Importance of Baisakhi

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Importance of Baisakhi
an article by Justice Anup Singh Choudry


Baisakhi is the celebration of the birth of Khalsa – a new nation – the panth. The Sikhs are the only people who celebrate their birthday because they were born on that day as a new nation. There is hardly any group in the world that can boast such a privilege.

Each year on the 13th or 14th April applying the Nanakshahi calendar, Baisakhi is celebrated across the globe wherever there are Sikh people. They are reminded of the great baptismal ceremony of 13th April 1699 when the first five Sikhs were initiated into the Khalsa Order and became the members of the new Khalsa nation. Thereafter any followers of the ten Gurus and the Granth Sahib were mandated to wear the five obligatory symbols or Kakars as subscribing to this new creed.

Why create a new Panth?

Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru initiated the five Sikhs who in turn baptised the Guru. Thus distinction between the Guru and disciple was fused and the Guru undoubtedly became the father of the Khalsa nation. Mata Sahib Kaur who was the plutonic wife of the 10th Guru and spiritual mother of the Khalsa partook in the preparation of Amrit (baptismal water) by rendering it the sweetness and ensuring gender equality in the ceremony.

The Baisakhi celebrations always end by marking the great historic ceremony but no one has paused to ask why this new nation was created and its purpose. This article examines these issues:

There was a span of continuous period of 230 years from the time of Guru Nanak to the last and tenth Guru. During that period the ten Sikh Gurus or prophets gave us their message, teachings and philosophy. After the ten Guru there was need to protect the teachings and philosophy that was imparted over the past couple of centuries and its safe keeping, custody and propagation.

The creation of Khalsa nation gave rise to 3 important aspects of Sikhism namely the Khalsa civilisation; the Sikh form and the manner of implementing the philosophy of Guru Nanak as prescribed – Shabad surat abyass:


ਸ੝ਰਤਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰ੝ ਤਰੀਝ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮ੝ ਵਖਾਣੇ ॥
Suraṯ sabaḝ bẖav sĝgar ṯarī▫ai Nĝnak nĝm vakẖĝṇe.


By Surat-Shabad do thou cross the ocean of phenomena

By uttering His Nam, O Nanak


The mission of Guru Nanak was achieved after the sacrifices of the Gurus, sacrifice by the four boys – sons of Guru Gobind Singh and numerous sacrifices by shahid Singhs. These three aspects encompassed and protected all that was achieved during the 230 years.

The Sikh form

By getting initiated into the Khalsa order and taking Amrit, the faithful were given the form of their Gurus – Sabat surat dastar. The duality in spirituality between the Master and disciple (Chela) is observed when the disciple adheres to the Master’s teachings and discipline. The Sikh Gurus exceeded this relationship by giving their followers to adopt their form.

Khalsa is my form.
In the Khalsa do I reside (Guru Gobind Singh)

This form instantly gives recognition of a Sikh all over the world. It is in line with the Guru’s edict that ‘His Sikh will be recognized amongst a thousand others’ otherwise he is not a Sikh.

The significance of long hair as required by Guru Nanak had direct bearing on his philosophy that was to be practised. When the Siddhs succumbed to the Guru’s feet at Sumer Parbat, (in the peak of Himalayas, now on the Chinese side) the head of a Tibetan sect who followed the Siddhs switched his allegiance in favour of Guru Nanak. But the Guru required him to respect his hair. Thereafter the followers of that Tibetan clan continue to wear long hair to this day. Some of them come down to Darbar Sahib in Amritsar. And Mardana was required to adhere to this practice unconditionally.

The hair act as antennas when one strives towards God realisation which is the ultimate aim of a Sikh. Contrast this to Buddhism where the adherents of that faith aspire for self-realisation. Hence they need to be clean shaved to suppress their ego or looks. Thus a Sikh’s form is compatible with the philosophy he embarked on.

Khalsa Civilisation

Any nation needs systems to run and function. Thus the 230 years of teachings were consolidated and translated into a system we now call Sikhism or Sikh/Khalsa civilisation. The whole world is based on one or the other civilisations. Globally the world follows Judo/Christian civilisation, Communism, Islamic civilisation or Buddhist civilisations. Each civilisation is different in terms of its fundamental principles namely spiritual; political, economic, social or cultural which are essential ingredients to constitute or define a civilisation.

Khalsa civilisation is unique and can be distinguished as follows:

Spiritual

In the House of Nanak subscribe only to the WORD.
Nank ke kar kewal naam.

On baptismal ceremony the fusion of the Guru and disciple meant that they all became worshippers of the WORD-Shabad. Hence the Adi Granth, scriptures of the Sikhs which embraces the WORD of God was bestowed with the honour of living Guru for all times to come. This is different form of belief and practice from other civilisations. And every aspect of Sikh life is based on the concept of the Almighty creator. The direct belief in the creator through His Word disables any room for the worship of gods, idols, animals, or human beings.

