Baisakhi is a harvest festival, a Punjabi new year festival, and commemoration of the founding of the Khalsa (Sikh religion brotherhood) all rolled into one occasion.
In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh (the 10th Sikh Guru) decided to discontinue the tradition of Gurus in Sikhism. He proclaimed the Granth Sahib (holy scripture) to be the eternal Sikh Guru. He then formed the order of the Khalsa by selecting five fearless leaders of his followers, who were prepared to lay down their lives to save others.
When is Baisakhi Celebrated?
April 13-14 every year.
Where is it Celebrated?
Throughout the state of Punjab, particularly in Amritsar.
How is it Celebrated?
Baisakhi is celebrated with a great deal of feasting, bhangra dancing, folk music, and fairs. The area surrounding the Golden Temple in Amritsar becomes carnival-like.
The Baisakhi fairs (melas) are organized all over Punjab, and are a festival highlight for many people. Locals dress up in their finest clothes, and sing and dance. There are races, wrestling bouts, acrobatics, and folk music. Numerous stalls selling trinkets, handicrafts, and food add to the color.
A Baisakhi Mela is usually held in the lead-up to the festival at Dilii Haat in Delhi.
What Rituals are Performed During Baisakhi?
In the morning, Sikhs visit the gurudwara (temple) to attend special payers. Most Sikhs strive to visit the revered Golden Temple in Amritsar or Anandpur Sahib, where the Khalsa was pronounced.
The Granth Sahib is bathed with milk and water, placed on a throne, and read. Karah prasad (sacred pudding made from butter, sugar and flour) is distributed.
In the afternoon, the Granth Sahib is taken out procession, accompanied by music, singing, chanting, and performances.
Sikhs also offer also kar serva by helping in the daily chores of the gurudwaras.
This is a traditional symbol of humanity for all Sikhs.
Stay at a Homestay to Experience Baisakhi
One of the best ways to get into the community spirit of the festival is to stay at a homestay and join in the celebrations with your hosts.
In Amritsar, recommended homestays include Virasat Haveli (it's located around 10 kilometers from the city and has a peaceful rural feel), Mrs. Bhandari's Guesthouse, and Amritsar Bed & Breakfast. Jugaadus Eco Hostel also has some affiliated homestays (or, alternatively, stay in one of their fun dorm rooms if you're a backpacker). The hostel organizes tours, including village visits.
Elsewhere in Punjab, try the luxury Citrus County farmstay or Deep Roots Retreat.