Vasakhi Day

Charnjit Singh Bal

Vasakhi day has special socio-cultural, economic and historical significances for the Sikhs. It is the harbinger of the prolific spring and harvest season for the mainly agriculturist Sikh society of the Punjab, known as the breadbasket of India. The end of inclement winter weather and beginning of the clement spring season, when the flora blossoms and embellishes the ambient ecosystem evoke in Sikh community too a sense euphoria.

Since Sikhism professes that the God created all days equal, i.e. no day is holier than the other, it does not prescribe celebration of dogmatically designated holy days. In fact Sikhism proscribes attaching special religious import to such days. However this day has special historical significance for Sikhs because on this day in 1699 the tenth and the last Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib initiated the extant Sikh baptismal ceremony. This historical day marks the metamorphosis of the Sikhism into Khalsa Panth (Noble Nation) and re-definition of its role in the contemporary multi socio-religious and cultural society of India and global community at-large.

Sikhism founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539 CE) in the late fifteenth century had to fight the overt Islamic Jihad. The Sikh Gurus practiced what they preached. Armed with the courage of their convictions, they faced adversity with fortitude and professed valor (not militancy) in face of persecution and advocated taking up arms, to redress injustice, only as a last resort. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, in Zaffernama, a literary masterpiece poetic missive in Persian, to tyrannical Mogul ruler Aurangzeb castigating him and his atrocious administration quoted,

"If all other means to redress injustice fail, taking sword in hand is justified." Sheikh Saadi

To counter the state sponsored Muslim onslaught i.e. Jihad against the Indian Sub-continent’s contemporary Non-Muslim populace's socio-religious freedom, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib convened a large assembly of the Sikhs from all over the Indian sub-Continent on Vasakhi day, 30th march 1699. The Guru Sahib initiated and administered the Sikh baptismal rite to a vast majority of the devout Sikh volunteers at the assemblage to evoke the virtue of valor in them. The baptized Sikhs were characterized as a Khalsa (noble warriors) and given a distinct identity. The Guru Sahib redefined Sikhism as Khalsa Panth (Nation) and entrusted it the role to fight political tyranny, socio-cultural injustice and defend universal religious freedom. A Muslim Sufi poet Bullay Shah writes,

"If there were no Guru Gobind Singh, everyone would have had circumcision", meaning everyone in India would have been converted to Islam.

In the past the Sikhs used to assemble, if and when they were not being hunted and massacred by the tyrannical Mogul Imperial forces or foreign invaders, on Vasakhi day at Amritsar to celebrate and/or discuss ways and means of survival. In the recent times they have been congregating at Anandpur, Punjab, the birthplace of Khalsa, to celebrate the Vasakhi Day that now falls on 14th April compared to 30th March in 1699 A.D.

Since the Sikh calendar was synchronous with the millenniums old Hindu lunar calendar that is longer than the universal Gregorian calendar, the Vasakhi Day has been lagging behind the dates of the latter. A Sikh scholar, Pal Singh Puréwal has, recently, prepared a Sikh calendar, ‘Nanakshahi calendar’ that is consistent with the one in universal use. The attempts of some rational Sikh scholars, leaders and intelligentsia to adopt new calendar and rectify the anomalous inconsistency has been thwarted by the illicit Sikh high priests, superiors gurus and self anointed saints’ regressive syndicate. The analytical, progressive Sikh elements continue to persist and prevail in adopting Sikh Nanakshahi calendar that is synchronous with the Gregorian calendar.

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