, can be found in A Tapestry of Tales by Sandra Palmer and Elizabeth Breuilly (Collins Educational) and Festivals Together by S Fitzjohn, M Weston and J Large (Hawthorn Press).

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