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Baisakhi !

Baisakhi or Vaisakhi is the harvest festival of Punjab which marks the beginning of a new solar year. Baisakhi Festival falls on the first day of Vaisakh month, April-May, according to Nanakshahi or Sikh Calendar. According to English calendar, the date of Baisakhi corresponds to April 13 every year and April 14 once in every 36 years. This difference in Baisakhi dates is due to the fact that day of Baisakhi is decidedaccording to solar calendar and not the lunar calendar. The auspicious date of Baisakhi is celebrated all over India under different names and different set of rituals and celebrations. Baisakhi date coincides with 'Rongali Bihu' in Assam, 'Naba Barsha' in Bengal, 'Puthandu' in Tamil Nadu and 'Pooram Vishu' in Kerala. People through out Punjab and Haryana thank God for the bounty of crop and pray for good times ahead. People celebrate wearing new clothes, by singing and dancing, performing the traditional dance bhangra and gidda and making joyous and colorful processions. In several villages of Punjab Baisakhi Fairs are organized where besides other recreational activities, wrestling bouts are also held. Cries of "Jatta aai Baisakhi", rent the skies as gaily men and women break into the bhangra and gidda dance to express their joy.
       Baisakhi holds a special meaning for the Sikhs. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, organized the order of the Khalsa. He discontinued the tradition of Gurus in Sikhism by declaring the Granth Sahib to be the eternal Guru of all Sikhs. To form the Khalsa Panth he asked his followers to volunteer to be ready to lay down their lives to save others. Five volunteers of five different castes were made the Panj Piaras, who would lead the rest. On this day also, Guru Arjan Dev was martyred by the Muslim rulers who, in barbaric cruelty, threw him alive into a cauldron of boiling oil.
       Generally, the sites of these festivities are the banks of rivers, which have their sacred import with myths and legends woven around their origin and names. People wake up early to prepare for the day and take bath in the holy river to mark the auspicious occasion. After getting ready people pay a visit to their neighbourdood gurdwara and take part in the special prayer meeting organized for the day. The Sikhs offer prayers in gurudwaras to commemorate the founding day of their religion. The Granth Sahib, which was designated the eternal guru of Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh, is taken out in procession and kirtans are organized in gurudwaras.  At the end of the Baisakhi ardas, congregates receive specially prepared Kara prasad or sweetened semolina. This is followed by a guru ka langar or community lunch.

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