About the event
Vaisakhi was celebrated as a new year and harvest festival in the Punjab region of India/Pakistan long before Sikhism began. But in 1699 the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, used the occasion of the festival to challenge Sikhs to show allegiance to their religion. Five volunteers responded to his challenge to enter his tent and sacrifice their heads to their Guru. In the end it is said they were miraculously unharmed and, because of their willingness to sacrifice themselves, the Guru baptised them and gave them the title of Panj Piare ("the five beloved ones").
This event is seen as the beginning of the Khalsa, or collective Sikh brotherhood, and many Sikhs choose to be baptised into the Khalsa during Vaisakhi. In the Punjab and in Sikh communities all around the world Vaisakhi is marked with processions and parades, as Sikhs celebrate their culture and religion. Find out more about Vaisakhi from the following websites.
The day is also the beginning of the Hindu solar new year and is celebrated by Hindu communities often as a day for charity, socialising and ritual bathing in rivers.
How to approach it
This is a great day to introduce students to new cultures and religious practices. Tell the story of how the Khalsa began with Guru Gobind Singh and relate this to today's celebrations around the world and in the UK. It's also a useful day to celebrate cultural diversity. Hindus and Sikhs celebrate this shared day in different ways, embedded and connected with different cultures. If you have Sikh or Hindu students confident enough, allow them to share their experience of this day with the class.
Vaisakhi is a day celebrated around the world by both Hindus and Sikhs. It is a day for colour, processions, charity and socialising. For many different kinds of people this is a day that celebrates the new solar year. Throughout the Indian subcontinent different regions celebrate in different ways. In Britain our Hindu and Sikh communities celebrate Vaisakhi too. Can you think of other examples where different groups of people share the same celebration days? Can you think of the different ways they celebrate them?