Baisakhi, also known as Vaisakhi marks the New Year for some and is a spring harvest festival celebrated in North India.
Baisakhi falls on 13 April and it commemorates the formation of the Khalsa Panth, under the leadership of Guru Gobind Singh Ji in the year 1699. It marks the beginning of the month of Vaisakha according to the ‘Nanakshahi Calendar”.
On Baisakhi, the Khalsa Sikh order was founded after which the Guru Teg Bahadur was persecuted and beheaded by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb when he refused to be converted to Islam. Following these events, in the year 1699, the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji laid the foundation of Panth Khalsa, by baptizing Sikh warriors to defend religious freedom.
A number of processions called Nagar Kirtan led by five Khalsas, dressed as Panj Pyaare passes across the streets in the wee hours of the morning. Devotees visit Gurudwaras to offer special prayers and a number of fairs are organised where festivities are observed with Bhangra and Gidda performances, folk songs, amusement rides and good food.
Hindus celebrate the descent of Goddess Ganga on Earth on this day. In her honour, devotees gather for a holy dip along the banks of the river Ganga.
Baisakhi marks the beginning of the solar calendar. On this day, the Sun enters the Mesh Rashi, the first one among the twelve zodiac signs. Therefore, this festival is also called as Mesh Sankranti. The other versions of Baisakhi are ‘Naba Barsha’ of Bengal, ‘Rongali Bihu’ of Assam, ‘Puthandu’ of Tamil Nadu, ‘Vaishakha’ of Bihar, and ‘Pooram Vishu’ of Kerala.
In Punjab and other parts of North India, Baisakhi marks the harvest of the rabi crops and farmers pay their tribute by thanking God for an abundant harvest, which is a symbol of prosperity.
Baisakhi and Jammu
The historic Baisakhi Mela or ‘Basoa’ as it is called in local parlance, is an annual event organised on the eve of first Baisakh, usually from 13 April to 15 April every year on the bank of holy Devika river in Udhampur. According to legends, Devika is considered to be the elder sister of Maa Ganga and it is believed that Lord Shiva, on the request of Rishi Kashyap, sent Mata Parvati to the earth to flow as river Devika and thus, rid the people of Madardesh (Duggar) of all their sins and afflictions. People believe that a single dip in the holy water of river Devika is enough to rid a person of his /her sins.
The Baisakhi Mela is also organised to mark the harvest of crops and thank God for this bounty.
Baisakhi Melas are also organised at ‘Baisakhi Dabbar’ at Barmeen, at Beni Sang in Chenani, Ramnagar, Mansar, and Jammu.
Dogras of Jammu celebrate 13th April as General Zorawar Singh Day. It is a Regimental Day. It is entered in the history of Jammu and Kashmir Rifles the erstwhile J and K State Forces which was raised in 1820 by Maharaja Gulab Singh as follows:
This day happens to coincide with Baisakhi and is celebrated in the memory of General Zorawar Singh who conquered Ladakh, Shakardu and a part of Tibet under Maharaja Gulab Singh and laid down his life at Tirathpuri (Mansarovar) while fighting against the Chinese in 1841.
Baisakhi and Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, one of the most brutal events in India’s history that resulted in the death of about 1,000 people, had occurred on the day of Baishakhi in the year 1919. British soldiers under Acting Brigadier Reginald Dyer had opened fire in front of a mass of innocent unarmed people in Jallianwala Bagh, an enclosed garden in Amritsar, Punjab. Many tried to escape the guns and jumped into a well, which was inside the garden, to their deaths. Since then, on this day people of India remember the lives of numerous people who died that day and those, who remained alive to recount the horror.
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