Local residents celebrate Vaisakhi


Photo By TJ Nijjar

Bulldog Bhangra dancing during a Vaisakhi festival.

Tj Nijjar, Staff Writer

April 14 is a day where many Sikh celebrate Vaisakhi which is a historic Sikh day of commemoration. Vaisakhi celebrates the rebirth of the the Sikh community as the Khalsa, those loyal to the Guru. Vaisakhi is observed in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. In Fresno, and all over California, Sikhs organize public celebrations which often include visits to Gurdwaras, parades and community fairs which feature performances, speakers, music, dancing and traditional foods. Events often extend throughout the the month of April and into May.


The Sikh celebration known as Vaisakhi or Baisakhi originates from the Punjab region of South Asia, but has a marked religious significance for Sikhs as well. Every year Sikhs throughout Punjab would gather after a successful harvest.  The community also seeks blessings for future prosperity and progress. Central student Prabhjot Mann says, “ I love Vaisakhi because it is a day where the whole Sikh community gets together and celebrates the new year,  and I love performing dances in front of my friends and family.”


The religious aspect of Vaisakhi emerged in 1699, when the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, summoned Sikhs from all over South Asia to the city of Anandpur Sahib and called upon them to uphold their faith and preserve the Sikh religion. Once Sikhs had gathered, Guru Gobind Singh issued a test of courage and faith to his followers. In front the crowd, he held up a sword and asked if there were any volunteers who would give their lives for their religion. Five men came forward, joined the Guru in his tent, then emerged from the tent alive, and wearing turbans and what are known as the 5Ks (kes/uncut hair, kara/steel bracelet, kangha/small wooden comb, kachhera/undergarments, and kirpan/sword). They are known as the Panj Piare, which means the beloved five.  Then Guru Gobind Singh asked them to allow him to join the new order.


Since that day, in addition to cultural celebrations, Nagar Kirtans (Sikh Parades) take place during Vaisakhi. ‘Nagar’ means town and ‘Kirtan’ means the singing of hymns from the Guru Grath Sahib, which is the Sikh holy book. This is why new year celebrations always include singing and music, as well as reading scriptures aloud and chanting hymns.  In the Fresno-area, there is an annual Nagar Kirtan. In Selma, CA.  Over 20,000 Sikhs from throughout Fresno County gather together to reconnect with their community, recommit to their religious faith, and enjoy in the festivities. Kamal Gill, a community organizer, for the Jakara Movement states, “My favorite thing is how this one celebration brings out tens of thousands of people to come together and celebrate our identity at local Nagar Kirtans. It’s always inspiring to see so many doing seva (volunteering), offering their time and resources to make the Nagar Kirtan a spiritual and successful event for all.”