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Baisakhi is one of the major festivals of Sikhs and is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and gaiety in the state of Punjab and all throughout the world where there is a significant Sikh population. The day, besides being the start of a new year, is also a harvest festival, as it marks the maturing of the winter crop- and the last major festival before farmers roll up their sleeves and begin harvesting the grain. It is celebrated to mark the arrival of the harvest season. Based on the Indian solar calendar, the festival is celebrated on April 13 every year, and April 14, once in every 36 years.

This day marks the beginning of Hindu Solar New Year. In fact, this day is celebrated all over the country as New Year under different names. In Kerala the festival is called Vishu while in Assam it is known as Bohaag Bihu. In Tamil Nadu this festival assumes the name of Puthandu. Whatever be its local names, it is a time of celebration, fun, merrymaking, music and dance. The celebrations are best seen in Punjab, where it is celebrated in a grand manner.

For Hindus, it's the start of the New Year, and is celebrated with requisite bathing, partying, and worshipping. It's believed that the goddess Ganga descended to earth thousands of years ago, and in her honor many Hindus gather along the sacred Ganges River for ritual baths. The action is centered in the holy cities along the Ganges in north India, or in Srinagar's Mughal Gardens, Jammu's Nagbani Temple, or anywhere in Tamil Nadu.

For the Sikhs it is not only a festival of harvest but also marks the birth of Sikh brotherhood and Sikh unity. It was on this day of Baisakhi in 1669 that the last Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa Panth and gave a final impetus to the course of the earlier nine Gurus of Sikhism.

The festival, therefore, commemorates the starting of Sikh brotherhood that has since characterized Sikh outfits. It was on this day that Guru Gobind Singh asked five volunteers to offer themselves for the protection of Sikh faith. Therefore, Sikhs celebrate this festival in a special manner. They visit temples, read holy Granth and commemorate the teachings of the great Gurus.

It also signifies the end of harvest of the main crop. During Baisakhi the farmers give 'thanks' to the Lord Almighty for their fortune and pray for a better crop the next year. Baisakhi involves a lot of socializing where friends and relatives are invited and delicious meals are served.

The holy book of the Sikhs, 'Granth Sahib' is taken in a procession, led by the 'Panj Pyaras' (five senior Sikhs) who are symbolic of the original leaders. The occasion is celebrated with great gusto at Talwandi Sabo, where Guru Gobind Singh stayed for nine months and completed the recompilation of the Guru Granth Sahib and in the Golden temple in Amritsar.

Baisakhi is, thus, celebrated in the backdrop of the arrival of harvest season, starting of Khalsa movement and the beginning of Hindu New year. The celebration of this festival is characterized by special prayers, ritual cleansing, sharing of meals, merrymaking, music and dance. In several villages of Punjab Baisakhi Fairs are organized where besides other recreational activities, wrestling bouts are also held.

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