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Happy Baisakhi 2020 : History of This Harvest Festival

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Happy Baisakhi 2020 : Diversity is the hallmark of Indian culture and festivities. Celebrations have always been a part of our social structure. Indians have cheerful and delighted personalities, willing to have celebrations on a large scale with great pomp and show. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I always felt we have lost the essence of festivities in India as we advanced and developed. However, when I see traditions being continued, I feel proud to be the part and parcel of such a diverse culture. Being a Punjabi, that too the masti-loving and foodie one, I love how Punjab has a flourishing culture and is known all over for “balle-balle”, “tusi” , “asi”, “butter chicken”, “lassi” and wheat cultivation. 

Baisakhi, also known as Vaisakhi, is the historical festival of Punjab. It is considered as the beginning of the New Solar Year as per Hindu beliefs and we often call it “The New Agricultural Year.” The festival is widely celebrated in both rural and urban areas, with huge ceremonial fun and frolic. The foremost reason behind the celebration of this festival is the expression of sentiments of the farmers who cultivate ripened rabi crops. This day is usually observed on the 13th or the 14th day of the month of April and marks the beginning of the month of Vaisakha according to the ‘Nanakshahi Calendar”. This day is specially earmarked by the farmer class of society as this is when they celebrate, dance and sing elated songs- 

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                           Toori tand sambh haadi vech vatt ke

                           Lambdan te shahan da hisab kat ke 

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                          Pagg chagga chadra nawa sawaye ke

                         Samma wali daang utte tel laaye ke

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                         Kachche maar vanjali anand chaa gaya

                        Maarda damame jatt mele aa gya”

This is a Punjabi poem/song by Dhani Ram Chatrik, a Punjabi poet, explaining how elated the farmers are when they are on their ways to the Mela (Baisakhi fair), characterized by all the feast, fest and fun.

Baisakhi Mela

To explain in short, Jatts or usually farmers, dance to the beats of Bhangra, all dolled up- tip to toe in new clothes and turbans. They celebrate this festival in various fairs (Baisakhi Mela) and by having food, shopping and dancing. Such cultural programmes happen all over the state on this day. The Gurdwaras are decorated beautifully and prayers are conducted to express gratitude towards the abundance of ripened crops and future prosperity. This day is characterized equivalent to Thanksgiving and is a harvest festival of the Punjabi community. To elaborate the religious reasons for celebrating this day, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth guru of Sikhs, laid down the foundation of Khalsa Panth in 1699 to participate in the struggle with the Mughals. A special celebration takes place at Anandpur Sahib, the birth-place of Guru Ji. 

Formation of Khalsa Panth

The Punjabi community undertakes Nagar Kirtan (town hymn singing) and participates in Gatka (martial arts of Sikhs). Bhangra – the balle-balle tune becomes a loud echo in the whole state and you find people dancing madly everywhere.

Unlike all the years, this year the show of this grand festivity has been suppressed by COVID-19. No preparations are being made and farmers are hardly happy to cultivate the fruit of their hard work. There has been a lot of unsettlement and chaos in the state due to this global pandemic with the death rate being the highest in Punjab. The crops are ready for harvest but the silence marks the festivity of harvest this year. There is no playing around, no grand fairs, no balle-balle, no happiness and all chaos and wonder. The sound of Dhol has become a mirage sound to the people and all the pomp is silenced under the loud noises about Corona. Farmers feel disappointed. This global situation has taken away that happiness which the farmers of this region hardly experience. Never in history, has it happened that there have been no sounds of Dhol and no frying of Jalebi on Vaisakhi. This lack of celebration is adding on to the atrocities our farmers face in trying to feed us the crop by working day and night. 

No langars, and no celebrations,

 No decorations and no Kirtans,

This is the 2020 Baisakhi of Punjab

See those people, who dance and rejoice, 

Silenced by the fatal voice,

See those people eating jalebi,

Forbidden by the virus globally, 

See those faces who had smiles,

All the gloom has hit them.

This is the 2020 Baisakhi of Punjab,

This is the 2020 Baisakhi of Punjab.

As we say it in Punjabi,

“Na bani jalebi, na pya Bhangra,

Ve jatta Baisakhi da bas na hi sunle,

Na koi nava kurta svaiyain,

Na tu samma vali daang sajayi,

Nai hona shor Vaisakhi da,

Ehi hai is vaar virsa Punjab da.”

Image Source – Veg Recipes of India, Sikhnet &

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