Vaisakhi (Punjabi: ਵਸਾਖੀ, vaisākhī, is, as well, known as Baisakhi), it is a very important day for Sikhs and one of the most colourful events in the Sikh calendar. It occurs during mid-April every year and traditionally concurs in Punjab with the first harvesting of the crops for the year. So, historically, it has been a very joyous occasion and a time for celebration. However, since 1699, it had marked the very significant religious event of the creation of the Khalsa.
By this time in 1699, Sikhs had already begun to develop their military tradition in the face of religious persecution by the Muslim rulers of India. However, it was on this day in 1699 that Sikhs took on the physical form that they are known for today. This includes the adoption of Sikhism’s articles of faith known as the Five Ks: kes – uncut hair (covered with a turban), kangha – comb, kara – steel bracelet, kirpan – sword, kaccha – long underwear. With the creation of the Khalsa order, an initiation ceremony known as Amrit Shakna was also formalized.
This event was a metamorphosis in the character of the Sikh religion and its people, and defines who we are today.
Sikhs across the United States have begun celebrating Vaisakhi this week. Several special occasions have also been coordinated to fall during Baisakhi to honor the significance to Sikhs on this day. While Gurdwaras have always been open to people of all faiths and backgrounds, Sikhs are making a concerted effort to reach out to the broader community.
San Jose, California: Sunday marked the opening of their newly expanded Gurdwara (Sikh house of worship):
In an event highlighting the influence and permanence of the Bay Area’s Sikh-American community, Governor Jerry Brown and other political leaders joined thousands of colorfully dressed Sikh-Americans who on Sunday (April 10, 2011) celebrated the opening of their greatly expanded gurdwara in the Evergreen Hills of San Jose, California, making it the nation’s largest gurdwara.
Let us hope that more than a few Sikhs at this event had a conversation with the Governor about Sikhs’ rights, and especially the case of Trilochan Singh Oberoi, for whom this Governor has not been supportive.
Sacramento, California: Also on Sunday, the Gurdwara in West Sacramento invited the media for a tour and educational session, which were then featured on local news programs. See a slideshow and videos from the TV news on local station News10, and additional videos provided by local station Fox40.
Espanola, New Mexico: Espanola is a hub for American converts to Sikhism, and they too have begun their Vaisakhi celebrations as well, as evidenced by the photos posted to Flickr by Gurumustuk Singh. Gurumustuk Singh is the founder of SikhNet, one of the major websites on Sikhism.
Syracuse, New York: The Sikh Foundation of Syracuse Gurdwara has included in their Vaisakhi celebrations a week-long series of articles in their local newspaper to introduce basic concepts of Sikhism to their community. You can read Rajinder Kaur Bains’ articles in the Post-Standard (a Central New York newspaper) here. The series will run through Saturday.
There certainly will be more Vaisakhi celebrations and commemorations across the country, which hopefully will be captured on this blog. Stay tuned!