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Festival of the month: Baisakhi

Golden Temple at sunset
Image courtesy: ©MasterLu/Getty Images

No visitor to Punjab can escape the heady sense of magic that pervades the air as the calendar (13th April 2017) brings in the Baisakhi festival. The day unveils a celebration that is an intoxicating mix of boisterous fun and religious fervour.

Celebrated as the Sikh New Year, it was on this day in 1699 that the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, formed the Khalsa Panth, the brotherhood of saint soldiers. Commemorating this day, festivities all across Punjab, and especially in the city of Amritsar, are particularly grand.

Hope & happiness

As the morning rays of the sun light up the majestic dome of the Golden Temple, you will see devotees assemble to partake in the special prayers. The mood is serene and somber as everyone prays for abundance of joy, happiness and prosperity. A specialty of the festival is not just the delectable ‘karha prasad’ made of sweetened semolina that’s given out by the temple priests, but also the ‘langar’ (community dining) – something that no visitor (to any gurudwara) must miss.

And then it will be time for a procession led by the Panj Pyaras (Five Beloveds) in which the Sikh Holy Book, Guru Granth Sahib, is taken out through all the major localities of the city. Shutterbugs are sure to be fascinated by the riot of colour and the zestful energy of the participants as they indulge in not just mock duels but also joyous dancing and singing.

Village vignettes

While such a procession is an integral part of every city that has a sizeable Sikh population, do visit any of the state’s villages to participate in the celebrations of the farming community as it celebrates a good harvest. Fairs are organised and joyous cries of ‘Jatta ayee Baisakhi’ rent the air.  Watch handsome Punjabi men do the bhangra folk dance to the rhythmic loud sounds of music amid much laughter and merrymaking. You are sure to be charmed by their simple steps – the acts of sowing, harvesting, winnowing and gathering of crops, all expressed through their boisterous yet rhythmic movements. The women too get to show their dancing prowess with the lively Gidda – as they sway to humorous songs that evoke much laughter among onlookers. Also look out for wrestling bouts and other fun-filled competitions.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Life's come full circle for Purnima, who started out as a travel journalist. And now, after more than 20 years in mainstream journalism, she is once again packing her bags and putting on her travelling boots to pursue her first love.