The IST Newsdesk
Sydney celebrated its first Vaisakhi function of 2018 on Sunday April 8 at Ryde Civic Hall amid a galaxy of Ministers, MPs and invitees. The celebration was led by National Sikh Council of Australia President Mr. Ajmer Singh Gill and Secretary Mr. Bawa Singh Jagdev. The attendance was by invitations only and the hall was still packed to its capacity. The event was organised with the support of Federation of Indian Associations of NSW, Mr. Amrinder Bajwa, Mr. Gurcharan Kahlon and Mr.Baljinder Singh.
Mr. Bawa presented a brief on the Vaisakhi and talked about the events that led to the creation of Khalsa Panth in 1699. Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb was at his peak and continued to commit atrocities on the Hindu population, He ordered them to either convert to Islam or pay tax (jazzia). A lot of them agreed to convert but one saint Guru Teg Bahadur prefered death to converting to Islam. He was beheaded and later died at Chandni Chowk in Delhi after carrying his head on a platter. Gurudwara Sis Ganj has been erected in his honour at the place.
His son Guru Gobind Singh then asked Hindu families to send their eldest son to join his army in order t0 fight Mughal forces. Thus, the Khalsa Panth was born. The handful Army thus formed succeeded in overpowering Aurangzeb’s large army led by Nawab Wazir Khan at Chamkaur, thereby weakening the Mughal empire.
The harvesting festival used to be celebrated with gaiety and fervour all over Punjab and the Indian Sub-continent. With the creation of Khalsa Panth on Vaisakhi Day it added a new dimension to the festival. On Vaisakhi day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh summoned Sikhs from all over India to the city of Anandpur Sahib. At this gathering, the Guru called upon Sikhs to uphold their faith and preserve the Sikh religion. Guru Gobind Singh then lifted his sword and asked that anyone prepared to give his life for his faith to come forward. There was a big silence, but the Guru went on repeating his demand.
One Sikh finally came forward and followed the Guru into a tent. Shortly after, the Guru reappeared alone with his sword covered in blood, and asked for a second volunteer. Another Sikh stepped forward and again the Guru took him into the tent, and re-appeared alone with his sword covered with blood. This was repeated until five Sikhs had offered their heads for the Guru. Finally, the Guru emerged from the tent with all five men dressed piously in blue. Guru Gobind Singh called the five Sikhs the Panj Pyare, the Five Beloved Ones.
There is another dimension to the festival. On this day, Gen. Reginald Dyer massacred peaceful people gathered to celebrate the festival in the Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar. This marked the beginning of the end of British Raj in India.
For people of Punjab, the festival is their traditional solar new year, a harvest festival and they may visit temples, meet friends and party over festive foods. On Vaisakhi, Gurdwaras are decorated and hold satsangs Sikhs visit and bathe in lakes or rivers before visiting local Gurdwaras, community fairs and nagar kirtan processions are held, and people gather to socialise and share festive foods.
The Sunday’s event saw colourful, energetic tip toeing folk dances by various groups, especially, the fusion dance of South Indian and Punjabi folk. Even the MPs could be seen gyrating to the music.
The MPs led by Federal MP Julie Owens from Parramatta and Ms. Michelle Rowland from Greenway. The NSW Mps led by Minister Victor Dominello, who became nostalgic and recounted how as a child he learnt from his father about the culture and today I am seeing a different culture and learning about it. Jodi McKay, MP for Strathfield said everybody was in their colourful best and Dr. Yadu Singh was not recognisable in a Pagri. Geoff Lee, MP for Parramatta paid glowing tributes to the young dancers. Michelle Rowland mentioned about a book on Guru Gobind Singh that was presented to her and she read the book thoroughly. Ms. Julia Finn, MP from Granville said she loved the celebrations. Dr. Yadu Singh presented the vote of Thanks, appreciating the presence of guests and thanked all VIPs, Media and special guests.
Pure vegetarian Punjabi food was served by Shandar caterers