The South Asian Times

20 February 2019 10:59 AM

Bhangra beat amid sunshine at the Vaisakhi celebration in DC

By Surekha Vijh

Washington DC: The festival of Vaisakhi was celebrated with great thumping music and great food at the Indian Ambassador’s official residence in north west of the American capital here on May 12.

The whole neighborhood reverberated with the exhilarating sound of the dholak and bhangra beat along with stimulating smell of Sarson ka Saag, Makki ki Roti and jalebi. Mother nature too played its part with a bright sun shining above in lush green and spacious surroundings.

Although Vaisakhi falls on April 13, the date picked seemed just right with the season’s welcome sunshine and glow.

More than 250 traditionally dressed Indian-American men and women among them many Sikhs  participated in the celebration.

The two and half hour program started with a traditional shabd kirtan presented by Jaswinder Singh of Sikh Foundation of Virginia. Shabd written by Guru Gobind Singh included Aath Paherand Mitra Pyare Nun.  It was appropriate to choose Guru Gobind Singh’s shabd as he founded the Khalsa panth on a Vaisakhi day.

Ambassador Navtej Sarna, welcoming the guests, said Vaisakhi is a very special occasion for all Indians. At one level it is a cultural festival, a harvest festival, but it was not limited to Punjab or to the Sikh community. “It is celebrated in different ways all over the country and often known by other, different names,” he added.

 “But, as far as Punjab is concerned,” he said, “Vaisakhi is a very significant day, since it marks the birth of the Khalsa, it was the most inspirational moment created by Guru Gobind Singh, in which he actually broke many taboos and shattered many restraints that were there among the populace of India at that time.”

The moment created a brotherhood of inspired belief, a brotherhood that was freed of caste and creed. A brotherhood that was freed of superior and inferior, because not only did he initiate the first five Sikhs on that day but he also asked them to initiate him in return, Sarna added.

Virginia School of Bhangra presented the energetic Punjabi folk dance.

Guests joyfully mingled around even as many non-Sikhs wore turbans in solidarity with their Sikh brethren.

For many Indians, the festival is their traditional solar New Year. The first day of Vaisakh or Baisakh as per the Indian calendar marks the solar New Year, also known as Maha Sankranti, an auspicious  occasion to bathe in sacred rivers such as Ganges, Jhelum or Kaveri and visit temples. It is also the New Year's Day for Hindus in Tamil NaduKeralaOdishaWest BengalAssamBiharUttarakhandUttar PradeshHimachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.

In Sri Lanka, Vesak is considered as both a religious and cultural festival. It is celebrated on the day of the full moon in May. This festival marks the birth, enlightenment and passing away into Nirvana of Lord Buddha. The weeklong celebration gives the visitor a unique opportunity to discover Sri Lanka's religious and cultural traditions.

Update: 16 May, 2018