Political

The Khalsa civilisation believes that religion and politics are inseparable. Thus the Darbar Sahib and the Akal Takhat Sahib are built opposite each other. This is a glaring reminder of the principle that for the freedom of spiritual practice, a political system has to be righteous. Conversely without fear of the God righteousness may not prevail in politics.

The Khanda with the spiritual and temporal sword is another reminder of this principle that politics and religion go hand in hand. But the spiritual standard flies above the temporal standard hoisted outside Akal Takhat Sahib. It gives a vivid reminder that the spiritual is sovereign than the temporal. It consolidates the belief of Sikh civilisation that the social values and principles emanate from spiritual principles and not vice versa.

For example our greeting Sat Sri Akal or God is truth is a spiritual greeting but regulates social conduct in that our dealings with whoever you encounter have to be civil as we are all children of god. And the greeting is a reminder of that social etiquette. And same applies to wedding ceremony where the metaphor of bride (soul) and bridegroom (God) is used in the four lavans or wedding hymns to give effect to a social ceremony of marriage but embedded in the spiritual belief of one God and Creator so that the union of marriage is the union of two souls who become the bride and must love the bridegroom (Creator) in their married life without which the marriage is not complete.

Social

The Khalsa civilisation believes in the equality of mankind. In adopting this principle there is no room for racism or discrimination making racism a redundant concept in our the Sikh way of life.

The institutions inter alia of langar, sewa, dasvandh, charity to donate 10% of your income, demonstrates the equality of men and women and all the people irrespective of their creed, race, colour, religion , nationality or language.

Economics

Both capitalism and socialism are at variance with Sikh civilisation that believes in honest day’s bread for an honest day’s living but additionally requires fair and equitable distribution of all wealth and resources so that nobody is disadvantaged. In capitalism it is all mine. In socialism what is mine is yours (the state) but in Khalsa civilisation what is mine is ours (the people).

Cultural

This gives us our daily way of life that is our language, greetings, music, script, arts, dance and manner of prayers, festivals such as gurpurabs, baisakhi and holla Mahala.

Khalsa civilisation is unique and has no match with other civilisations. The creation of Khalsa nation on the baisakhi day gave a new vibrant civilisation to the world which is the way forward in the 21st century if the world is to ensure community cohesion, inclusiveness, respect and dignity for all the peoples of the world.

Philosophy

The 230 years of teachings by the Gurus gave us a new monotheistic belief for the first time in the Asian continent. This was from an indigenous faith in that part of the world. This philosophical belief was not to be wasted and its implementation needed a process. Philosophy and acceptance thereof is one thing but implementing it in practice is another. And for those who embark on the teachings of Guru Nana know full well that it is a path of practice and strict discipline. On partaking Amrit, the Guru gives irrevocable blessing to his Sikh who is then put on the ‘Sikhism’s Highway’ with the Guru being the Guide. For a Sikh the destination on this Highway is to reach the fourth station or realm or the sach khand – the kingdom of God – in order to enjoy the bliss of sahaj that is sahaj avsta. And it is arduous spiritual journey but he Guru is there to guide and protect.

By meeting Satguru shalt thou go beyond trikuti into the fourth realm And find salvation –(p33 SGGS)


In the three guna (qualities).
Sahj cannot be attained.
For in delusion are the three gunas.
In the fourth realm is sahaj.
And the devotee of the Guru alone gets it. (p68 SGGS)

It is therefore foolhardy to suggest that one can practice Guru Nanak’s mandate without taking Amrit.

Conclusion

If the Khalsa nation had not been created the work done for 230 years would have been dissipated and at the most the followers of the Gurus would have been dubbed Nanak panthis similar to Kabir panthis. The message of the Gurus would have been lost. And Nanak would have become another object of worship. The Sikhs would have been prey to pseudo Gurus.

At the time of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru, there were 21 imposters claiming to inherit the throne of Guru Nanak. What would have happened in the period after the Gurus is unimaginable. This scenario is evidenced by the fact that even today some non-practicing Sikhs have gone astray and adopted fake Gurus and others digressed almost into idol worship when they are seen keeping the idols of some Hindu deities in their homes and forfeiting their faith in gurbani – Bani is Guru and the Guru is Bani.

On the joyous occasion of celebrating Baisakhi, Sikhs have all the good reasons to feel elevated and proud because it reminds them of the historic occasion when the new Khalsa civilization was created that gave them their way of life which they enjoy today; that the Guru honoured them with his form and they were blessed to practice the philosophy of Naam undiluted.

See also