Happy Belated Vaisakhi - 13th April 2020
Vaisakhi is a part of my history which I am relearning as an adult and hope that one day I too will have the courage to wear a turban and represent my faith. Happy Vaisakhi to everyone, from all backgrounds, who are fighting social injustices!
On 13th April 1699 the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji inaugurated the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. This day is known as Vaisakhi. Led by the Panj Payare (5 loved ones) the Khalsa was created to fight oppression, uphold freedom and basic rights for all people. That day and for the first time, the Panj Payare baptised thousands of Sikhs including Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself. At a gathering Guru Ji asked for 5 individuals to sacrifice themselves for the cause. He led the first into a tent and returned alone with a bloodied sword, and asked for another and another. Much to the surprise of the crowd, Guru Ji later presented the Panj Payare to the crowd alive. They were:
Bhai (brother) Daya (empathy) Singh Ji
Bhai Dharam (justice) Singh Ji
Bhai Himmat (courage) Singh Ji
Bhai Mokham (commitment) Singh Ji
Bhai Sahib (sovereign) Singh Ji
In the face of continued persecution at the hands of the rulers of India, this was the merging of spiritual practices in an already established Sikh faith with militarisation. From this day, Sikhs would be known as the warrior race and were given a uniform and were to observe the 5 Ks. Sikhs continued to defend India and rose up against social injustices committed by Ottoman, Moghul, and Pasthun empires and also fought the British for Independence during occupation.
Vaisakhi is celebrated through meditation and prayer, sharing of vegetarian food throughout inter-faith communities, and by taking part in a Nagar Kirtan (procession), from one Gurdwara (Sikh temple) to another. It is the main event in the Sikh calendar.
The 5 Ks:
Kesh - keeping uncut hair and wearing a turban for men and women. A fearsome and undeniable outward expression of identity, at a time when Sikhs were being hunted and killed.
Kanga - keeping a comb for regular hygiene during a time where water and basic amenities were scarce.
Kirpan - carrying a full length sword for defending oneself/others, never to be used in instigating combat. You may see baptised Sikhs wearing a small symbolic version of this today.
Kara - wearing a bracelet made from the cheapest steel to be used as a weapon.
Kachera - wearing an undergarment designed for hygiene and freedom of movement during battle.
Also on this day is the celebration of harvest in Punjab, and the infamous 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre of Sikhs when acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered his British Indian Army troops to barricade in and open fire on an unarmed congregation of men, women and children killing 379 and wounding thousands.