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Baisakhi Bangli New Year)
Nothing stirs a Sikh like Baisakhi does. It is
a mega event - a religious festival, harvest festival and new year's day all
rolled into one.
In April, this day marks the beginning of the Hindu solar new year. In fact
this day is celebrated all over the country as new year day under different
names. It is also the time when the harvest is ready to cut and store or
sell. For the Sikh community Baisakhi has a very special meaning. It was on
this day that the last Guru Gobind Singh organised the sikhs into Khalsa or
the pure ones. By doing so, he eliminated the differences of high and low and
established that all human beings were equal.
Baisakhi has special significance for two of India's major religious groups.
For Hindus, it's the start of the new year, and is celebrated with requisite
bathing, partying, and worshipping. It's believed that the goddess Ganga
descended to earth thousands of years ago, and in her honor many Hindus
gather along the sacred Ganges River for ritual baths. The action is centered
in the holy cities along the Ganges in north India, or in Srinagar's Mughal
Gardens, Jammu's Nagbani Temple, or anywhere in Tamil Nadu. Hindus plant
poles wrapped in flags of god-embroidered silk in front of their homes, and
hang pots of brass, copper or silver on top. Children wear garlands of
flowers and run through the streets singing "May the new year come again
and again!" In Kerala the festival is called Vishu, and includes
fireworks, shopping for new clothes and interesting displays called Vishu
Kani. These are arrangements of flowers, grains, fruits, cloth, gold, and
money are viewed early in the morning, to ensure a year of prosperity. In
Assam, the festival is called Bohag Bihu, and the community organizes massive
feasts, music, and dancing.
quite a different meaning to Baisakhi, and if you happen to be in a Punjabi
village to catch the men performing the wild bhangra dance, you'll get the
picture. This strenuous dance tells the story of the agricultural process,
from tilling the soil through harvesting. As the dholak (drum) changes beats,
the dancing sequence progresses, dramatizing plowing, sowing, weeding,
reaping, and finally celebrating. Baisakhi also commemorates the day in 1689
when Guru Gobing Singh founded the Khalsa, the fighting Sikh brotherhood that
donned the distinctive Sikh outfits. Sikhs visit temples, such as the Golden
Temple in Amritsar, where the holy Granth is read, commemorating the day on
which the Guru asked five volunteers to offer their lives, then took them one
at a time into a tent. He emerged each time with a bloody sword, although he
had in fact sacrificed a goat. In honor the "Beloved Five," a
series of parades are held, in which sets of five men walk in front of the
holy book with swords drawn. When the ceremony is over, a round of feasting,
music-making, and dancing begins, amid the blossoming flowers and harvested
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