Sikhs parade harmony and equality

The Punjabi community in Auckland got together to mark the annual Baisakhi festival with piety, grandeur and unity, highlighting one of the most fascinating traditions that date back hundreds of years.

More than 1000 men, women and children joined the parade on April 6 from the Sri Guru Nanak Dev Sikh Sangat Gurudwara in Otahuhu to Otahuhu Town Centre.

Later, a similar event was held at the Gurudwara Sri Kalgidhar Sahib in Takanini.

A large contingent of people from other ethnic groups joined in the festivities, demonstrating the rapport and close relationship that Punjabis have with the mainstream society in New Zealand.

All Gurudwaras will wear a festive look on Baishakhi Day which falls on April 14 this year, with the members of the community and others displaying solemness that the occasion deserves.

Prayers and lectures will form a part of the event.

A communication provided a historic perspective of Baisakhi (also spelt ‘Vaisakhi’ by some members of the community).

The following is an excerpt:

Thrilling history

Baisakhi is one of the most important dates in the Sikh calendar.

It is the Sikh New Year festival and is celebrated on April 13 or 14.

It also commemorates 1699, the year in which Sikhism was born as a collective faith.

Baisakhi is a long established harvest festival in Punjab.

The creation of the ‘Khalsa’ was the culmination of a process of social and spiritual uplift that began two centuries earlier by Guru Nanak Sahib, the founder of Sikhism.

He was born in 1469.

Central to Guru Nanak Sahib’s teaching was the belief in one God: The Supreme Creator, who is beyond the limited human frame of birth, death, form or gender.

Baisakhi was celebrated long before it gained an added dimension for Sikhs.

In 1699, the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, chose Baisakhi as the occasion to transform the Sikhs into a family of soldier saints, known as the ‘Khalsa Panth.’

Guru Gobind Singh founded the ‘Khalsa’ in the presence of thousands of people at Anadpur Sahib.

During the Baisakhi festival, Guru Gobind Singh came out of a tent carrying a sword.

He challenged any Sikh who was prepared to give his life to come into the tent.

One volunteer came forward and was taken into the tent.

A while later, the Guru returned alone with his sword covered in blood.

He then requested another volunteer and repeated the action four times until five men disappeared into the tent.

The crowd was very concerned until they saw the five men emerge from the tent with the Guru, wearing turbans.

These five men came to be known as the ‘Panj Pyaras, or the ‘Beloved Five.’

Nagar Kirtans

The festival is marked by Nagar Kirtan processions through streets, which form an important part of Sikh culture and religious celebrations.

Gurdwaras are decorated and visited.

Kirtan is a term meaning singing of hymns from the ‘Guru Granth Sahib,’ the Sikh Holy Book (Nagar means town).

Celebrations always include music, singing and chanting scriptures and hymns.

The processions are led by traditionally dressed Panj Pyaras.

The Guru Granth Sahib is carried in procession to a place of honour, which is the Gurudwara.

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