Baisakhi has a special significance for the Sikhs. In 1699, it was on this day that their tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, organized the order of the Khalsa. He discontinued the tradition of Gurus in Sikhism by declaring the “Granth Sahib” as the eternal Guru of all Sikhs.
The history goes like this – in 1657, Aurangzeb became the Mughal Emperor after annihilating almost all opposition within his own family. He then consolidated his position by setting up the process of Islamism in India. The Brahmins were his prime targets. He levied unethical religious taxes against Hindus and shut down their temples and places of learning. He had been convinced by his clerics that once the Brahmins accepted Islam, the others would follow suit.
The Brahmins, particularly the inhabitants of Kashmir, looking for some dynamic leadership to fight this subversion, approached Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675), the ninth in the line of Sikh Gurus. Heeding their pleas, he entrusted his leadership to Gobind Rai, his young son, and proceeded towards Delhi, the seat of the Mughal Empire.
The Guru and his loyal attendants were immediately imprisoned by Aurangzeb. Guru Tegh Bahadur offered his life for the freedom of conscience and conviction of anyone belonging to a faith other than his own. Though hundreds of people had gathered around the place where he was martyred in Delhi, no one, not even his ardent followers, came forward openly to claim the body to perform religious rites. Taking advantage of the stormy weather that followed the execution, two persons covertly took the body of Guru Tegh Bahadur for cremation.
This cowardly act raised an urge in Gobind Rai to instill among his Sikhs a distinct identity and discipline. And he decided to uplift the people’s morale to combat the evil forces of injustice, tyranny and oppression. In early 1699, Gobind Rai asked the men and women not to cut their hair. They had to come with unshorn hair under their turbans and chunnis. The men also had to come with full beards. Gobind Rai addressed the congregants with a most stirring oration on his divine mission of restoring their faith and preserving the Sikh religion.
For the formation of the Khalsa Panth, he asked his followers to be ready to lay down their lives to save others. He baptized five people – one Khatri (shopkeeper), one Jat (farmer), one Chhimba (washer-man), one Ghumar (water-carrier) and one Nai (barber) – who were the perfect examples of amalgamation of high and low castes. He then proclaimed them as Panj Pyare – the Five Beloved Ones – who would be the embodiment of the Guru himself: “Where there are Panj Pyare, there am I. When the Five meet, they are the holiest of the holy. All those who receive Amrit from five baptized Sikhs will be infused with the spirit of courage and strength to sacrifice.” Thus, with these principles he established Panth Khalsa, the Order of the Pure Ones.
At the same time, the Guru gave this new Khalsa a unique, indisputable and distinct identity. The Guru gave the gift of bana, the distinctive Sikh clothing and headwear. He also offered five emblems of purity and courage. These symbols, worn by all baptized Sikhs of both sexes, are popularly known today as Five Ks: kesh (unshorn hair), kangha (the wooden comb), karra (the iron or steel bracelet), kirpan (the sword) and kachcha (the underwear). By being identifiable, no Sikh could ever hide behind cowardice again.
The Guru also gave the surname Singh (Lion) to every male Sikh and also took the name for himself. Thus, Guru Gobind Rai became Guru Gobind Singh. He also pronounced that all Sikh women embody royalty and gave them the surname Kaur (Princess). With the distinct Khalsa identity and consciousness of purity, Guru Gobind Singh gave all Sikhs the opportunity to live a life filled with courage, sacrifice and equality. Every year at the time of Baisakhi, thousands of devotees would come to Anandpur to pay their obeisance and seek the Guru’s blessings.
Other significant events that took place on this day:
According to history, this is also the day when Guru Arjan Dev was martyred by Muslim rulers who, in barbaric cruelty, threw him alive into a cauldron of boiling oil.
Again, on this day in 1875, Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj – a reformed sect of Hindus who are devoted to the Vedas for spiritual guidance and have discarded idol worship.
This day is also of immense religious importance to the Buddhists because Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment or Nirvana under the Mahabodhi tree in the town of Gaya on this very day.