By Paguman Singh | OPINION |
Baisakhi, a festival with cultural roots, acquired greater significance in 1469 with the birth in Rai Bhoi Ki Talvandi of a universal humanist, philosopher with an enlightened spirit.
Guru Nanak’s appearance on the Punjab scene saw the beginning of a religion based on intellectual actions leading to realization of the Creator within. It laid the foundation of human actions which removed barriers, embracing the whole of humanity in a love hug with care and concern of the welfare of all. Individual egoism had to exit the human mind to allow the greater self to manifest itself in humans. The inner realization and enlightenment desired and searched for by ritualistic performances are but a gift received by, Gurparsad, grace of the Creator.
The Baisakhi dance that was performed with such vibrance and marked the economic joys of the community took a new form where the dance fervour was channeled into measured steps of virtuous actions filled with kindness and respect of all religious fellows. Discrimination drowned in the praises of the almighty Creator and the songs of joy turned into songs of vibrating homage to the Creator. The rich harvest that motivated and influenced the celebration now became an asset to feed the hungry and needy and gave birth to the “Langgar” that has given the Sikhs recognition worldwide for their care, generosity and practice of equality.
The celebration became an annual gathering of the Sikhs from the time of Guru Amar Das and continues to be so till the present day. Sikhs gathered annually on Baisakhi (also spelt Vaisakhi) during the times of the Gurus to seek guidance, blessings and spiritual understanding and enlightenment.
Missionary work was also planned with the gathering of the Sikhs and a brotherhood experienced. This brotherhood was of Sikhs from all parts of the geographical area visited by Guru Nanak in his udasis. The Sikhs were from Afghanistan, hill regions of Pakistan, Nepal, Bengal and other states of the present-day India. It was a gathering of diverse nationalities, persons with different features, skin tones and even different languages but all enlightened in spirit.
Over the years, the Baisakhi gatherings united the Sikhs into a strong force that stood for righteousness and support of the socially discarded and disadvantaged. The growth of the nirmal (pure and sublime natured) Panth established by Guru Nanak received recognition in the writings of the rulers, who began to develop a fear as Sikhs who lived honestly, supported the weak and stood up against injustice.
Baisakhi in 1699 historically had a special significance as Guru Gobind Singh had sent hukum namas to all Sikh sangats to gather in Anandpur. The journey that began in Kartarpur, the abode of the Creator, was leading to and to receive the crown of blissful living Anandpur. Guru Ji brought the spiritual journey breaking the wall of falsehood to reveal the Sachiar, in line with Guru Nanak’s vision.
In Gurdwaras, the sangat will be retold the history of the day focusing on emotions of faith and unshaken and unquestionable belief. In the cases of the believers it has the touch that brings the joy and annual refresher. However, the rest feel that they have heard it all many times over but partake in the celebration. A different angle to the happenings of the day may touch our intellectual minds and Baisakhi could be seen with a difference.
Baisakhi is a day of celebrating a commitment, where according to the call of Guru Nanak, (not Guru Gobind Singh Ji):
ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥
ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ॥੨੦॥
If you want to play the game of pure spiritual love then come with your head on the palm (SGGS, 1412)
The head on the palm is not a physical removal of the head, as if it were it would contradict Japji Sahib, pauri 33, ਜੋਰੁ ਨ ਜੀਵਿਣ ਮਰਿਣ ਨਹ ਜੋਰ (jor na jivan maran nah jor) and directly affect the most important principle of ਹੁਕਿਮ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਆ ਨਾਿਲ (Hukum Raji Chalna). The requirement to join the Sikh Panth is the commitment of removing one’s individuality to be assimilated into the spirituality reality and live an enlightened life of Creator consciousness.
Baisakhi 1699 is special as Guru Gobind Singh Ji sent out hukum namas inviting Sikhs from all over the known geographical areas where sangats resided to Anandpur. Let us now witness the wonderous commitment. Sikhs travelled by all forms of transport of the times (not planes, trains, cars, trucks, or any other motorized transport) to Anandpur. Each individual or groups travelling for days over all kinds of terrain taking on the challenge to reach Anandpur answering the Guru’s call. History tells us 80,000 came and arrived even 14 days before Baisakhi.
Guru Gobind Singh, the spiritual master, was also the greatest management guru. Imagine preparing for the largest gathering of that period where political and religious stability was fragile. The watchful eyes and ears of the Mughal rulers and the hill rajas spread fear but the Sikh Commitment to the Guru drowned all other matters. Tents, langar, other facilities for daily needs, security and events were meticulously prepared to ensure comfort for all the Sikhs. This management in itself was done with such military precision we find no historical records of any problem during this period at Anandpur.
On Baisakhi day 30 March 1699, before the 14-day adjustment of the Gregorian calendar, corresponding to 14 April Nanakshi calendar, a spring atmosphere with early sunrise and late sunset begins a historic day. The cool morning hears the ring of a voice which echoes within the hearts of the beloved Sikhs. It touches the inner soul and awakens it to step forward to walk the path of spiritual love. The Amrit that had laid latent as Gurbani recitation in the minds of the Sikhs was to be drawn out to transform the commitment towards a life of Creator Conscious living. Removing even the slightest difference of caste, color of any other form of discrimination within the minds of the Sikhs. This cleansing was to reveal the pure or Khalas individual and collectively the Khalsa.
The internal commitment needed to be protected and supported with an external shell. As the skin protects the body so the inner strengths are safeguarded for life so do the articles of faith received on Baisakhi protect and strength the commitment and resolve to remain on the path of spiritual love gifted by Guru Nanak.
5Ks: ARTICLES OF FAITH
The Kesh is but an acceptance of the Hukum as it is part of the body received from the Creator as the vehicle or vessel in which the Creator resides. The Creator owns it as it has life as long as he resides within it. Hence, the first Commitment is the acceptance of the gifted body as the vehicle to travel on the path of spiritual love. The CPU of the body is the mind which has created the illusion of separation from the inner spiritual greatness. The Khanga is the commitment to cleanse the mind with daily Bani contemplation keeping the vehicle body on the love track. The Kara is the commitment to remain attached to the Creator, realizing he is everywhere and to live within his Hukum or will. The Keshara is a shield providing self-respect and protection from slipping away from the virtuous tract of spiritual love. Kirpan guides the spirit to receive and provide grace and respect of all other human beings while standing firm in the commitment of love the creator love his creation.
The mere wearing of the articles of faith does not ensure the strength to walk the path of love. It is the commitment, strengthened by Amrit Bani being drawn from the inner self and guided by the articles of faith that leads to spiritual realization. This removes hate, discrimination, judgement of others and all the negative qualities and replaces them with the positive energies of the Path of Love.
May we all be blessed to be guided by Guru Granth Sahib Ji and by the gurparsad realize the Amrit in all our inner selves and dance, sing and enjoy in celebrating Baisakhi in line with Prem Di Kheal.
Paguman Singh, a retired senior official of a Malaysian-based social security organisation, has been involved in Sikhi parchaar for more than three decades. He now resides in New Zealand.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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