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On March 30, 1699, during the Baisakhi gathering at Anandpur Sahib, in the Himalayan mountains, the Tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, made a significant move.

Baisakhi is a very important event in Sikh history. It is significant not only for its religious meaning to Sikhs but also because it marks the start of wheat harvest time in Punjab, where Sikhism began. Punjab is the place where Sikhism was born, one of the main religions in India along with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Baisakhi is a major festival in India, usually happening in mid-April. It's a colourful and joyful celebration that's becoming popular worldwide.

On March 30, 1699, during the Baisakhi gathering at Anandpur Sahib, in the Himalayan mountains, the Tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, made a significant move. He brought together the young Sikh community into what he called the Khalsa, which means "Army of the Pure" - a mix of saints and soldiers. He held a special ceremony where he invited Guru Nanak's followers to embrace a distinct identity with five sacred symbols. These symbols were meant to represent equality, justice, and human dignity for all. The Guru emphasised the importance of defending oneself against tyranny and injustice. He instructed his followers to carry weapons and adopt specific symbols of their faith, like wearing uncut hair under a turban and having the last name Singh for men and Kaur for women in the Sikh community.

The Baisakhi of the  year 1699 marked a significant moment in Sikh history It's seen as a time of renewal and revival for a community that had faced oppression from foreign rulers. Baisakhi set the stage for a new generation of fearless Sikhs. Over time, the Sikhs emerged as the defenders and champions of the Gateway to India. This passage had long served as an accessible path for invading forces, including Muslim, Mughal, and Mongol raiders who sought to plunder  India's dignity and wealth.

Today, Sikhism is the fifth largest religion globally, with over 30 million followers worldwide, and nearly a million in the U.S. Sikhs are known for their hard work, pride, and strong family values. They respect other faiths and cultures and contribute to various fields.

Baisakhi is celebrated with great enthusiasm by Sikhs around the world, much like Easter. Families gather for colorful parades and religious ceremonies. Pilgrimages are made to sacred shrines, adorned with lights and lamps. Fireworks light up the evening sky, and joyful chants fill the air. Some places now opt for laser displays instead of traditional fireworks.

During the Baisakhi celebrations in the community and with family, people enjoy traditional dances like Bhangra and Giddha, tasty Punjabi food, and dancing to lively Punjabi music. Lately, there's been a push to include friends and respected guests from different faiths and backgrounds in these yearly festivities, making them more inclusive.

Harmander Sahib: The Golden Temple

The Golden Temple stands as the revered center  of the Sikh faith, akin to how St. Peter's Basilica holds significance for Catholics. People from all walks of life are welcome here, and a whole bunch, more than 100,000 every day, come to visit. On special days like Baisakhi, even more people, as many as  250,000, might show up. They come to pray, to soak in the peaceful vibes, and to see a religion that believes in one god in action. Plus, there's a community kitchen where anyone can get a free meal.

Connecting the Prakarma to the Golden Temple

The Golden Temple stands as an exquisite testament to the divine in architectural form.. It's a place that makes us think about its history and significance to Sikhs. For anyone who comes here, whether to pray, seek guidance, or just learn about a major religion, it's a special spot. This impressive building, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, represents all that and more as a major spiritual hub in the world.

The Golden Temple holds immense significance for Sikhs, serving as the core of their beliefs and history. It has stood witness to the enduring faith of Sikhs and the sacrifices made to protect its sanctity. A visit to this sacred site reaffirms their dedication to the principles of equality, justice, and the dignity of all people, as taught by Sikhism.

In 1604 A.D. ,Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Sikh Guru , installed the holy Scripture of Sikhs at the Golden Temple. The Temple's origins trace back to 1588 A.D. when the esteemed Sufi Saint, Hazrat Mian Mir, laid its foundation stone, entwining its history with that of other Sikh Gurus.  In the nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh adorned and embellished the temple in opulent splendour. The complex is not just a physical structure but a symbol of martyrdom, with brave individuals sacrificing their lives in defence of the Harmander Sahib, known as 'The Temple of God,' surrounded by the 'Pool of Immortality,' and flanked by The Akal Takht, meaning 'The Throne of God.'

A Sikh Guard at the Golden Temple, Amritsar

The Nihang Singhs, a group of Sikh warriors, are deeply committed to defending their faith. The Golden Temple, a place rich in history and tradition, holds significant importance for people worldwide. It attracts pilgrims from every corner of the globe, representing various faiths. The temple showcases magnificent Indo-Sarsenic architecture and exudes a heavenly atmosphere.The enchanting music, intricate melodies, and soul-stirring Ragas, coupled with the universal message, tranquil beauty, and inclusive atmosphere, seem to surpass all barriers. Here, people of varied cultures, languages, nationalities, and traditions converge, seamlessly enveloped in a shared experience of spiritual harmony.

The temple's architecture, ceremonial walkway, memorials, and grand entrances to the complex, the gilded facades and domes, marble columns, walls decorated with frescoes and ceilings inlaid with precious stones, reflect a sense of sacred grandeur, uniting people in a shared human experience. It serves as a beacon of unity and spirituality, inspiring all who visit. The spiritual essence of the Darbar Sahib, or 'The Court of the Lord,' is palpable, fostering a profound sense of grace. Amidst this serene setting, visitors are uplifted by the temple's beauty and majesty, leaving a lasting impression on their souls.

Navigating Identity- Sikhs in a Diverse World

Beyond the commemorations, celebrations, and proud recounting of glorious legacy and legends of the historic Baisakhi of 1699, the struggles and sacrifices since, and the unimagined achievements of the Sikhs on the world stage in recent decades, there remain formidable challenges of Sikhs knowing so little about their own faith. Sikhs and their faith continue to be mistakenly identified by other cultures and communities around the world as something that they are not. Going forward, we must make a commitment that, not just to dispel this problem but recognize that imaginative initiatives and innovative engagements with other communities and institutions is among our most urgent unexplored frontier to be successful citizens in new lands.

 

*Based on an article by Kanwal Prakash 'KP' Singh, published in kpsinghdesigns.com on 8th April 2014

 

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