The festival is celebrated on April 13 every year and on April 14 once in 36 years. On this day, the sun enters Mesh (Aries) sun sign and hence it is also called as ‘Mesha Sankranti’. The day is celebrated across India with different names and rituals such as Pahela Baishakh (Bengali New Year), Bihu (Assamese New Year), Kerala (Vishu) and Puthandu (Tamil New Year). This year it is celebrated on April 14.
The word is derived from ‘Baisakh’, which is the second month of the Sikh calendar (Nanakshahi calendar). It signifies a new year of harvest for the community.
The festival is primarily a thanksgiving day when farmers pay tribute to their deity for the harvest and pray for prosperity in future.
Sikhs follow a tradition named Aawat Pauni on Vaisakhi. People gather to harvest wheat that grew in the winter. Drums are played and people recite Punjabi Doha (couplet) to the tune while harvesting on Baisakhi day.
Baisakhi also marks the birth of Khalsa, the collective body of all initiated Sikhs, also called the “Guru Panth”– the embodiment of the Guru. On March 30 in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh gathered his followers at his home in Anandpur Sahib, a city which is now home to several Gurdwaras. At this gathering, Khalsa was inaugurated.
The five ‘K’s are the five principles of life that are to be followed by a true Khalsa. These include ‘Kesh’ or hair, which implies to leave the hair uncut to show acceptance towards the form that God intended humans to be in; ‘Kangha’ or wooden comb, as a symbol of cleanliness; the third of the marks of being a Sikh pronounced on Baisakhi day was ‘Kara’ or iron bracelet, as a mark to remind a Khalsa of self-restraint; ‘Kacchera’ or knee-length shorts, to be worn by a Khalsa for always being ready to enter battle on horseback; and ‘Kirpan’, a sword to defend oneself and the poor, the weak and the oppressed from all religions, castes and creeds.
The festival of Baisakhi is celebrated amongst farmers as the festival of harvest. The month of April is considered as the harvesting time for the Rabi Crops, the crops which are sown during winter seasons.
Since the photoperiod becomes larger, the short day plants start to flower and give fruits and grains, which are now ready to be harvested. Therefore, the farmers gear up in their fields and start harvesting the crops.