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Indian Baisakhi Festival > 13 April 2008 April 11, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture.
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The Indian harvest festival of Baisakhi will be being enjoyed across the world on Sunday. Marked by many religions (particularly Sikhs) this truly multicultural occasion is a dream come true for sweet tooths everywhere, with sugary drinks and confections taking centre stage amid a wealth of wonderful foods. 

Baisakhi > Sejal Sukhadwala > Baisakhi, also spelled Vaisakhi, is an Indian harvest festival that’s of special significance to Sikhs.

Celebrating Baisakhi > Vibrant clothes in all colours of the rainbow (to mark the end of winter and beginning of spring), glittering jewellery, raucous singing, dancing and music-making characterise the way that Baisakhi is celebrated throughout the world – a festival that’s truly a feast for the senses. For centuries, Baisakhi has been observed as a harvest festival in India. It’s most popular in the agricultural northern state of Punjab, but is also marked in Assam, Bengal, Bangladesh and Kerala, where it’s known by various different names by Hindus and Buddhists. Baisakhi is particularly important for Sikhs, however, for whom it’s the anniversary of the founding of Khalsa (the Sikh brotherhood) in 1699 and New Year’s Day combined. It usually falls on 13 or 14 April according to the Sikh solar calendar, and celebrations take place throughout April and May. In the UK, Sikhism is the fourth-largest religion according to the Office of National Statistics, and festivities take place in gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) and community centres. Areas with large Sikh populations such as Southall, Slough and Glasgow host lively street processions and Baisakhi melas (fairs).

The vegetarian tradition > Eating meat or not is considered by most Sikhs to be a matter of personal choice, but many choose to refrain from doing so during Baisakhi, the main reason being that it’s a celebration of nature’s bounty – grains, beans, lentils and vegetables – for which prayers are offered and thanks given. In Punjab, wheat, barley, peas, chickpeas, rapeseed, cumin and onions are harvested, ears of wheat are offered to deities, and impromptu feasts take place on farms. Langar is free vegetarian lunch that is available in gurdwaras all year round, but is particularly important at Baisakhi, to instil a sense of equality and diminish differences in caste, status and wealth. Usually consisting of simply prepared lentil dahl, vegetables, chapattis and rice, langar is made from wholesome vegetarian ingredients without eggs or alcohol, in order to cater for as wide a range of dietary requirements as possible.

Other Baisakhi food > Boxes of sweetmeats are exchanged and glasses of rich, creamy lassi (yoghurt drinks) are drunk by Sikhs and Punjabis. Roasted wheat or chickpeas mixed with jaggery (cane sugar) are eaten as a snack, as are revadi (sesame candy) and wheat porridge. In addition to langar, gurdwaras distribute amrit (‘holy nectar’) made from milk, yoghurt, sugar, honey and ghee, and kada prasad (‘sacred sweet’, traditionally cooked in an iron pan). The sweet is made by cooking together equal quantities of semolina, sugar and ghee (clarified butter). Stringent guidelines and specific rituals are followed during its preparation. In the evening, after a sumptuous banquet at home or in a restaurant, families gather around a fire and throw the last of the winter fruits and vegetables in the flames – a symbolic ritual that marks the passing of seasons.

Related Links > http://www.sikhnet.com/sikhnet/register.nsf/p/BaisakhiHistory

Recipes Links > http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/news_and_events/events_baisakhi.shtml

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