In Sikhism, Vaisakhi is celebrated every year on April 14 (first day of Vaisakh month as per Nanakshahi calendar). This was the day when the 10th guru of Sikhs– Guru Gobind Singh founded a unique body known as Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib in 1699.

The Sikhs had started facing religious persecution during the reign of Mughals in India. The ninth guru of Sikhs and father of Guru Gobind Singh, Guru Teg Bahadur was executed in 1675 for protecting the rights of Hindus. In 1699 Guru Gobind Singh summoned his followers from all over India at Anandpur Sahib on the day of Vaisakhi.

He encouraged them to uplift their faith and preserve their religion. Addressing the huge gathering, he raised his sword and asked a volunteer willing to sacrifice his life for their faith. There was a complete silence.

He repeated his demand three times. On his third call, a person stood up and came forward offering his life. Guru sahib took him inside the tent and reappeared after some time with his sword covered in blood.

He repeated this process four more times. After some time, he came out with the five volunteers in blue dresses and turbans. He named them panj pyare meaning five beloved ones.

The five volunteers were Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh, Bhai Mohkam Singh, Bhai Himmat Singh and Bhai Sahib Singh. Then they were baptised in a ceremony called Pahul in which Guru sahib prepared amrit or the holy water in a bowl. Guru sahib's wife Mata Sundri Ji added patashas (sugar crystals) in the bowl, and Guru sahib recited Gurbani while using his double-edged sword (kirpan) to stir amrit.

Once he completed Gurbani recitation, he served and sprinkled the amrit on the panj pyaras. He then knelt before them and requested them to baptise him as well.

He said, "I am where the five beloved ones are," and said that they are the embodiment of ‘guru’ themselves.

He introduced five distinctive symbols known as five K's—Katchera or underwear, Karra or iron bracelet, Kesh or unshorn hairs, Kirpan or sword and Kangha or wooden comb.

Guru sahib gave the titles of ‘Singh' to men which mean lion and ‘Kaur' to women which mean princess. With the creation of Khalsa, he blessed Sikhs with purity, equality, courage and sacrifice.

Ranjit Singh a reader of Indian Weekender and is currently working for Auckland Transport. He actively takes part in community works by providing appropriate information on different occasions through writing or vocally. Through this article, he wishes to educate the wider community about Vaisakhi’s importance in Sikh religion.