Baisakhi, also spelled Vaisakhi, is the festival which celebrates Sikh New Year and the founding of the Sikh community, known as the Khalsa.
The story of the foundation of the Khalsa started with the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur, the 9th Guru, who was publicly beheaded by Mughul rulers for protecting freedom of worship for both Sikhs and Hindus.
The son of Guru Teg Bahadur, who was called Guru Gobind Singh, became the next Guru. He stated that Sikhs should always be prepared to stand up for their beliefs, whatever the cost.
Sikh guards wearing traditional dressIn 1699, Sikhs from all over the Punjab gathered together to celebrate the Hindu harvest festival of Baisakhi. Guru Gobind Singh came out of a tent carrying a sword and requested that anyone prepared to give his life come forward.
A young Sikh came forward and disappeared into the tent with the Guru. Then the Guru reappeared alone with his sword covered in blood and asked for another volunteer. This was repeated another four times until a total of five Sikhs had gone into the tent with him. Everyone present was very worried until eventually all five emerged from the tent alive, with Guru Gobind Singh, and wearing turbans.
The five became known as the Panj Piare, or ‘Beloved Five’. Guru Gobind Singh’s wife mixed some amrit. The Guru said some prayers over the five and they were sprinkled with the amrit. This is how the Amrit ceremony came into being and these five Sikhs became the first members of the Khalsa.