Thursday, July 28, 2011


BAISHAKHI—The Punjabi New Year

If we turn the pages of medieval Indian history pertaining to the Mughal period, we learn that the country enjoyed utmost religious tolerance and amity during the reign of Akbar. The days of sagacious rule, keeping all communities happy, started signs of decline with the progressive rulers Jahangir and Shahajahan and reached the breaking point during the rule of Aurangazeb. The state religious policy came under the sway of the mullahs and the clergy, with the result that those who did not belong to the Muslim community had to suffer untold hardships. Islam was adopted as the state religion and those who did not profess allegiance to Islam and accept the state religion, were subjected to discrimination and oppressive laws. Special taxes were imposed on them, their educational institutions were ordered to be closed and some of them were even destroyed. Even their places of worship were not spared and the fundamental human right of worship was denied. By early 1670 the atmosphere had become stifling and it was at this turning point in the history of India that a savior of Hinduism by name Guru Govind Singh was born. His appearance on the political scene changed the course of Indian history.

Guru Govind Singh was born in Patna and came to Anandpur, Punjab—a place highly revered by the Punjabis- when he was just 8 years old and spent the next 28 years of his life there. He built a house at the top pf a nearby hillock and named it as ‘Anandgadh’ and stayed there with his family. This place has now become a historical and religious place for the Sikhs because it is at the foot of this hillock where the famous ‘Shahidi Bagh’ is situated—a memorial built to remember the martyrdom of many Sikhs who defended ‘Anangadh’ in times of frequent wars with the Muslims. On the other hillock facing Anandagadh, there is another fort called ‘Keshgadh’, a place of sacred memories for Sikhs since Guru Govind Singh founded the Khalsa here in 1699 [ Khalsa is the name of the organization founded by Guru Govind Singh for fostering unity among Sikhs for fighting for their religious rights and privileges]. It is the founding day of the Khalsa that is celebrated as the Punjabi New Year or more popular as Baishakhi. i

The denial of freedom of worship to the Hindus by Aurangaeb and the untold miseries and hardships they had to put up with during Aurangazeb’s reign, weighed heavily on the mind of Guru Govind Singh. He felt that unless some leader came forward to unite the Sikhs into an organization and make them fight for their fundamental right to worship and get other rights and privilege due to them, they should continue to suffer the Mughal menace. He decided that instead of passing on the responsibility on someone else’s shoulders, he himself should take up the lead and found an organization. He further decided that such a leader should play the dual role of both a saint and a soldier. And, the organization through which he was to accomplish this work must therefore comprise of people with the highest degree of morality [as Saints] and fearlessness of death [like the

Soldier]. The problem then arose about finding ways and means of getting such devoted and dedicated soldiers.

On 30th March l 1699, Guru Govind Singh organized a huge gathering of Sikhs. at Anandpur. Many people attended. In the assembly, Singh made a dramatic appearance with a brandishing sword in his hand. To the surprise of one and all, instead of the expected religious discourse, he made a simple demand. In a thunderbolt-like voice, he said “Is there any one in the assembly who is prepared to sacrifice his life for the sake of saving our Dharma?” The audience was stunned and there was silence for a few minutes. Some of them bent their heads downwards. Suddenly, one in the assembly got up and announced that he was ready. The Guru led him to a nearby tent and after a few minutes returned to the assembly with the sword dripping with blood and without the volunteer. The audience was completely convinced that the guru meant business. The guru asked for one more similar volunteer. As before another rose up and was led to the neighboring tent. Within a few minutes, the guru returned with the blood dripping sword. This operation was repeated 5 times. All the assembled believed that these 5 volunteers who sacrificed their lives did not care for their own life for the safety of protecting our Dharma.

A little later, Guru Govind Singh returned to the stage with all the 5 volunteers alive, dressed in martial attire and fully armed. People were taken aback. .He told the audience that he had asked for the sacrifice only to test their devotion and royalty. In reality, no one was killed and the blood shown was that of a goat. Presenting these 5 disciples before the assembly, he called them ‘Panj Pyare’ [the five beloved]. He gave them baptism and changed their names to end in ‘Singh’. These 5 brave patriotic disciples constituted the nucleus of the ‘Khalsa’ [which means the pure ones], an organization created for the purpose of establishing righteousness and ending oppression.. Soon thereafter, 20,000 people joined the Khalsa and accepted baptism. In course of time the strength increased considerably. The Khalsa creation, a significant milestone in Indian History, marks the pivotal turning point in the shaping, honing and welding together of the New Faith through shared conviction and a unique cultural distinction which included the addition of ‘Singh’ after the name of each Sikh. It is a historical fact that time and again a handful of Khalsa fighters got the better of the Mughal Emperors. After Guru Govind Singh’s death in 1708, the Khalsa carried on its struggle and the 18th Century was marked by the most devastating raid of Nadir Shah and the repeated raids of Ahmad Shah Abdali. The Khalsa would accost the raiders while they passed through the Punjab. They would relieve them of much of their loot and have the maximum number of women captives relieved.


B. M.N.Murthy

ARTCLE NO.562--- BAISHAKHI--Punjabi New Year's Day--Its Significance
Created: Friday, April 16, 2010 9:54 PM


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home