Wish you Happy Baisakhi

History of Baisakhi

Baisakhi Day: March 30th, 1699

The Mughal Emperor,
Aurangzeb, installed himself as the Emperor of India in 1657. To achieve his
aim he had annihilated almost all his family opposition. Immediately after
consolidating his power he embarked on a policy of religious persecution and
set upon the process of Islamization of India. The Brahmins were his primary
target. He levied unethical religious taxes against Hindus, and shut their
temples and places of learning. He had been convinced by his clerics that once
the Brahmins accepted Islam the others would follow. The Brahmins, particularly
the inhabitants of Kashmir, looked for some dynamic leadership to fight this
Going to Battle!
Painting of Guru Teg Bahadhur ji

The Brahmins of
Kashmir approached Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675), the ninth in the line of
Sikh Gurus, who was on the throne of the Sikh religion. They asked him for
guidance on combatting the atrocities committed by the Mughal Emperor.

At the time of
their meeting, Guru Tegh Bahadur’s nine year old son, Gobind Rai, was sitting
beside him. As Guru Tegh Bahadur went into a deep state of contemplation, his
young son asked the reason of his repose. Guru Tegh Bahadur said that the
matter was of vital importance; the world is aggrieved by oppression; and no
brave man had yet come forward who was willing to sacrifice his life to free
the earth from the burden of’ Aurangzeb’s persecution of Hindus. Young Gobind
Rai replied: “For that purpose who is more worthy than thou who art at
once generous and brave.” So after entrusting the Guruship to Gobind
Rai, Guru Tegh Bahadur proceeded towards Delhi, the seat of the Mughal

Upon reaching Delhi, the
Guru and his loyal attendants were immediately imprisoned by Aurangzeb. While
in prison, Guru Tegh Bahadur foresaw the beginning of his ecclesiastic journey.
To test his son’s courage and capability to carry on the Guru’s mission, he
wrote him saying, “My strength is exhausted, I am in chains and I can make
not any efforts. Says Nanak, God alone is now my refuge. He will help me as He
did his Saints.” In reply young Guru Gobind Rai wrote: “I have
regained my Power, my bonds are broken and all options are open unto me. Nanak,
everything is in Thine hands. It is only Thou who can assist Thyself.”

Guru Teg Bahadur offered
his life for the freedom of conscience and conviction of anyone belonging to a
faith other than his own. His spirit of sacrifice and courage was kindled into
the heart of Gobind Rai.

Hundreds of people gathered
around the place where Guru Tegh Bahadur was martyred in Delhi. The executioner
abandoned the Guru’s body in the open. No one came forward openly to claim the
body to perform religious rites. Even ardent disciples withdrew unrecognized.
Taking advantage of the stormy weather that followed the execution, two persons
covertly took the body of Guru Tegh Bahadur for cremation. This cowardice
fomented in Gobind Rai an urge to endow his Sikhs with a distinct identity.

Guru Teg Bahadhur ji

With the criteria of
courage and strength to sacrifice, Gobind Rai became the tenth Sikh Guru. He
wanted to instill these principles in his downtrodden followers. He wanted to
uplift their morale to combat the evil forces of injustice, tyranny, and

He was 33 years old when he
had Divine inspiration to actuate his designs. Every year at the time of
Baisakhi (springtime), thousands of devotees would come to Anandpur to pay
their obeisance and seek the Guru’s blessings. In early 1699, months before
Baisakhi Day, Guru Gobind Rai sent special edicts to congregants far and wide
that that year the Baisakhi was going to be a unique affair. He asked them not
to cut any of their hair — to come with unshorn hair under their turbans and
chunis, and for the men to come with full beards.

On Baisakhi Day, March 30,
1699, hundreds of thousands of people gathered around his divine temporal seat
at Anandpur Sahib. The Guru addressed the congregants with a most stirring
oration on his divine mission of restoring their faith and preserving the Sikh
religion. After his
inspirational discourse, he flashed his unsheathed sword and said that every
great deed was preceded by equally great sacrifice: He demanded one head for
oblation. After some trepidation one person offered himself. The Guru took him
inside a tent. A little later he reappeared with his sword dripping with blood,
and asked for another head. One by one four more earnest devotees offered their
heads. Every time the Guru took a person inside the tent, he came out with a
bloodied sword in his hand.

Thinking their Guru to have
gone berserk, the congregants started to disperse. Then the Guru emerged with
all five men dressed piously in white. He baptized the five in a new and unique
ceremony called pahul, what Sikhs today know as the baptism ceremony
called Amrit. Then the Guru asked those five baptized Sikhs to baptize
him as well. He then proclaimed that the Panj Pyare — the Five Beloved
Ones — would be the embodiment of the Guru himself: “Where there are Panj
Pyare, there am I. When the Five meet, they are the holiest of the holy.”

He said whenever and
wherever five baptized (Amritdhari) Sikhs come together, the Guru would
be present. All those who receive Amrit from five baptized Sikhs will be
infused with the spirit of courage and strength to sacrifice. Thus with these
principles he established Panth Khalsa, the Order of the Pure Ones.

At the same time the Guru
gave his new Khalsa a unique, indisputable, and distinct identity. The Guru
gave the gift of bana, the distinctive Sikh clothing and headwear. He also
offered five emblems of purity and courage. These symbols, worn by all baptized
Sikhs of both sexes, are popularly known today as Five Ks: Kesh, unshorn
hair; Kangha, the wooden comb; Karra, the iron (or steel)
bracelet; Kirpan, the sword; and Kachera, the underwear. By being
identifiable, no Sikh could never hide behind cowardice again.

Baisakhi Day - Painting from a mural by Ed O'Brien 


Political tyranny was not
the only circumstance that was lowering peoples’ morale. Discriminatory class distinctions
(–the Indian “caste” system–) promoted by Brahmins and Mullahs were
also responsible for the peoples’ sense of degradation. The Guru wanted to
eliminate the anomalies caused by the caste system. The constitution of the Panj
was the living example of his dream: both the high and low castes
were amalgamated into one. Among the original Panj Pyare, there was one Khatri,
shopkeeper; one Jat, farmer; one Chhimba, calico printer/tailor;
one Ghumar, water-carrier; and one Nai, a barber. The Guru gave
the surname of Singh (Lion) to every Sikh and also took the name for
himself. From Guru Gobind Rai he became Guru Gobind Singh. He also pronounced
that all Sikh women embody royalty, and gave them the surname Kaur
(Princess). With the distinct Khalsa identity and consciousness of purity Guru
Gobind Singh gave all Sikhs the opporunity to live lives of courage, sacrifice,
and equality.

Painting of Guru Teg Bahadhur jiWish you Happy Baisakhi 2 

The birth of the Khalsa is
celebrated by Sikhs every Baisakhi Day on April 13. Baisakhi 1999 marks the
300th anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh’s gift of Panth Khalsa to all Sikhs
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