What is Baisakhi?
Baisakhi, which happens this year on Thursday, April 14, is the most important holiday for many Sikhs. It celebrates an event in 1699 when the heavily persecuted community found strength in five devotees who showed a willingness to lay down their lives to protect the community. Sikhs are often visibly notable for the turbans some wear, and that garment traces to this day when Sikhs who wished, could make an extra commitment to the community, becoming “khalsa” Sikhs. Khalsa Sikhs also wear other items, including the kirpan (knife), to remind themselves that they must be willing to stand against injustice, even at personal risk. For Sikhs, the holiday marks commitment and the need to do everything one can to prevent injustice, not only against oneself but injustice perpetrated against anyone.
How do Sikhs Celebrate?
On the eve of Baisakhi, Sikhs participate in processions with the Guru Granth Sahib, their holy book, while its hymns are chanted. People dress in their best clothes, exchange sweets, recite sacred hymns, sing songs, and pay tribute to the Guru Granth Sahib. Joyful dance performances like the ones popularized by Canada’s own Gurdeep Pandher, including Bhangra and Gidda, are also common ways to celebrate Baisakhi.
Celebrating Baisakhi at Work
If you would like to recognize this day, it is appropriate to wish your Sikh colleagues, clients or communities Happy Baisakhi and to add a note wishing them joy, prosperity and many blessings in the coming year.
For more information about creating a welcoming workplace, Encounter World Religions offers free resources, including one on Sikhism and another on Islam which is great for sharing in advance of Ramadan, which begins April 2 this year.
(Originally published in March 2022).