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Baisakhi – The festival of cheer

Baisakhi marks the beginning of New Year, particularly in the northern part of India and is a seasonal festival with a special accent. This is the time when harvest is gathered in and the farmer exults in the fulfillment of his year’s hard work.

Baisakhi is celebrated with a lot of pomp and show by the Sikh community around the world and especially the ones located in the north Indian agricultural belt. It also holds historical significance for them because on this very day in the year 1699 their tenth Guru, Gobind Singh established the Khalsa and eliminated all the differences between all castes and proclaimed all human beings as equal. And, one can certainly experience that on this day in all the Gurudwaras around the world, where free food is distributed for all. They also celebrate by engaging in a lot of traditional song, dance (bhangra) & feasting and since it’s a spring festival that too in an agricultural community, it sure is one hell of a colourful affair.

As for the Hindus they too mark their celebrations in much the same manner. The only difference being that whoever can, does take a cleansing dip in the holy waters of the river Ganges. This is done to start the New Year on an auspicious note. However, this is true for Hindus of northern India only because down south in Kerala, where the festival is known by the name of Vishu, the most important ritual is called Vishukkani which literally translates to “the first thing seen on the day of Vishu after waking up”. This festival is also celebrated in Tamil Nadu but with a different name, Puthandu.

In the state of Assam they go all out with weeklong celebrations. Of the three Bihu festivals celebrated by the Assamese during the year this one is the most important and is known by the name of Rongali Bihu. They also wash and worship their cows during this festival and here too it is a very colourful and lively affair.
Orrisa, Karnataka, Uttrakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and West Bengal are some of the other states that celebrate this festival. In the state of Himachal Pradesh, goddess Jwalamukhi and in Bihar, the Sun god is worshipped during the festival.