Vaisakhi
The 10 Masters
300 Years

Vaisakhi

Vaisakhi is perhaps the happiest and holiest day of the year for Sikhs in the United Kingdom and around the world. The day not only signifies the beginning of the Sikh New Year, it also commemorates the formation of the Khalsa Panth (nation) by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. That singular act gave Sikhs a collective identity and unity of purpose that remains intact to this day.

Vaisakhi is a festive occasion for Sikhs, and for other Punjabis, a day of celebration of beginning of the harvest season. In Amritsar Vaisakhi is a political, religious and social occasion. Sikhs gather before dawn and make their way to the Golden Temple, where they bathe in the sacred pool. These activities continue till late in the evening.

In addition to the revalation of the Khalsa Panth, many significant events have taken place on Vaisakhi. Since the time of Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh Guru, Sikhs had assembled to hear sermons from the Guru and make religious offerings. On Vaisakhi day in 1919. General Dyer of the British army ordered his men to open fire on hundreds of unarmed Sikhs and other Punjabis who had assembled at Amritsar in the Jallianwala Bagh. However, the day is most significant for Sikhs because of what occurred on that day in 1699. That was the day Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last guru, radically changed the face of Sikhism.

Facing violent opposition from Hindu and Muslim neighbours, Sikhs had been unable to effectively spread their message across Asia until the birth of Guru Gobind Singh. Although earlier Gurus had travelled great distances in order to spread the message, Sikhism, for the most part, remained in the Punjab.

Guru Gobind Singh, aware that two Gurus had previously been tortured and killed, called on the Sikh community to defend itself and the weak from their oppressors. This movement was an effort to redefine Sikhism as a military and political force. At the same time, Guru Gobind Singh re-enforced Guru Nanaks's tenets of equality and the morality of hard work.

On Vaisakhi day, 1699 thousands of people of all backgrounds gathered at Anandpur to honour the call from Guru Gobind Singh. He spoke of the dangerous times they lived in and of a plan to strengthen the community of saints. Standing with sword in hand, the Guru asked which Sikh in the congregation was willing to sacrifice his life for his faith. No one stepped forward at first, but eventually one man came forward and was led into a Guru's tent. Moments later, Guru Gobind Singh returned carrying a bloody sword. He asked the same question again. Another man came forward and this scene repeated itself three more times.

A short while later, the Guru walked out of the tent with the five men (Panj Pyaras) who were willing to offer their lives to dharma, their religion. The Five Beloved Ones were given amrit ( nectar made from water and sugar crystals prepared in an iron bowl with double-edged sword) and became the first five members initiated into the Khalsa, or the "Order of the Pure': Guru Gobind Singh then received initiation from the five beloved ones, thus erasing all distinctions between Guru and the Sikhs. Bhai Gurdas Ji writes: "Blessed is Guru Gobind Singh, Guru and disciple in one.

After the Guru's initiation, 80,000 people of all backgrounds and castes were initiated in the same manner. After the call for initiation into the Khalsa, the Guru asked the people to unite and shed all superstitions of caste, birth and idol worship and believe in nothing but One God. They were to act as one and defend their faith. All Sikh males were to take the title Singh (lion) while all Sikh females were to take the title Kaur (princess).


Guru Gobind Singh declared there would be no Guru in human form after him; instead, he ordained that Adi-Granth (the scrptures compiled by Guru Arjan Dev) would be the only Guru of the Sikhs. Sikhs would seek guidance from the teachings contained in the Adi Granth which would be referred as to Guru Granth Sahib. He added that all major political decisions would be made by the Khalsa Panth in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib; such decisions, known as gurmata, would be acceptable to everyone. He introduced a spirit of equality to a country ridden with caste, sex and religious prejudice.

 

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The 10 Masters
300 Years

 

 
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