April 14 is the first day of the month of Vesākh. I send my heartiest congratulations to every Sikh who celebrates this day for its two special and significant events (refer to point #15 in the notes below).
1. There was a time when Sikhs erroneously thought that Vesākhi was a Sikh New Year.
2. Then in 1999, the Sikh religious community, guided by research done by Pal Singh Purewal, who came up with the Mool Nānakshāhi Calendar, started celebrating Sikh New Year in the middle of March.
3. The Goru/Guru never introduced a new year for Sikhs. This is a latter day creation of the Sikh polity.
4. Panjābis (in carhdā Panjāb, lahendā Panjāb, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, etc) generally welcome Vesākhi [also spelt Vaisakhi] with a bit of joy because it is time to harvest their most important produce of the year: wheat.
5. Wheat is normally harvested between end of March and end of April.
6. The harvested wheat is sold to middlemen and the income is used to pay off debts, buy new things for home and family members, and increase savings, among others.
7. For the middleman, meanwhile, Vesākhi means the opening of a new ledger. In modern times we call this new financial year.
8. The image often portrayed among Sikhs about Vesākhi is that of a group of dancers in their colourful costumes, turbans and scarfs jumping in the air with joyous and celebratory mood at the beat of the drum with the background of wheat fields.
9. That image is incorrect. No one in Panjāb does that. No one dances bhangrha. No one dances giddhā. It is once again a latter day creation; the outcome of creativity of the performing arts industry.
10. In Panjāb, that bit of joy at the arrival of harvesting season is manifested when farmers cut a few stalks of the ripe wheat and offer thanksgiving supplication to god/gods (depending on the religion or spiritual beliefs of the farmers) for a bountiful harvest.
11. Vesākhi is a term used in reference to April 14 when the month of Vesākh begins.
12. Since the implementation of the Mool Nānakshāhi Calendar in 1999, Vesākh is treated as the second month in the Sikh calendar.
13. The first month is Cheit which begins around March 14. In the compositions of Goru Nānak and Goru Arjon (the 5th Goru Nānak), both compositions go by the same name and are called Bārah Māhā, the month of Cheit gets the first place mention.
14. The first day of the month of Vesākh (Peheli Vesākh) carries two very important religious events.
15. The first is the birth of Goru Nānak on April 14, 1469. The second is the finalisation of the Sikh identity, i.e., a sovereign religio-socio-politico identity which came to be known as Khālsā (Khaalsaa or Khalsa) on April 14, 1699 by Goru Gōbind Singh (the 10th Goru Nānak).
16. Etymologically, the word Khālsā has origins in two distinct languages: Sanskrit and Arabic.
17. Khālsā means pure in Sanskrit etymology. Khālsā means sovereign in Arabic etymology.
18. The latter meaning which is based on the Arabic etymology better reflects the ideal, intention and intuition of Goru Gōbind Singh in finalising the Sikh identity.
19. Only a tiny minority of Sikhs accept and celebrate April 14 as the date of Goru Nānak’s birthday. Most Sikhs continue to celebrate it either in October or November for reasons best known to them.
20. A last note on Vesākhi. Its religious significance (mentioned in point #15) far outweighs the erroneous notion that this day is a day of harvest festival. There is no harvest festival in Panjāb and neither is there any grand-scale festivitIes linked to harvesting activity.
On Goru Nānak: Satgor Nānak pragtiyā mitti dhond jag caanan hoā. Jio kar suraj nikliyā tārei chapei andher paloā
On Khālsā: Khālsā Akāl Purakh Ki Fauj. Pragtiyō Khālsā Parmātam Ki Mauj.
* This is the opinion of the writer/s and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Khalsa Diwan Malaysia powers ahead with original Nanakshahi calendar (Asia Samachar, 10 Jan 2020)
Redefining Vaisakhi (Asia Samachar, 16 April 2016)
Adopt Mool Nanakshahi Calendar, stop confusion, says Sikh Chicago meet – WSN (Asia Samachar, 7 Dec 2017)