VAISAKHI for the Sikhs is not merely a routine ritual, rather it is an immensely soul-stirring memoir of the self-sacrificing saint-soldier Khalsa created by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It was on this day that Guru Gobind Singh baptized (initiated) the Sikhs for the first time through a specially organized initiation ceremony at Anandpur Sahib in 1699. Baisakhi or Vaisakhi is so called because it falls on the 1st day of the month of Vaisakh (April 13) of the Bikrami Calendar in India. Vaisakhi is also celebrated by other communities of India in different ways having different significance.
The creation of Khalsa is quite an astonishing and revolutionary act which infused a spirit of selfless service and self-sacrifice in the Sikhs. Herein I give a brief account of this great day. It was at a specially arranged huge gathering that Guru Gobind Singh appeared on the stage with a glittering three-foot sword in hand. Very ferociously he gave a call to test his sword. Is there anyone who can offer his head to me? One by one, five devotees offered to die for the Guru who was fighting against the oppression and injustice of the then-fanatic rulers of India. But the Guru did not kill them, rather he baptized them by making them drink Amrit (Nectar) specially prepared for the event and named them “Khalsa.”
It is appropriate to say a few words about a Sikh and a Khalsa. A person who follows the teachings of the 10 Sikh Gurus, Sikh Scripture and the Sikh code of Conduct is a Sikh. But when he is initiated, he becomes a Khalsa (pure one) who must follow the prescribed code of conduct which includes keeping with him five articles of faith. They are: (1) Kes (unshorn hair), (2) Kirpan (sword), (3) Kachhehra (underwear), (4) Kanga (wooden comb) and (5) Kara (steel bracelet). Also, he will not dishonor hair, engage in adultery or use tobacco and intoxicants. The Khalsa was to use the suffix of Singh (Lion) or Kaur (Princess) with their names. The same tradition is prevalent to this day.
The significance of this code of conduct has been amply established by the fact that Khalsa is really a universal man of pure conduct who believes in oneness of God and oneness of human race and can never be deterred from doing good deeds while fighting against injustice for the well-being of the entire human race. It does not matter if he has to sacrifice his life in the process as he believes that he has already given his life to his Guru at the time of initiation. It should be kept in mind that generally the term Sikh, Singh, Khalsa or Panth is used for all the Sikhs.
It is also praiseworthy that the Sikhs amply displayed their death-defying spirit while fighting against the foreign invaders like Ahmad Shah Abdali and others from the northwest, making sacrifices for India’s independence movement or anywhere else. It is a known fact that in the Indian independence movement, out of 121 persons hanged, 93 were Sikhs; out of 2,646 sent to Kale Pani (Andaman Islands) for life imprisonment, 2,147 were Sikhs; out of 42,000 Indian National Army soldiers, 28,000 were Sikhs; in the Gaddar Party, 90% were Sikhs, and so on. It is also imperative to mention that the creation of saint-soldier Khalsa was quite in accordance with the self-sacrificing concept of Guru Nanak (1469), the founder of the Sikh religion, who said, “Jau Tau Prem Khelan Ka Chao, Sir, Dhar Tali Gali Meri Aao” (If you want to play the game of love, come to me placing your head on your palm).
Therefore, in accordance with the principles of Sikhism, the true significance of celebrating Vaisakhi lies in love, exterminating hatred, hypocrisy, and exploitation in the name of religion. Guru Gobind Singh says: “Saach kahon sun lei sabhai jin prem kio tin hi pravh paeo.” (I say the truth. Listen to me all of you. It is only through love that you can obtain God.) About the religious hypocrites and imposters, Guru Gobind Singh emphatically declares, “Rehat piari moh ko Sikh piara nah”. (The Code of Conduct is dear to me, not a Sikh who does not follow the Sikh discipline.)
Therefore, the dire need of the times is to adopt more effective measures to spread the message of love, harmony and equality of human race as ordained by Guru Gobind Singh all over the world. The real achievement of the Vaisakhi celebration lies in effectively spreading its universal message and not in lavishly spending money on certain meaningless rituals.
It is to be kept in mind that Guru Gobind Singh’s message of love, oneness of human race and never to refrain from doing good deeds is not for the Sikhs only, rather it is for all religions and all people treating them as the children of one God. It is wonderful that the United Nations Organization too resolved on October 20, 2010, to celebrate the first week of February every year as the “World Interfaith Harmony Week” to seek peace and harmony all over the world. In this context it may nicely be deduced that Guru Gobind Singh’s message of universal love and respecting all faiths may prove very effective in promoting peace and interfaith harmony in Canada and elsewhere in the strife-torn world of today.
BY GIAN SINGH KOTLI
(Gian Singh Kotli is a Punjabi poet and inter-faith activist.)